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Is Three A Crowd?

Posted by flyboyB4 2 years ago  |  Categories: Group Sex, Hardcore, Mature  |  Views: 1354  |  
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Is Three A Crowd? ....Part 2

Four days had passed since the night with Gloria and Anita, and I was about to leave work for the day when I got a telephone call from Anita. "Hello, Trev...I was wondering if you would mind stopping over when you finish work... I'm home alone, and I'd like to speak with you," she said in a very pleasant tone. I asked for her address, and told her I would be there in thirty minutes if traffic wasn't too bad. "Wonderful," she said, "Just walk in when you get here."

The traffic was heavy, but I knew a shortcut which got me to Anita's home in about forty minutes. As I approached the door, I saw the garage had only one vehicle in it, with no others visible. I was a bit uneasy about the fact she was married, and explaining my presence to her husband or daughters would be awkward at best. I pushed the door bell, and she called for me to come in. She came out of the kitchen with a tray and two glasses, and led me into her f****y room. She was wearing a pumpkin coloured pantsuit which fit her snugly but in a complimentary way. Her hair was brushed back, and she was wearing dark lipstick. The jacket of the pantsuit had a bit of a low neckline, and she wasn't wearing a top or camisole under it. Her black high heels had rather chunky square heels, and I noticed she had nude hosiery on.

We small-talked for a while, sipped lemonade, and relaxed. Abruptly, she began to explain her behaviour at Gloria's. She told me she was married in name only, and that she had remained celibate for many years. I listened as she told me she satified her sexual needs by using toys, and physical contact with a couple of bisexual female friends - Gloria being one of them. I became uneasy as she described a masturbation-only relationship she had with a man, but which ended three years previous.

"I must tell you the other night with you and Gloria was the most erotic I have ever experienced," she said, "I loved watching you undress her and have sex with her." I replied that being with two beautiful mature women was a fantasy come true for me. "You wanted to masturbate with my lingerie, didn't you?", she asked. Before I could answer, she told me Gloria had told her about my fondness for nylon slips and panties. "I find that so very erotic," she said, "Were you aroused by my slip and nylons the other night?" I told her that I was, indeed. Anita gave me a very serious look, and asked, "Did you want to fuck me that night?" I wasn't ready for that question, so my answer came slowly. I replied, "I was immediately attracted to you and the way you were dressed, and when we were upstairs, yes, I wanted to explore your lingerie and have sex with you." Anita looked at me and replied, "But you understand I am married, so I could not touch you, nor you me." I told her I fully understood, and she owed me no explanation.

"Excuse me for a bit," she said, and walked out of the room. I sat with my heart racing, and felt I should make a face-saving retreat out the door as soon as she returned to the room. It was then I heard her say, "Trev...can you come here?" I walked down the spacious hallway past three bedrooms, and asked where she was. "In here...in my room...sorry, didn't mean to leave you alone out there," she laughed. I entered her room, ans she was sitting on the end of her bed. "Please take your clothes off for me, won't you?", she asked. I was stunned, and my shock must have shown. She said, "Oh, don't be shy or worried...after all, I have seen you naked already, and you've seen my girly things." My head was swimmimg as I removed my clothes, and watched her reaction. She began to breathe deeply, and her legs, although crossed, seemed to be restless. By the time I was naked, my penis was at full erection, and she looked at it for quite a while. "Mmmm...it looks as gorgeous as it did the other night," she said. So there I stood, with my throbbing erection just a couple of fee away from her. "Go open the second drawer on the left section of my dresser," she said. I walked over to it, and in the large mirror which was over the dresser, saw that she was staring at my ass, had uncrossed her legs, and was rubbing her breasts. I opened the drawer and saw a large assortment of nylon slips neatly folded in the drawer. "Take the one you like best and masturbate with it for me." she said. I took out a very shiny black half slip which had a wide row of delicate lace at the bottom, and a short slit in the back. "Yeah Trev...that one is one of my favourites, too," she said, "Come on...let me see you jerk with it." I wrapped the slip around my penis, and slowly began to stroke it. Anita's eyes were locked onto what I was doing, and I could see she was becoming aroused.

"Here...come lay on my bed," she said as she stood up. I laid down with my legs apart, and continued jerking slowly with her slip. She stood next to me, and removed the jacket of her pantsuit exposing a beige nylon longline bra with satin straps. "Do you like this?", she asked. She pulled her slacks down, and was wearing a matching beige spandex panty girdle which had lace around the leg openings, and stopped about six inches above her knees. I saw the tops of her nylon stockings under the legs of the girdle, and also noticed she wasn't wearing a panty under it. "With my figure, I need a bit of help when I wear a pantsuit...do you like my girdle?" I nodded, and wanted to explode into her incredibly silky slip, but held off. "You want to shoot your load into my slip, don't you?", she whispered. I told her "not yet", and she flashed a slightly wicked smile. "OH????", she said, "Am I not sexy enough for you?" With that, she unhooked the row of clasps down the front of her longline bra, and cast it aside. Her aereolas were the size of half dollars, and her pink nipples stood out of them about a half inch. "What about now," she asked and gave her breasts a wiggle. I asked her what size they were, and she replied, "36B". Taking a risk, I took hold of her arms, and pulled her down toward me. That caused her right breast to land on top of my rock-hard penis. "No....no touching damn it....God that feels to good, but we can't," she protested. I reached under her breast and began masturbating with it still on my penis. "You fucking young son of a bitch," she growled, "Are you trying to seduce me into fucking you?" I was too far along to stop, so I said, "Yes Anita, and I know you want me to." She sat up, looked me in the eyes, and said, "If we do this, one time will not be enough."

She stood up and said, "You want me to take my girdle off?" I nodded, and she worked it down her legs. "What about my nylons and heels?" she asked. I told her to leave them on, then handed her the black half slip. "Hmmmm...I thought you'd want me to wear this," she said. As she pulled the slip up her thighs, she put her finger into her kitty, and said, "I'm so damn wet..." I stood up, embraced her and began kissing her mouth, neck, ears, and breasts as I rubbed my penis gainst her slip covered belly, thighs, and ass. She whispered to me that she had not had a penis inside of her for twenty years.

I gently laid her on the bed, lifted and spread her legs, and pushed myself slowly into her. She gasped loudly, and let out a combination of a whimper, moan, and growl as I slowly thrust in and out of her. "You CANNOT cum inside of me, Trev...promise me you won't," she said. I promised her I would not, and we began a thrusting rythym which caused her to moan, gasp, and dirty-talk me. Her stockings felt wonderful against my legs, and soon I told her I needed to cum.

"Yessss Trev....pull it out and shoot your stuff all over me," she panted. I pulled out, sat up, and covered her belly, breasts, neck, and chin with hot thick semen. She screamed my name, and twisted under me as her own climax took her over.

We laid together for some time, then she straddled me and began mastubating me with her slip. "I need you to cum for me like this, and I know you want to," she said. Her technique was exquisite, and in no time I was filling her slip and her left hand with more of my hot semen. "I have many slips, Trev, so we can do this frequently." she said.

Later, I dressed to head home. Anita got up...still wearing the cum-filled slip, went to her dresser, and produced a key. "Take this," she said, "You may find it useful." I thanked her, kissed her on the cheek, and left. As i drove home, I couldn't help wondering what I was getting myself into.

... Continue»
Posted by Croozer 2 years ago  |  Categories: Fetish, Mature  |  Views: 643  |  
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Is Three A Crowd?

The note was stuck under my windshield wiper blade, and was in Gloria's handwriting. "Come over for dinner tonight...7:30 sharp !!" I finished work, raced home, showered, and sat on the sofa waiting for 7:25. just so I could dash across the yard and arrive on time. I knocked on the front door, and Gloria met me. "Wow...I'm impressd at your punctuality," she laughed, "Come in." She was wearing an orange sleeveless stretch top, a black stretch skirt which ended a bit above her knees, and orange high heel open toe pumps. She had the top untucked at her waist, and it was quite low-cut. I could see the outline of her bra throught the fabric, and when she turned to lead me into the f****y room, a dark brown satin bra strap showed on her shoulder. The skirt hugged her hips and thighs, and her tanned legs were without hosiery. We stepped into the f****y room, and I was surprised to see a very attractive woman sitting on the sofa.

"Anita...please meet Trev," Gloria said. The lady rose from the sofa, extended her hand, and said, "Very nice to meet you, Trev...you are as handsome as Gloria told me." I was a bit stunned by her presence, by her comment, and by her appearance. "I'm a bit at a loss for words, I'm afraid," I clumsily stammered. Anita and Gloria broke out laughing, and suggested we all have a cocktail to relax. Anita stood about 5'-5", looked to be between 45 and 55, and had an interesting figure. Her breasts were average size, and her waist was quite small, but her hips flared sensually out under her waist, and her legs - although ample - were perfectly proportioned. She had light brown hair which she wore loose to just below her ears, very deep green eyes, and creamy smooth fair skin. Her facial features were plain, but very attractively simple, and she wore just the right amount of makeup. She was wearing a deep green silk wrap-style dress which stopped at her knees, medium brown hosiery, and a pair of mint green high heel pumps. The dress criss crossed under her breasts, and fastened over her left hip. It had a sensually low cleavage, but I couldn't make out what colour bra she wore under it. We sat and got acquainted, and I learned she was 53, married with two daughters, and was a comptroller for the Province Business Development Agency. She and Gloria had been friends for years, and had worked together.

We had two more rounds of wine and the conversation became more relaxed. Gloria was sitting sideways on one end of the sofa, with her legs pulled up under her. Anita sat on the other end, and kept crossing and recrossing her legs. I sat in a chair across from them, so I had a premium view. We ate a leisurely dinner, then went into the den for more wine. Soon, all three of us were feeling our alcohol, and the conversation became more suggestive. I was getting plenty of looks at Anita, but couldn't help noticing the large wedding ring she wore. I also didn't want to make Gloria jealous because later, after Anita left, I wanted to undress Gloria and sl**p with her. We covered topic after topic, and at one point, Anita commented on her "sexless and boring lifestyle." I sat quietly as Gloria commented that she wondered why Anita stayed with "Beau". I noted the clock on the mantle read 10:45, and decided to see if I could get a look up either Gloria or Anita's skirts. I was more than interested and aroused by Anita's looks, warm personality, and outgoing manner. Gloria refilled our glasses, and as the clock chimed 11:00, she abruptly said, "Well, why don't we go upstairs?"

I was dumbstruck, and sat there like a granite statue. Gloria got up, took two bottles of wine out of the caddy, and said, "Follow me, you two." Anita rose, walked over to me, and took me by the hand. As we climbed the stairs, I watched Gloria's curvy ass moving under her skirt, and listened to the arousing swish of Anita's undergarments as she walked. We entered Gloria's room, and Anita sat in the large dressing chair, I sat on the bed, and Gloria sat in a second chair. My awe must have been showing because Gloria said, "Trev...Anita and I are bi-sexual, and I told her about our relationship. I thought it might be nice for us to have a relaxing evening and share many things." As she finished, Anita said, "You see Trev, my husband and I have not been intimate since our youngest's birth twenty years ago. He lost interest in me, and I have learned to accept it. I stay with him for the sake of appearances." I felt my face turning very deep red, and replied, "I see." Anita continued by saying, "I have become a voyeur as well as a fetishist...I love to see others making love, and I have a fetish for the feel of male semen. Gloria suggested I join the two of you....I truly hope you aren't offended." I looked at both of them, and said, "Not at all....but I am aroused."

At that point, Gloria stood up and said. "I'm going to strip you now." In a few minutes, ahe had me naked, and my penis was throbbing as it stood straight out in front of me. Anita was just a couple of feet away watching, and said, "Oh my lord...is that ever a gorgeous cock." Gloria told me to undress her, so I began by removing her top. She was wearing a fantastic dark brown nylon bra. "Another one of my new things," she said. I unzipped her skirt, and saw she was wearing a shiny dark brown half slip under it. "Like the set?", she asked. I answered her by rubbing my penis against her slip covered ass and fondling her breasts from behind. I looked over Gloria's shoulder and saw Anita was sitting with her legs spread, and had her hand under her dress. I took Gloria's bra off, and Anita immediately came over to fondle and lick her nipples. Gloria unhooked Anita's dress, and it fell open. She was wearing a sexy white lace bra, and her nipples were clearly visible pushing against the cups. Anita was rubbing Gloria's kitty, as Gloria removed Anita's bra. I moved to their sides, and touched Anita's right breast. She gently-but-sternly pushed my hand aside. Gloria was jerking me with one had and rubbing Anita's belly with the other as Anita licked her face and breasts. Gloria laid down on her back on the bed, and Anita knelt over her licking her nipples. Gloria's slip was short, and it rode up on her thighs revealing she wasn't wearing a panty. Anita turned to me and said, "Jack that gorgeous cock for me, Trev." After a few strokes, Anita got between Gloria's legs, and began licking her kitty. I stood behind Anita, and the sight of her full ass under the silk dress, and her hosiery covered legs with the mint green heels got me very hot. I straddled her left calf, and rubbed my penis on the smooth fabric of her nylonned leg. Gloria was moaning as Anita licked her, and I could tell Anita was very occupied, so I decided to see what she was wearing under the silk dress. I gathered up a handful at the hem, and jerked myself with it. Getting no reaction, I put my hand under it and lifted it, revealing a shiny light green half slip with creme coloured lace at the hem, and that she was wearing stockings with a garter belt. I moved up to rub my penis on her slip when she turned, and pushed me backward away from her. "You cannot fuck me Trev...and that means no masturbating on me, either." I nodded, and she moved away from Gloria. "Please put your cock inside Gloria....I need to watch you fuck her," she whispered. I grabbed Gloria's heels, threw them over my shoulders, and plowed into her. Anita squatted down behind me and watched as I thrust in and out of Gloria. Anita crawled up onto the bed and said to Gloria, "I want to see you suck him off." As Gloria sucked me, Anita had her face right next to my penis. "Don't cum in her mouth, Trev....I need to see your semen pump out of your penis", Anita said. "Trev loves to cum on my slips," Gloria said, "Do you want him to do that?" "Yessssss," Anita purred. I began rubbing my penis on the tight smooth fabric of Gloria's new slip, and she encouraged me by saying, "Yes baby...shoot all over that dark brown nylon." Again, Anita was only inches away, and I was tempted to turn and shoot all over her breasts, silk dress, and half slip, but thought better of it.

I was almost ready to cum when Anita said, "Wait !!!!" She sat on the edge of the bed, and had me stand in front of her. "I want you to cum in the palms of my hands so I can feel the heat and the slippery texture." I faced her and began to masturbate as she held her hands under my penis. Gloria got behind me and ran her hand up between my legs to caress my balls. "Please let me cum on your slip, Anita," I said. She kept staring at my penis and said, "No...I cannot let you do that, but blow your semen into my hands for me." With four more jerks I was filling her hands with my hot semen, and she was moaning and purring with delight. I turned around to see Gloria had fingered herself toa climax and was squatting behind me. To my complete and utter surprise, Anita took both handfulls of my semen and rubbed it onto her breasts. When she finished, she put her finger into her mouth, and in a low and sensual tone, moaned a long, "Mmmmmmmmmm."

Gloria stood up, mouthed my penis, and said, "Why don't you dress and go home...I'll come over after Anita leaves." I got into my clothes, and as I was about to leave, Anita walked up to me....with her dress open, her breasts stil glistening with my cum, and her sexy mint green half slip showing, and gave me a long, deep kiss. "Thank you, Trev...that meant more to me than you could ever imagine...we will see each other again, soon."

I squeezed Gloria's ass, and said, "We need to finish this." She whispered, "Yes, my love...we will."... Continue»
Posted by Croozer 2 years ago  |  Categories: Fetish, Mature  |  Views: 1135  |  
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A Star Is Born--Naked

My dream was finally coming true, only now it seemed more like a nightmare.

For years I labored trying to get a break in the theater. I worked dinner theater, summer stock in godforsaken places, small community theatres and even off-off-off Broadway. I eked out a living doing the usual waitressing and temp jobs. Sharing a rat-hole apartment in New York with three other struggling actors, I was the guest at more pity-on-me dinner parties than I could count. My small circle of friends tried to make sure I wouldn't starve. One thing helped me maintain my sanity—my ability to talk with my best friend, Max.

My plight began when my excuse of an agent called about a major role in a real off-Broadway production. It was a new play by a Tony award-winning playwright. The producer was a top Hollywood star who, according to him, wanted to assure the world or herself that she was a true talent. This same woman would be playing the lead. My agent was sketchy on details, I think his feeble mind stopped working when he heard about the director and producer/star— and that he might actually make some money off me. He told me to show up at the theater at 10 for an initial read.

I asked him if this was going to be a cattle call. He laughed and said, "No, sweetie, the part is yours if the read goes well."

I screamed and just about wet my panties. I was going to be on Broadway—well, Ok, off-Broadway—but still freakin' good. I was also going to get Equity pay and I might actually be able to buy something to wear and have food in the cupboard. God, if the play had a good run, I might get out of the hellhole I lived in.

"Slow down," I told myself, "this is only a reading. You probably will screw it up and not get anything."

I pressed my agent on what the storyline was, but he just mumbled something about a love triangle. "You'll be great, sweetie. You'll kill 'em."

I asked how they chose me.

"Not sure, sweetie," he said and I knew he was puffing on his ever present stinky, cheap cigar. "The production manager called and said Miss Big Fucking Star wanted you. Maybe she caught you in one of your summer stock things."

I should have realized that my so-called agent wouldn't have busted his ass trying get me work. I recall reading that the producer/star lived in Connecticut and I did do a couple shows there last summer, so...

I didn't sl**p a wink and the next day was showered and dressed in my best clothes, which I and everyone else knew were crap, and headed to the subway for the ride to mid-town. Arriving at the theater over an hour ahead of time I splurged my last ten dollars on a latte and a scone at Starbucks. "If I get this role, I can have this every day."

I entered the open lobby door and made my way down to the stage where a small group was casually standing and talking.

As I neared, I saw her, Abbie Evans. She looked so small and normal. Next to her was Rice Peters the writer. He looked like a playwright, with a black turtleneck, black pants, black-rimmed glasses and his trademarked shaved head. A couple others were there.

Abbie Evans turned and saw me, breaking into her universally recognized smile.

"Chloe, come here and meet your team."

I tried not to trip down the aisle and reached out to accept Abbie's extended hand. She introduced me to Rice, the director, the stage manager and production manager, all of whose names I immediately forgot. I was still stuck on "Abbie Evans knows my name."

Abbie then looked over my shoulder and smiled again.

"Ah, our leading man arriveth."

I turned to see Joe Quinn, the current star of one of TV's top cop shows, making his way to us. I felt weak in the knees. These were all A-listers and I felt like the skunk that wandered into the garden party. What the hell was I doing here?

Joe shook my hand and Abbie urged us onto the stage. We sat around a long rectangular table and the stage manager passed out scripts.

"So, Chloe, what do you know about 'The Pose'?"

I should have said something that might cover my total ignorance, but my mind was a blank.

"Not a frigging thing," I gushed.

They all laughed.

"Ok," Abbie said, "here's the Reader's Digest version. Joe is major artist. He's had mega shows at all the top galleries and his work hangs in all the right penthouses in Manhattan, plus some decent museums. His last show was, however, less than spectacular and the critics were getting their claws out and speculating he may have lost his edge. I am his wife, a bit older, obviously, and long-suffering, of course. I used to be his muse, but after we married the muse part slipped away and my ability to earn a paycheck as a successful art agent took its place. When I stopped modeling, he also began his slow spiral. So, he finds an ingénue, the lovely Chloe, who will be his model, his muse and the centerpiece of his new exhibition."

Abbie paused for effect. She knew how to hold an audience.

"So, I am jealous of you and pissed at Joe. I come to his atelier and find that you are not some succubus, but an innocent, engaging and beautiful young woman. I am drawn to you--your personality and your appearance. Joe, as men are want to do, also has desires on you. The rest is a tug-of-war to see who will win you, if Joe can complete his work and regain his status, if he and I will reconcile. And, if you will remain the unsullied maiden. All very 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff meets A Star is Born' between Joe and me with a bit of sex to juice things up."

I nodded all through her recitation. And smiled when she smiled. In my mind I'm thinking, "Holy Shit, this is a three person play and I'm going to be sharing most of the audience time with two of the biggest stars in the business. I see my own Obie waiting for me in the wings."

My bubble burst with Abbie's next statement.

"I'm so glad you don't have a problem with the nudity or the love scene. You're a brave girl."

The Obie just fell off the table and smashed into a million pieces.

"Nudity? Love scene?" I couldn't even make a sentence.

"You mean your agent didn't tell you?"

I shook my head.

"Oh, Chloe, sorry. I would have told you differently if I had known. But, you must know that you play Joe's model and will be totally nude for a good part of your time on stage. And, you will have a rather explicit love scene at the end of act one."

Now, I am not a prude, well, Ok, I am a bit of a prude. Shit, make that a major prude. But, I recognize that actors sometimes have to make sacrifices for their craft, and to get a role. I thought about standing naked in front of theater full of people and my insides started to turn to Jell-o. I imagined my parents in the audience. Yikes! I thought about my favorite teacher being there, Sr. Mary Ann, who encouraged my acting and tried to see every play I was in. Double yikes!

I nodded slowly, pretending that I was comprehending what I had to do.

"So, you can do this, Chloe? You can handle the nudity?"

I again nodded, but didn't think it was my most convincing performance.

I said, "Sure." I giggled and said trying to be as lighthearted as possible, "But, I don't know about the love scene with Joe. That could be a challenge."

Abbie laughed. "Oh, don't worry about that. You don't have a love scene with Joe."

She paused and I looked confused.

Smiling she continued, "You have it with me."

I am not sure if there is really such a thing as a brain meltdown, but I think I had one at that moment.

"And, Chloe, just to ease your mind about being nude, I will be nude, too."

Yep, total meltdown. I thought I felt my brains oozing out of my ears and fought the temptation to stick my fingers there to prevent them from dripping onto the table.

The rest of the meeting occurred in a blur. We did a read-through, I think. Breaking around four we agreed to meet again in the morning for a discussion about the staging and another read-through. The director asked us to go through the play and make notes and questions.

Abbie walked me out of the theatre.

"Chloe, don't worry, you're going to be great. I saw you last summer and you've got the chops to carry this off. I'll be right here with you all the way. Call me if you want to talk." She handed me a card with her name and cell phone number.

I thanked her and wandered in the general direction of the subway stop as she stepped into the back of her huge Mercedes with a liveried driver holding the door.

My head was reeling. I needed to talk to someone. I had to see Max. I knew by the time I navigated rush hour and got to his place, he'd be home.

Max and I grew up in the same town in New Hampshire. He's years older than I am, and we had a low-key connection from being in the theater group in high school. He was a senior when I was a freshman. We both worked at the same ice cream place in the summers. That's when we hit it off and found we could easily talk with each other.

Now being in the city at the same time, we reconnected and became friends. We still had the ability to just talk. He really listened, a quality I was finding rare in the guys I met in the city and especially among fellow actors. Most of the actors were totally psychotic and wanted only to talk about themselves, the roles they had, the roles they almost had and mostly about the roles they should have had.

Max was doing pretty well, working for the public radio station as head of fundraising. He had a small, but decent, apartment on the West side. The doorman knew me and let me go up to Max's, saying he'd call up to let him know I was on my way.

He answered and welcomed me in. I rushed past him, flew to his fridge and pulled out a beer.

"I am totally fucked," I announced as I downed half the can.

"Well, nice to see you, too, Chloe."

I smiled and went to give him a hug.

"Sorry, I'm a bit worked up."

"So, I noticed. Want to share?"

"Share! God, you need to get out of non-profit and into the real world."

"Oh, acting is the real world? Interesting concept."

"Whatever," I shrugged. "Yeah, I need to 'Share', but first I need to pee."

I finished my beer and asked if Max would get me another and made my way to his bathroom. I rushed in and plopped down on the toilet. As I relieved myself, I looked around and almost shit instead. On the floor was a girl's bra and panties in a pile, next to a pair of girl's shoes. Now I noticed the bathroom smelled of a recent shower and the scent of a woman.

I finished and bolted out. Picking up my coat, I headed for the door.

"Hey, what's up?" Max called. "Where're you going?"

"Max, sorry. I gotta' go. I didn't mean to barge in like this. I shoulda' called. I hope I didn't mess anything up."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"I know you have a girl here. I saw her things in the bathroom. Sorry."

Max took my arm and led me back to the kitchen.

"Chloe, I opened a beer for you, and I definitely do not want to waste it. Besides, we haven't shared yet."

"But the girl..."

"Oh yeah, the girl. Well, I'd better go get her. I hope she's dressed by now."

I didn't know what to do, so I froze where I was and sipped the beer.

In a minute I heard a scream from Max's room. "Oh, Oh, this could be trouble," I thought.

The door flew open and out charged a tiny, beautiful blond, wearing a flimsy tank top and bikini panties. She rushed toward me, screamed and jumped in my arms.

"Sydney, what the hell are you doing here?" I yelled.

Sydney hugged me and then stood. "Just visiting my big b*****r and getting a taste of city life."

Syd is four years younger than I. She and I were close friends, despite the gap in our ages. I met her when Max and I got to know each other. The three of us hung together for most of our summers. Syd and I enjoyed the same music, movies and a taste for fried clams.

Another thing we had in common was we both looked up to Max. He was the best big b*****r in the world for her and for me, well, he was half big b*****r and half secret love. I knew he was never interested in me sexually, and just saw me as another little s****r. I didn't care. I carried a big thing for him for a long time.

Even now as adults, I still had a well-buried crush on him, but had been able to overcome it and forge a really good friendship.

Max fetched beers for Syd and himself and led us into the small and neat living room. He furnished it in early IKEA, but it was comfortable. I sat in the oversized arm chair and the other two settled on the leather couch.

He suggested that Syd might want to get dressed. She looked at him as if he was from Mars. "Like the three of us never hung out at the lake in our bathing suits. I've got the good parts covered, so chill, Big b*****r."

Laughing, he looked at me and asked, "So, what is the crisis de jour?"

I knew he was teasing and trying to relax me. I admit I tend to get over-dramatic. Actually, that's not a bad quality for an actress.

I told them about getting offered the part in the play and who the main actors were as well as the superstar writer.

They congratulated me and said they knew I was going to make it.

"Wow," exclaimed Max in mock amazement, "I'm going to be able to say I knew you when. Maybe you can take me out to dinner for a change."

"Don't pay attention to the asshole," said Syd. "This is fantastic. But, what has you freaked out? You must know you have the acting ability to be on the stage with those two."

I snorted, choking on my beer. "I am not so sure. I mean she is a freakin' two-time Oscar winner and he won an Emmy. The playwright has two Pulitzers. But the real reason I'm in full panic mode is simple."

Max and Syd hung on my next sentence.

"I have to be nude for almost the whole damn play."

Both my friends stared in silence.

Before they could even comment, I added, "And, I have to do a freakin' nude love scene with freakin' Abbie Evans. A love scene! Jesus, I am totally flipped on this."

Max and Syd sat in silence for a bit.

Finally Max softly said, "Wow."

I got up and grabbed another beer. I didn't think there was enough alcohol in the entire west side to help me relax.

"What am I doing to do? How can I have my parents come to see me? Screw that, how can I parade my sorry naked ass around a stage every night in front of hundreds of people? I have to turn this down."

"Are you out of your mind," asked Syd?

"This is the chance of a lifetime. So, if you have to shake your booty. Every critic on the East coast will be flocking to see this play. They will want to see the fabulous Abbie Evans in the nude and making out with a woman. You could not get better exposure."

"Exposure seems to be the right word," I said.

Syd and Max tried to reassure me. I listened but was not convinced. I tried to explain my anxiety.

"Ok, here's the thing. I am shy. I mean really shy. I hated gym class. I was always the last one out so I didn't have to change in front of the other girls. I don't have much of a love life. No, let's make that truthful. I have no love life these days. My last boyfriend never really saw me nude, I always insisted on the lights off, did the deed and then pulled on a t-shirt. And, I can't believe I am even talking about my love life in front of you guys."

Max grabbed his chest. "My god, you're not a virgin? What is this world coming to?"

I flipped him the bird and continued.

"So, I think you understand that being nude will be a big deal, a really big deal. And, despite this being the age of blended sexual identities, I have never done anything with a girl. Hell, I just about understand my own anatomy, let alone finding my way around another woman. I don't think I'm that good an actor to be realistic in a love scene. Fuck, a love scene with Abbie Fucking Evans! I am so not going to be able to do this."

Syd said, "Chloe, you cannot pass this up. All you need is to rehearse and get used to it."

"How am I going to rehearse, Syd? I can't ask Abbie for private make-out lessons."

Syd blushed a little and said, "You don't have to ask Abbie."

"Then who," I whined.

"Me," she said in a soft voice.

The silence in the room was deafening.

"You?" I said.

"Yeah. Look I am a normal, healthy, well-balanced college girl. In other words, I've had my share of walking on the other side. You know, playing for the other team. Vacationing on the island of Lesbos. Enjoying Sapphic delights. Getting the picture."

"So, you and I will..."

"Rehearse, Chloe, just rehearse. I can give you a couple tips and mostly just let you get over your fears. It's no big deal. We're best pals and it probably will be a lot of laughs."

I thought about it. It seemed so bizarre thinking about doing anything sexual with Syd. I mean she is really cute. She has a trim and fit figure, so it's not like she's repulsive. But, actually kissing her, touching her, that's plain weird.

"I don't know, Syd."

"Chloe, where else will you get any practice. This will be the least threatening way to break through."

I looked at Max, who had a bemused expression. "What do you think?"

He laughed. "No way are you getting me to weigh in on this. I am still processing that my s*s is into girls."

"Not exclusively, b*o. I still dig guys a lot. But, I do like a pretty girl now and then."

He nodded and added, "Well, besides my s****r's sexual openness, I am not going to comment on the two of you practice having sex."

He smiled at me, and continued.

"The only thing I'll say, is that if you really want this part, Chloe, then maybe Syd has a point. You guys can practice, or whatever you want to call it, here during the day."

Syd grinned and asked, "You don't want to watch?"

He stared her down and said, "Behave, Syd."

While Syd and I discussed the logistics of how to move forward, Max ordered out for Chinese. When the order arrived, we put aside the thoughts of naked bodies, girls kissing girls and total humiliation to enjoy our friendship along with sesame chicken.

The next day at the theater, we did a couple read throughs and found a number of spots where the dialogue didn't seem to work. Rice took the comments well and adjusted some things on the spot and promised us new dialogue for tomorrow. Abbie started a discussion and then we all agreed that there was a big plot problem toward the end of the first act and the ending was too abrupt. Rice admitted he struggled with both. We all tossed ideas around and they even liked one of my suggestions. Rice said he'd work on the problems.

We broke around 1:30 and had lunch that was brought in. Afterwards, the production manager said I should meet with wardrobe.

I chuckled to myself thinking this could be the shortest wardrobe session in history.

The wardrobe mistress, Marge, was a Broadway veteran, probably in her 50's. She acknowledged that there were not a lot of costume changes. She explained she needed my sizes, including underwear. I did have to undress on stage in the first act. She said she needed to get about 10 of everything. Marge said she would get front closing bras.

"I don't want you fumbling for a couple minutes trying to get your bra off. I think we'll just go with bikini panties, nothing too sexy like a thong. Actually, I might even go with some granny-panties. I like the contrast between modest undies and your naked body. Jeans, a cotton pullover and flip-flops will complete the ensemble. Very easy to deal with. I'll pick up a bunch of short robes that you will wear at times. Also, you can put one on during, if you don't mind the pun, 'dress rehearsals' so you don't have to be showing everything all the time."

"Marge, do you think I'm crazy doing this?"

"Honey, I've been doing this most of my life. I've come to understand nothing in the theater is crazy. I think the play is powerful. I listened to the read through and you have one hell of a juicy part. My advice, forget your tits are hanging out and act the shit out of this role."

Her reassurance made me relax, at least a tad.

We wrapped at three and I was at Max's apartment at three-thirty, knocking on the door.

Syd opened it. She was wearing a t-shirt of Max's and it appeared nothing else.

I entered and dumped my purse on the kitchen table, opened the fridge and grabbed a beer.

"You're looking a bit casual," I said to Syd.

"Chloe, we very well can't practice being in the nude without being in the nude."

The beer in my stomach almost started coming back up. "Am I really going to do this?" I thought.

"Syd, I have to admit I am still freaked about this."

"Yeah, I know you are. But, listen, we can do it. We are like best friends, almost s****rs, actually."

"Great, so now you're adding i****t to this ordeal?"

Syd laughed and took a sip of my beer. "You are way too wound up. Go take a shower and relax. I'll put one of Max's big denim shirts in the bath. When you're through, just put that on. That will be one step. Then we will just read through the love scene part a bunch of times, Ok."

I nodded and we moved on. I was letting the hot water soak into my muscles when the bathroom door opened and I heard Syd call out.

"The shirt is on the back of the door. Hey, you look great naked, Chloe." She giggled and slammed the door.

I realized the clear shower curtain probably left little to the imagination. I finished, dried and pulled on the shirt. I desperately wanted to pull on my panties, but finally decided against it. I was brushing back my damp air when I noticed the faint, but distinct, scent of Max wafting from his shirt. The image of me standing naked with his shirt wrapped around me made my thingie tingle.

Syd was reading through the script, sitting on the couch. She smiled as I approached.

"This is great stuff, Chloe," she said. "I think it will be a super hit."

"Well, it's going against the trend of musicals and comedies," I offered. "Everyone bemoans the lack of serious drama on Broadway, but the crowds turn out for the big productions, special effects and catchy tunes. If this didn't have Abbie in it, I doubt it would even get a try-out."

"Abbie and the fabulous, beautiful, talented and naked, Chloe, might I add," Syd put in.

"I was loving it up to the naked part," I moaned.

"Well, speaking of which, hon. You will never get over being afraid of going naked if you are wearing clothes. So, let's get naked."

She stood and peeled her shirt over her head. I think I actually gasped.

Syd is about 5'3". She has short blond hair, with some henna streaks, giving her a pixie look with a bit of punk thrown in. The punk also comes from her nose piercing, multiple ear studs and rings, and, to my surprise, her left nipple piercing.

Her face is cute with a slightly upturned nose and great smile. She is slight of build, but her breasts are larger than I imagined, not that I really ever imagined them. They looked about the same size as mine, although she is three inches shorter. Syd is fair-skinned and her breasts are white, which makes a striking contrast to her dark areolas and nipples, which are about the same shade. The pierced nipple looked erect and hard.

Syd sported a belly-button ring. She had narrow hips and thin legs. I was slightly shocked that her pubic area was clear and smooth.

"Ok, your turn," she said with a wide grin.

I gulped and slowly unbutton the shirt. With a strength I did not think I had, I let the shirt slip off and drop to the floor. I mightily resisted covering my parts with my hands.

Syd looked me up and down, pausing at all the strategic spots.

"You're very pretty, Chloe. The audience will dig you. Although you might want to clean out Sherwood Forest a bit."

I looked down at my untrimmed and wild blond bush. I never even considered doing anything with it.

"Nice tits, by the way. I like them a lot," said Syd.

I blushed deeply and tried to smile.

"Don't freak out. I am being objective. It's not like I'm drooling over them, but they are very, very attractive. They look to be around the same size as mine, but they have more of an attitude. They like stand up and call for attention. And don't like faint, but your nipples are super erect and that is super hot. You look like this on stage and you could read the fucking phone book and get a standing ovation."

Syd asked me to turn around and I slowly complied.

"Great ass, babe. Your legs are long, which is what all the guys love. All in all an awesome package."

I faced her and moved for my shirt. Syd put her foot on it and shook her head.

"Part of what we are doing is getting you used to going bare-assed. So, leave the shirt off and let's read the part about your love scene."

I relented and we stood next to each other with the script on the kitchen table and read. The scene called for Abbie, or Helen in the play, to come upon me alone in Joe's, or his character's, Alex, studio. I am wearing my robe. She confronts me about having an affair with Alex. She attacks me verbally and then rushes me and pulls off my robe. I stand naked facing her, she has her back to the audience. We stare at each other for a time and then she moves to me, pulls me toward her and kisses me. I resist and then slowly respond and we embrace. She then steps back and starts to strip. Neither of us has spoken a word since our kiss. She sheds her clothes, exposing her naked rear to the audience. We embrace and kiss again. The stage directions indicate we are to passionately touch each other and go to the couch, where we have sex.

Rice is still working on how to close this scene and end act one.

"Well," said Syd, "not a hell of a lot to go on here. Let me be explicit for a second. In the sex on the couch part, what are they expecting? Is one of you supposed to go down on the other? God, that would be something. Shit, I am getting all wet thinking about eating Abbie Evan's goddamn pussy."

"Syd, you are not putting me at ease."

"Sorry, but do you think that's what they're looking for?"

"I don't know. We never talked details, but I don't think so. I am supposing it's mostly going to be kissing."

Syd thought about it. "Kissing, like kissing boobs?"

"Oh God, I don't know," I moaned.

"Well, until we hear differently, let's assume you will kiss each other on the lips, probably run your hands up and down each other, getting a handful of butt, and most likely feel each others' boobs. If you find out more, we can practice more. Listen, Chloe, it will be fine. I know you're acting. So, let's try it out."

"Now?" My heart sank below my knees.

"As good a time as any. Besides we have about an hour before Max plans to be home. Let's make the most of it."

We faced each other and Syd stepped up to me. She was shorter than Abbie, but I figured that made no difference. I was about to kiss my first girl.

She smiled and gently rubbed my upper arms. I relaxed a tad.

Syd pulled me into her arms and hugged me gently. I appreciated her gesture. We had hugged hundreds of times before. I admit I had never felt her hard nipples press into me on those occasions.

She stepped back and said, "Kiss me."

I closed my eyes and moved my face forward. I ended up kissing her nose.

We both laughed.

"Close, but not what they're looking for," Syd said.

"Keep your eyes open. Come on, you can do it."

This time I moved my face toward hers, looking into her eyes. She tilted her head and I let my lips come to hers.

I was not prepared for the sensation. Her lips were soft, warm and, I must admit, erotic. Kissing her was nothing like kissing the guys I had dated. She broke the kiss, slid her hand to my cheek and then kissed me. With just a tiny bit more pressure, she pressed her mouth to mine. She then covered my lips and chin with soft caresses. I closed my eyes and to my shock began to enjoy the sensation.

Syd stopped and I opened my eyes.

"What's the matter?" I asked. "I'm not a good kisser, am I?"

"No, it's just you're a little stiff. Try to loosen up."

"What do you mean?"

"Your neck seems to have a steel rod in it. Your shoulders are like a wound spring. Let it go, Chloe. This is going fine."

I rolled my head, shrugged my shoulders and tried to relax.

Syd came to me and kissed me once more. Again, the sensation was sweet and enticing.

"Chloe, touch my cheek. Run your fingers through my hair. Do something besides stand there like a freaking statue."

She kissed me and I slipped my hand onto her cheek. She put her hand behind my neck. All the while, she was placing soft kisses on my lips. I put my other hand behind her head and ran my fingers through her short-cropped hair.

I kissed her back and felt her take in breath. She slipped her hand around my waist and pulled me tight against her. I felt our breasts press into each other and our thighs touch. She kissed me and I kissed back more urgently. She next kissed my cheek and neck, pulling me tight to her. She returned to my mouth and I willingly, no eagerly, accepted her lips to mine. We kissed for several minutes.

Syd let go of me and we parted. I was breathing hard.

Syd smiled and took my hand.

"Chloe, that was much better. I almost felt for a second you were enjoying it. Remember the audience has to believe you are really, really enjoying it."

"Thanks, Syd. I have to admit I did relax more. It's just I am such a klutz at sex. Really, I know I suck at it. Figuratively speaking, that is."

We both laughed and used the moment to get a couple beers. For a brief second, I forgot I was naked.

"Chloe, you are overplaying your lack of sexuality. You are extremely sexual, bordering on hot. You are beautiful, have a knock-out bod, and move like a dancer. Just let all of this natural allure carry you. They will love you."

We finished our beers and practiced kissing some more. After that session, I was aggressively, well, mildly aggressively, kissing Syd. After our last embrace, she stood back.

"Whoa. Chloe that was hot. You could turn me on like that."

"Right," I laughed.

Just then we heard the lock turning. We both screamed and scrambled for our meager clothing. Syd shouted out to wait, "one freaking minute" and we dashed into Max's bedroom.

We looked at each other and fell on his bed laughing our asses off. Syd dressed and got my clothes from the bathroom. When we both were decent, we headed to the living room.

"Well, I guess you two were, what's the term, method acting."

"Don't be such a dweeb, big b*****r. We were making out like crazy," said Syd.

The look on Max's face was worth the embarrassment I felt.

He took us out for sushi and I left for my rat-hole after dinner.

The next day at the theater, Rice passed out new pages for the end of act one. We went through them, making notes and comments.

As we broke for lunch, Abbie pulled me aside.

"So, how's it going, Chloe?" she asked.

"Fine for me. I should ask you, how am I doing?"

I knew that no one had actually confirmed that I had the role.

"You're doing great, Chloe," she said, flashing her million, or multi-million dollar smile. "Everyone loves your reading, your ideas, your enthusiasm. The part is yours if you want it."

Instinctively I hugged her and shouted, "Yes. Thank you."

Abbie laughed and said, "The only concern we have is how you will do with the nudity and our love scene."

I nodded and told her I was confident I could do both. I confided that I was working on them.

"Really? How so."

I explained about my friend Syd. She nodded and agreed it was one way to prepare.

She suggested we take a little walk outside. The afternoon was bright and we strolled down the street.

"Chloe, I remember the first time I had to do a nude scene. I was younger than you, eighteen actually. Since I had been a c***d actor and grew up on screen, I knew it would be a shock to many that I was now a woman and would be doing adult parts, including nudity. We rehearsed the scene clothed and then the day came to shoot it. Mind you it was, and I've clocked it over and over again, thirty-three seconds long, but it took over a day to shoot it.

"My co-star was older, you know Billy Gormley. He had really bad breath." We both giggled at that admission.

The scene called for me to seduce him.

He is in bed and I come into his room, strip and climb in with him. We kiss, he plays with my boobs and the camera pans away to let imaginations take over.

So, Billy's in bed. He is wearing shorts since he will be shot from the waist up. I am dressed in a blouse, short skirt and underwear."

We stopped waiting for the cross light. Abbie asked me if I'd ever been on a movie set. I answered no.

"Well, there are like dozens of people around. The director cleared everyone not involved in the shot, like the craft people, caterers, hangers-on, personal assistants, and on and on. Nevertheless, there are the lighting people, sound people, assistant directors, the co-producer, wardrobe, make-up, hell, a lot of people.

"So, we're ready for my big scene. As you can guess, we have to shoot multiple takes and multiple angles and then hope we have it right for the editor to make sense of it. I go in say my lines and start stripping. I do the whole thing, buck naked, with the camera shooting me from behind. I have to do the strip ten times from that angle. In between takes, make-up is dusting my ass to remove a glare, the focus-puller is putting a tape on my ass to measure the distance from the lens. And, I'm standing there nude. Then, we change angles and I strip facing the camera. I have to admit I thought I would throw up. But I did it. Again, multiple takes and multiple dusting my boobs with make-up, adjusting my hair, etc.

Abbie slipped her arm through mine and leaned in to talk softly.

"Here I was, the golden c***d of cinema. Winner of an Academy Award at f******n, darling of the big screen, standing nude in front of a bunch of people I hardly knew. A little secret, I was still a virgin and had virtually no experience with men or sex. I think one person, outside my mother and doctor, had ever seen me without clothes. Yeah, I was weirded out."

Abbie explained that they have something like a modesty shield that they can put over your most private parts.

"They tried one with me, but I had to make a move to get into bed and it kept showing. The director asked if I minded if they could get rid of it. So, I had to show my sweet, innocent pussy to the mob.

"Anyway, we do the strip scene from the front. Then we shoot the part of me getting in the bed a dozen times. It's was like, 'Abbie, don't pull the covers down so far, we can see his underwear and he's supposed to be naked.' Or, 'Abbie, turn your butt more toward the camera.' 'Abbie, don't spread your legs, what we can see will get us an NC-17.' God, Chloe, it was stressful and humiliating.

"By the end of the first day, I hadn't even gotten into the damn bed. I was drained physically and emotionally. I had convinced myself that I was making the biggest mistake of my life."

Abbie pulled me into a small Italian bakery and bought a couple pastries and two cappuccinos. We sat at a small round table in the window.

"So, the next day we pick up where I'm now in bed with Billy. I could wear panties, since just my top was going to show. The director had gone over the scene with us dozens of times, blocking every move. It was, "Abbie, kiss Billy like this." "Billy, rub your hand up and down her back." Abbie, roll over on your back and Billy you kiss her breast. Lick her nipple and then cover it with your hand."

Abbie finished her pastry and wiped the crumbs from her lips. She smiled recollecting that scene.

"Chloe, that was the first guy who ever kissed my boob. Strange, no? Anyway, we run through the scene and the first thing I notice is how bad his breath is. I mean I wanted to pull away and retch. But, we are paid to act, so act I did. We shot that kissing part so many times from so many angles, that I thought I would never get the smell off me. We did the playing with the boob thing. And finally, I get on top of him, he kisses my boob once more and I start moving like we are having sex, after the director told me what to do. I had no clue how to make people believe we were having sex. The camera pans down our bodies and the scene is over."

Abbie ran her fingers through her luxurious ginger hair and smiled at me.

"The really worst part, Chloe, was dear old Billy had a monster hard-on. I mean it was huge and I had to rub up against it. God, that was so difficult. He loved every goddamn minute of it. He even had the balls to ask for extra takes because he didn't think he was looking in the right direction. A major fucking pig, excuse my French."

She reached across the table and took my hand. Looking me directly in the eye, she said, "So, was it worth it?"

After a short pause, she continued, "Well, I did get a nomination for my role. Did manage to get a few more films, another Oscar, and now I produce and direct. So, yeah, I think it helped me prove I was more than that adorable c***d star. I was grown up and I was a f***e. I did a couple more nude roles. It never gets easy, but it does get easier."

She squeezed my hand and I returned the gesture.

"Thanks, Abbie. I still have a bunch of butterflies every time I think of it, but you have helped me enormously."

We stood and left the bakery. On the street, Abbie pulled me to her and kissed my cheek. "You will be great, Chloe. And, I will do everything I can to help you through this."

Back at Max's that afternoon, Syd had us undress in front of each other. Her reasoning was that I had to do it on stage, so get used to it. I relayed about what Abbie told me earlier. She said maybe we should take her up on her offer.

"What are you talking about?"

"Maybe you two should rehearse before you have to do it in front of the crew."

"Right," I laughed sarcastically, "why don't I call her up and say, 'Abbie, how about we get together, get naked and have sex. Sound like a good idea?' I think not, Syd."

"Just a suggestion," Syd replied. "So, I guess you'll have to do it with me. I think today we should work on tits."

We did. She instructed me how to rub her boobs and not look like I was afraid my hand would fall off. She demonstrated by fondling mine. As with our kisses, I first was scared, but soon began to enjoy the sensations. I was shocking myself to find dampness seeping between my legs.

"Chloe, you really have fantastic tits," said Syd. She was running her hands over my breasts and teasing my nipples, which were now rock hard. She leaned in and kissed me as she tantalizing pinched my nipples. I moaned and kissed back.

We broke looking at each other.

"Is this what you do with the women you're with," I asked?

"Usually," Syd replied brushing the backs of her fingers over my super-sensitized nipples. "And, a lot more."

She smiled and turned to go and get us beers.

"Like what," I said to her naked back.

She came to me carrying the beers and guided me to the couch. She set the beers on the coffee table and shifted her body to face me.

"Like this," she whispered.

Syd bent and took a nipple between her lips. Holding my breast with one hand, she licked it until it was stiff and dark. She then sucked it into her mouth, eliciting a guttural sound from me. She sucked and licked and squeezed. Finally, she had most of my breast in her mouth.

I was in a semi-daze, but found the strength to ease her off me.

"That, would be one thing I do with another woman," she said.

"Holy cow," was all I could say.

We sat on the couch, silently sipping beers.

"Syd, what's it like to kiss a girl down there?"

Syd laughed and asked, "Are you asking out of curiosity or asking if I will do that to you?"

"Curiosity," I murmured, but inwardly wondering if that were the truth.

"Well, has a guy ever kissed you there?" she asked.

"Once, but it didn't feel that good."

"Probably didn't know jack shit about pussies," she said.

"Well, it really is a powerful feeling," Syd continued. "Done right, you can make a women beg for relief and have ultimate control over her. I love that part and I also love the sensation. A woman's most intimate and secret part opening before you is intoxicating. Putting your second most intimate organ, your tongue, on her is mind-blowing. The scent, the taste, the moisture and the heat blend together to create the most erotic combination possible. I love it, Chloe. And, I love when a talented woman or man does it to me."

"Do you think Abbie and I will have to do that?"

"Can't say, Chloe, but I kinda' doubt it. It's one thing for you two to be naked, to kiss and even play with each other's tits. But, I still think straight America gets freaked out if they think that the two women are eating each other. Kissing and tits are fine, but the other is crossing some unwritten line."

I nodded and surprised myself by almost regretting that I wouldn't be doing what Syd just described.

The next couple days of rehearsal went well. Rice kept doctoring the script and we all felt much more comfortable with it. We still did not resolve the ending.

I had a couple wardrobe fittings with Marge. She had me take my top off and inspect how the bras fit. I was a little shy, but tried not to show it. She cupped my boobs in the bra and felt all around.

"I think I'm going to try just a size bigger," she announced. "These fit you, but they squish your boobs too much. And, you end up with really deep lines. You have very nice boobs and we want them looking as good as possible. Now, slip off your bottoms and try on these panties."

I couldn't believe she asked that, but again I complied. I pulled off my jeans and bikini briefs. She looked at me and shook her head.

"Chloe, seriously, you have to trim that mess. God, have you never done anything with it."

I shook my head.

"I discussed it with our fearless director..."

"You talked about my pubic hair with him?"

"Not exactly, I asked him what he was looking for. You know, bald as an eagle or something else."

My mouth hung open in wonder.

"He said bald would be too much. People might be too shocked by it and it would not show up under the lights. He suggested a nice landing strip. It will certainly affirm that you are a real blond. Believe me, honey, they all wonder about it. I can give you the name of a cosmetician who can help, or you can do it yourself or have a friend lend a hand."

I said I thought I knew someone who could assist.

That afternoon I broke the news to Syd.

"Cool, I love grooming pussies," she cooed with mock enthusiasm.

"Seriously, Syd, if it's too gross, let me know."

"Nah, nothing to it. My last girlfriend and I did it all the time."

Sitting on a towel on the couch, I spread my legs, the first time I was ever so exposed before a woman. Syd snipped away at my tangle and then used a disposable razor to clean up and make nice straight lines on each side and the top.

Wiping the excess cream away with a towel she looked up and said, "Want to find out what it's like to have it licked by a girl?"

I felt a rush of bl**d surge to the area in question, and experienced a blossoming dampness. I stroked Syd's hair as her face hovered mere inches from my wide open sex.

Before I could say anything, Syd leaned in and kissed my pussy. She put her lips on my sex lips and gently ran her tongue up and down my slit, ending with a tongue lashing of my clit. I was shocked and turned on more than I ever had been in my life.

She next softly placed her fingers on my damp slit and held them there for a few seconds, before sliding one finger inside me. I jerked with surprise and took her wrist to guide her finger back out.

Sighing, pulled her hand away, cleaned me up and we practiced lines and the make-out session for a while. This time I took her breasts in my mouth for the first time. I marveled at the feel of her nipple between my lips and the texture of it against my tongue. I think I was doing something right because of the reactions from Syd.

"Shit, Chloe, you are turning me on. Anytime you want to stop play-acting let me know. Damn, I need a cold shower."

She trotted off and I slipped my hand between my legs, sampling the wetness and rubbing my clit. "God, I am so turned on. What is going on?" I f***ed my hand away and went into Max's room to dress.

The next week at the theater we spent on run throughs and blocking. We were still reading our lines and the director would position us here and there until he felt it worked.

He would call out directions like, "Chloe gets undressed now, facing down stage."

Thankfully, I was able to do all this clothed.

We got to the part where Abbie and I have our big scene. The director called out and now Abbie and Chloe kiss, make-out, get naked and have sex, yada, yada, yada.

Again, thank God it was just yada, yada, yada.

At the end of the week, the director said that next week we will work on the love scene and block it out. He said Joe was going to be out on a location shoot for his TV show, anyway.

Rice said he had redone the ending. Instead of Joe's character just watching me and Abbie lying on the couch together and then turning away to leave. Abbie and I get up, undress Joe and take him to the couch to be with both of us. The three of us start to make love. The stage goes black. The audience will think that we three will stay together, but still wonder if Abbie will eventually mess everything up.

As the rehearsal was breaking up, I asked if I could speak with Abbie.

"Abbie, I don't know how to ask you something," I stammered.

"Honey, just ask me," she smiled and patted my arm.

"Well, how will we, you know, well, how far do we have to go in our scene? I guess we'll be kissing or something, but like do we, uh, touch or what?"

Abbie smiled again. "I'm not sure. We've sort of talked about it, but I think we will work some of that out next week. I can say for sure that we will both be naked, will kiss and will probably touch each other. Will we kiss other parts than lips or where we will touch each other, let's just say we'll work it out together. Chloe, you will do fine. I am so impressed with your interpretation. Everyone is raving about you."

I blushed and thanked her.

I filled in Syd that night.

"Well, that sounds cool, Chloe. She seems so supportive."

"She is," I replied.

Syd looked away and then back at me, "Chloe, I've been thinking about our rehearsals. There's a problem."

"What? I thought we were doing great."

"That's just it. You and I are doing great. You seem really relaxed being naked around me and you have totally loosened up with the sex part."

I blushed remembering her mouth on my pussy. I pushed that thought away and said, "So, the problem is..."

"So, the problem is you and I are cool. Chloe, you will be naked in front of the whole crew whom you've come to know and then in front of thousands of other people. I think we need to prepare you for that."

"How? What are you talking about?"

Syd put her arms around my neck and touched her forehead to mine. "I mean we need to have an audience for you to rehearse in front of."

"You're shitting me."

"No. Think about it. How long did it take you to relax with just me? Do you really think you can go from here to doing it in front of all those others and not flip out? I say get it over with now."

I hoped I was not hearing Syd correctly. But, in the back of my mind there was a growing thought that she was right. I had become almost comfortable walking around nude in Max's apartment. But, would that comfort transfer to the stage? My insides were turning jell-o again.

"What do you suggest," I asked?

"Simple, you have three roommates and I have Max. We invite them over for a run through. I'll play Abbie's part."

"You want me to get naked in front of my roommates. Fuck that, you want me to get naked in front of Max. No way."

"Hey, rockhead, do you think that your roommates or Max are not going to see the show? Duh, like they wouldn't miss it for the world. Not because you'll be nude, but because they love you and support you. And, okay, because you and Abbie will be nude. But, anyway, do it now, Chloe, believe me it's the right thing."

"But, Max. He's like my, well, my b*****r. And, well, I just couldn't."

Syd laughed and pulled me tight for a hug. "Chloe, it's ok. I know you've had a crush on Max. God, it's so obvious. But, you gotta' do this."

"You know I had a crush?"

"You may be a fabulous actor, Chloe, but you suck at hiding your true emotions."

I broke free from her and sank into the couch. What a jerk I am. I couldn't believe I was that obvious.

"Does Max know that I..."

"I think he suspected you did a while ago. But, now I think you and he are just best buds. He loves you, Chloe, he really does. But, it's sort of how he loves me."

"Ah, fuck," was all I could muster.

That night in my smelly mattress on the floor in my dark, shared room, I thought about what Syd suggested. Logically it made sense. Emotionally it made my insides turn to liquid.

In the morning, before I headed out to the theater, I asked my roomies if they were willing to be my mock audience. I think they all reacted the same way—wanting to help, but not wanting to be appear to be too anxious to see me nude.

I have two guys and one girl as roomies. I know Annie was gay or at least bi-. She made some casual passes at me when we first started sharing the room, but I politely let her know I was not interested. She usually never wore clothes in our room and even sometimes where the guys could see her. I wasn't sure if she were trying to entice me. As for the guys, they were normal horny young men and I'm sure had mentally undressed me more than once.

They agreed to come over to Max's that evening. I then called Syd and broke the news. She squealed with delight and said she'd break the news to Max.

"Shit," I thought, "What have I got myself into now?"

That day I was distracted with the anticipation of the evening. I missed a couple cues and the director chewed my ass off. At the end of our run-through, Abbie pulled me aside and asked what was up.

I tried to brush her off, but she was too perceptive. I told her about performing in front of people, including my best friend, Max.

"Chloe, I think you're being both brave and smart. I was a little worried how it might be when we get to, shall I say, "dress" rehearsals. This way you might work out some of the butterflies. Good idea."

Her little pep talk helped take some of the edge off and I impulsively hugged her

She responded and hugged back, patting my back reassuringly.

She then whispered in my ear, "Let me know how it goes and maybe you and I should do our own run through before next week. As a matter of fact, I think there is no way around it."

I was not sure I just heard one of the biggest stars in Hollywood offer to do a practice nude scene with me. God, this thing is getting way too weird.

I made my way to Max's in a fog. I could not even remember getting on or off the subway. Syd greeted me with a hug. She said my roomies called and said they would be there around 6 and would bring pizza. Max would pick up the beer and be here around the same time.

"Pizza and beer?" I said. "This is not a freaking football game."

Syd smiled and said, "No, it's going to be more like nude wrestling."

"Shit," was all I could respond.

Syd suggested I dress in a robe similar to what I would wear on stage and she would wear a skirt and blouse. We had done the scene so many times, that we both knew our lines.

Max and my roomies arrived and started in on the beer and pizza. Syd and I had pushed the furniture back in the living room to give us some space. We set up a chair for a prop.

Syd and I got ready in Max's bedroom and with a high five entered the living room.

The mini-audience broke into applause. I was grateful for the noise because it probably masked the sound of my knees knocking together. I was overcome with stage fright at the thought of stripping before these people I knew so well.

Syd saved the day by plunging right into the dialogue. The verbal cues brought me around and I began playing my role. It was soon the moment that Abbie attacks me and rips off my robe.

Syd moved so quickly I was knocked off balance. She grabbed the belt of my robe and pulled it. The robe opened and I was exposed to Max and my roomies. They were totally silent.

Syd slid the robe off my shoulders, letting it fall to the floor. For the first time in my life I was standing naked in front of more than one person. My biggest surprise was that I was not throwing up. My second biggest surprise was how hard my nipples were. I wondered if my audience noticed.

Syd crossed and pulled me to her arms. She kissed me and ran her hand down my back, cupping my ass. I kissed back and wound my arms around her.

Breaking our embrace, Syd quickly stripped. We then held each other and kissed passionately. Our hands found each other's breasts and Syd pushed me back onto the chair, knelt in front of me, and kissed my breasts. I moaned, not really acting, and finally pulled her face to mine for a long kiss. This was the end of act one and we broke apart, with Syd sitting back on her heels.

The silence surrounded us. Syd and I looked at each other and smiled. The four people watching us started clapping and then shouted their approval. Syd and I stood, clasped hands and took a deep bow. I did not even have the faintest urge to cover my naked parts. We kissed and still holding hands sauntered back to Max's room. Inside, we squealed and hugged.

Syd told me to stay and still naked ran back into the living room to retrieve our clothes. I pulled on the robe and Syd put on her panties and bra and we joined the adoring crowd in the living room.

All four said it was a great performance. Annie said she totally believed we were getting it on. "Too fuckin' hot," was how she put it.

The guys were a little more reserved by agreed it was sexy. They both admitted to getting excited.

Syd asked if that meant boners?

I turned crimson at her bluntness. Dave laughed and said "Oh yeah!"

Zack shyly nodded in agreement.

We broke into laughter and then finished the pizza and beer. My roomies left to go to a party down in the village and Syd and I got dressed.

Syd, Max and I sat together on the couch. The silence got a little heavy. Syd broke it by asking, "Max, did you get excited?"

I was so taken aback I could hardly breath.

Was Max going to be completely offended? Would he think Syd and I are tramps? Would he never want to speak to me again?

"Ladies, I was hard as a rock. There will not be a straight guy in the audience who is not turned on."

"Or, a gay gal," added Syd. "And those two categories cover most of Manhattan."

We laughed, breaking the ice.

We chatted for a bit longer and I then headed home.

The next day Abbie asked how it went and I gave her a big thumbs up.

The director had to cut rehearsal short due to some problems with the theater that needed to be addressed.

Abbie asked if I had plans for the afternoon. I was free and she invited me to join her at her spa.

"Chloe, let me treat you to a first class session. It will make you feel great and give us some time to talk."

We took her car and the driver expertly wove in and out of traffic until he pulled up in front of a brownstone. Abbie led us into the lobby which was subtly decorated. The receptionist warmly greeted Abbie and welcomed me.

She used the phone and in a minute a tall black woman emerged from a door. She was dressed in a light blue outfit in a soft material that accented her striking figure.

She led us back into a changing area with individual cubicles. Abbie said we should get undressed and wrap a towel around and put the robe the spa provided on top of the towel.

I followed her instructions trying to imagine what lie ahead.

Abbie knocked and asked if I was ready. I joined her in the common space. The black woman, whose name I learned is Jamie, lead us to a room that contained two comfortable chairs. After we were seated, two women came in and began to do a facial, while another started on a mani-pedi. An hour later, Jamie returned and brought us to a massage room with two tables. She was joined by another woman, a blond with a Swedish accent. Jamie asked us to remove our robes and lie facedown on a table. The blond moved to Abbie and Jamie stood next to me.

"Can you loosen your towel, Chloe?"

I reached underneath and undid the soft terry and Jamie adjusted it so it d****d over my body.

With warm oil and strong fingers she began to work my legs. She folded the towel up so my legs were exposed. She kneaded and rubbed away some aches and a lot of tension. I turned my head and looked over to Abbie's table. The blond was on the far side also working on her legs. The difference was Abbie's towel was gone. I gasped looking at her small, taut butt and her naked back.

She opened her eyes and just smiled at me. The blond moved her hands to Abbie's butt and began massaging it deeply.

Jamie finished my legs and softly asked if she could work on my derriere. I nodded and Jamie slid the towel off me. Abbie let her eyes move over my naked back and smiled encouragingly.

Jamie moved between the tables and obscured my view of Abbie. She had me turn on my back. Abbie's masseuse told her to do the same. I imagined how it must look having the both of us totally exposed to these women working on our bodies.

Soon, Jamie erased all thought from my mind save the pleasure of tension melting away. When she had finished working every square inch of my body, she covered me with the towel. The two masseuses left the room.

"So, good?" asked Abbie.

"Fab," I replied.

"Let's go for the final step," said Abbie as she sat up and fixed her towel around her.

I did the same and followed her out and down a corridor to a wooden door. She opened it and we stepped into a sauna. The dry heat immediately opened my pores and the sweat started rolling.

Abbie faced me and said, "Chloe, we have to get naked with each other at some point. I figured this would seem more natural than doing it on stage."

Smiling broadly, she undid her towel and dropped it to the floor.

I did the same and we regarded each other. Abbie was glistening with perspiration and her body shone. Her breasts were smaller than mine, but were firm and tight. She had a narrow waist, wide hips and a closely trimmed auburn patch between her legs. She grinned and spun around so I could see her dimpled cheeks, almost boy-like in appearance.

She looked me over and I provided a view of my backside.

"You are quite beautiful, Chloe," she said and held her hand out for mine. I took it and felt her reassurance flowing from her firm grip.

"Give me a hug," she said softly.

I stepped forward and for the second time in my life embraced a naked woman. Our breast mashed together, our thighs touched and we lay our heads together, feeling the moisture on our cheeks and temples.

Abbie ran her hands up and down my back, brushing my butt and finally encircling my waist, pulling me tight.

I wondered if this were a rehearsal or if she were putting a move on me. I had heard all the rumors about Abbie being in the closet.

She loosened her grip, kissed my cheek and stood back.

"Let's sit here a while and enjoy the heat," she said as she stooped to retrieve both of our towels.

We each took a bench facing each other with our towels under our butts and our backs resting against a wall.

"Chloe, do you think I'm hitting on you?"

I panicked thinking that my expression must have betrayed my thoughts.

I stumbled for an answer.

"It's Ok. Let me give you the quick back story of Abbie Evans and then you can decide."

I began to protest, but she cut me off.

"Chloe, I know all about the rumors, the gossip the celebrity websites. I know people think I am a raging lesbo trying desperately to remain in the closet. Just let the heat relax you and listen for a bit."

I nodded.

"You know my story, at least the part the publicists push. c***d star at eleven, workaholic, producer, Hollywood legend, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, a lot of it is true, but it's far from the complete picture.

"After my big hit when I was just a k**, my parents tried their best to protect me. They had taken control of my earnings, hired a business manager, gotten a respectable agent and worked hard to let me be a k**. And, for the most part it worked out. I got other great roles. My business manager was a wiz who invested my money well. My parents were supportive but not pushy stage parents. They let my agent do all the negotiating. My mom would come on set with me to be sure I was not overworked and got my school assignments done.

"I made three major pictures before I was eighteen. I wanted to go to college and was accepted at Stanford. I only acted during the summer and made it through college mostly unscarred. Did the usual stupid college k**s stuff, but managed not to get arrested or to land on the front pages.

"And, yes, I experimented a bit with d**gs and drinking. Being an Academy Award winner, I figured the rules did not apply to me. I got wasted a few too many times, but, again, never ended up in a scandal.

"In senior year, I got an apartment off campus with a couple other k**s. The movie where I did my first nude role had been out for over a year and now I was feeling quite grown up. I told you I was a virgin for that movie, but now I had my aim on fixing that.

"My first lover was a guy I met in Creative Writing class. He was totally fucked up, but I saw him as romantic. We did it in my apartment on a Wednesday afternoon. He was not particularly good, as I later realized. We did it a couple more times until I found out he was writing about it and intending to try to sell a screen play about our little affair. So, lesson learned about people wanting to fuck stars.

"I was totally bummed on guys and next hooked up with my roommate. She was already out and when I opened the door a crack, she rushed in. Sex was good, better than my writer pal. I enjoyed being on the wild side of things. She also loved d**gs and drinking hard. Many a night we ended up wasted and having sex in all kinds of weird and public places. I knew I was tempting fate, but I was telling myself I needed to be my own person. Whatever the hell that meant.

"Her b*****r came for a visit and the next thing I know he and I are screwing our brains out. Katie, my roomie, didn't mind since she was fuckin' our other roomie. She thought it was cool that I was doing both her and her b*****r. When her b*****r went home, Katie sort of maneuvered me into a three way with our other roomie, Allie. So, sex and d**gs were taking over a good part of my life.

"All that changed when Katie got busted for trying to sell coke to an undercover narc. She dropped out and skipped bail. I got scared and dumped the apartment and moved into a hotel for the last couple months of college. After graduation, I came to New York to start acting full time. I wanted to get out of Hollywood.

"I had a great loft in SoHo. Soon, I was making new friends and slipping back into old habits. Coke was flowing like snow flakes and I had lots of people eager to hang out with me. I had a bunch of flings with both guys and girls. I was quite the metro-sexual living the good life in NYC.

"Then, one morning I woke up in my loft. I was naked and in bed with a guy I did not know and a girl who was a barista down the block. My mouth tasted like sex and my lips were cracked at the corners. Both my pussy and ass felt like the Russian army had been there. I stumbled out of bed to find two other guys on the floor in my bedroom. One guy had the biggest prick I had ever seen and I wondered if that was the cause of my sore mouth, pussy or ass. There was also another girl, someone I had never seen before, and she was passed out, but still wearing a huge strap on. I could not see one condom around any of the guys.

"I freaked. I didn't know how many of those people I fucked and if they had any diseases. I called my agent to come get me. He arrived to find all the others still passed out and me, naked, curled into a ball in the living room. He stuffed a bag with a few clothes, made me pull on something to wear and took me to his co-op.

"I stayed in his guest room for days. He had a doctor come to check me out. I obviously had a lot of regular and anal sex. I could not say if I was ****d or did it willingly. I couldn't remember a thing. I was detoxing and the doctor strongly suggested I check into a facility. My agent found one in Vermont that was ultra-private. I stayed there for two months and got myself straight. I also was tested for all the scary diseases and thank God came up clean.

"Chloe, I was scared shitless and vowed never to be out of control again. I had my agent dump the loft, get rid of all the furniture, clothing, everything. I wanted no part of that life to touch me again.

"I moved to Connecticut and got serious about my career. I don't do any d**gs and am only a social drinker. I am driven to excel and think I have done well with my movies and other projects. I am excited about this play.

"Chloe, my sex life is still very private. I know you aren't asking, but I want you to know. I did have a long term relationship with another woman. She was soft, introspective, kind and thoughtful. She offset my worst qualities and brought out my best. We parted ways two years ago for lots of reasons. Who can say why couples break up? Part of it was her, part was me. Anyway, I miss her, but have moved on. Today, I would say I am not interested in another relationship with a woman. I've had two men lovers since then. I enjoy being with a man and think that if I found the right one, I could settle down, marry and have a f****y.

"So, Chloe, when you and I are having our love scene, it will be acting. I just wanted you to know."

I felt the tears welling in my eyes. Abbie had just ripped open her heart and soul to me. She did not need to do this and I was overwhelmed with her honesty. I crawled off my bench and climbed next to her. She opened her arms and I let her embrace me.

"Thank you, Abbie. I will never tell anyone about this."

"I know you won't, Chloe. I could tell you are a decent person and someone with a grasp on life. I hope we can become friends."

"Me, too," I breathed as she held me.

As Abbie and I were showering, she said we should have dinner and talk about an idea of hers.

She had her driver take us to an address in the 80s. The doorman welcomed Abbie and she asked him to order us some dinner from Alfredo's. He smiled and assured her it would be here in an hour.

We took the elevator to the seventh floor and exited into a lobby with just one door.

"Where are we," I asked?

"My little hide-a-way," she said.

She opened the door into a comfortably furnished apartment. Although it must fill the entire floor, it had a cozy feeling. She opened the curtains and put on a couple lights.

I followed her to the kitchen where she fixed us each a glass of Chardonnay and assembled a plate of cheese, fruit and crackers. We sat in front of the gas fireplace and enjoyed the snack.

"I thought you live in Connecticut," I said.

"I do, but I keep this place in the city. It's great when I am working late, or want to spend a weekend here. Let me give you the tour."

The apartment had two master suites and one guest bedroom. There was a small dining area, the large living room and compact kitchen.

We returned to the living room just as the doorman knocked and announced the food was here. Abbie set up small tables and we ate in the living room.

"So," she said between bites of veal marsala, "want to hear my crazy idea?"

"Sure."

"Well, I do think that you and I need to work out our love scene. We want it to look good but also not be pornographic. I suggest we can rehearse here."

I almost choked on the succulent morsel of sautéed veal.

Abbie laughed at my reaction. "And, to maybe make it less threatening, I suggest your friend Syd be here, too. She sounds like she could give us good advice and make it a bit easier on you."

"Ok," I managed to say.

"Good, now here's the other part."

"Other part?"

"Yeah. With the new ending, you and I end up with Joe in bed. We have to undress him, take him between us and pretend we're doing the ol' ménage."

I nodded and drained my wine glass.

"Well, Joe is out for another week. I think we need to block out that whole scene. The secret is to make it look good, but not show too much to the audience."

I snorted and said, "Easy for you, Abbie. All you show is your ass. The rest of the time you have a blanket in front of you. Me, I am pussy and tits forward."

"Wow, I never really thought about it. Ok, I'll drop the blanket and give them all a first class beaver shot."

"Abbie, no way. I didn't mean..."

"You are right, Chloe. Now, I see this will work much better. But, we still have to choreograph the love scene with Joe. So, I suggest we have your friend, Max, stand in for Joe so we can work it out. Then, when Joe returns, we will show him how we figured it out."

"You mean, like Max will be naked, too?"

"Yes. Is that a problem? I thought you said he already saw you and Syd rehearsing."

"He did, but he was dressed. I'm not sure he'll go for this."

"Let me worry about that, Chloe. I can be very convincing. And, Syd can be our audience. She can let us know if anything is showing that shouldn't be."

"Like...?"

"Chloe, it's the double standard. Women can get naked and show everything. We even applaud the courage of stars like Cate Winslet who appear in full frontal nudity. But, let just a peak of a guy's business show up and people start freaking. Plus, there never, ever, ever can be a shot of an erection. Now, we are supposed to be three people passionately making love. The man desires both of us. So, will he have a limp weenie or be hard as a rock. If we want the audience to believe us, he should be erect. If we show an erection, we will be trashed. Plus, if we were commit to full male frontal, then dear Joe would have to get it up every night.

"Now, you and I are obviously beautiful specimens, but after twenty, thirty or a hundred shows do you think Joe will be just as excited? So, we will have to block it so maybe there is a peek in the beginning, but after that it's just ass to the audience."

My head was swimming. I never thought through the love scenes as Abbie had. Added to that was the concept that Max would ever agree to do a nude love scene with me.

Did I even want him to? God, for years I fantasized what it would be like to make love to him, to see him naked. Now, it was a possibility and I was flipping out.

Abbie said she would drive me home. I tried to dissuade her because I did not want her to see where I lived. She insisted and called for her car. Of course, when she said she'd drive me, she meant her driver would be behind the wheel.

I gave him the address. He looked at Abbie in the rear view, probably doubting the wisdom of taking a $100,000+ Mercedes into that neighborhood.

We arrived about twenty minutes later. The usual dope dealers, hookers and really scary-looking people were making my block look like a set for a Sorcese film.

Abbie insisted on walking me to my apartment. I assured her I did it every night and would be fine. She opened the door and pushed me out and followed me. Her driver slid down the window and said maybe he should go too.

"Hank, you stay here and make sure we still have a car."

I waved to the regulars and climbed the stone steps of my stoop.

"I can get it from here, Abbie. You go on home."

"I am seeing you to your room, Chloe. So, lead on."

We climbed the four flights, past pails of trash, piles of newspapers, smells of stale cooking and recent urine, until we arrived at my door. I couldn't help but compare this image with that of the pristine hallway outside of Abbie's apartment.

I desperately wanted her to leave, but she was determined to see me in. I fumbled with the keys and undid the five locks.

I pushed open the door, cringing at the dingy mess waiting within.

My male roomies were watching TV and doing a j. They were dressed in their usual t-shirt and boxers.

Annie was standing in the doorway to the bathroom, brushing her teeth and dressed solely in a pair of black panties. Actually, for Annie this might even be over-dressed. She was, to put it delicately, rather casual about clothing. Usually she was totally nude and oblivious to that fact. The guys quickly accommodated her habits, after realizing that she was not the least bit interested in what they wore under their boxers.

"Hi, guys, I think you know Abbie Evans. She's dropping me off."

The silence was broken by Annie as she crossed the room, her tiny boobs bouncing in rhythm with her steps. She extended her hand and mumbled, "Nice to meet you" as a dribble of white toothpaste escaped her lips, with one drop landing on her rock hard nipple. She made no attempt to wipe away the white gob on her dark protuberance.

Abbie, ever gracious, shook her hand and said it was nice meeting her and the guys.

I turned to Abbie and thanked her again. She looked once more around the shit-hole I called home, pecked my cheek and said good-night.

My roomies fell all over me with a hundred questions. Zack said she looked hotter in person than on the screen. Annie said she was probably overcome with lust seeing him in his pitted-out t-shirt and Elmo boxers.

"Yeah, well I'm sure she loved the glob of paste on what passes for your tit," he rejoined.

Annie looked down and laughed at the sight. She rubbed her nipple clean and then vamped for the rest of us, "Ooh, that feels so good. I should have let Abbie do that for me."

"In your dreams," snorted Dave.

I excused myself and went into my depressing bedroom to get ready for bed.

"God," I thought, "can I even be on the same planet? Abbie lives in such a different world. She must think I am a pathetic loser."

I drifted off to sl**p with memories of Abbie's classy apartment and the sounds of Annie's nightly masturbation marathon.

On Saturday, I took the train up to Abbie's apartment. We had decided to do our first rehearsal of our love scene.

Abbie suggested I go to the spare bedroom and get undressed. She left a robe for me.

I came back to the living room as she was slipping on a skirt.

She smiled at me and asked, "Ready?"

I nodded and we began the scene. We both knew our lines and quickly got to the part where Abbie rips my robe off. I am standing naked in front of her and she strips.

Keeping in character, she approaches me, and f***es my head to her and kisses me. I struggle for a moment and then relent. Soon, her hands are all over my body and I am reacting. To tell the truth, I am not sure if it was acting or I was really being turned on by her touches and kisses.

I touch her and we fall on the couch, her leg pressed between my thighs. As her lips encircled my aroused nipple, I moan out loud. She then breaks and calls, "Curtain". We both sit back, surprised at how much we are perspiring and how out of breath we are.

"Wow," she says.

"Oh, yeah, wow indeed," I offer.

We look at each other and then simultaneously burst out laughing.

We ran that scene a dozen more times accompanied by phrases like,
"Grab my boob, now. "
"Yeah, that's good put both hands on my ass."
"Ok, open your legs wider so I can get my leg in there. No, that's too wide. You're shooting a great open beaver to stage right."

After a couple hours we were satisfied with the blocking.

"God, I feel like we just had a fuck-a-thon," said Abbie.

"Not sure what one of those feels like, but that was more sex than I've had in years."

We laughed at the sight of us sitting naked on her couch. She held my hand and told me that this was going to work. I began to believe her.

Around three on Sunday, Max called me.

"Well, I must say that your friend, Abbie, is quite a person."

"She called you?"

"Oh, even better. We had lunch together."

"No shit!"

"Ah, shit, indeed. And, what an interesting proposition she had. Can I suppose that you were behind it?"

My cheeks burned. Remembering that Syd said that she was sure that Max knew I used to have a crush on him, I figured he must think that this was some bizarre way of putting a move on him.

"No, honest. I had nothing to do with it."

"Really, I figured it was your way of getting even for doing the nude scene in front of me."

I felt a weight lifted off me. He didn't think I was chasing him, he thought I was getting back.

"No, the whole idea was Abbie's. I told her you'd never go for it, though."

"Why'd you say that?"

"Huh, well, like I didn't think that there'd be any way that you would, you know, be like... Well, I figured you would not want to show your...I mean, do like a nude scene."

"Don't you think I have a good enough body?" he asked.

"Hell, yes," I blurted and immediately wished I could retract my words.

Max laughed and I knew he was teasing me.

"So..." I asked?

"Chloe, I don't know. I'm not sure I'd be comfortable."

"Max, it's just going to be me and Abbie..."

"And, my s****r," he added.

"Oh yeah, well, it'll just be us, no audience."

"I don't know," he said again.

"Max, what is it. You've already seen me nude. And if, God I don't know how to put this, well, if you like get aroused, we'll understand. Honest, it will be Ok."

"It's not that, Chloe."

"What is it then?"

"It's kinda' embarrassing."

"More embarrassing than having to make out with your s****r in front of you?"

"It's sorta' personal."

"Max, what are you talking about?"

There was a long pause before Max said quietly, "I've always been a little embarrassed about my size."

I didn't understand at first what he meant. "Jeez, Max, you aren't fat. You're in great shape and, yeah, you're tall, but not like a freak. So..."

"Not that size, dummy. My other size."

"Other?" I repeated. Then it hit me.

"Shit, you mean your, ah, your..."

"Yes, Chloe, I mean my dick. And, my balls, too."

I turned scarlet. Thank God we were on the phone.

I tried to cover by talking rapidly. "Hey, no problem. None of us are perfect. Hell, I think my tits are too small. Abbie's tits aren't that big, and Syd's, well, like there just not huge. So, don't give it a thought. We are not going to be judging you. Really, we just want to work out how we will do it on stage. So, it's no big thing. Oh, I didn't mean to say that. So what if it's not big. Hey, I hear that whole bigger is better is just a myth. I could care less and I'm sure Abbie won't either."

Max tried to interrupt my nervous stream of conscious blathering.

"Chloe, you don't get it..."

"Sure, I do. You are a little ashamed of your, well, penis and that it's not like some giant throbbing organ, you know, like in those Romance novels. Shit, I bet you don't read Romance novels. But, you know what I'm saying. We won't even notice how small, I mean how big it is."

"Chloe, listen..."

"No, not another word. The size of your penis has no bearing. Just say you'll help us out."

Max chuckled.

"Well, you and Abbie are certainly persuasive."

"And?"

"And, if you and think it would really be helpful, I guess I can do it."

"Well, fuck me," was the best response I could give.

"I do want to explain about what I just said, though," added Max.

"Nope, not another word," I insisted.

"Well then, I guess we're on for tonight at her place," Max said.

"What, I didn't hear from her."

"Well, maybe you should answer your phone more often. This is the fifth time I've called in the last half-hour."

I cursed myself for leaving my phone on vibrate and then hanging out in the living room watching TV while the phone stayed in my bedroom. I checked and saw four voice messages.

"Gotta' go, Max. I'll check the messages now. And, Max, thanks. I really think it will help."

There were two messages from Abbie confirming what Max just told me and asking me to talk with him since he had not agreed to do it until he and I spoke. There was one from Max asking me to call him and one from Syd. She was screaming that she could not believe the whole thing and couldn't wait to join us tonight. I assumed that Max must have discussed it with her and, as usual, Syd jumped to a conclusion.

I returned Abbie's call to let her know that Max and I had spoken. I explained Max's hesitation.

"Poor guy," she said. "God, the pressure we put on people to fit some stereotype of a perfect body. Chloe, I don't care if he has the tiniest weenie in the world."

"Yeah, I kinda' said that, but not with those words. In the end he agreed."

"Good job, Sweety. So, I'll see you later, Ok?"

We hung up and I showered and got ready. Abbie was planning dinner at 6 and we could rehearse after that. She also said she was sending her car down to pick me up at 5:30. My protests fell on deaf ears.

I was drying in my bedroom when Annie came in. Although she and my other roomies saw me naked at the rehearsal, I was still a bit shy about nudity. Annie gazed at my naked frame, she was nude as well.

"Hey, Chloe, you ought to do a bit of clean up around the puss."

I looked down at the stubble growing back. I didn't keep up with it since Syd had shaved me.

"God, I hate this," I whined. "It was so much easier just to let it grow."

"Happy to lend a hand," offered Annie. "And, while I'm down there I'd be even happier to make you happy."

I turned scarlet from head to toe and thanked her, but said I'd do it myself. I ran back to the bathroom and cleaned it all up.

That night after a dinner of take out from the hottest new restaurant in town, the four of us moved into Abbie's living room.

Abbie took control and explained the scene. She then had Max, me and her walk through it a dozen times, while still clothed.

Syd was quite helpful with suggestions.

Abbie said it was time for a real run-through. She and I excused ourselves to head to a bedroom.

Abbie sensed my apprehension.

As she was undressing, she said, "Chloe, it's going to be fine. Yeah, it might be a bit awkward at first. But, after a while we all will forget we are naked and just work on the blocking. And, let's make a promise to each other not to be shocked at his little member."

I agreed with her, but was thinking with my limited experience with male members I was not sure I would be able to tell if he was above or below average.

I marveled as her body became exposed to me. She was stunningly beautiful. As I slowly peeled my clothes off, I silently hoped she was right that things would go all right. Little did I know what was in store for us.

Abbie and I wore robes back to the living room.

Syd and Max had arranged the furniture so there was a "stage" and an "audience" section.

Abbie directed Max to take off his shoes and socks. In the play, Joe's character always wears sandals and she thought this would be a good way to work tonight.

"Ok, so, Max, Chloe and I are naked in bed—which will be the couch. You barge in and catch us. You start to yell, but we get up and come to you. We undress you, lead you to the bed, and we start making love. The stage then goes dark and the curtain falls for the end of the play. The final line, "This is perfect.", is heard in the dark and the audience is not quite sure who is speaking. It's the final ambiguity in the play.

Abbie explained to Max, that the theme of perfection ran through the play. My character is a bit of a Pollyanna, who thinks life can be perfect. Abbie's character is a skeptic, who always seems to work to destroy anything that could be perfect. Joe's character is striving for perfection in his art and his relationships, but can never hold it together long enough to find it. So, is the final line from Chloe's character and meaning the three of us will go on as one? Or, is it from Abbie and meaning she will work to ruin this relationship?

After summing up, Abbie said, "So, let's do it."

Abbie and I walked to the couch and dropped our robes. I heard Syd gasp as she gazed at Abbie's torso. At least, I think it was Abbie she was gasping at, since she'd seen me buck naked a lot.

Abbie and I lay on the couch and began making out, as we had talked about.

After a minute or two, Abbie sat up and said, "Ok, Max."

He grinned foolishly. I imagine he was caught up in the sight of the two of us making out.

He walks toward us and we resume our caressing.

"What the fuck!"

We sit up at his line.

"What are you two doing?"

"Making love, Babe," says Abbie in character. "And, we have room for one more."

Slowly, Abbie and I rise and cross over to Max. In the play this will be the first time the audience sees Abbie fully frontal naked.

Max playing the part starts to speak but Abbie kisses him silent. He looks at me and I raise my head to kiss him. I know I'm acting, but I am about to kiss Max, not some actor.

His lips are warm, mine are hot.

Together Abbie and I unbutton his shirt and peel it off. She drops to her knees and undoes his belt, opens his jeans, and unzips him. I have moved behind him and drop to my knees. In unison we begin to ease off his jeans and underwear in one motion. Max's ass comes into view and then his pants are at his ankles. I hear breath escape from Abbie, but can't see her.

Max steps out of his clothes and I rise to rejoin Abbie in front. I move next to her and then look down.

Now, I am a professional actor and pride myself on always staying in character. Even if a prop fails, or the scenery malfunctions or a fellow actor drops a line, I forge ahead.

I took one look at Max's manhood and exclaimed, "Holy shit."

Syd jumped up and raced around to see what I was staring at.

"Whoa," she screamed. "Max, you are like packing heavy artillery."

We three women gawked at the huge male organ hanging before our eyes.

Never did I imagine that Max was hung like a race horse. His dick must be at least seven or eight inches long and as thick around as my wrist. He had enormous balls that hung low.

Abbie said, "Max, you should have given us some warning."

"I tried to tell Chloe."

"But when you said your were embarrassed, I thought you meant because it was tiny," I pleaded.

He replied, "But, that's not what I said. I tried to explain, but you wouldn't shut up. I guess I should have blurted out, I've got a big dick. What was I supposed to say?"

"Shit, b*o," said Syd. "You could have worn a button like "Atomic Weapon Onboard"

"Thanks, Syd," he said. "I feel a lot better having my s****r comment on my manhood."

"Ok," said Abbie. "The shock is over. Let's work through the rest of the scene. We can take from the part after Max steps out of his pants. But, can I just say once more, that is a fuckin' beautiful sight."

Abbie and I take our places kneeling, me behind and her in front.

She looked at the thing before her eyes and said, "This is awesome. Sorry, everyone, but I just had to get that out. I know I said I was not going to mention it again, but shit. Max, this is the most beautiful prick I have ever seen."

"Amen," I put in.

"Hallelujah," added Syd.

"Enough already," said Max.

We regained our composure and e****ted Max to the couch. We had worked out that Abbie would lie on top of him, essentially covering his privates from the audience, and I would lie next to him and kiss, while he let his hands roam over both our bodies.

We played our parts. Max's hands caressed my breasts and Abbie's ass. Our moans and groans sure sounded authentic. Finally. Syd called, lights, curtain. I delivered the final line.

I sat back and expected Abbie to do the same, but she remained on top of Max.

I looked at her and shrugged.

"Ah..., equipment problem," she said.

"Ah, fuck it, Abbie," said Max, "staying there won't help. Just get up."

She rolled off and we saw the problem.

Max was at full staff. He sat on the couch and his erection pointed straight at the ceiling. The head was enormous and a vein throbbed along the length of his shaft.

The three of us just stared. Max looked at each of us and said, "What do you expect? You two are so hot, so beautiful and so rubbing up against me. It's a natural male reaction. And, it will take care of itself in a minute or two."

"I understand, Max. Actually, Chloe and I might have been offended if there was no reaction. It's just that, well, it's so beautiful."

With that she reached out, sliding her hand onto his erection.

I was shocked at her assertiveness.

She could barely close her fingers around the shaft. She softly moved up and down while her other hand fondled his large balls.

"Uh, Abbie," he said, "not that doesn't feel good, 'cause it does. But, I don't think this is in the script."

Abbie gave him her innocent look, perfected through many movies, and said, "But, Max, every good actor has to know how to improvise.

She slowly moved her mouth toward him and kissed the tip of his erection.

She locked her eyes on mine and I figured what the hell. This was probably the opportunity of a life time.

I took hold of the erection of the man I'd known most of my life and who was the object of many a daydream. I marveled at the strength of the erection and the smoothness of the skin. His balls felt heavy in my hand. I circled the tip with my finger, lingering for a second at the slitted opening.

"Hey, I ain't missing out on this," cried Syd. "b*****r or no b*****r, I have to feel something that big."

"No," he protested, "this getting out of hand."

Syd giggled and said, "Actually it's getting quite in hand. Nice rocket, b*o."

The three of us caressed his shaft and balls with our hands. Each of us took delight in the sensations of touch and the reactions of pleasure that Max exhibited, in spite of his protests.

Abbie leaned in and kissed Max on the lips. Emboldened, I joined her and I kissed him for the first time in my life with unhidden passion. No longer was he big b*****r; he was a sexy man with an awesome dick.

Syd softly stroked him, but soon pulled her hand away. I think she realized that doing it with three of us was much different from touching her b*****r by herself.

The room was silent save for the heavy breathing and occasional kissing sounds. After a few moments, Abbie moved her face back to Max's erection. Syd and I found ourselves sitting back and watching in silence.

Syd held my hand. As she squeezed tightly, she turned her face to mine. My mind was racing and my juices were flowing. She kissed me. In a second our tongues were exploring each other. Syd slipped her hand over and pinched my nipple. I felt the moisture running down my leg.

Our kiss was broken as we saw Abbie lick up the shaft and once again take Max's tip in her mouth. She was slowly engulfing more of the erection.

Max groaned and lifted his hips. Abbie responded by taking more in her mouth.

Syd moved her hand between my legs, her body pressed against me. I felt her nipples press into my breasts.

I shifted my weight and opened my legs. Syd plunged in. I was quickly loosing any sense of both boundary and propriety.

Syd rotated her finger and found the special bundle of nerves hidden in my vagina. Her other hand now worked my clit.

Abbie intensified her sucking aided by aggressive stroking. Kneeling on the couch, she had her legs spread apart and I could see the dampness welling at her swollen lips.

Syd noticed Abbie's position. She pulled away from me and softly petted the other woman's pussy. Abbie reacted by pushing against her hand. Syd slipped a finger inside and Abbie pushed hard against it.

From behind, Syd moved her face to Abbie's open sex and began to caress her with her tongue. Abbie moaned while still sucking on Max.

Max muttered that he was getting close.

Abbie stood up and Syd moved away. Abbie straddled him and positioned her lips over his tip.

Looking over her shoulder, she breathlessly said, "Help me, Chloe."

I took hold of the hard shaft and positioned it at her opening.

Max called out, "No."

We all stopped.

"This is too much. I can't let it go on. Abbie you have me over the edge, but I can't make love to you with Chloe and my s****r watching. I just can't."

The four of us just sat quietly, Max's erection commanding our attention. Our desires had not subsided but we were chastened by Max's words.

Abbie stood and said we had enough rehearsal for the night.

She pulled Max's hand until he could stand next to her.

"Girls, you can share the other master or whatever. Max and I will be in my master. I'll put a call into our dear director tonight to tell him that Chloe and I will be working at home and to not expect us until 1 tomorrow. I just pray I have a condom that will fit. Good night."

I'll say one thing for Abbie, she sure knows how to make an exit as she took his hand and led him to her bedroom.

I looked at them and said, "Love you, Max."

He smiled and said, "Love you, Chloe. You, too, Syd."

Abbie and Max disappeared into her bedroom.

"Separate bedrooms," I asked Syd?

"Are you fucking nuts?" she replied and pulled me to the other master.

I soon found out what Syd had meant about a woman's tongue on a woman's sex. Honestly, I lost track of my orgasms that night. As turned on as I was, I could not bring myself to perform oral on Syd. I kissed her there a couple times, but just couldn't continue. I guess I am really a hetero. She told me not to worry.

"Hell, I ate Abbie's pussy. Imagine, Abbie Evans' pussy. Awesome." She seemed satisfied.

Well, the actual stage rehearsals went great from that point on. Standing in front of the cast and crew naked for the first time was stressful, but our practice sessions helped enormously.

I admit that Abbie and I had to stifle serious giggles the first time we did a full run-through with Joe. To say that he was modestly endowed would be putting it mildly. And, we didn't have to worry about his erection being accidently seen by the audience. He did manage a semi the first time we rehearsed, but it frankly did not look any bigger than the tiny little bump that was there when he was soft.

We later came to find out, a secret about Joe. Well, we did not have to do much detective work, since a handsome young man came backstage to congratulate us on our final dress rehearsal. Joe was standing naked in Abbie's dressing room, where the three of us scooted to after the rehearsal. The young man kissed Joe and they embraced. Abbie and I felt honored that he even got that one little boner.

Opening night was a test and a triumph. I threw up three times before the play began. I literally was shaking with nerves. Abbie stopped by my dressing room and hugged me and told me I was going to knock 'em dead.

On stage, I thought my fingers would never get the buttons undone on my shirt. Finally I managed to strip nude. I heard a gasp from the audience as I walked to my spot and turned to begin to pose. I thought, "Hey, I've got this audience. They are with me." After that, it became easier. Not easy, just easier.

The play—thank God—was a smash. For our curtain calls, we all pulled on short robes and took our bows. I got three curtain calls.

The critics loved it, the audiences gave standing ovations every night, the house was sold out for months in advance. We even made the front page of the Times, talking about the barriers being broken in the modern theater, the bravery of an Oscar winner to take on such an edgy (read totally naked) role and, hurrah, great plaudits for yours truly as the breakout actor of the year.

Abbie insisted on having me move into the extra master suite in her city apartment. She seemed to be spending more and more time with Max at her place in Connecticut or his. She confided after that first night of intimacy, that she thought she might never be able to walk normally again. She seems to have adapted quite nicely, however, and now walks with a spring in her step. I do believe love is in the air. Abbie even offered that Max might be "the one."

As for me, well I'm not sure I did find true love. Syd and I never repeated our one night together. To be honest, I still wonder what it would be like to make love to Max. Abbie has hinted once or twice that maybe the three of us—her, Max and me--should get away. We have tons of fun together in the apartment. Max and I flirt a lot, but each night he's behind closed doors with Abbie. I'm almost at the point where I can almost tune out the shouts and shrieks—almost—when they spend the night in the apartment.

I think about what it would be like to make love to Max, but maybe screwing one member of the f****y is enough—for now.

But, then again, I learned you have to jump on every opportunity that comes your way.... Continue»
Posted by kap007 1 year ago  |  Categories: Sex Humor  |  Views: 1337  |  
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Three is not a crowd

I had been friends with Amy for a short while..she was pretty, petite, sexy and fond of telling me that she was bisexual....one night after being out..drinking..dancing..we started to walk home together..her hands kept brushing my arm...her fingers touching me, she asked if i wanted to come in her house for a drink...as we got in the front door she told me to go through and sit in the lounge...

I sat down on the sofa, head back, eyes closed...suddenly i realised Amy was in front of me, she leaned down to stroke my face then kissed me gently...i couldn't believe how turned on i was...i started to kiss her back..more passionately, she suddenly stopped, her husband was at the lounge door watching "go back to bed" she told him, i suddenly realised her husband was someone i had admired from afar, not realising he was married to Amy.

She took my hand and led me upstairs to her bedroom...the lights were off but the curtains were open...i could see her husband lying on the kingsize bed, naked....she led me to the bed and pushed me down gently, kissing me....her hands moved down to my side, pulling up my top, over my head, her lips suddenly on my nipples, licking and sucking...his hands reaching over to play with my hard nipples too...Amy moved down the bed...kissing my stomach, hands undoing my trousers, pulling them over my hips, pulling my panties down slowly..i felt her breath on my pussy...oh my god...then her tongue on my clit...gently flicking over it..her fingers sliding inside me....her husband kissing and sucking my nipples.....moving up to kiss my face, my lips, i started to forget where i was...Amy moved round so her pussy was above my face while she continued to lick mine...starting to finger me harder and harder...her husband started to stroke his cock...i looked up at her tight wet pussy, moving my fingers over it in fascination...i slide my finger inside her....pushing into her tight hole...she moved again, her pussy coming down closer to my face, i moved my mouth up to meet her...my tongue suddenly touching her pussy for the first time...i licked her all the way up her wet slit to her clit...then began to slowly lick her till she began to grind her pussy on to my face harder...my hand reaching round to find her pert tits, pinching her nipples, licking her faster and harder.....she began to moan and moan till my face was drenched with juice......she moved off me and her husband came closer, kissing my wet face....he moved on top of me and slid his hard cock into my pussy, starting to fuck me slowly while Amy watched....he was so big and filled my wet pussy up....Amy kept leaning over to kiss me and whispering to me "cum baby...let yourself go" her husband slid out of me after a while and stood up, pulling me round to the side of the bed, he bent Amy over me so she could lick my pussy again while he fucked her from behind both of them watching me as i started to cum...my pussy tightening...my body starting to shake till juices ran out of me and Amy lapped them all up..probing her tongue inside me...no Three is definitely NOT at crowd........ Continue»
Posted by lilyxxx 5 years ago  |  Categories: First Time, Group Sex, Lesbian Sex  |  Views: 2191  |  
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Three is Not a Crowd

Cheri and Dan had been married about two years. They had the best active sex life. They also lived with Dave, Dan's father. Both men shared Cheri. Tonight she was naked watching a movie between both men and they were each sucking on her tits and had two fingers in her cunt fucking her. Both men were also naked and she was stroking both cocks. She knew where her husband got his big cock as her father in law was huge. He was always naked with a big hard on and loved fucking Cheri. Last Saturday the two men took turns licking, sucking and fucking her all day long. Tonight Dan shoved her on her back and began to eat her pussy and Dave shoved his cock in her mouth to suck. His huge cock filled her mouth and she loved sucking him. As she sucked his big shaft she shoved two fingers in his ass and finger fucked him sucking harder as her husband sucked on her clit then pushed his tongue into her cunt. Dave began moaning and shouting "Yes, suck my cock hard. Fuck my ass. Make me your bitch. Use me and abuse me. Make me cum." Just then he husband got between her legs and pushed his big cock deep in hr cunt and was fucking her hard watching her suck on his dad's thick cock. Then just before Dave was to cum Cheri pulled the cock out and sucked just the tip and ran her tongue over the slit and sucked it hard as the cum flowed from it and she swallowed the big load down her throat. Dan then filled her cunt with cum and shoved every inch of his cock in deep and moaned as he shot his wad deep in her sexy hole.

Dave then pulled her cunt to his mouth and began sucking Dan's cum from her and licking her pussy and cleaning her. Dan was kissing her mouth and running his tongue all inside tasting Dave's cum on her tongue. He told his wife "You are the best fuck and so sexy. I love sharing you with dad and watching him suck and fuck you and I get so hard when you suck his monster cock. Now suck my cock baby and get my cock hard so I can fuck your ass and then dad will lick it clean. Then we can go to bed and take turns sucking on your pussy. I am so horny tonight and need a lot of cunt." Cheri began sucking Dan's thick cock and it took no time to get him hard and he then bent her over the back of the couch and spread her ass and shoved his big meat deep in her sexy asshole. Then the fucking began. He shoved his cock all the way in and then pulled it almost out the back in and did the many times till he could feel the tightness of her ass around his big cock. He loved ass fucking his wife with his cock and his tongue. She was so sexy and always needed a cock in her. He ass fucked her a long time till he filled her ass with another big load of cum.

Dan pulled his cock out and Dave then pushed his tongue to her ass and licked all around her leaking asshole then he sucked the cum out of her and shoved his tongue in to get every drop of the warm juice. He took turns tonguing her cunt and ass not wasting one bit of the precious cum. The more he tongued her cunt the more she came and he was so busy licking cum out of the sexy hole. Then Dan said "Come on dad. Let's take this sexy queen to bed and see how much cum we can fill her with. I think you will get a lot tonight to suck out of her ass and cunt. Between you and I we should be able to fuck her all night long. My cock is rock hard just thinking about that wet cunt and tight ass. Cheri loves our big long thick cocks a lot too. So lets go fuck."

They moved to the bed and Cheri was between them as they played with and sucked on her tits as they finger fucked her cunt. She loved when they both had a finger in her cunt fucking her hard and making her cum as they sucked on her big nipples. She never tired of their strong sex desire. Dave was sixty and still fucked her three times a day. His cock was always hard and she loved sucking him. Dan was just like a fucking machine. He never got enough and she loved fucking him a lot. He loved her huge tits and loved playing with them. She loved when they fucked all night then most of the next day. She needed the sex. She knew if Dave was not here with she and Dan she would be out looking for more cock. She had a big need for fucking and now both men could fulfill it for her. They never wore clothes because they always ended up naked any way. She loved seeing the men with their huge cocks. Dan had a thick ten inches and Dave was a good eleven inches and both were very thick. They fucked real good with the big dicks and lots of cum. Dave was a cum lover and licked the cum out of her cunt and ass all the time whether it was his or his sons. He loved when Dan covered her tits with cum and he got to lick them clean. She had such big tits with huge nipples on such a small girl.

In bed both men sucked on a tit as they fingered her pussy making her cum. Then Dan asked her "What hole do you want a cock in first? First me then dad. Then me then dad. This will go almost all night. We are all so horny for your sexy pussy. We are going to fuck till the sun comes up. Then today I am taking you to the patio and fucking you there." Cheri told him "Fuck my ass. I really love your cock deep in my tight ass. So fuck me hard baby just like you can. Give me every inch of that thick meant. I want it extra hard and deep tonight. My pussy will be on fire as you fuck my ass hard." Dan then put her on her hands and knees and rammed his cock deep in her ass and began pounding that tight hole. Dave then got below her and began licking and sucking on her clit before he then tongue fucked her cunt. Soon Cheri was screaming as both men worked her over hard. Dave had a deep suction on her clit and then he would shove his tongue in her cunt and fuck her then back to her clit. Dan was pounding her ass with his cock harder than he ever had and Cheri was cumming so fast and the screams were pouring out of her loving the hard fucking she was getting. Then she started yelling "More. I want it harder and harder. Fuck me hard. Make me cum more. Fuck my ass and cunt so hard. Fuck me. Fuck me. Do it now."

Dave then as he sucked on her clit shoved three fingers in her cunt. Then when he shoved his tongue in her cunt he used the fingers to twist on her clit and she was cumming fast and hard. Dan then began ramming her ass harder and faster and almost r****g her as she begged for more. She wanted it bad tonight and the men were working her hard. When Dan finally filled her ass with cum Dave then began sucking the cum out of her asshole and tonguing it. Dave then added three fingers to her cunt and began fucking it for her. They kept Cheri cumming for the best part of three hours. Then they laid side by side and the guys sucked on a nipple as they fingered her cunt just to get some rest before they double fucked her. It was going to be a long but fun night. Cheri was thinking about sucking the over sized cocks as they worked her tits and cunt till the cocks were ready for round two.... Continue»
Posted by tellmeastory45 9 months ago  |  Categories: Anal, Hardcore, Taboo  |  Views: 969  |  
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Three Hours

I watch you all evening. The bar is familiar, the crowd is not. You look incredible; we've been fucking since early afternoon and it's evident, at least to me. Your skin is flushed, almost glowing. Your eyes, glittering, linger on me whenever we glance at each other; I know this afternoon is still in your mind as it is in mine. The scent of you remains on my fingers and I inhale deeply, often, whilst watching you chatter and flirt with various eager strangers, their eyes following as you move away, high on life, on sex. The joint between your fingers may have something to do with it, too.

You're never more beautiful than when satisfied, when you've cum hard, repeatedly. You exude contentment, your usual edgy energy buried beneath obvious fulfillment. Never more confident either, drawing a sense of power from my desperation for you, from the ease with which you make me beg and moan for you. I'm a silent observer tonight, content to watch until you move further away, circling around one admirer in particular. I recognise those moves, as I should; the line of your throat as you laugh wholeheartedly, the flash of your eyes as you watch your prey. The fingers, still bearing my scent, which curve into the small of her back. You seduce her as you once seduced me, with only the barest glance in my direction to indicate that you're still aware of my presence.

Another drink. I turn back to the bar, mood darkening as I down it rapidly, the mirrored backdrop enabling me to watch you despite my reluctance to do so. As you lean into her, lips against her throat, I empty my glass and head for the door.

Couples everywhere. I stand at the exit for a moment, heart racing as the cool air hits my skin. Bored with my recurring role as spectator I head for the alley, to a favoured spot deep in the shadows. I stand for a while, propped against the wall, until the click of a lighter alerts me to your presence. I don't bother to open my eyes.

"She has great tits, doesn't she? Kisses like a champ, too." You offer this opinion between hits, as if recommending a new wine. "It's not just me she's interested in, either."

I spring forward, a hand around your throat. "When I need a fuck I'll go out and find one for myself." Face to face with you, your pulse beating under my fingertips, I feel my heart begin to pound once again. Apparently unperturbed you raise the joint to your lips once more but as you take a drag I feel you tremble. My fingertips move across your skin, my thumb tracing the line of your jaw before tilting your head back, my face nuzzling against your throat.

"You stink of her." I swallow, lip curling in disdain. "You know I hate that."

"So do something about it."

Always the fucking smart remark. Your eyes meet mine in a silent challenge and we glare at each other for a long moment, pressed against each other in the cold air. Your breasts push against mine, nipples hard and, I suspect, tight with arousal. Your leg pushes between mine and I feel my cunt moisten suddenly at the heat against my thigh. You smirk a little, confident once more in your experience of my body, fully aware of the effect you're having on me. It's too much and my temper snaps, my teeth sinking into the flesh of your throat as I growl in frustration against your skin. As I slide my hand round into your hair to yank your head back further, my other hand fumbles with your trousers, all but ripping them open in my impatience. I slip a hand inside to find you bare-assed, my fingers sliding straight into your cunt, two fingers against your clit. Your gasp is loud in the silence and I cover your mouth with mine, tongue sliding against yours. It's a hard kiss, teeth against lips, hungry and impassioned. My leg between yours, my body pushing you to the wall are the only things keeping you upright as you writhe against me, moaning desperately into my mouth as I pinch your clit before pushing three fingers roughly inside you.

"Did she make you feel like this, huh? Did she?" You're unable to answer, gasping for breath as I fuck you. I rip open your top, my fingers finding your nipple and twisting a little harder than necessary, making you cry out with something more akin to pain than pleasure. I pull my fingers out of you and back up to your clit, rubbing across it and back into you repeatedly as I play with your nipple, your tits impossibly, beautifully hard for me.

"Is she waiting in there now, waiting for you to come back and fuck her? Wanting your mouth on her cunt, your fingers in her ass?" You're close, your cunt squeezing my fingers, your cries muffled against my shoulder. "Does she want to do this to you, put her fingers in your twat like this? She doesn't have any idea how hard I can make you cum, how fucking wild you get for me." My fingers are relentless against your clit and I can feel you trembling against me as your hips start to buck, your cunt unbelievably wet. I shove my fingers back inside you, your hole swallowing them up to the knuckles as my thumb circles your clit. As you cum I feel you bite hard on my shoulder, your teeth painfully sharp through my shirt and I respond in kind, sucking hungrily at your throat. Your groans are stifled against me but I can hear the desperate relief, even so.

I can feel you shaking as I bring wet fingers to my mouth, greedily lapping at your juices as I hold you up. You watch me, a smug smile forming on your lips, your eyes heavily-lidded. At length you straighten up a little, grinning at me as you examine your tattered top, my fingers fastening your pants as I kiss the bitemark on your neck.

"You took your time. I was freezing my arse off out here, waiting." I can feel myself pout.

"You're always better when you're truly pissed off."

Sometimes, jealousy is good.... Continue»
Posted by boyshorts 5 years ago  |  Categories: Lesbian Sex  |  Views: 915  |  
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Eighteent Century Justice

Eighteenth Century Justice





Chapter 1. Annette is hired as a servant



Annette is sixteen years old. She is the humble subject, one of the least important, of his glorious majesty, Louis XIV, king of France by the grace of God. The year is 1713. Annette lives in a small town called Grenade in southern France. Her parents are both dead. Her mother died when Annette was just ten. Her father died recently. He had been a good blacksmith, but after his wife died he became a d***kard. There was nothing left for Annette.

Her two older b*****rs both left the parental home years ago and are now living somewhere up north. She doesn’t really know where. Annette is left all alone in the cruel world of this “glorious” king. Before marrying, Annette’s mother worked in a nearby inn, now owned by distant relatives of hers. The two families knew each other. Now, when Annette is told that there is nothing left after her father, except debts, she decides to look for work, the inn being her first choice, although she does not particularly like Antoine and Sophie Legrand, the innkeeper couple. Because they know her as a good girl she is accepted and starts work right away.

She is given numerous duties. First and foremost, she has to serve guests and make them feel happy. But much of the work behind the scenes also falls on her. Madame does the cooking and Monsieur the heavier work, but Annette may be called in to do any of these, heavy or not heavy, the laundry being her regular task, a hot and heavy job.

Her salary consists of food, in small quantities, one might add, lodging, a tiny closet with no window, clothes, when absolutely necessary, and a few coins out of the tips that she gets every now and then, mostly because they fall for her charms.

She is to call the innkeeper “Monsieur” and his wife “Madame”. Having lived as a dear f****y girl, Annette thinks that now she is actually not much better off than the Roman slave girl the priest told a story about in church school. The moral of the story was that everything had become so much better in Christianity. In her new position she starts to doubt it.

Annette is an astonishingly pretty girl. She has big brown eyes with long eyelashes. The small mouth with thick, rosy lips, easily parts into a warm smile, showing her glittering and even teeth. Dimples appear in her cheeks. Her hair is big and ruffled, with small maroon curls coming down all the way to her dark eyebrows and to her shoulders. Her body is slim as that of a deer. Her breasts have developed into two firm cups with rosebuds on top,




and her two small, round buttocks protrude menacingly. Her beauty often provokes taps and pinches.
Annette has to work from early morning till late at night, when the last d***ken guests leave the place. Then the floor has to be swept, dishes washed and preparations made for the next day. She is always sl**py, because there is so little time for her to rest. Her employers see this as indolence, and Annette often gets a scolding, especially from Madame. Poor Annette is even threatened with punishment if she doesn’t get more diligent.

On the very first day, when shown around in the house by Madame, they stop in front of a nasty looking birch hanging on a wall in the kitchen. Annette is told that Monsieur will not hesitate to use it on her if necessary. She is frightened, but actually not very surprised, because although her parents mostly were kind to her, there were also birchings, as in all families in those days.


-.-



































Chapter 2. The Vengeance




Monsieur and Madame have a son of f******n, whom Annette has to call “Maître”. His name is Pierre. He is a very lazy boy. Annette thinks to herself that this boy would benefit much more from a good hiding than she. The adolescent boy throws hungry eyes at the pretty young maid. Annette has to keep him at arm’s length, not least because she finds him smelly and generally disgusting.

One of the first nights she spends in her new home, Pierre comes sneaking into her room while she is asl**p. Saving her petticoat from unnecessary wear she sl**ps naked. Fortunately she wakes up before anything serious could happen. She is the stronger of the two. she fights back and hitting him hard in the face. He leaves her closet bitterly crying, promising to take revenge on her. This is quite frightening; the little creepy bastard is cunning and could lay some nasty trap for her to get her into trouble.

The following days she is on her guard. A week goes by and nothing happens. She eventually starts to feel safer. The boy was bluffing! Annette heard him lying to his parents about the bruise on his left cheek, saying he fell in the stairs. Perhaps he is swallowing his pride in order to avoid a new outbreak of Annette’s fury.

Alas, she is too optimistic! This was bound to happen. An early morning ten days later when Annette has almost forgotten the incident, Madame shouts from the kitchen in her shrill voice, almost screams:

“Annette, come here, at once!”

Annette gets very scared and hastens to the kitchen. Whatever has happened? On the kitchen table lies a pile of ceramics pieces from a broken mug, the kind that the wine is served in.

“Look what we found hidden in the garden! You thought you would get away with this! But you scoundrel, Pierre
found you out”, she shouts at the top of her voice.

“But Madame, it wasn’t me!” she tries to explain.

Annette’s heart almost stops beating when she hears this false accusation and now it starts beating faster and faster and she can hardly breathe. She breathes heavily now and she feels cold sweat in her armpits.

“Aha, so you are a liar, too, you lazy bitch! Didn’t your parents teach you to always speak the truth and to admit your wrongdoings? You were the last person to leave the hall last night, and you were collecting the mugs from the tables. Perhaps you had d***k the wine that some people leave in their mugs and then you got unsteady?”, Madame replies.

Annette vehemently shakes her head and tries to say something, protesting, but not a word comes over her lips. And in fact, there is not much point in protesting. The trap has been laid so carefully that the case seems obvious. Of course Madame and Monsieur would rather listen to their own son than to a new servant girl! So this is Pierre’s smart vengeance! He stands in a corner of the kitchen. Annette meets his eyes for a second. She perceives a faint vicious smile in his ugly face.

“Well”, Madame says, “if your late parents, may they rest in peace, didn’t teach you manners, we will have to do it. - Antoine!” she shouts.

Monsieur answers from the hall: “Yes Sophie, what is it?”.

“Come here”, she shouts.

There is now a moment of complete silence in the kitchen, only broken by Monsieur’s approaching footsteps. He stops in the doorway. He takes in the scene: his wife’s angry face, the pieces on the table and the blushing new girl, looking like guilt itself.

“Oh… I see” he then says slowly. “Our lazy little lady has done some mischief!” he says with an evil smile in his face and emphasis on every word.

“And she is a liar too!”, Madame adds.

Monsieur’s face turns red of anger. Speaking between his teeth, almost whispering aloud and stearing at Annette Monsieur says:

“She must learn that in this house mischief is punished!”

Having said that he collects the pieces from the table in his hand and throws them in the waste bucket with a clink. He then walks over to the wall where the birch is hanging, a bunch of six nasty, pliant twigs, held together by a black ribbon.

Monsieur takes the command:

Turning to Annette, and indicating the place by tapping the birch on the table he orders:

“Come here Annette and bend down on the table!”

“Sophie, go to the other side and hold her wrists firmly against the table so that she can’t try to escape her punishment!”

Annette immediately obeys, like a lamb led to slaughter. Of course she knows she is innocent - as does that lying bastard, Pierre.

Everything happens quickly now. Annette half lies
across the table with her butt stretched, and Madame stands bent over her on the other side, resting her weight on her hands holding Annette’s wrists. Monsieur approaches Annette from behind, puts the birch on the table to the left of Annette. Slowly, with both hands he pulls up her brown skirt all the way to the waist, so that her lower body is now covered only by her white petticoat. It is so thin from use so as to be almost transparent, letting one have a presentiment of her pretty little bum. Next, even more slowly, he pulls up her petticoat. When she feels the cold air on her naked bottom she shivers slightly. For decency’s sake Monsieur
could have let her keep it on, the sting would be unbearable anyway. She is scared stiff and is for a second overwhelmed by an urge to pray for mercy, but her pride takes over and she remains silent.

She has a white, soft, very girlish bum, with a skin that seems to be thin as silk. This scene is fully taken in by a glutting Pierre. Monsieur seems to enjoy it too. His wrath is now mixed with an expectant expression on his face, his eyes on the smooth surface his birch will soon hit. And, yes, the two buttocks are so pretty, just delicious – oh, but soon their colour will change!

Now Monsieur lifts the birch from the table, and takes two steps to the left of Annette, stopping in a position where the ends of the birch twigs just reach across Annette’s both buttocks. He measures the distance with the birch, slightly touching Annett’s buttocks . When satisfied he lifts the birch high behind his head, aiming the first stroke. The birch whistles through the air and hits, with great f***e, the poor girl’s bum, right across her bum, the twigs biting deep into the soft flesh. What a terrible smacking sound! Annette throws her head backwards in shocking pain, she holds her breath, her eyes are closed and she bites her teeth together in a grin. The twigs have left a pattern on the white buttocks that at first is hardly visible, but soon the stripes turn red. Monsieur holds the birch still for a moment, admiring the swelling of the welts of the first lash.

More is to come. When the fifth stroke hits her, she has not yet uttered a sound, biting her lips together hard as not to give her tormentors the satisfaction of hearing her cry for mercy. But this is dreadful! Never did it hurt so much when she got birched by her father.

But Madame is not pleased at all. She is annoyed by Annette’s silence. Finally she says:

“Antoine, why do you spear the wench? Are you charmed by her pretty looks? And do you pity someone who destroys our property and lies? And now she is mocking us! Antoine, That wooun’t do, you must hit harder!”.

“All right, I’ll make her scream, just you wait!”

He raises the birch high in the air and puts all his strength behind the next blow. He leaves her no time to
recover from it, and the next stroke now hits her, as hard as the previous one. And the next and the next in a fast succession, seemingly harder for each blow. When a long series of fast and hard strokes have hit her small naked bottom she gives out a moaning sound. It gets louder
and louder until she can’t help it anymore … she screams uncontrollably between the sobs, and – yes, asks for mercy!

“That’s better, Antoine. I think she is slowly learning something”, Madame says with a smile.

By now Annette’s both buttocks and her thighs are red and covered by crimson welts.

“You can stop now, Antoine. We need her to be able to work later today”, Madame continues. Turning to Annette who is still bending down and sobbing loud, although Madame has let her wrists free, Madame says in a stern voice:

“Annette, you shall get an hour’s rest; I will put some ointment on your buttocks. Rise up and wait for me in your room”.

Annette is sobbing and panting from the severe punishment; Pierre has counted the strokes and now, on his mother’s request, says that their number was thirty-two.

Turning to Annette, Madame says: “That’s for your own best Annette. You don’t want to end up as a thief and a lyer and you are not a c***d anymore. Since you have missed some necessay discipline we must try to correct you , akthought you ar almost grown up now. Punishments must get more severe than when you were small”. And perhaps as some kind of odd consolation, Madame adds:

“Girls’ bums are round and soft. They receive birchings much better than boys’.”

Annette does as she is told, she always does. When rising up from the tabe her clothes came down and even the light contact with her soar bum produced a short cramp of pain in her pretty face. Tears are running down her cheeks she is sobbing, moaning and snuffling. Even in this humiliating state, or perhaps because of it, she looks prettier than ever.

She rushes out of the kitchen and up to her private closet. She lies down on her bed, pressing her face into the pillow, trying to suppress her crying. Not just the pain is unbearable, the humiliation! Being alone she pulls up her clothes to avoid their contact with her burning bum.

There Annette stays sobbing when she becomes aware of being observed. Pierre is standing in the doorway with that menacing grin in his face. In her misery she still has the courage to tell him that he is a coward, a liar and a swine, but this just seems to amuse him. He turns around and leaves saying:

“Maître Pierre for you - servant girl!”

Before long Annette can hear Madame’s footsteps in the stairs. She enters the room. Without a word, she sits down on the bedside and starts to rub some ointment on Annette’s burning bum. It hurts a little at first, but by the time Madame has finished and is leaving the room, Annette feels a soothing effect and turns to Madame

saying:

“Thank you Madame!”.

“Are you thanking for the ointment or for the punishment?” Madame replies.

“Both were for your own best. You should have thanked Monsieur and kissed the birch, we must not forget that next time!”
Annette does not reply before Madame has already left the room



-.-






Chapter 3. Annette offends a gentleman




And in fact, one month later, when her bum has healed completely, there unfortunately is a “next time”, but now Annette is not completely innocent. She spills wine in the lap of a d***ken visitor when he tries to slip his hand under her décolletage. When then man continues to make improper advances she smacks him in the face, like she did with Pierre. The gentleman, because he is a nobleman of some sort, immediately seems to get sober enough to try to box her back. A younger man in his company tries to interfere on the nobleman’s side, holding Annette’s arms so as to make her an easy target for the offended gentleman. But Monsieur has seen it all and rushes there. In the last second he manages to come between them, stopping the fight before it can begin in earnest. Poor Annette wouldn’t have stood a chance, and could have been hurt so badly that she would not have been able to work.

Monsieur bows to the gentleman, his right arm elegantly on his waist and apologises on Annette’s and the house’s behalf, promising the gentleman, in a most courteous manner, that Annette will be properly punished. The offended gentleman replies that he has no guarantee that justice will be fairly and squarely made if he cannot witness the punishment. In these days and circumstances the word “punishment” was enough without the attribute “corporal”. After a moment’s hesitation, during which all eyes are on him, turning around to address all guests, Monsieur replies, that everybody is welcome to witness how the honour of the gentleman is restored to his satisfaction.

Again poor Annette has to bend down, now across a free table in the inn hall, and the guests, they are all male, and none of them very sober, gather at some distance behind her.

Antoine summons Madame from the kitchen asking her to bring the birch and to resume her role as holder at the opposite side of the table. Annette feels terribly ashamed when her bum is again slowly uncovered, this time before a male audience, most of them strangers. It was humiliating enough to be punished in the presence of the house folks.





The birching starts in complete silence, only broken by the whistling and whacking sound of the birch flying down on the girl’s naked buttocks, which soon again gets covered by nasty red stripes. After ten strokes, all received without Annette uttering a sound, just twisting
and biting her lips together, Monsieur lets down the birch, apparently intending to stop the punishment.

By this the offended gentleman gets upset, the punishment coming to an end so soon, and without a sound from the girl! He looks down at the girl and says with contempt:

“My honour has not yet been restored by so lenient a punishment. If you don’t mind Sir, I can take over this business. I have some experience of disciplining naughty young servant girls”.

The guests all agree, they do not want this exciting performance to stop. But Monsieur is the master of the house and does not want any outsider to take over his duties.

“All right, Sir,” he says, “I’ll give the girl ten more strokes myself, and not one more, because, Sir, you asked for it by assaulting the girl, as everyone here can witness”.

“A la bonheur,” he says in badly pronounced
French, “but let them sting!”..

The first ten strokes had been lighter than in her previous punishment, but the next ones are harder. To the gentleman’s dismay Annette can resist from screaming, but she moans and her body is furiously twisting in pain from each lash.

Annette has to remain in the punishment position for all the guests to be able to come forward to inspect the welts on her pretty bum. To Annette’s dismay some bow down ,giggling like small boys, to look between her buttocks to get a glimpse of the entry to her womb.



Now M;onsieur orders her to rise. This time Monsieur offers her the birch to kiss, which she does with tears running down her cheeks. Lowering her eyes, she also curtsies and thanks him for the punishment, as she has been told to do. Then Monsieur puts his free hand on her shoulder and presses her down on her knees before the offended gentleman and orders her to kiss the gentleman’s hand, and ask for forgiveness. She does not look at the gentleman at all, mumbling between her sobs a “pardon me, Sir”. He does not reply, but gives her an arrogant nod. After all, he is a nobleman and this is just a poor servant girl of sixteen!


_. _





















Chapter 4. The Theft




Annette has hardly any money for herself. She was promised some of the tip money, but she first has had
to repay the mug she is falsely accused of breaking. And after that was paid for, not much has accrued in her purse.

On Tuesdays and Fridays Annette is sent to the market place to buy groceries for the inn. She is not allowed to carry money on her to pay for the items she buys. Instead the mongers would come to the inn once a month and get paid by Monsieur. Annette can’t help using her scanty pocket money on sweets that are so temptingly displayed in one of the stands where she shops for the house.

She has been thinking, indeed very hard, on how to get a little more money so that she could buy a beautiful bracelet that is sold in a stand selling trinkets. Oh, to Annette this cheep little bracelet is sheer beauty! But, alas, it costs more than she could expect to save in two months! That is, if she could resist buying sweets. The price is three copper shillings! Every time Annette goes to the market she passes the stand with the bracelet and looks with more and more yearning eyes at the lovely object.

She knows that some girls of her age clandestinely meet boys in the dark lanes and let themselves be kissed for a shilling, and maybe they let the richest boys fondle their breasts for a higher price. Still, that is quite dangerous. If found out it would be regarded as fornication and it would be punished by public whipping. Usually, when such trespassing is detected, the f****y is informed and keeps it a secret, to save the f****y honour. The punishment then takes place clandestinely in the girl’s home, but it will still be severe. She thinks of taking the risk, but decides that, after all, it is contrary to her nature.

Finally her obsession develops into a cunning plan. She has noticed that the fishmonger lady often leaves her post behind her desk to come in front of it to demonstrate to a customer the quality of her fish. So doing, the woman




leaves a little wooden box unguarded, with no lid on it! The box contains all the money she has earned that day. Furthermore, Annette has noticed that the woman seems to put all her concentration into the demonstration, turning her back tat the money box. That would be the perfect occasion to … steal the three copper coins she so badly needs for the bracelet.

But it is scary! Just a month ago she saw a young and handsome man being flogged in this same market place for theft. Annette followed the execution with awe. For half of the lashes the poor boy was able to control himself, but when the flogging continued he couldn’t help screaming after each lash. Annette knows this is the punishment the law decrees for such a crime, even if it would be just a few coins.

However, she is convinced not to be caught! That boy mustn’t have been as smart as she knows she is. The fish
woman may not notice the theft at all – she has that many coins in her box by the time Annette plans to hit. If she
notices it, she will find out only after closing time, when counting her earnings, or even hours after leaving the
market place, if that is when she counts them. Who would then suspect a young innocent-looking girl? To Madame and Monsieur Annette would lie that she has found the bracelet lying in the street. Well, they might not believe her, but they would never be able to prove she is lying. They would not get a confession out of her, not even under the swish of the birch! First and foremost: she would not be caught, no never! Oh heavenly bliss, the bracelet willd finally be hers!

She has made up her mind. As usual, Annette is sent shopping on Tuesday. She is full of excitement! She will soon have her bracelet! Strange enough, the danger seems to contribute to her excitement. This is her vengeance for all the injustices she has had to suffer!

What is the point, Annette argues, of always obeying

laws and orders from “her betters”? One gets punished for something one never did! And when one defends a girl’s honour one gets punished for that too. What about having to ask for forgiveness from someone who has offended you? So why not, for once, get something in return? Even if risking punishment? And the risk being negligible.

But the scene of the poor screaming boy being flogged to bl**d keeps returning to her mind. Out of excitement her feet feel limp, her hands are shivering and wet, nausea makes her swallow many times when reaching the market place.

What: the fish woman isn’t there! What a shame! Annette inquires in the next stand about what has happened to the fish lady. She is told that the fisherman, her husband, has broken a leg and is not able to go fishing,, but his b*****r has now stepped in and there will be fish again on Friday.

She is back with her shopping basket on Friday. It is a hot summer day. She walks on with steady steps. Yes, there she can see the fishmonger in her stall! Annette feels the anguish rising in her again, but not as badly as last
Tuesday. That was a rehearsal that took away some of the anguish. Most of all she feels determined - now or never! She walks around and buys some vegetables. All the
time keeping an eye on the fish woman. She is waiting for a fat lady standing at another stall to walk over to the fish monger woman. Annette knows the fat one and that she will keep the fishmonger busy.

Annette does not have to wait for very long.
She now casually approaches the fish stand, and, yes! Now the fish woman leaves her post behind the desk to get closer to the lady who is arguing with her about how fresh the fish is. As planned Annette leans over the desk, pretending to inspect a fish in the last row…lifts it up with her left hand … and snatches three shilling coins
from the money box with her right!

She did it at last! Now she can relax and go straight to the trinket man and buy the bracelet. But, …why have the ladies now stopped talking … and why are they both staring at her???

The fat woman whispers something in the fishmonger’s ear. They both look at Annette.The monger swiftly returns back to her place behind the desk, throwing an angry eye at Annette … and starts counting the money in the box! The fat lady keeps staring accusingly at Annette.

Oh, merciful, merciful God, she has been detected - by the fat lady!!!

The fishmonger now screams having counted the money, and pointing at Annette:

“Three shillings are missing! And there is the thief!!!”

Annette should have returned the money right away and asked for mercy, but instead she panics, throws her basket on the desk so that her vegetables roll all over it and starts to run away the fastest she can. She hears the fish monger and the fat lady shout:

“Stop the thief, stop the thief!”
People in the market seem not quite to understand at first, but then a short, elderly man tries to stop her by standing in her way. Annette just pushes him aside so that he falls to the ground and then she continues running. She is a good runner, keeping her pursuers at a distance. Annette is now being followed by others who have joined the choir calling out loud to stop the thief.

But now her escape comes to an abrupt end! Two town guards in their black and green uniforms, helmets on their heads, tall and sturdy, block her way. They cannot just be pushed aside. Those who have pursued her soon reach up with Annette and the guards and an increasing number of voices shout that the girl is a thief.

Annette is panting for air, sweat pores down her face and from her armpits after the fast running under a burning sun, and also from being scared almost to death. With wide open eyes she looks around for help or for a
desperate escape route, but the stern faces all around her and the tall guards convince her that she has lost the game. She was not cleverer then the flogged boy, and now… the same fate… is awaiting her!

“I’ll hold her while you search her”

says one of the guards and steps behind her, seizing her bare arms in a firm grip. The other guard does as he is told and starts feeling first her upper body with both hands (and to the amusement of some of the men in the crowd), then her lower body. He stops at her right hip. His hand has felt some hard objects under the fabric and he thrusts his hand deep into a pocket that Annette has sown in her skirt to hide the stolen money. From there he pulls … three shilling coins! Triumphantly he shows them to the crowd. Annette tries in full panic to stammer something about the coins being Madame’s money for groceries, but this stupid argument only results in mirth in the crowd, some of which shout:

”Liar!”.

Everybody knows that a servant girl is never trusted with her employer’s money.

The fish woman now joins the rest. The guard asks her if these are the coins she is missing, to which she answers a resounding:

“Indeed Sir, they are, no doubt about it”.

“Did anybody see the theft?” asks the guard standing behind Annette.

“I saw her stealing the money” shouts the fat lady who is not able to move very fast and only now joins what is already a crowd.

Without further ado the guard standing behind Annette loosens iron handcuffs from his belt. The one standing in front pushes Annette’s hands behind her back so that the other guard can shackle her wrists. Her faint resistance is hardly even noticed by the guards who have performed this routine on strong, tall men.

The guards then grab one arm each and start walking Annette in the direction of the castle. Part of the crowd follows. Boys shout obscenities to Annette. Some grown-up women join in throwing offences at her. Somebody is shouting:

“We want to see the wench’s back bleeding.”

The tall guards with the girl between them walk along in silence. Suddenly the older guard turns to Annette and breaks the awkward silence saying:

“You are in deep trouble, little one!”

Not very encouraging, Annette is miserable enough
without such comments! She does not answer him.

When they reach the gate of the castle wall, one of the
guards gives it a nock. It is opened by two guards in similar uniforms to whom the old guard says with a smile:

“There will be work for us tomorrow”.

All four guards look at Annette and burst into an evil laughter. She is led through an open door into the castle. They then walk her through a small hall. When they reach the left side wall, one of the guards reaches for a bunch of big keys, which have been dangling from his belt, jingling for every step, and opens the door. Cool, damp air meets them as they proceed to walk down the stairs to what must be the dungeon.

The prison consists of a short corridor with three cell doors to the left, all half open. Nobody seems to be held in the prison for the moment. There is a wooden door on the opposite wall. That must be the horrible torture chamber, by which parents would scare their c***dren when they are naughty! The guards push Annette into the first cell, lock the door and leave without a word. Then the older guard who addressed her in the market place

returns saying: “You had better confess right away, otherways you will do it behind that door!”




-:-

Chapter 6. The Verdict



Annette is in a state of shock from what has just happened to her in such a short time. At first she cannot think clearly. Is this really happening to her? She looks around. Under the roof there is a small barred window that lets in some light. On the floor, a pile of straw where somebody has been lying before, perhaps the flogged boy. In the opposite corner is a bucket with a lid that does not help much to keep away the stench. It has probably not been emptied after the previous prisoner. So this is to be her home for, well for how long? Maybe the Marquis would let her go after a few weeks in this dreadful prison; he is a noble man who would not like to harm a pretty young virgin. But she can hardly believe her own optimism and the sight of the whipped boy comes back to her mind again and again, and each time she shudders.

She spends the rest of the day in sad thoughts, but the worst of the stiffening shock is eventually fading away. Before dark she hears the prison door being opened and footsteps coming down the stairs. Not the guards, but a middle-aged woman who is carrying a small tray with two bowls on it and two slices of bread. Locking up the cell door she asks:

”What’s your name girl?”

Her voice is not offensive, but not very kind either.

“Annette”, she answers with a reluctant smile, happy to meet a person of her own gender.

The woman remains standing there looking at Annette. Then she shakes her head, sighs and putting the tray on the floor says:




“I’m the jail keeper’s wife, my name is Denise. The jail keeper himself you will learn to know tomorrow, because he is also the executioner. I’m bringing you water, soup and bread. Now, listen carefullyto me because I will not be coming here tomorrow morning. Eat the soup and one slice of bread tonight. Save the other one and half of the water for tomorrow morning. You will get your verdict and be punished tomorrow at noon. Remember to relieve yourself on that bucket before the guards come and get you, so that nothing embarrassing happens during the execution. And you had better leave your waist coat here in the cell. The guards are so clumsy, they may tear it. You won’t need it at the execution and afterwards you will be brought back to this cell”.

Annette would like to ask the woman a lot of questions, but as soon as she finished her short message she locks her up again and leaves. So, again Annette is alone. How hungry she is! A day full of tensions and hardships have
taken their toll. There is no spoon so she starts drinking
the soup. It tastes good! It does her well and when she has eaten one of the slices and had some water she lays down on the straw bed. To comfort her soul she starts to sing songs that her mother taught her when she was a c***d. She sings until the cell has become pitch dark. After all that has happened today she feels very tired, prays, and the food warming her belly, Annette falls asl**p - like a c***d.

The light fills the cell when she wakes up next morning. First she does not understand where she
is and anguish falls over her. She then recalls that the prison woman had said that today she will receive her punishment. Maybe she will die before the executioner is


finished with her! She will not even see this dreadful dungeon! The thought of death, to her own surprise, suddenly makes her feel almost secure to be where she is! She then remembers the bread saved and the water. Eating and drinking she feels a little better.

But, still, what a horrible pain it is to just sit there and wait for her verdict and horrible torture, without being able to do anything about it. Annette starts to sing again. But the time passes slowly.

Her kind mother comes to her mind, as clearly as if she would be alive and there with her Annette. Oh, had she been alive and here in this cell with her, she would have been such a wonderful comforter. She would have told Annette that she is a strong and brave girl. That, really she had deserved to be punished, maybe not so severely for such a petty crime, but that the punishment can be endured, as her mother had survived all her ordeals until pneumonia managed to kill her.

Annette recalls what her mother told her the year before she died. In Annette’s age, before working in the inn, like Annette had been doing now, she had been a servant to the old Marquis who was widely known as a very strict, not to say sadistic person.

In a small backyard of the old part of his castle where he lived with his f****y, there was a pole with an iron ring so high up that only a tall person could reach it. Hence it could not have been intended for tying a horse. No: here servants were deliberately punished for misbehaviour in service! The Marquis did not need any courts, he believed it was his divine right to punish his servants as he pleased, when found guilty.

Men, women, boys and girls, all had to strip to the waist. There wrists were tied together and the rope fastened to
the iron ring, so that the body was stretched. Then they
were whipped between half a dozen and two dozen lashes, depending on age, gender and seriousness of the crime.

In most cases it would be the young girls who had not yet become acquainted with habits and duties of the castle who got into trouble and were whipped in front of the staff, the Marquis and his f****y. Often there were guests visiting the Marquis and they would also be invited, as a sort of entertainment, to witness the sufferings of some poor young maid. The servants would watch the execution standing in a half circle around the pole. The nobility watched it from windows.

During the three years she worked for the Marquis she
was punished twice, once having worked for just a week, and once before she quit, the latter punishment being severe and actually the main reason why she took another employment. She was just fifteen the first time and eighteen the second.

In her cell, the time of the day can only be guessed at from the light that reaches the dungeon through that tiny
window. When Annette feels that noon cannot be far away she walks across to the privy and is happy to be able to relieve herself completely. She wipes her bottom with the straws and throws them in the bucket. She puts the lid back on the bucket and at the same time notices that, to her great surprise, she is already so used to the cell; that she is almost insensitive to the stench! Then, slowly, she takes off her waistcoat and puts it down on the straw bed. Instinctively Annette covers her breasts with her hands, but then realises how foolish she is because nobody can see her now and very soon she will stand before the crowd not allowed to wear anything to cover them.

A moment later, there is the sound of a key in the door upstairs and she hears the footsteps of two persons approaching. She realises what this means and gets really frightened, shivering as if being cold. The same two guards that arrested her the day before are locking up the cell door, coming to get her! Again it is the older one speaking to her and giving Annette a sharp order to rise. When she is upright the guards do the same as when shackling her in the market place; one holds her arms behind her back and the other shackles her wrists. They then grab her arms and march her out on her trembling legs, up the stairs and through the hall to another door to the left, opposite to the entrance door that stands open. She gets a glimpse of six guards and a drummer boy waiting there in the yard – for her!

Her two guards now open a double door and lead Annette into a big room with a high ceiling and large windows, like a church. The guards close the doors again after them. Behind a long desk placed on a podium sits a nobleman. It must be the Marquis himself whom she has never seen before. To be the son of a sadist he is an almost kind-looking gentleman. At the left end of the table sits a short and fat gentleman writing, it must be the court secretary. The Marquis has a long, white and curly wig. He looks very noble in his official garments. There is a glass of red wine standing in front of him on the table.

She makes a deep curtsey and the guards let off her arms
to allow her to do it. Afterwards they regard it as
unnecessary to hold her arms because her wrists are shackled behind her back, and anyway, there is nowhere to escape.

The Marquis looks at Annette for a while, then leans forward as if to take a closer look, and asks:

“What’s your name, girl?”

Annette answers, curtseying once more. The Marquis gets a paper from the writ. With a tired voice and a strange accent he recites:

“Yesterday you were caught red-handed, stealing three copper shillings from a fishmonger in the market place. Do you have anything to say in your defence, or do you confess to your crime?”

Annette first looks down at the floor, remembering the door to the torture chamber, then looks fearlessly into the eyes of the Marquis and says:

“Yes I stole them, but please have mercy on a young maid”.

The Marquis turns to the secretary and says something. Annette cannot hear, but the secretary nods in return.

The Marquis puts on his spectacles and lifts up a big law book he has in front of him and starts droning:

“Annette Bourget, you have been found guilty of theft of three shillings in the market place yesterday, the first of July 1713, and you have confessed to your crime. In the name of His Majesty Louis XIV, the glorious king of France, and as his humble servant, I hereby sentence you to the punishment prescribed by His Majesty’s law for this crime, which is the following: You shall be taken out to the scaffold in the market place, where your crime and your punishment shall be announced to all people by the court secretary. Then you shall be stripped to your waist and tied to the rack, there to receive fifty hard lashes on your bare back.”

When Annette hears the severe verdict she would like to cover her face in agony, but cannot do so, her hands being shackled behind her back, so instead she bends her head down and starts to sob, silently. She is so pretty standing there with tears running down from long eyelashes and down her cheeks. Her girlish breasts under the thin linen are wobbling from her sobs.

” Isn’t that girl too young and innocent to get such a cruel punishment?” the Marquis thinks to himself. “I don’t want to be like my father”.

Those in the room think that the silent means that the court will now be closed, but the Marquis raises his right hand. He hasn’t quite finished yet. He asks her one more question, about her age. When he hears the answer he turns to the secretary, shaking his head. He then looks at Annette again and proclaims:

“Because of His Majesty’s mercifulness, my pity for you, and your youth, I shall show you leniency and change
your sentence. But you must give me a solemn promise never to sin again. Because if you do you can be sure there will be no mercy. You may even be branded. But for the first theft of a small sum, your youth, and against your promise, I hereby reduce the number of strokes to thirty.”

Annette looks up stopping her sobs and nods, whispering through tears that she promises.

“Guards, proceed, the court is closed”, he says and takes a big sip from his wine glass.

The two guards turn her around and lead her out to the yard. The secretary hurries to join them. Still walking he shouts an order:

“Guards, form a troop, drummer take the lead!”

The drummer boy stays where he has been waiting, he knows his place. The guards form a small parade standing in pairs. After them comes Annette, one guard
on each side. Last stands the secretary who now orders:

“Drummer: drum! Troop, forward march, one, two, one two!“




And the small procession starts marching towards the wall gate that the two guards standing there open for them.

Entering the market place Annette discovers that the it is filled with people, all waiting to see her humiliated and suffering. The whole town seems to be there as if there would be a hanging. It seems that a good whipping attracts as many people, in fact much more in this little town than a theatrical performance by a travelling drama group coming there once a year.

People give way for the procession. Annette seems to be walking mechanically, as if absent. The rumour has spread that Annette is unusually pretty. The crowd shows
no sign of being disappointed of her looks. It is a much greater pleasure to see a pretty young girl being stripped and whipped than when some one old and ugly is to be punished.

The procession marches towards the scaffold and Annette soon discerns the dreadful executioner standing there, ready for her. He is strong looking and hairy, dressed all in black, just a vest on his upper body. He wears a hood that covers half his face, safe for wholes for the eyes. On his feet he wears leather boots, coming all the way up to his knees. There is something looking as a reel hanging from his belt, probably the whip. His and the prison woman’s two sons are standing behind the poles of the rack. The younger one could be eleven, the other a couple of years older.

The rack consists of two poles and a bar on top, connecting the poles, and holding them firmly together. The rack can also be used for hangings, in which case there would be one rope hanging from the middle, ending in a big noose for the neck. Now there are two ropes,
each one ending in a smaller noose to be fastened around the wrist.

When the drummer boy reaches the two steps leading up to the scaffold he takes a step to the left, stops and turns, around still drumming. Half of the guards turn left, half right to take up positions around the scaffold. Their duty is not to allow anybody to interfere with the execution. Annette is led up to the scaffold and is turned around. Standing there she notices that the Marquis himself is standing with another man and a woman on the castle balcony. Looking furtively around she sees people in all windows. Then she lowers her eyes, feeling ashamed wearing only this almost transparent linen.

A noise, as if many persons were whispering, can be heard from the crowd. Annette is so young and pretty!

Her girlish breasts are standing out under the thin linen. Her back is straight, her hands being shackled behind her.

The last person to climb up on the scaffold is the secretary who immediately orders the drummer boy to stop. He raises his hand and commands silence. With a hoarse voice he starts to read, first about the crime, then the verdict. When he comes to fifty lashes the crowd


cheers, only soon to show their discontent when they hear the final, more lenient verdict.

The secretary puts the paper back in his pocket and orders the guards to prepare the prisoner for her punishment, and then leaves the scaffold following the proceedings standing be the side of the drummer boy. The guards nod back at him. One guard turns to stand in front of Annette and starts opening the ribbon knot holding together her décolletage and again one guard goes behind her, now to free Annette’s wrists. Together the guards then pull down her petticoat so that it remains hanging down from her waist, the whole of her upper body now being completely naked. The crowd cheers and obscenities are flying through the air. Annette tries to cover her small girlish breasts, but the guards take one arm each, turn her around and drag her to the whipping rack.

At the rack they raise her arms to insert her hands into the loops. The boys are standing ready with the rope ends in their hands. When Annette’s wrists are firmly secured they pull at the rope ends so that her arms are stretched. They fasten the rope ends in hooks on the poles. Annette stands like a capital Y, with arms wide stretched, her small breasts becoming so flat that they hardly protrude, except for her girlish nipples. Her rib cage is visible as shades. Small fluffs of black hair can be discerned in her armpits. The hair on her head is big, curly and uncovered, reaching down to her shoulders. She is ready for her punishment.


-.-






















Chapter 7. Arnold



He has come early to get a place just in front of the delinquent. The inn lord informed him on his arrival about the great event the next day. Arnold travels with his own wagon and driver. The landlord gave Arnold the whole story circulating in town about how the girl had tried to fool the fishmonger and, when caught red-handed, tried to run away. With a grin he adds:

“We are small town people here, but mind you Sir, we are honest, but no fools. Young or old, man or woman, we catch the thieves and it will be fifty lashes even for the first theft, no matter how much or how little”.

He adds that Arnold does not have to bother mixing with the crowd. He can have a good view of the flogging from an upper floor window in the inn. But Arnold has decided right away that he will not only stay for another night so that he can witness the execution, but that he also wants to stand close to the poor girl.

He has been visiting his late wife’s relatives, an old grandmother, two aunts and an uncle. They live in a manor, two hours’ journey from Grenade. He left his six year old son with the relatives; how could he take care of the boy alone, now that his wife is gone?

He ends up here in Grenade on the first lap of the long voyage back to Paris, where he is a lawyer. He is thirty-one years old and, as said, already a widower. His wife died recently. Together they had just one c***d, this boy,


Jules, six years old. Another c***d, a girl had died only three months old.

Why is he so interested in a small town thief being duly punished? He has never had any inclination towards watching public executions; his business as a lawyer is to help rich people in financial conflicts, inheritances, divorces, etc. Where he lives in Paris there are no gallows or whipping posts anywhere nearby, and although he has once seen a hanging and witnessed public whippings a couple of times, more by accident than on purpose, he would never bother to go anywhere to be present at such ghastly business.

The reason to all this is that Arnold is a humanist. He has a spacious, beautiful home and he is a collector of fine arts and books. As a lover of music he plays the flute and often invites professional musicians to his home to entertain guests. His conviction is that all human beings, even criminals should be treated fairly, especially first time offenders, for whom the crown should provide closed institutions of correction, where they would be guided by morally impeccable individuals. Corporal punishment should be rare and mild, the death penalty applied only in cases of repeated and extremely serious crimes where there seems to be no way back to decency for the criminal.



The two floggings he witnessed by chance many years ago were to be considered ordinary. The culprits were both males; one was about the age he is at the present, the
other one was some ten years older, a big, fat man. The thought of having a sixteen year old girl punished in this
cruel manner is completely alien to Arnold! It not just makes him angry; the very thought fills his heart with sadness and disgust. What a time to live in!

Is there anything he can do to help the poor girl? After all, he is a lawyer! He has been thinking about it all since he heard the news. Still, every time he comes to the same conclusion that judicially the verdict is correct and cannot be changed by anyone. Except by the court itself, which could reduce the punishment, considering the prisoner’s age and sex. But after the verdict has fallen, not even that venue is open anymore. That is, if the judge has not applied the leniency paragraph in his verdict, which Arnold prays to God, he has.

The only thing that is in Arnold’s power to do is to see to it that he gets a place right in front of the poor girl and from there he can try to get into eye contact with her, perhaps shouting something encouraging to her. Show her his sympathy! Not very much, indeed! She may also be too upset to notice him, or too ashamed to look at people around her, but it is worth a try.

Here, in front of the scaffold, he has been standing for quite a while when finally the drum of the procession can be heard approaching and he soon sees the girl for the first time. Her beauty shocks him. He does not know what happens within him, but then remembers that this was the feeling he had when he first met his dear wife! She wasn’t much older then than this girl. At that occasion it was love at first sight. Could it be the same now?

As he expected, Annette’s head is bent down from embarrassment when she is led up to the scaffold and turned around. He can now admire her from behind. Her proportions are perfect and her posture too. Her back is straight and being f***ed to hold her hands behind her makes the shoulder blades stand out like buds from which silvery fairy wings could grow. Oh, Arnold wishes his dream would come true and that the girl would fly away on as an angel, away from this ghastly place, crowded with evil people wanting to destroy her.

When they fasten her wrists in the nooses she looks up, turns her head both left and right to see what they are doing to her. The secretary then gives the order to start the execution. She has turned as much as the ropes allow her and now sees the executioner bowing to the secretary showing that he has heard the order. He then unfastens the whip from his belt and turns towards Annette. He swishes the whip in the air as if testing it.
She immediately turns away to prepare herself for the first burning stroke.

Even at this horrible moment Arnold can’t help noticing how pretty the girl is. For a second he has seen her frightened brown eyes with the long eyelashes, her big brown and curly hear, almost covering her brow and the slim, well built body. Also, to his great relief, he notices
that the whip in the executioner’s hand is of a smaller and lighter type than the one used on the male criminals he saw punished.

It is when she has turned her head back again and looks forward in horror that she gets a glimpse of the people in front of her. Among the faces, young and old, men and women, so full of expectation, like hungry wolves, she sees this handsome man’s face, kind and full of pity, his mouth turning into a sad smile. His lips are moving, as if he were saying something comforting to her. To Arnold’s great surprise she meets his eyes and he notices a faint smile in the corner of her mouth, just for a second. It is brutally interrupted by the swishing sound of the whip that breaks the complete silence in the market place.


-.-









































Chapter 8. The suffering



The swish ends in a wicked whack as the single leather lash hits the girl’s soft, naked back. Her whole body is thtrust forward by the blow. Her muscles get tense and her head is thrown back, her face turning into a grimace of overwhelming pain, and showing two even rows of white teeth. But no sound escapes her lips!

The executioner waits for a few seconds to let her recover. Then again the whip blows down on her. Annette now bends her head down, as if trying to conceal her face showing how much she suffers. But she would not yield to screaming!

The younger boy standing by the pole to her right now holds up two fingers in the air to signal the first two lashes. The crowd is not silent anymore as when they awaited the first stroke. You can hear encouragements to the executioner to strike harder. But blow after blow hit the poor girl’s back, she twists and bites her white teeth together, but no sound has yet been heard when the boy has all his five fingers of his left hand in the air.

This is where, according to the rules, the execution is to take a short break to allow the prisoner to recover and for himself to move over to the other side of the scaffold. This makes it possible for him to better the prisoner’s entire back and spread out the lashes evenly, so as not to cause unnecessary injury. Also, if he has covered the sight for somebody in the crowd, now he would cover somebody else’s view. Fair enough. Standing now on the opposite side he slowly moves the whip from his right to his left hand, which will now deliver the next five strokes.

Perhaps the executioner pities the weak young being and does not use his full f***e in the blows. At least this seems to be what some in the crowd believe, and it makes them more and more frustrated. They are expressing their disapproval in loud shouts. He answers them with a gesture showing that the girl’s stubbornness will soon come to an end. And so it well might, because, according to the rules, the next five lashes are to come in fast succession, with no time for recovering between strokes! Just as Annette was punished for insulting the gentleman. But that was just a birching.

At this point even the brave would often break. If Arnold had stood on the opposite side of the scaffold he could have testified about five nasty red stripes on Annette’s back, proving that, opposite to what the cruel spectators claim, the executioner has lashed out hard at the poor girl.

Annette has had time to somewhat calm down and the first thing she does when opening her eyes is to find the young gentleman’s eyes, immediately to be met by the kindest of smiles. Arnold shouts to her: ”You are so brave young lady!” She manages to smile back, forgetting that she is half naked; it doesn’t matter if he sees her naked, even completely naked. She has time to

thank God for the presence of this angel at this horrible moment in her life.

Arnold has noticed the dark fluffs in Annette’s armpits. As the sensual man he is he realises that there must be a
third black fluff further down. Oh, if he could see this
beautiful girl without any clothes at all! But naturally not here. In private!

No long interludes are allowed. The whip whistles through the air and whack,… swish, whack,… swish, whack,… swish, whack, …swish, whack! The strokes shower over the poor girl. At the end she can’t help letting out a hardly audible groan. Her breathing has become fast. Still, this is not what the crowd expects, and again indignant shouts are heard. The executioner waves to them to calm down. Some of the guards turn around and look menacingly at the hecklers.

The younger boy now holds up both his hands clenched, and the older boy his left thumb to indicate that the first ten strokes have been delivered. The executioner walks back to the other side and resumes his first position to continue flogging with the whip in his right hand.

Now, five strokes with breaks are in turn. Red welts are criss-crossing Annette’s back. Five from NW to SE, five from NE top SW. One might think that for pity’s sake, she has now had enough punishment for three copper coins. But of course not! This is just the beginning! The executioner aims and there comes number eleven: swish-whack.

She must be of a very special breed to be able to stand pain, Arnold thinks. Still not a sound from her! And not after the next, or after any of the five lashes where she is allowed to breath between the strokes. Arnold can hardly believe what he sees! How can so young a girl be so brave? Very strong emotions overwhelm him. Seeing that frail body stretched up with arms wide apart, suffering so immensely reminds him of the Passion of our Lord. The pity for this young girl arouses strong emotions in him, touching at the sorrow he has after the loss of his young wife and also of his baby daughter, who would perhaps have become as pretty as this girl.

The smaller boy holds his left hand fingers sprayed, the older one still his thumb. Now comes the real test of both the executioner and the girl as the former again changes sides for the next fast five. Fifteen lashes and still not a sound! The crowd’s protests have become stronger. Many are disappointed. Not just has the girl’s punishment unwisely been reduced, the executioner doesn’t do his job properly! Already half-way and he hasn’t managed to make his little victim scream! Grown-up men might have started much earlier. Some women would right from the start sound like pigs being slaughtered. The executioner again tries to calm down the hecklers, but to no avail.

Does he start to feel that he may be risking loosing the
tips he would get for a good job? The sweat covering his body is proof enough that he has been working hard, and fifteen neatly distributed, nasty criss-crossing red stripes on Annette’s back should convince everyone that she has suffered dearly, but: that she is prouder and braver than most!

In order to achieve the result that he and the crowd yearn for, and forgetting any pity he may have felt for his poor
victim, he starts to lash out as hard as he can, not interrupting the series of blows for one second. As after
the previous fast lashes a low “aooo…” can be heard by all standing near. There are some cheers in the crowd, but there are also a few who shout: “More of that please!”

She is now breathing very heavily and sweat is
running down from her forehead and her whole
upper body glistens of sweat drops. Streams of sweat running from her armpits, where the hair is glued to the skin. Arnold can see that her legs are shaivering, as if of cold. Maybe she will soon faint. He actually hopes she will, she wouldn’t feel the pain. To his disappointment he discovers a wooden water bucket standing near one edge of the scaffold. One of the boys would certainly be ordered to throw cold water on her to wake her up in case she fainted. She must not miss any part of her cruel punishment. Every time she opens her eyes they meet Arnold’s. And a miracle happens: even now she gives him a very small smile.

“Look, the girl is laughing at your efforts!” one woman standing next to Arnold shouts to the executioner.

The mumbling of those around her shows that they agree.
The older boy now holds up his thumb and his forefinger. Ten more are to come. Would she have to give in and start screaming for mercy? The executioner changes sides. He is to use his right hand again.

This time he lets the whip whistle one idle circle above his head before letting it fly down on the girl’s tormented back, so as to increase the velocity of the lash. It may have worked because Annette hisses and twists furiously, showing that, indeed, she is far from fainting, only suffering tremendously. Now comes the next stroke, at least as hard as the previous one, again followed by a moaning sound. She tries to keep her eyes fixed on Arnold during the three following lashes, but it is not easy, and the moans become louder. Some in the crowd seem to be better pleased with the performance now, and those who can see the girl’s back have no objections. Her whole back has turned red and dark red welts are all over it. The boys are only of help to count the strokes for those who can’t see her from behind, because every stroke can be counted on her back. Where the welts cross crimson wounds have appeared. Where the skin has cracked, bl**d drops have oozed forth. Can she really take more beating?

The younger boy now holds five fingers in the air, the older one still two, and for the last time the executioner is walking across the scaffold changing hands for the whip. Now for his - and Annette’s last test!

He does not start right away. For a moment he measures his young victim with his eyes, as if he were thinking how to lay up a strategy to get this stubborn girl to howl. Then again the executioner lets the whip whistle an extra circle before it cracks down heavily on Annette’s lacerated backside. The circular movement doesn’t stop, it continues two laps and comes, whack, down again. Annette has closed her eyes and holds her breath, but that lash must have hit a sensitive spot, because now, for the first time she lets out a low howl, and for every fast and heavy blow it becomes louder: “aiiii”. When the two last lashes hit, her mouth is wide open and she screams uncontrollably.

But now the older boy holds up three fingers in the air – thirty lashes and the execution is over! Arnold feels
greatly relieved. She exceeded all expectations. There are no protests from the crowd anymore. The executioner at last managed to get the girl to how, but not cry for mercyl! Somewhat reluctantly, the crowd takes up an applause that increases when most people think justice has been done in a proper way. Still, some probably applaud more Annette’s courage than the executioner’s cruelty, especially the women and the girls of Annette’s age, of which many are present. It is considered good for them to be reminded of what can happen to a mischievous young lady. But the result is quite the opposite: Annette is their hero!

The executioner thanks the crowd, not least for the coins that are thrown onto the scaffold. He makes a sign to the guards who brought Annette there to come and take her down. The welts on her back are turning purple from the bl**d under the skin. The boys standing ready at their rope ends open the knots and let her arms come down. The guards open the loops and let Annette’s hands down. The legs of some prisoners do not hold them when after a flogging they are unshackled, so the guards support Annette’s arms. She gives them a sign that it is not necessary, so they just put on her handcuffs but now with hands on her belly side. They do not pull up her petticoat, perhaps to avoid bl**dstains on it. More probably to increase her humiliation and to keep the welts on her back visible to the crowd.

She is turned around and marched down from the scaffold with her upper body still naked. Arnold now sees the terrible traces of the whip on her back. They seem to get darker by the second. Under the secretary’s command the same procession, led by the drummer boy, resumes its formation and marches back towards the castle. When the last glimpse of the girl’s lacerated back disappears through the wall gate, the crowd starts dissolving.

Annette is led back to her cell, where to her surprise the woman who brought her food the day before is waiting. The same tray stands on the floor and there is also a wash basin filled with water, some ointment in a jar and a clean rag. Not all people in this town are against her! There was that wonderful gentleman and now this woman! Annette feels that it is very kind of that woman to come to her after what these terrible men have done to her.

“First you eat and drink, then you can lie down on
the straws and I’ll do what I can to your poor back. You’ll soon feel much better”. Annette thanks her and starts tasting the food, a piece of grilled fish, some pees, half a cooked turnip and two slices of bread. Oh, she is hungry, but first she has to go and sit on the bucket. Then she attacks the food with great energy and drinks the water; oh how thirsty she is having sweated so much!

After the meal, devoured in silence, Annette lies down on her belly on the straw bed, her upper body still naked and the old woman starts washing her whip marks. Again she has to suffer terrible pain in her back, but if she didn’t howl at the rack - or well, just at the very end, she wouldn’t utter a sound now! The woman says that Annette is indeed a very brave girl. Since the woman did not witness the flogging she now asks Annette if she was howling from the start.

“Only at the last three lashes, and I never asked for mercy!” she answers.

“Oh” the woman says, “You must be the bravest prisoner
I have met so far, men and women, young and old”.

“Madame Gourger, what will happen to me now?” Annette asks.

“You will have to stay here for three days, but I will take good care of you. After that you can go wherever you like, because you have atoned for your crime. But, please take my advice: do not ever do it again. I say it to you because criminals have a tendency to return to this ghastly place. I do not want to meet you here ever again, do you hear me?!”

“I woun’t” Annette replies. “I promised the Marquis”.


-.-




























Chapter 9. A miracle


Later in the afternoon, when the woman has left, Annette hears the door open and steps in the stairs. A guard approaches and opens the cell door. But instead of another guard accompanying him, behind him stands the handsome man who comforted her so kindly during her punishment! Her thoughts have been with him ever since. She is convinced that without him she would have howled much earlier. She has been lying on her stomach on the straw bed as the woman left her, but now she rises up, feeling happier than ever, despite her soar back, and indeed, quite oblivious of the fact that she is still naked to the waist! Again, she doesn’t care if this man sees her nakedness, even if she does not even know his name. For the first time in her short life - no doubt about it, she is in love!

Arnold bows elegantly to her showing her exactly the kind of respect she needs most now. Then he says: “My name is Arnold de Ferret, Mademoiselle. Listen well to what I have to say, because I can be here just for a few moments. I know your name and I say to you, Mademoiselle Annette: You have no future in this town, nor hardly in the whole district where rumour of your crime and punishment will fly. Perhaps they will not chase you out of town because you behaved so bravely during the execution. But you will not get a decent job”.




“I travelled to this region to leave my six year old son, Jules with his dead mother’s relatives, not far from Grenade. Listen, I have a proposal to you: come with me back to Paris where I live and become his nanny! I shall fetch him this very afternoon and we shall all three stay the night at the inn. Early tomorrow morning we shall set out on the long journey, you, him and me. That is, if you accept my proposal.”

“But I have been told that I’ll have to stay in prison for three days” Annette objects.

“Don’t worry. I have talked to the Marquis and to the executioner’s wife. Did you know that she has paid your food from her own pocket because she likes you? She is prepared to do it all three days. On the other hand, she is more than happy to see you free and at the same time save the expenses. I also reimbursed her for her expenses up to now. The Marquis was impressed by your courage at the rack and thinks that you deserve freedom earlier. So will you come with me?”

Tears start falling from Annette’s eyes, this time from happiness. She throws herself into Arnold’s arms, without being able to utter a word. “I take it that you agree?” he says. She just nods in his hug, being careful

that he does not touch her back. She places his hands on her unharmed bum instead.

Arnold keeps every word of his promise. Late in the evening he appears with his son in the carriage, and stops
at the castle gate. Jules and the driver wait in the carriage as Arnold is let into the half-dark castle. A guard lights a
torch and locks up the prison door. Annette is awake in the twilight. She is standing behind the bars with a big smile, her white teeth glistening; now she is dressed.

When they arrive at the inn Jules is already fast asl**p. Arnold carries him from the carriage. Together they march into the inn, while the driver stays behind to see that a servant who appears when they arrive, takes good care of horse and carriage. They climb the stairs to Arnold’s and Jules’s room. Arnold has been sl**ping in a big bed with a baldachin, Jules in a smaller one at the opposite wall. Arnold tenderly places the sl**ping boy in his bed and covers him up. Annette not even bothers to ask where she should sl**p; she takes it for granted that she will share Arnold’s bed. It just feels natural.

They lit a candle on the bed table and then they both strip as fast as they can. Before embracing her he asks Annette to stand before him so he can adore her young naked body. He can now see the third fluff of hair under her flat stomach that he fantasised about in the market place. It is hard for him to hold his horses, but he controls himself and tells Annette to turn around. He now sees a bum prettier than anything he has seen before, and, alas, her poor lacerated back. Arnold comforts her by promising her that the marks will heal completely in a couple of weeks and that there will be now scars. . But he adds that Annette was lucky to receive the reduced number of lashes; with fifty, permanent scars may have resulted.

Indeed, what a change between extremes! They are now the happiest lovers on earth. Arnold has been badly missing carnal love for a long time; Annette has no regret for losing her virginity, not to this man. It was intended for him! Only she has to avoid lying on her back. Pain and pleasure are close neighbours. When strong, both can make you scream. She is so aroused that she soon reaches her first climax. Experiencing the height of pleasure Annette now does not hesitate to scream, as she was holding herself when exposed to extreme pain.

Arnold teaches her positions of love making and she is a very clever student. There seems to be no end to it, one climax following the other with screams that must be heard in other parts of the house, They fall asl**p only close to dawn, filled by bliss and completely exhausted .

Jules wakes them up. He has fortunately been so tired that he wakes up late, and has not heard anything of what happened during the night. Annette feels that she went to bed as a girl and now wakes up as a woman. The driver has been waiting for quite some time, because the order was “an early start”. When he sees the couple he understands, and Arnold’s explanation that they overslept is quite unnecessary; in fact a bit ridiculous, given their looks, and some sounds that in fact he couldn’t avoid to overhear through the thin walls of the auberge.

Annette is very happy in her new position, which soon becomes much more important than that of a nanny.
Arnold cannot marry her because of their very different class backgrounds. But he never marries again, and as fate would have it, Annette and Arnold get three healthy c***dren together. In the upper classes this is tolerated,
even if not regarded as acceptable. And for the lower classes we know the verdict. Right from the beginning Jules loves Annette as if she were his real mother. Arnold and Annette are a very handsome couple, to the end of their lives, many, many happy years later.

During the rest of her life, Annette never regrets that she stole those three copper coins, got caught and was duly
flogged. If not, she would never have met Arnold. On the other hand, she had learnt her lesson. She kept her promise to the Markis and never stole anything again. Not that there was any need to steel in her rich household, where she had everything she wanted.
What is the moral of this story? You should never lose hope; happiness may be just around the corner, even at the most horrible time in your life.






The End






... Continue»
Posted by 0519lE 4 years ago  |  Categories: BDSM, Voyeur  |  Views: 1198  |  
82%
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Eudeamon......Latex Bane...

Katrina Nichols followed the solitary Bane through the darkened park. It was raining steadily and Katrina was soaked through despite her raincoat. She had an umbrella, but that would have been too unwieldy for sneaking through the trees and bushes. Besides, the Bane would surely spot an umbrella bobbing along in pursuit and would have darted off like they always did. All Katrina wanted was to get close enough to interview one… somehow. It was nighttime in the park and there was no one around to see them, so she hoped she might finally get a chance without either of them getting in trouble.

This female Bane was exhibiting unusual behavior. Unusual behavior for a person, that is, though not too unusual for a Bane. They often acted strange, but who could blame them? Anyone would start acting strangely after living as a Bane for long enough. That was what had caught Katrina’s attention. She had been walking down a sidewalk in Eudemonia when she had spotted the Bane dancing–dancing, of all things–in the park, heedless of the rain pouring down on her bare, black ‘skin’. Many of the Banes she had to tried to contact had been morose, every facet of their body language expressing the wretchedness of their condition. That was understandable. At best, they had the air of patient resignation as they watched life go on around them. But there were others, like this one in the park, who appeared completely happy with their situation. Katrina was very curious about those.

The Bane continued to wind her way through the trees. Katrina almost lost the lithe, dark figure several times. The rain slowed to a petulant drizzle. The chorus of tree frogs and the patter of raindrops on leaves muffled the sounds of the city beyond the park. The Bane slipped out of the trees and went to stand in an open grassy field, where she tilted her head back to look at the clouds. Katrina was f***ed to hunker down at the edge of the forest, knowing there would be no way she’d be able to catch up with the Bane if she was startled and took off across the field. She willed the Bane to get a move on as she wriggled her shoulders in discomfort. Raindrops from the leaves were trickling into her shirt collar and down between her shoulder blades. Finally, after standing completely still in the open for a few minutes, the Bane descended down the gently sloping bank of a narrow creek and splashed her way into the darkness beneath a low, pedestrian bridge. Katrina followed her down, slipping on the wet grass, and cautiously approached the bridge. With the help of the streetlights, she could just make out the shape of the Bane, who appeared to be settling down for the night.

“Hello?” Katrina ventured.

Instantly, the Bane sprang to her feet. She stood crouched over in alarm, apparently ready to run at a moment’s notice.

“Wait!” Katrina cried hastily. “Don’t run, please don’t run. I won’t hurt you, I promise. I just want to talk to you.”

The Bane, tensed like a wary a****l, tilted her head. She must certainly have been confused. It may well have been the first time anyone had spoken to her in years. At least she hadn’t run off yet.

“I won’t hurt you. My name is Katrina Nichols. I’m an investigative reporter. I’m not from the city. I’m not from Eudemonia. It’s safe to talk to me, I promise. I won’t get you in trouble. I just want to talk.”

‘Talk’ was relative term, Katrina knew. Banes weren’t able to speak aloud, but there was more than one way to communicate. She caught her breath in excitement as the Bane slowly, hesitantly, inched her way out from under the bridge. Finally, success!

The Bane straightened up and stood before her, just feet away. Rain beaded and trickled down the blank surface of her helmet and body. Her heaving chest was the only visible sign of her agitation. It was almost intimidating, standing there alone in the deserted park with this bizarre vision. Katrina was fairly sure she was safe, however, as the Banes’ behavioral restrictions were supposed to prevent them from violent acts against citizens. In theory, anyway. Katrina experienced a mild erotic rush at the sight of her, as she did whenever she saw any of the Banes. That was the secret draw that had pulled her into investigating the secret world of the Banes in the first place. Though she had never worn it herself, she had always had an inexplicable fascination with latex, and the Bane was all latex.

She was entirely coated with high-gloss, black latex from head to toe. The suit left nothing to the imagination while simultaneously revealing nothing. It was more than merely skin-tight; there were no seams, zippers, or openings of any kind. There were no folds or stress lines that would identify it as a normal latex garment or any other type of clothing. It appeared to be more like a second skin than an outfit, as though it had been painted directly onto her body. The shiny skin was only half of the strangeness. She also wore a latex-coated helmet of some kind that was completely featureless–her head was encased in an ovoid shell, has face was trapped behind the glassy smooth, glistening black surface. It closely fit the contours of her head and allowed just enough room for her features beneath, even though none could be seen. There weren’t even the slightest of bumps that would hint at her having ears or a nose. It was though her face had been erased.

Katrina knew the Bane could see out, somehow, but the invisible eyepieces blended in perfectly with the rest of the helmet. Altogether, she looked less like a human being and more like a faceless, rubber-coated doll. That impression was further enhanced by the Bane’s breathtakingly perfect figure–a figure for which Katrina felt some envy, now that she was in her mid-thirties. She knew that Banes often developed good physiques from their limited diets, but it didn’t seem that diet alone could account for this latex-encased woman’s unnaturally perfect curves. Katrina wondered who this Bane had been, and what sort of crime could this woman have committed to have ended up in such a lowly state.

……

Banes, a popular slang for people who had been banished, were the subjects of an experimental penal system in the city of Eudemonia. Eudemonia was a planned city, one of the many mid-sized cities that had sprung up as people had fled the congestion and overpopulation of the metropolises. It was an idyllic community in the eyes of its framers, though the city’s detractors might call it an oppressive police state. Whatever criticisms outsiders had for the way the city was run, it had certainly grown rapidly. It had a lot going for it: clean streets, nice architecture, plenty of parks, low unemployment, a low crime rate, and plenty of high-tech jobs. It was a pleasant enough place to call home, if you were willing to obey the rules and didn’t mind the Banes living in your midst.

A few years earlier, in a time when the problem of overflowing prisons popularized many experimental rehabilitation projects and alternative punishments, Eudemonia tried something new. With the help of homegrown Ashton Technologies (a research institute that was largely responsible for the founding of the city in the first place), the city council instituted the Banishment Project. While banishment and shunning were ancient forms of punishment, Eudemonia utilized cutting edge technology to take them to chilling new levels.

The idea was that criminals, instead of filling up jail cells, became prisoners in their own, private prisons. The Banes, as the subjects soon came to be called, were left free to roam the city as outcasts. They were to be ignored by the citizenry and treated as if they didn’t exist. In fact, a person could be fined for even speaking to a Bane–it was a Violation of Banishment. A person wasn’t allowed to treat a Bane with either kindness or cruelty or even acknowledge them in any way. Attempting to aid a Bane or offering one shelter was a criminal offense.

In a surprisingly short amount of time, the first Banes effectively ceased to exist in the eyes of the Eudemonic community. It was considered a terrible punishment, to be cast out and shut off completely from society. Banes could watch life carry on around them but they could take no part in it whatsoever. They weren’t permitted to contact their friends or f****y. They couldn’t enter any public or private structure that wasn’t properly designated. Proximity sensors in every suit would punish them if they even tried to enter a structure or to leave their designated areas. They weren’t allowed to approach other Banes too closely, so they couldn’t even offer each other comfort or companionship. To be a Bane was to be perpetually alone in the middle of a bustling city.

To make matters worse for the Banes, the Banesuits that they were f***ed to wear stripped away all their identity and even their humanity: faces hidden behind the form-fitting, blank helmets, distinguishing characteristics hidden within tight, second skin of black latex. Except for differences in gender, weight, and height, they all looked the same. The revealing nature of the tight outfits was considered an added humiliation, for they might as well have been naked. While the Banesuits shielded their occupants from the elements, they were also said to muffle the sense of touch of the prisoners. They were denied the contact of others as well as the sensations of their own bodies.

As part of the punishment, as well as a method of rehabilitation, Ashton Technologies–the inventors of the Banesuits–used the latest in techno-organic, nanorobotic computers. They were called Custodians. Utilizing a simplified artificial intelligence, the computers that each of the Banes carried around in their helmets somehow tapped into the prisoner’s brain waves. Following a strict code of guidelines, the computer Custodians were able to ‘read’ the person’s thoughts and modify their behavior through the application of physical punishment. It became a personalized prison warden, constantly observing a Bane’s actions and intentions, and warning or punishing the Bane as necessary. That eliminated the need to pay people to keep track of all the Banes in the city; the Banesuits did all the work for them. The prisoner could get away with absolutely nothing, no matter how secretive he or she might be. The Custodian was always watching. It also monitored their vital signs for possible medical issues (emergency healthcare being the only human contact a Bane was allowed during their prison sentence). Ignored from without and chastised from within, a Bane’s life was surely nothing short of a waking nightmare. They existed in perpetual solitary confinement.

That was about all the public knew–or the citizens of Eudemonia cared to know–about the Banishment Project. The technology itself was a closely guarded secret. Its primary inventor, Doctor Ashton, abandoned the project years ago (possibly in protest, possibly to avoid the inevitable social controversy) and went into seclusion, an act which turned control of the Banishment Project over to the city council. Neither the city officials nor Ashton Technologies would divulge little more information than that to curious reporters and concerned civil rights groups. People wondered if the whole project was essentially little more than legalized human experimentation on prisoners. Many, such as the online newspaper Katrina Nichols worked for, questioned whether it violated civil rights.

While it was unquestionably a kind of cruel and unusual punishment, it was still voluntary. Prisoners who agreed to opt in to the Banishment Project instead of going through the regular penal system had their sentences reduced by one third. Violent offenders weren’t eligible for the banishment; citizens didn’t want violent criminals roaming the streets among them. Even though the Banesuit Custodians were supposed to prevent violent acts against citizens, nobody yet trusted that completely. Crimes with reduced sentences of less than five months were also not eligible, as it wasn’t yet cost effective to do it for such short terms. Most of the people who ended up as Banes were white-collar criminals, prostitutes, burglars, d**g dealers, and others. However, as an added deterrent, when one volunteered to participate in the Banishment Project, they wouldn’t get a choice to enter the regular system if they committed another crime afterwards--they would go straight back into banishment.

It was certainly proving effective. Aside from being effective, it was cheap. After the initial investment of the suit and Custodian, ongoing maintenance of a Bane was only a tiny fraction of the cost of an incarcerated prisoner. Crime rates were low. Those who volunteered to serve their sentence as a Bane seldom became repeat offenders. The punishment was considered that severe by those who had experienced it. Some ex-Banes required stays in rehabilitation institutes to properly reintegrate with society. For the most part, they were only too happy to try to put the experience behind them and try to become productive members of the Eudemonic society, if they didn’t move far away from the city altogether. They had learned their lesson, one might say. And those were the ones who had lived as a Bane for less than a year.

Long term effects were still unknown because the Project simply hadn’t been going for very long. It was entirely possible that prisoners who endured longer terms might very well go insane. No one in the public knew for sure, but since life was so good in Eudemonia, few citizens pressed for disclosure. Even without solid answers concerning the long term effects, other cities were considering implementing similar projects. Public curiosity was on the rise.

A tourist strolling through streets of Eudemonia would be greeted with the sight of black-suited Banes loitering throughout the city. Hundreds of them. Crouching or standing against the sides of buildings, keeping out of people’s way during rush hour as best they could, or huddled in alleyways, or just wandering around aimlessly and without purpose. They had nothing else to do. Most of them congregated in the city’s parks and wooded areas where they could avoid the foot traffic of the streets.

The tourist would see no one at all interacting with the Banes. It was as though two different societies existed in the same space, hardly aware of each other. The only time they made contact was if a Bane got in somebody’s way. The person might step around them, but often as not would rudely brush past the Bane, sometimes knocking them down. That sort of contact was not considered a Violation of Banishment, since a Bane was expected to be treated as if he or she wasn’t even there, and the Banes were expected to stay out of people’s way. If the tourist, moved by curiosity or compassion, tried to speak to a Bane, a passing citizen might quietly advise them to leave it alone. Most often the Bane would flee, apparently fearing a lengthening of his or her sentence for the appearance of trying to interact with someone. If the person persisted in their attempts, they would receive a harsh warning from the police, a hefty fine, or might even be arrested and detained. It was no secret that the police had been encouraged to show little leniency in dealing with outsiders–activists and the like–who came to cause a scene and disrupt the new Eudemonian way of life.

It was in hopes of discovering some kind of insider information about the Banishment Project, as well as to learn more about the lives and experiences of the Banes, that had lead Katrina to come to Eudemonia. Trying to get information was just as difficult as she had suspected it would be. No one was willing to talk. Ex-Banes she had interviewed weren’t very forthcoming, either. They said little more than that the experience had been hellish, extremely boring, lonely, and sometimes painful. They weren’t allowed to discuss any part of the processing or the nature of the Banesuits because of a non disclosure agreement. None were willing to do anything to risk becoming banished again.

Katrina had been warned several times due to her attempts at making contact with Banes. She had then tried to find some in the parks and wooded areas, away from authoritarian eyes. The Banes she found there avoided her like skittish forest a****ls. Some angrily waved her away. One, a large male with lean muscles, stuck around long enough to boldly flip her off in response to her entreaties before walking away with shoulders heaving in mute laughter. Another had completely ignored her as she writhed against the trunk of a tree in apparent orgasmic pleasure as though the rough bark was a sensual bliss. A strange sight by itself, made stranger still by the park-goers walking past her and ignoring the masturbatory display as though it wasn’t even happening.

……

But now Katrina finally had a Bane in front of her, and for whatever reason this one didn’t seem to be afraid of being punished by her Banesuit for violating the rules of contact. Katrina only hoped that the suit couldn’t somehow report her activities remotely; her editor, Benjamin Mellon, would be pissed if he had to bail her out of jail or help her pay a fine. “Just some questions. You can hear me, right? And understand me?” she asked, not knowing to what degree those helmets interfered with a Bane’s hearing.

The Bane nodded in affirmation, appearing a little more relaxed but still cautious.

“Can you tell me your name? How long have you been like this? Can you, maybe, write it?”

Katrina began to rummage in her bag for a pad and pen, but the Bane had her own solution. The drizzle beaded on her back and trickled in rivulets down her sides as she bent over to pick up a stick to write with on the muddy silt of the riverbank.

Barbara/Eden, she wrote. 3 yrs.

“Barbara Eden? Like the actress from that old show?” Katrina wondered.

A sharp shake of the head. The Bane wiped the words from the silt and wrote again. I am Barbara. Barbara Bane now. Also Eden.

Katrina stared at the cryptic words. The poor woman must have gone off the deep end after being isolated all that time. Did the city officials even care what was happening to the minds of these prisoners, or were they just tossed aside and forgotten? “Wow. Three years is a long time. Am I first the person to, uh, speak to you like this in all that time, Barbara?” Katrina asked.

There was a nod in response. She wrote again. Why U here?

“Like I said, I’m a reporter. I’m trying to find out more about this whole Banishment Project. People want to know. Some people say it’s inhumane. You’re the first Bane, I mean, person I’ve been able to talk to. So can you tell me? Is it?” she asked. “Is it inhumane?”

Barbara shrugged. Depends who U ask, she wrote. She then giggled visibly and hugged herself.

“I’m asking you. I want to help. Don’t you want to your story told?”

Barbara’s body language showed hesitation. Then she wrote with definitive bold letters, NO.

Katrina grunted in frustration. So close and yet so far. “Why not? Are you scared of punishment? I promise I’ll keep you completely anonymous. Nobody’ll ever know it was you I spoke to. Don’t you want people to know what you’ve been going through? Don’t you want this to stop?”

Barbara appeared to struggle with the words before finally stooping to write. Never stop. U don’t know. U can’t know. Never will. Sad 2b U. Feel sorry for U.

“You feel sorry for me? Why? What do you mean?” Katrina asked in confusion. “What can’t I know? I need you to tell me, that’s why I’m here.”

Can’t tell. U r human. Must stay secret.

“A secret, huh? I’m good with secrets. Lots of people trust me with secrets. If you don’t want me tell anyone else, I won’t. Off the record, then. Just give me something to go on.”

Barbara stubbornly shook her head.

Okay, Katrina told herself. Remember, she’s a little crazy, so don’t get mad at her. Just try to draw her out.

“All right, no secrets, then. But if I’m human, what does that make you? Can you tell me that?”

I am a BANE!! Am perfection. U r lost.

I’m lost? You’ve got that right, s****r, Katrina thought. “Help me out here. I just want to understand.”

Barbara considered for a moment. She cleared the silt and wrote slowly and carefully. You cannot understand. Only banes understand. Beauty beyond words. So happy. My perfect Eden. She stopped writing for a moment to hug herself again. Pleasure you can’t imagine. Love you’ll never know. She underlined the word ‘love’ several times in emphasis.

As Katrina puzzled over the words, Barbara’s head shot up. Katrina looked around. There was a pair of umbrellas approaching along the walking path. They were still a distance away yet. This Bane must have had excellent hearing. Barbara turned to run.

“Wait!” said Katrina. “I still don’t get it. I want to tell your story! Can we meet again?”

Barbara shook her head in obvious agitation. Kneeling, she swept the mud clean with a swipe of her forearm and hastily wrote again with the stick held in both hands. She then turned and sprinted away, quick as a gazelle. Her latex-clad body disappeared without a trace into the darkness.

Katrina looked down at the single word scrawled deeply in silt. EUDEAMON.



Chapter 2



Katrina sat in a booth in a late night diner not far from the park. It was a chance to dry off and to try to understand the strange, written conversation she had just had with the Bane. There was no question that the woman had gone around the bend, if only a little. Why wouldn’t she want to have her story told? Was she afraid of the repercussions? Or had she simply gotten so accustomed to living as a Bane that she had forgotten how to live any other way? Katrina had heard of prisoners becoming institutionalized to the point of being unable to function outside of prison. Could such a thing happen even to a Bane despite the terrible life of deprivation they lived with? Well, Katrina decided, even if all the writing turned out to be nonsense, it wasn’t completely fruitless. Barbara’s personal delusions would seem to support the theory that long term banishment was a crime in itself if it drove a person so insane. But perhaps it wasn’t all complete delusion. Maybe she knew something, some secret that Ashton Technologies wouldn’t want made public knowledge.

There was there was that one word Barbara had written… Eudeamon. It occurred to Katrina that it wasn’t the first time had seen that word written. While traveling through the city, she had seen it written here and there. Painted on walls, etched into park benches, carved into the bark of trees–that same word appeared again and again. At the time, she had dismissed it as simple graffiti, an intentional or accidental misspelling of the city’s name. It was a rather peculiar misspelling, though, especially since it occurred repeatedly. What can it mean? she wondered. Is it a code? An individual, maybe?

She was at the counter getting a refill of her coffee–pretty decent coffee, too–when a rain-soaked police officer came into the diner. He pulled back the hood of his black poncho, revealing the face of a man only a few years younger than herself. Katrina stiffened, worried that he had come for her. Maybe someone had seen her chasing Banes in the park, or perhaps Barbara’s Banesuit had reported the both of them. She watched out of the corner of her eye as the cop came up to the counter and ordered a coffee and a slice of lemon meringue pie. Katrina relaxed.

“You look like you got worse than me, officer,” she said with casual affability, tossing her damp hair over her shoulder, and sliding onto one of the stools.

He looked over at her chuckled. “Yeah, s’pose I do. It’s pretty soggy out there tonight. Everything going all right?”

“Oh, yes, thanks. It’s just been a long day. One of those days.” She sipped her coffee. “I hope you don’t me bugging you. I’m just feeling a little lonely right now. I don’t know anybody around here.”

He waved away her concern. “Aw, it’s okay.”

“I’m Katrina Nichols,” she said, offering her hand.

“Michaels.” He had a strong but gentle handshake. He wasn’t too bad looking, either. “Not from around here, then?”

“Oh, no, I’m just visiting.” She continued to warm him up with some small talk and judicious flirting. She was fairly confident her old charms still worked. After a while, she said, “I’ve been thinking of maybe moving here. I mean, I’ve been thinking about it for a while. The city is so pretty and everybody is so nice. It’s just…”

“Oh. The Banes,” Michaels said, finishing for her. He grinned ruefully. “All the tourists ask about them.”

She laughed. “Well, the last thing I want to do is come off as some gawking tourist. But... really, what’s it like with them everywhere? It seems so strange.”

He shrugged. “Technically, we shouldn’t even be talking about ‘em. That’s part of the whole ‘shunning’ thing, you know. Really, you get used to them pretty fast. But they’re just people, you know, not a****ls. Even if some people treat ‘em that way.”

She detected a hint of something in his voice. Was it distaste? “You don’t approve of the idea? The banishment, that is?”

Another shrug. “Eh, I’m just a cop. What I think doesn’t matter. I don’t make the laws, I just enf***e ‘em,” he added in with an officious tone and a self-deprecating smile. Katrina grinned at him. “Sure, I guess have some sympathy for ‘em. I mean it’s an okay idea and all, seems to work… but I’ve seen what some of them have to go through. The beatings. They call it Bane-bashing.”

“I thought that was i*****l.”

“Oh, it is,” he said. “Very. But when did making something i*****l stop a group of d***ken k**s from having their fun? They can’t even defend themselves. At least it doesn’t happen often.”

“But other than that, it works, right? I mean, it must be effective. They don’t commit any more crimes, right? The Banes, I mean.”

Officer Michaels smirked a little to himself. “So they say,” he mumbled.

Katrina perked up. “They say? There’s more to it, I take it?”

“Aw, I shouldn’t be saying anything about this,” he said, but the way he was nervously spinning the fork in his fingers said that he really did want to. In Katrina’s experience, people could be surprisingly open with a friendly stranger, so she simply peered intently at him, careful not to push him or sound overly curious. He eventually continued. “I’ve heard some things. Seen some things. Things that make me think they’re not telling us everything.”

“Like... what?”

“Well,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “I dunno. It’s just my department has had to deal with unexplained behavior more and more lately. I mean, now that a lot of the longer term Banes’ sentences are ending. The ones who’ve been banished for a couple years or so, you know. I mean, if you had been a Bane for two years, you’d be pretty excited about your term coming to a close, right?”

“I’d think so.”

“Yeah, me too. You’d just lay low, not draw any attention to yourself, and wait ’til your time was up. Right? And some do. But others, right near the end of their sentences, start going on these sprees: vandalizing, Violation of Banishment, defacing property. These are people who–a lot of ’em–haven’t put a toe out of line during their sentences. Then, all the sudden, when it’s almost over, they go haywire? Add years to their sentences? Doesn’t make sense. You might expect crap like that from someone brand new to banishment, like throwing a fit, rebelling. They don’t–can’t, apparently–but the long-timers do. And we’re not even allowed to talk about it, much less ask questions. That bugs me.”

“But I thought the Banesuits kept them from doing things like that.”

“That’s another thing,” he said, becoming more animated. “They don’t. Not in those situations. Oh, it works great for the short-timers, but the longer the sentence, the less the inhibitors seem to work. I think maybe the program gets corrupted after a while. Glitches they haven’t ironed out. Heck, maybe it’s even someone hacking into the system, maybe an anti-banishment activist trying to cause problems. Whatever it is, Ash-Tech tells us nothing.”

“So you’re telling me the behavior inhibitors break?”

“I don’t know. That’s part of the mystery. Those incidents have petered off a little lately, and they were never exactly common. So maybe it was just a bug and they’ve got it under control. But like I said, they behaved fine the rest of the time. And they never act violently against citizens,” he added a little hastily. “That’s nothing to worry about. No, I’m more concerned about the Banes’ safety out there. Tell you the truth, if they were able to defend themselves, I wouldn’t be sorry to see some of those bashing punks get what they deserved. Not sorry, at all.”

“Wow.”

“But don’t get me wrong,” he said with a comforting smile. “I don’t mean to come off sounding negative or anything. It’s not like it’s a big deal. Aside from some unanswered questions, Eudemonia really is a great place to live.”



Chapter 3



“There’s definitely something going on, Ben,” she told her editor through vid-conference. She had finished giving him a short hand report of her experience. She was comfortably settling back into her small apartment after the two hour mag-lev train ride from Eudemonia. It always felt great to get back home, even if it was on the cramped and cluttered side.

“It’s some interesting tidbits to be sure, but not much to go on, is it? It does corroborate with some of Verne’s findings, though,” said Benjamin, his round face filling up the video window from end to end. He was referring to Verne Sawyer, a techno geek on the newspaper’s payroll. Katrina had worked with him a few times. While not exactly a reporter, his computer expertise and hacking skills had helped to ferret out plenty of secrets in the past. “He’s been working on the Ashton Technologies angle, but the security on that place is tight as a drum. He did manage to find an imperfectly deleted memo on the system. Something about the treatment of patients who are suicidal or catatonic after being released from banishment. A fragment about ‘recommending the restraint of all patients after the suicide of patient T-5067’ and a few other things.”

“I’m not surprised, honestly,” said Katrina. “The way these people are treated, criminals or not, is just wrong. I’d be surprised if some could function at all after that kind of psychological torture. Not to mention the humiliation. People have got to know about this, about what the Banes are subjected to. The problem is I couldn’t get any of the ex-Banes to talk. Hell, I got more out of that cop than from any of them. They just seem terrified.”

“Can you blame them? Do you know what the penalty of breaking that non disclosure agreement is in that city? Automatic banishment. Say a word and back into the black suit you go. It does present something of a road block, does it not?” Benjamin’s lips pursed into a frown. “I just don’t think we can do much more on this right now. I need more to go on than a cop’s hearsay and some nutty, self-absorbed Bane writing bad poetry in the mud.”

“But Ben–”

“I know, you don’t have to tell me. But we can’t just throw around conjecture and accusations without solid proof. Let the other guys do that. We have integrity. Unless someone chooses to come forward or the system breaks down on its own, there’s just not enough there for a real story.”

“Benjamin. That might never happen.”

“Maybe, maybe not. It’s the nature of the universe for systems to break down,” said Benjamin.

“Don’t go getting all metaphysical on me. These people are suffering now.”
“That’s thermodynamics, actually, not metaphysics,” he corrected dryly. “I know how strongly you feel about all this, Nichols, I do. But unless you can find me a whistle-blower or one of these Banes willing to talk and make sense, there’s not much I can do.”

……

Later that evening, Katrina was stretched out on her bed with her laptop. She had been trying to do some research on the word eudeamon. She hadn’t been able to find much. Eudemonia was an ancient Greek word, defined as a state of happiness, of being governed by reason, or of being generally blessed by the gods. She already knew that much from the city of Eudemonia’s promotional literature. That’s why the founders had picked the name in the first place. A eudeamon, however, was a benevolent spirit, demon, or angel. Katrina couldn’t make much sense of it. All of her searches on eudeamon in connection with the actual city of Eudemonia turned up nothing but misspelled entries.

She rolled onto her back and rubbed her eyes. Maybe it really was a code, some kind of secret Bane communication. Or could it be some Banes’ way of praying for help or some kind of savior? Or it could be a person. Or any number of different things. Too many possibilities equaled another dead end. She wanted to be the one to break this story so bad she could taste it, but Benjamin had been right; she needed a story before she could break one.

Her thoughts wandered back to the Banes. Or rather, the Banesuits. There was an undeniable, if guilty, excitement she took from their appearance. She couldn’t get the thought out of her head, imagining what it would be like to be in a Bane’s place. What would it be like to be covered up in all that latex and trapped inside it against her will? What would it feel like? The smooth tightness all around her, over every inch of her body, with no escape and no way to take it off...

Pleasure you can’t imagine.

Just as her hand was starting to slide into the front of her pants, the phone rang. She groaned and rolled over. Caller ID showed it to be Steven, her boyfriend of five months. She eagerly answered the phone. “Well hey, honey, why haven’t you called?” she asked.

“Oh, er, hi! I wasn’t sure when you’d be up for talking, since you just got in.”

“I might be up for a little more than talking. Believe me, I could use some pleasant distraction after the week I’ve had. I’ve been trying to research those Banes all night. But anyway, never mind that. I need to get my mind off the job. I may be tired, but–”

“Yeah, uh, listen, that’s why I called,” said Steven, sounding suddenly uncomfortable. “Look, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and…”

“And?”

“I just don’t think it’s… working out. I think it’s time we started seeing other people.”

A cold weight slammed into Katrina’s chest. “What are you saying? You’re breaking up with me? Over the phone?”

“Well, um–”

“But what happened?” Katrina demanded. She was trying hard not to cry, but felt the heat of tears building up behind her eyes. “Why now? We were fine last week!”

“No, no we weren’t,” replied Steven, “and I think you know it. We just aren’t connecting anymore, Katrina. It’s nobody’s fault.”

“So that’s it then? After all this time, it’s over just like that?”

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“Come on, just talk to me, tell me what’s the matter. We can work something out, I know it,” said Katrina, knowing she was starting to sound a little pathetic but not caring. “Hang on, is this because of those kinky fantasies I talked about?”

“What? No. There’s just nothing to work out. Some people just aren’t meant to be together. I’m sorry, but… listen, I gotta go.”

“Yeah. Gotta go. Sure,” she said quietly and hung up the receiver. Then she picked it up again only to slam it viciously down on its cradle several more times.

She rolled over, buried her face in her pillow, and let loose the floodgates. This had come so unexpectedly. And why now? Didn’t she have enough to deal with right now? The inconsiderate bastard. It wasn’t even like she was madly in love with Steven or anything. But, all the same, she had loved him a little. She had let him in a little. Being with him made her feel normal, like she was doing something right. Now she had to start all over again. It only got harder each time.

Not again. Not alone again, she thought miserably as her tears slowly dampened her pillowcase. Why am I always alone? Why can’t ever find something real? How many times is this? Is it that some people aren’t meant to be together, Steven? Or is it that I’m not meant to be with anyone, ever? Am I supposed to grow old alone? I hate this, I hate this, I hate it.

……

The next morning she stared at the ceiling for a long time, sprawled out among her twisted sheets. All cried out, she was now feeling numb and hollow. Steven, jerk that he was for a phone-breakup, had been right about one thing; she had never been able to connect with anyone for too long. Why couldn’t she make a relationship last? Why did she always have to end up by herself? She didn’t even know what she was doing wrong. Was she doing something wrong? Or was it everyone else who couldn’t connect with her? It seemed like she hardly had anyone in the world who really cared for her. A few friends, a few coworkers, maybe. She had no f****y left, none at all. Her mother had died shortly after Katrina was born. Her father had never remarried. He had focused all his attention on Katrina as she grew up. And why did he have to go and die before she was even out of college, leaving her to face her future alone and without his guidance? She always ended up alone in the end. She was always left with nothing but fading memories.

She sniffled and rubbed her hands across her face. She had always been too cautious in her relationships, afraid of exposing too much of herself. That was one of the problems. Fear of getting hurt just insured that she would get hurt all over again. All her life she had shied away from going all out, from taking a real chance. She needed to make a change, a serious change. Make a difference. Face real risk with real rewards. Excitement. Challenges. Making a life worth living.

Why not? she asked herself. Why not, indeed?

She rolled out of bed and fixed her face and hair. Then she got on the vid-phone and called her boss. “Benjamin? Yeah, hi. Listen. This is going to sound crazy, but I had an idea.”



Chapter 4



A month later, Katrina Nichols, A.K.A. Vivienne Mulberry, stood in a Eudemonic court accused of prostitution. Her fourth count of prostitution, no less. She was facing a lengthy prison sentence.

“Miss Mulberry, how do you plead?”

“Guilty, Your Honor,” said Katrina thickly. She had never been in court before. Just standing there made her feel guilty. She was sweating bullets. She shakily took her seat and zoned out while the judge considered the matter and the lawyers gabbled in Legalese. She could hardly believe this was really happening. And for prostitution? Very funny, Benjamin. It was so humiliating, but she could hardly complain. It got the job done, and it was only ever a means to an end, anyway. Soon the charges wouldn’t matter. She felt a strange exhilaration, the thrill of doing something wrong and getting away with it. She also felt fear. A lot of fear.

“Miss Mulberry,” said the judge, a stern-looking, older woman with thin lips and softly sagging jowls. “Your willingness to admit your wrong-doing and not waste our time stands you in good stead with this court. However, you do face a minimum mandatory sentence, this being your fourth offense. Do you have anything to say?”

“I, uh,” mumbled Katrina, genuinely trying to think of a contrite statement. She decided the less she said, the better. She was no actress and this was no movie set. “No, Your Honor.”

“Very well. I sentence you to a term of no less than f******n months incarceration. In accordance with the Banishment Statute, you may choose public exile for a commuted term of eight months. Which do you choose?”

Katrina took a deep, shuddering breath to try and steady herself. “Banishment.”

“As you wish. You will forthwith be remanded to the custody of the Ashton Technologies facility where you will be processed. Processing time will count toward time served.” The gavel banged down. People began to mill around in the courtroom in preparation for the next case. A bailiff helped Katrina out of her seat and ushered her towards the exit.

This is it, she thought.

……

It had taken time for Benjamin Mellon to come around to the idea. He did try to talk her out of it, telling her how nuts it all was. He didn’t try very hard, though. Ever the media mercenary, he could smell a potential story. Katrina had known his personal concerns for a reporter’s safety and well-being would ultimately be overridden by his greed for a good, breaking story.

It took a great deal of planning and the use of an old friend of Benjamin’s–a cop with access to the police and court database. It was a fairly simple matter to find Vivienne Mulberry, a citizen of Eudemonia and a prior offender, who also roughly fit Katrina’s description. Miss Mulberry was soon to be due for a court hearing concerning her latest exploits in prostitution. She had no f****y, no one to notice if she went ‘missing’. It was easy enough to contact the woman and convince her to switch identities for a little while. She was all too eager, in fact. Then, a little fiddling with the database, and presto change-o, it was Katrina’s photo and particulars on Vivienne’s rap sheet. The real Vivienne got a free vacation while someone else served her sentence for her. She could hardly complain about that. Especially since she had been given substantial remuneration (partly out of Katrina’s own pocket) in order to keep her quiet.

Sure, it was i*****l what they were doing, but everyone involved felt that the potential benefits outweighed the crime. There might be some fallout, but if Katrina could discover some damning inside information and prove inhumane treatment, that would surely outweigh the switch-off and records-tampering done to uncover it. Afterwards, when she finally reported on her inside experience, she intended to keep Vivienne’s complicity completely secret. She didn’t want the woman to get in trouble for skipping out on her judicial punishment.

And if she uncovered nothing and her experience wasn’t considerably worse than one might receive in the regular prison system? No harm, no foul. Afterwards, she and Vivienne would switch back, Vivienne’s time would have been served, and no one would be the wiser. Katrina would have lost a few months, but, hopefully, it would be worth it. And, at the very least, she would at last know the truth of it all. Her motivations weren’t entirely altruistic, though. She was elated to finally be doing something, actually going in and facing a potentially grueling experience in the name of a story. Real journalistic integrity. It would, without question, put her name on the map. She might even get a Pulitzer for this.

There was also a darker, secret motivation that she could barely even admit to herself. Part of it was her brief encounter with Barbara. She was aching to know what the Bane had found so beautiful and pleasurable about her predicament. The mystery of it had nearly become an obsession for her. And who or what was this eudeamon? Also, ever since her previous trip to Eudemonia, her thoughts had often returned to the Banes and their jet-black occlusion suits. What would it be like to wear one and be unable to escape it? Trapped in latex for months? The thought made her feel light-headed with fear and… something else. Whatever it was, simply thinking about it made her feel guilty. She managed to sweep thoughts under the carpet of her subconscious. She wanted to stay focused and professional.

As she waited in a small holding cell in the courthouse, however, she was starting to have second thoughts. What had seemed like a great idea during the nihilistic depression following her breakup with Steven was now a lot more intimidating. It was really happening. She was actually volunteering to have her identity erased, her humanity stripped away, even if only temporarily. After hearing what happened to other people, she knew she faced possible mental harm. She hoped the light at the end of the tunnel would help her to keep it together. She wasn’t really a criminal, after all, and this wasn’t a punishment. It was a mission. And it was too late to turn back now, anyway. She would have to see it through to the end.

After a few hours waiting, a guard came for her and put her ankle cuffs and wrist restraints with a belt that pinned her hands close to her waist. She thought it unnecessary. At least she was still in her street clothes and not in some prison jumper. She was e****ted through a back door in the courthouse. Outside, in a walled-in parking lot, there were a couple more guards and a minivan converted for prisoner transport. The Ashton Technologies logo was emblazoned on the door. Two other prisoners stood around, looking uncomfortable and anxious, while the others were being helped into the van. There were five in total, including Katrina. Two men and two other women.

After they were all loaded onto the bus and secured into their seats, Katrina found herself sitting next a skinny, shivering girl who barely looked out of her teens. She looked as if she had recently been crying. She gave Katrina a nervous smile. “Um, hi. I’m Tina. Tina Scott. What are you here for?”

“I’m, uh, Vivienne. Prostitution,” she said with a flush of embarrassment.

“You too? Me too!” chirped Tina, as if that gave them something in common, like belonging to the same sorority. “I-I had to do this. The banishment thing, I mean. I couldn’t stand the thought of going to jail. I’m kinda claustrophobic. I have to be able to get outside. This sounded better. I hope.”

Katrina tried to give her an encouraging smile. She felt a strong sense of sympathy. The girl might have been judged guilty of a crime, but she looked so terrified. It was hard not to feel sorry for her.

“Are you as scared as I am?” Tina asked. “I’ve never been this nervous in my life. Do you think it’ll hurt?”

“No talking,” barked the guard as he boarded the van and got into the back seat. He had a static rifle cradled in his arms.

“It’ll be okay,” Katrina whispered and patted the Tina’’s arm. She hoped she wasn’t lying to the girl. At the very least, being concerned for someone else helped belay her own anxiety. “I’ll… I’ll look out for you.” A look of pitiable gratitude washed over the girl’s face.

The drive wasn’t too long, only about twenty minutes from the courthouse. She saw the occasional Bane standing out in their black outfits here and there. I’m going to be just like that soon, she thought to herself. It was apparent that the others in the van were thinking similar thoughts of themselves.

They drew near to a large building on the wooded outskirts of town. It was in the neo-modern style with some odd angles and curves, and lots of cement and glass. The landscaping was very tidy and the grass was lush and green. It was all very clean and orderly, just like the rest of the city. Near the street was a sign made of a short, curved wall with metal letters that formed the name of Ashton Technologies. In front of the sign was a fountain with a silvery, abstract human statue. Whether it was by design or artistic coincidence, the statue had no face.

The small group was unloaded in an enclosed receiving area out back. From there they were lead inside. The glass doors weren’t barred, but they were reinf***ed with a metallic mesh and had electronic locks. It seemed to Katrina to be less like a prison and more like a high security mental institution. They were seated in a holding room and bidden to wait. They endured several long and awkward minutes before a man came in to greet them. He was dark haired, hollow-cheeked and was all bones and sharp angles beneath his white lab coat. He took some paperwork from the guard.

“I want to welcome you all to the Ashton Technologies Facility. My name is Doctor Julian Torres. You have all voluntarily opted in to the Banishment Project. If there is anyone who is here mistakenly, please let us know now.” He paused a second. “No? Fine. I know you’re all probably very nervous, but please try to relax. We will try to make your processing as stress-free and as comfortable as possible, but we’ll need your cooperation to do so.” An assistant came in carrying a stack of clipboards which were distributed to the prisoners. Each held a hefty stack of admittance papers, legal forms, waivers, and medical history forms. “Please sign and date wherever you see a space highlighted in yellow. And please fill out the medical history forms accurately. We can’t be held responsible if something goes due to your lack of honesty.”

Several minutes passed as the prisoners signed form after form. Tina hesitantly raised her hand. “Uh… what’s the date?”

“October the Eighth,” said the doctor.

“Excuse me,” said Katrina, “but what exactly are we waiving with these waivers?”

“You’ve consented to undergo a safe but experimental medical procedure. You’re waiving all claims and liabilities,” replied Dr. Torres coolly.

If it’s so safe, why do I need to waive liabilities? Katrina wondered. “What about long term effects? I’ve heard there’ve been people left catatonic,” she asked. Tina stiffened in the seat next to her.

The doctor arched his brow. “And where did you hear such a thing?”

“Oh… you know, around. Rumors. Is it true?”

“Absolutely not, I assure you. Rumors like that are started by people who are opposed to the goals the Banishment Project aims to achieve: punishment and rehabilitation. Most of them are Luddites who prefer the thought of inmates moldering in prison cells rather than giving them a chance to truly learn repentance by being rejected by the society they chose to harm and act against.”

“So there’s no real danger in doing this?” Katrina asked.

“None whatsoever.”

Katrina didn’t believe his assurances for a minute, but at least she had his opinion on the record.

One by one, they were taken away for processing. When only Katrina and a short, balding, chubby man were left, a female guard opened the door and called, “V-7505.” She pointed at Katrina. “That’s you. This way, please.”

“Have there really been that many V’s before me?” Katrina asked as she preceded the guard down a carpeted hallway.

“It’s a random number. Now, please refrain from talking, V-7505.”

Fine, have it your way, she thought sourly.

She was taken to a room where, in front of the guard and another woman in white jumpsuit, her restraints were removed and she was required to completely disrobe, including any jewelry and piercings she might have. She was wearing neither. She was also told to remove her contact lenses. “You, uh, know I can’t see without these, right?”

“It won’t be a problem,” the woman said tersely.

From there she was subjected to a full cavity search. It was humiliating, but she supposed it was nothing out of the ordinary compared to entry into a regular prison. Afterwards, she was taken to an adjoining room with tiled floors and walls. The floor was wet and the air was damp and humid, like a public shower. Cuffs were placed over her wrists and were lifted overhead by a bar. “Is all this really necessary?” Katrina asked, feeling terribly helpless.

“Please refrain from talking, V-7505.”

“Okay, but… oh my god, what are you doing?” Katrina yelped as the harsh, grating sound of electric clippers buzzed to life. With a swift and experienced hand, the woman began to shear off Katrina’s body hair, including her pubic area. She then moved up to Katrina’s head. With quick, untidy swipes, Katrina’s long, blond hair was reduced to stubble. Not even her eyebrows were spared. It hadn’t even occurred to Katrina this sort of thing would be necessary. It made sense; there wasn’t much room for hair beneath those suits and helmets, but logic didn’t make it any less traumatic. She was sobbing by the time they lowered her arms and connected her cuffs behind her back. She didn’t even get a chance to feel her new buzz cut.

She was lead to a shower stall, where she was allowed to soak in a stream of hot water. It felt spectacularly bizarre against her head. Meanwhile, the woman was donning a baggy, plastic bodysuit. It looked similar to one a person might wear in a hazmat situation. The sight of it made Katrina nervous all over again and she cringed back into the shower stall. The woman drew Katrina from the shower and began to coat her with a clear, goopy liquid squeezed from a large bottle that simply read Sol. B-66. It was slick and slimy like hair conditioner and every inch of Katrina’s body was soon slathered in it.

“What is this stuff?” she asked, unable to keep the distress out of her voice. Some of the stuff got in her mouth and tasted bitter. She spat it out. “What are you doing to me?”

“Relax,” said the woman. “It’s simply a disinfectant and follicle inhibitor.”

Follicle inhibitor? Katrina wondered. “It’ll kill my hair?”

“No. It inhibits growth. It’s only temporary. Please step back into the shower.”

As the hot water washed the slimy stuff away, it became apparent that it did more than inhibit hair. It also dissolved it. What little stubble she had left on her head and body was washed down the drain. She couldn’t believe it. She had been rendered completely bald. Her only consolation was that soon nobody would be able to see it. That was cold comfort. She was roughly toweled off and lead, hairless, naked, and handcuffed, into another room.

This one looked more like a proper doctor’s office. The cuffs were unhooked from behind her back and she was helped to lie down on a padded table. The sanitary paper crinkled beneath her as she moved. There was some kind of head restraint at the top of the table, but they didn’t use it on her. Her cuffs were attached to the sides of the table. “You really don’t need that. I’m not gonna do anything, I promise.”

No one spoke to her. The older woman left the room, leaving her alone with the stony-faced guard. Several minutes passed uncomfortably before a middle-aged man in a lab coat entered. He was carrying a sealed, plastic container. He didn’t introduce himself, but his ID tag read Grable. He examined a clipboard, made a noise in his throat, then put on some latex gloves and gave her a quick physical examination. She felt awfully exposed, restrained to the table like that, being both bald and naked. He put a sedative IV into her arm and connected a heart monitor clamp to her fingertip.

“Um, can I ask what you’re going to do me? I’d really be a lot less stressed if, you know, you tell me everything that happens. I’ve always been like that… in doctors’ offices.”

“Refrain from talking, V-” the guard began to drone. The doctor cut her off.

“No, it’s all right,” he said to the guard. “I don’t mind explaining. In fact, you can step outside. I’ll call you if I need you.”

The guard gave him a loaded glance, but left the room as requested.

Grable looked at Katrina. “I can explain things, but I really don’t think you’ll find it helps you relax any.” He unsealed the plastic container he had brought in with him. From it he lifted from its bed of clear gel a flexible, curved, black rubber disk. It was no more than an inch think in the center and tapered to feather-thin edges. There was a blunt nub, about the width of a pencil eraser, poking out from the surface of its concave underside. The thinner edges of the thing wobbled a little as he moved it. “Do you know what this is?”

“It’s, um… no.”

“This is the latest in nano-computer technology. It’s a Custodian. Technically, a self-integrating onboard neuronet computer. It will become the artificial intelligence that will monitor your daily life.”

“It looks pretty small for an AI,” she observed.

“Oh, it is. This durable shell just houses the essential programming and a transceiver. All of the computing will be done by you. That’s the magic of it,” the man said proudly.

“Come again?”

“The human brain,” he said, “is far more powerful and complex than any computer built to date. We don’t even come close to needing the use of all of it. There’s so much to spare. This handy little device uses nanoprobes to explore and map the physical workings of your brain, then sends out techno-organic tubules to make connections with the pertinent neurons. Just think of it as tree roots growing into fertile soil. Its operating program will be uploaded into your brain. It will then use your own untapped brain power as its processor and hard drive.”

“It goes into my brain?” Katrina asked, horrified. “I don’t want that! I don’t want some computer growing itself inside my head!”

“Oh, not to worry, you won’t even notice it’s there. Not unless you do something wrong. It’ll just sit there, quietly observing your thought processes, until it learns how to interpret your intentions and anticipate your behavior. It will probably know what you’re going to do even before you do.”

This was starting to be a whole lot more than she bargained for. “No way! I’ve changed my mind! I want out of this!”

“Oh, it’s a little late for that, I’m afraid. You’ve already signed all the forms. But don’t be so upset. It’s not permanent or anything. When your sentence is finished, it will break its connections and completely withdraw itself from your brain.”

“I don’t buy it,” Katrina said, pulling at the cuffs. “You can’t just do that and expect there to be no damage!”

“I assure you, there will be no trace of it left. It will be as if it never existed. No brain damage has ever resulted.” He observed her struggle. He looked amused by her reaction. “I told you that knowing wouldn’t relax you.”

“Oh, screw you, you asshole!” spat Katrina, completely losing her composure. It pissed her off to no end to see this man being entertained by her distress. What kind of sadistic bastards did they have working here?

“But I haven’t yet told you how we’ll implant it,” he said with unpleasant eagerness. “I have to drill a little hole into your skull, right here.” He touched his finger to the crown of Katrina’s bald head, making her flinch. “Then we just adhere the unit to your scalp and it will do the rest. We’ll keep you u*********s for five days to allow it to make its connections. We’ll also be implanting your waste reclamation unit into your colon during that time. Be thankful that you’ll be asl**p for that. It requires a bit of stretching. After that, once we get your suit on you, you’ll be just another faceless Bane.” He turned on the IV drip.

“You enjoy your work, don’t you?” accused Katrina spitefully.

The man glanced up and down her naked body. “Yes. Yes, I do.”

…….

The next thing Katrina knew, she was waking up in a small, dimly lit cell. Her body was pinned to a cot with padded straps. There was a monitor beeping steadily away beside her. She moaned, in a haze of confusion. Her body was stiff and sore all over. She squirmed around as much as the restraints would allow. Her lower abdomen felt full and cramped inside, and her rectum felt tender. There was a rubber pad adhered over her entire crotch and smaller ones over her nipples. On the soles of her feet were glued cushy, rubber pads that were molded to a perfect fit and also squeezed up between her toes. She could only flex her toes the slightest bit. Her head throbbed annoyingly. My head…

Her eyes shot wide open. Memories of the courtroom, the shaving, the padded table, and the man with the wobbling black disc flooded her mind. She rubbed the back of her head against the pillow. There was something attached to the back of her skull. She screamed.

A minute later, a mature, henna-haired woman in a lab coat peered into the cell window and opened the door. “Ah, V-7505. Right on schedule.”

“Wha… what’s–”

“How do you feel?”

“Get this off me! It’s eating my brain! Please get this thing off of me!”

The woman gave Katrina an examination, then peered down at her with stern disapproval. “The Custodian is not eating your brain. Scans show that it is behaving within perfectly normal parameters.”

“Please stop it!”

“Stop what? It’s already finished. You’ve been asl**p here for five days. I’m Doctor Emilia Barriston, by the way. I’ll be overseeing your processing. You may rest up until tomorrow morning when your processing will be completed. Someone will be along to feed you shortly.” With that, she shut the door and left Katrina alone with her fears. Alone with her fears… and the thing that had already spread its tendrils throughout her brain like a malignant cancer.



Chapter 5



“Come on, V-7505. Cooperate. We can punish you if we need to. Open your mouth,” said a young male processing technician as he and the henna-haired doctor tried to work a tube into her mouth. Katrina was restrained to a chair. She had already had plugs inserted into her ears and some kind of liquified latex injected into her nose. She had had enough.

It had been explained to her that it wasn’t in fact pure latex, but that it was in fact a mixture of a semisolid rubber compound and a mimetic network of microscopic fibers. When given a command by, say, a brain-dwelling computer, the fibers would arrange themselves into a shape and stay that way. Narrow tubes had been inserted deep into her nasal passage, all the way to the back of her throat, which squirted the mimetic rubber in their wake as they had been slowly withdrawn. The latex-stuff naturally contracted on its own, so that it didn’t impede her breathing too much. It was an effort, though, as the semi-liquid stuff filled her nasal passages pretty well full. Now they wanted to do the same thing to her throat and mouth.

“No! I changed my mind, I want out. I want a phone and someone to get me out of here!”

Dr. Barriston shook her head in regret. “Custodian: default punishment, level three.”

The pain came over her so swiftly and so completely that Katrina didn’t even have a chance to scream before her chest seized up. It felt as if the entire surface of her skin, from tips of her toes to the top of her skull, was suddenly dancing with an electric current, fiery embers, and dagger-sharp shards of ice. She had never experienced anything like it in her life. Even though it only lasted a few seconds, it was easily the most painful thing she had ever felt. Then it was completely gone, without any residual pain anywhere. Her skin was completely unharmed. She gasped for a breath and let out a single, belated shriek.

“That’s a taste,” said the doctor. “It’s entirely in your head, but that doesn’t make it any less real, does it? I have no interest in punishing you, V-7505; I take no pleasure in this… but you have to start learning sometime. I’m sorry, but you must do as we say. There’s no turning back now. Open your mouth, please.”

Katrina parted her trembling lips, too shocked and horrified to resist. It was that thing in her head that had hurt her, she knew it. It had made her feel the phantom pain. It could inflict it whenever it was ordered to and she couldn’t possibly escape it. This truly was torture.

She was almost glad of it, in a way. Now she knew for certain that the Banishment Project was cruel and inhumane. She just had to make it through this ordeal in one piece. Then she could let the world know.

The tube slid into the back of her throat, causing her to gag. Again, the rubber stuff was squirted onto the walls of her throat and mouth, even coating her tongue, teeth, and lips. She reflexively swallowed some, not knowing if that was dangerous or not. It congealed into a thick layer that virtually paralyzing her tongue. “Uuuck.”

“It’ll get better in a few minutes, V-7505.”

As she struggled to breathe through her rubber coated mouth and nose, she watched as a processing technician prepared the helmet that was going to encapsulate her head. It first looked to be a solid, metal shell–a rounded ovoid matching the shape and size of Katrina’s head. Instead of eye openings, there was a pair of opaque, oval patches of black stuff that glinted as if sprinkled with glass dust. The helmet parted in two halves, left and right, when triggered by a remote key. Lining the inside of each half was a rubbery, blue foam that had presumably been molded from Katrina’s face while she had been u*********s. Each half was a perfect mold of the corresponding side of her face. There were no gaps except for a shallow space, like a tiny air pocket, that would be below her nose in and front of her mouth. From the sides of this shallow breathing space, two tubes on each half, four in total, passed through the foam to openings underneath the helmet’s chin. The tubes were lined with a series of tiny, mechanical filters. Those four, small openings were the only way she would be able to get air. While she watched, the technician was brushing every nook and cranny of the interior of the helmet with more of the black, latex goo. Katrina slowly shook her head in useless denial of what was to come next.

Before he had finished coating the helmet’s interior, the doctor made Katrina tilt her head back. She had opened a package of specially made contact lenses. They were white and opaque, like theatrical lenses. She held Katrina’s eyelids open and placed one onto her right eye. It stung a little, and half of her vision went dark.

“Don’t be alarmed. These are organic, bioluminescent lenses,” Dr. Barriston was saying. “Your eyes will be in the dark for a while, and these will prevent permanent damage to the retinas by providing a weak light source for them.”

When the other contact was in place, and she had blinked the tears from her eyes, she realized she was completely blind. There was some light, the dimmest of yellowy-white glows that filled her vision, but it wasn’t coming from the lab. The contacts emitted their own, weak glow. She didn’t understand this. She knew Banes could see, so why had they just blinded her? She waited fretfully, turning her head from side to side, for whatever indignity or torture might come next.

What came next was the helmet. Its insides were sticky with fresh latex-like stuff, she could feel it spreading over her skin. The molded foam interior was pressed around her head from both sides, adding pressure from all sides. The pressure increased until, with an audible click, the two halves met in the middle and joined. Katrina’s head was locked inside a steel shell. The foam was snug all over her head, ears, and face. She had been blinded, and now she was deafened. She could hear absolutely nothing through the helmet and sound-absorbent foam. The wet rubber oozed across her skin like thick glue. It was stifling. She began to hyperventilate, desperately sucking air in from the shallow open space in front of her lips. The mimetic latex goop was dripping down over her lips and chin, adding further to the fear of suffocation. Please, make this stop. It can’t always be like this. Not for eight months!

She waited, frantic, in the darkness for a while. It seemed like a long time. There came a burst of static in her ears, which suddenly transformed the technician’s voice.

“-is it? I’m not convinced. I think I’d rather hit the beach on my vacation,” he was saying. “Ah, the auditory link is established.”

“Patience, V-7505,” said the doctor. “Try to control your breathing.”

“Negotiating link with mimetic network aaand… Custodian: default mimetic setting.”

Katrina noticed a change. Her breath was coming more easily. The latex in her nose, mouth, and throat was contracting, becoming thinner. It was happening all around her head. It felt as if her entire head was being vacuum sealed, a not entirely pleasant sensation when added to the ubiquitous pressure of the foam. The feeling of having the inside of her nose and mouth being vacuum sealed was even more bizarre. The stuff was becoming less liquid and sticky, as well. In a few minutes, it had transformed into a dry, latex sheath–thin as paper–that had adhered to ever part of her head and mouth in perfect detail. With her rubber coated tongue she explored her rubber-encased teeth and lips. Movement of her tongue and lips was still slightly limited within the tight coating, but it was a whole lot better than before. It was so strange to have every part of her mouth covered like that. It felt both dry and slippery at the same time. She could produce no saliva. She couldn’t feel the passage of the air she breathed through her mouth or nose. Nor could she smell or taste anything. Being unable to taste anything for eight months? She moaned weakly. This was so going to suck.

“Bonding with sensor array… overriding optic nerve input,” said the technician. Katrina’s world suddenly went dark. The faint glow of the contacts had disappeared. “Synchronizing eye movement. You know, these things are a lot faster than they used to be.”

“We must always strive towards improvement,” came a new voice, but Katrina recognized it. It was the cruel man, Dr. Grable, who had teased her about the Custodian implantation during her first day here. “Is this unit coming along?”

“Almost done here,” replied Dr. Barriston.

“Excellent! Two others of this batch have already been processed.” He spoke up louder, though Katrina could already hear him just fine. “V-7505! Good to see you again. You’ve come a long way since last we met. I trust everyone is explaining things to your satisfaction? I would hate to see you become stressed.”

“Doctor Grable,” the woman muttered with disapproval in her voice.

“Oh, just having a little jest, no harm done. This one and I are old friends. Isn’t that right, V-7505?”

“Asshole,” muttered Katrina into the tiny open space before her mouth, her lips just brushing its interior. She was pleased to discover she could speak again, albeit a little sloppily with the latex on her tongue. She could barely hear herself speak, though. It was like talking with her hand cupped tightly over her nose and mouth. She knew that Banes couldn’t be heard, and that no sound she made could penetrate the walls of the helmet. Therefore, she deemed it safe to expend some her vitriol. “You are an asshole. A complete, total, and unmitigated bastard. You just wait ’til I’m out of this fucking thing, Doctor Grable, then we’ll see who’s laughing. You know what else? Fuck… yooouuu!” she shouted into the muffling confinement of the stifling helmet.

“Um… V-7505? Your audio is on our speakers,” said Dr. Barriston.

“Oh.”

“I do believe,” said Doctor Grable smoothly, “that that was a threat. And I also believe that threatening a citizen, audibly or visibly, is punishable.”

Doctor Barriston sighed. “Custodian: default punishment level one.”

Katrina yelped as pain instantly washed over her. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the first one, but it was still bad.

“That’s better,” said Doctor Grable. “I’ll be seeing to the others now.”

A minute later, Dr. Barriston said, “Well put, V-7505. He is something of an asshole.”

Katrina smirked inside her imprisoning helmet. Maybe not everyone who worked here was inhuman. Maybe some were just trying to get by with an unpleasant job. That didn’t make it any less wrong, of course.

“Synchronized,” said the technician. “Accessing occipital lobe.”

A nauseating, multicolored miasma appeared before Katrina’s eyes. From this chaos, an image of the room slowly came together. Except it wasn’t her eyes that were seeing. Her blinded, contact-covered eyes didn’t have anything to do with it. It was images from the sensor patches on the front of the helmet, received by the computer and then translated into an image inside her brain. The colors were washed out, almost sepia-tone, and the view was a little like looking through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars–everything was just a little bit smaller than it should have been. Not so much as to mess with her vision or make it hard to see, but enough so as to make the world around her seem just a little more remote and farther away.

What was amazing was that when she moved her blinded eyes, the view naturally darted around accordingly. The shifting view matched her eye movements perfectly. Almost natural, and yet... not. It was so strange. This was going to take a lot of getting used to. On the positive side, the image was crystal clear. Clearer even than her sight before she ever needed prescription contacts. What’s more, whenever she blinked her eyes, the image blanked out correspondingly. The Custodian must have had a way to detect the blinking impulse from her brain. She shut her eyes for a few seconds, and the video feed stayed dark. She opened them, and it came on again. It couldn’t seem to duplicate a squint, though.

“It blinks,” she observed.

“Yes,” said Dr. Barriston. “You’ll be thankful for that when you want to sl**p.”

“But why? Why all this?” Katrina asked. “Why not just give us some simple eye holes?”

“It’s another layer of isolation, V-7505. It is part of your punishment,” the woman replied. “You are to be completely separated from the world around you just as you are separated from society. Your suit will have no permanent openings, aside from those you breathe through, and those have internal filters. The suit will be your entire world for the duration of your sentence, and the Custodian will have complete control over it.”

“Seems a little… little bit of overkill,” Katrina mumbled. She didn’t want to know any more. Everything she learned just made her more frightened. But she had to understand everything she could if she was to write a story about the experience and the tortures. “If no one will be able to hear me, why am I still able to talk in this thing?”

“There may come emergency situations when you will need to be able to speak and be understood. It is rare, but it can happen. Medical emergencies, for instance. This is banishment, not a death sentence, and we do have your safety in mind, V-7505.”

“Great.” Yeah, I feel the love, all right.

“Furthermore, early experiments showed that, when isolated to this degree, humans often fare best, psychologically speaking, when they can hear their own voices from time to time. Talking to yourself helps keep you sane, in other words.”

“At least I’ll have a good conversation partner.”

“That’s good, because we’re disconnecting you from the lab computers and speakers now. Unless there is an emergency, from this point forward no one will be able to hear your voice.”

“W-wait! Wait, please–”

Already, the doctor was deaf to her. “We’re almost done. Finishing the rest of the suit is the simplest part of the process.” They unstrapped her from the chair. “Come with us, please.”

She shakily got to her feet–unsteady on those glued-on soles that served as foot protection–and was lead into another room. She reached up to feel her head. Her face was gone. There was nothing but a glassy smooth and featureless surface. She could see her fingers as they passed over the sensors, just as if she had passed them within an inch of her own eyes.

In the next room was a metal tub filled with the black, latex goo. She moaned, seeing where this was headed. She could put up a struggle, sure, but where would that get her? Another nasty jolt from her new companion, no doubt. She allowed them to help her step into the tub. The stuff was warm and felt like she was standing knee-deep in Elmer’s glue. They bid her to lie down so that she was completely submerged in the latex. Before she had time to worry about getting air, they were lifting her back out. It brought to Katrina’s mind the image of an old-fashioned, riverside baptism.

She stood, dripping, on a mat, blinded once again while waiting for the inevitable connection to be made. In a few minutes, the latex began to shrink all around her. It grew thinner, but it also got tighter. Her vision also returned as the sensors were cleared. Before long, she was covered in a glossy black second skin. Everything was sealed inside the latex coating, from the top of her helmet to the soles of her padded feet. She rubbed her hands over her arms and belly. Given her past interest in latex, it might have been an exciting, new sensation under other circumstances. Under these circumstances, however, she only felt intimidated, frightened, and traumatized.

“Very good. You’re doing fine. Now if you’ll come over here, I’ll show you how your daily maintenance will work. Pay attention, you’ll only be told once.” She was taken over to an area on the floor that looked something like a foreign toilet–the kind like a hole in the ground that you squatted over. Instead of a hole, there was a sunken, stainless steel bowl from which projected some kind of mechanical device. A pair of footprints were imprinted on the floor to either side to indicate where she should place her feet. There was also a pair of handprints on the floor just in front of the bowl. On the wall above it was a sign with a black, stick-like figure squatting on the ground, its hands on the ground between its feet like a dog. Katrina had seen those signs around the city during the last trip, but hadn’t fully grasped their significance. Now she understood.

“This is a maintenance station. There are many located in buildings around the city. Just follow the posted signs like this one in order to find one. Take the position, please.”

Katrina hesitated, realizing the position she was being put it. She was required to squat on the ground like a dog taking dump, and right in front of everyone in the room. Tears of humiliation welled up in her blind eyes. Hadn’t they done enough to her? Why add this indignity?

The woman shook her head in resignation. “Custodian: default punish–”

Katrina instantly squatted over the bowl, placing her hands on the floor in front of her. It was degrading beyond words, but this was not the time for rebellion.

“Thank you. Implanted within your colon is your waste reclamation unit. It absorbs your bodily waste, your urine, and your menses. It stores these and reclaims water and organic compounds that will fuel your suit and Custodian. It needs energy, just like you. During your maintenance, the stored waste will be removed from the unit, and food for you will be pumped in through a tube that passes through your digestive tract and up into your stomach. You will not eat nor drink anything during your sentence.”

“You’re telling me I’m being fed through my ass?” Katrina asked aloud in disgust. Her outrage went unheard.

“Initiating maintenance sequence,” said the technician.

A few seconds later, Katrina felt pressure pushing out from the inside of her anus. Startled, she reared up and almost fell over backwards. She was sure she was going to the bathroom inside of her suit, which would have been bad. What was coming out of her wasn’t waste, though. It was the probe of the reclamation unit. It extended several inches from her body, making a tent in the seat of her latex suit. She placed her hands back on the floor, mostly just to steady herself, breathing heavily. She was disoriented from the combined sensations and humiliation. The machine in the middle of the bowl activated and guided itself to mate with the probe projecting from Katrina’s rear end. Triggered by the machine, the suit opened a small hole in the latex at the tip of the probe and the connection was made. She couldn’t stand up now even if she tried. This can’t be happening to me, she thought. It was beyond embarrassing. She couldn’t shake the mental image of herself being refueled like a car at a filling station. The process was so inhuman. She was being treated like some sort of machine, just an unfeeling object.

She crouched there for several minutes. At first she felt nothing. Certainly there was none of the relief one might expect to feel during an act of ‘removal of stored waste,’ as they had called it. She still felt as full and as cramped as before. That was probably due to the unit that had been crammed into her guts. Then she noticed her stomach was getting full. She had been given a light breakfast that morning, before all of this had begun, but she hadn’t realized that she was so hungry. It was strange to feel her stomach get so full so quickly, and to not even have eaten a thing. Then a flood of warm fluid came rushing into the suit, flowing across her skin. She almost tumbled over again in surprise. She feared there had been a dreadful, sewage back flow problem.

“That is your cleansing solution. It will fill your suit and spread to cover your skin. It will keep you clean, disinfected, will inhibit the growth of hair and nails.”

The tightness of the latex allowed the fluid to quickly spread all over her body, including her head and face. It wasn’t a bad sensation. Kind of pleasant, really. Then a vacuum started and it was all sucked back out within a minute. The suit actually contracted around her in places like a living thing to aid in the emptying process, squeezing out the fluid. The machine beeped to indicate its task was done and withdrew back into the bowl, while the probe retreated back inside Katrina’s body. The tiny hole in the suit made by the machine would seal itself in seconds.

“Not so bad, is it? At least it’s over quickly. Do you find it uncomfortable? You’re supposed to. Comfort’s one of the luxuries you’ve given up as an outcast of society. Come with me.” The woman took Katrina to a featureless holding cell, little larger than a broom closet. “You will wait in here until the rest of your group is finished with processing. Then you will receive your final instructions before being released. Good luck to you. Custodian: anesthetize.”

Katrina recoiled as the door slid shut. On the inside of the door was a full length mirror. One final degradation, like a parting gift: she could see herself in all her new, Banesuit glory. The tight latex left absolutely nothing to the imagination, which, to Katrina’s mind and her thirty-six-year-old self image, was not a good thing. Though she wasn’t exactly fat, she had gotten a little out of shape over the years. It was not the type of body she thought was flattered by the wearing tight latex. That was just a fleeting annoyance. Worse was the lack of a face. Her hands explored the smooth surface of her head in the mirror, turning this way and that. The extra padding over her nipples and between her thighs was invisible under latex, giving her breasts and crotch the unnaturally smooth, anatomically incorrect appearance of a plastic mannequin.

As she stood there, she realized that her skin was going numb. ‘Anesthetize?’ she wondered. The suit, the fucking Custodian, it’s doing this! All sensation, already muted by the material of Banesuit, was further denied to her by the phantom anesthetic. She began, almost frantically, to squeeze and pinch herself all over. Apart from a slight pressure where she pinched, she could hardly feel a thing.

She leaned against the wall and slowly slid down to the floor, where she began to weep. The gravity of what she had gotten herself into came crashing down on her. How could she have possibly had erotic fantasies about wearing this suit? There was nothing erotic about it for her, not at all. Barbara the Bane really had been nuts, after all. There was nothing pleasurable here. The whole process was cold, impersonal, and cruel. If she had known what she was really getting herself into, she would have never done this. And she knew she hadn’t yet experienced the worst of the torture: for the next eight months she would feel almost nothing, taste nothing, and smell nothing. Every scrap of identity had been stripped away. Even her basic humanity was mostly gone. She was now just a thing–a thing created to be ignored. She was a Bane.

……

The group of newly processed Banes waited in the parking area behind Ashton Technologies. It was sunny out, but the daylight to the Banes’ eyes was drained of color and vibrancy, and it gave no comfort. They couldn’t even feel the warmth of the sun on their shiny, latex skins, for the suits maintained an almost constant temperature. Though unable to speak, their body language said all that needed to be said. The Bane that had been the bald, chubby guy sat on the asphalt, apparently crying. Two other Banes roamed around the small area in attitudes of shock and depression. The Bane that had been Tina stood huddled over, hugging herself and repeatedly rubbing her benumbed arms as if she could coax sensation back into them.

Katrina looked at her, recalling what Tina had said about choosing to be a Bane because she was too claustrophobic for a jail cell. She wondered how Tina was coping now, in her new, skintight, isolation chamber. Katrina stepped forward and placed her hand on Tina’s arm. Needing no further invitation, Tina whirled around and wrapped her arms around Katrina, clinging to her like a drowning person. Their helmets bumped together. They could hardly even feel each other’s bodies, there was only the warm pressure of an embrace. Katrina felt such sorrow for the younger woman. This was going to be such hell for her. At least Katrina’s investigations had given her some sort of hint of what she was in for (even though it was turning out to be much worse than she had expected), but poor Tina had been clueless. She would have to try to watch out for her. It didn’t matter who she was or what she had done to get here. They were all in this together now.

Doctor Torres arrived in the parking lot. He greeted the group as he descended the concrete stairs. “Ah, here you are. I know you’re all probably a little upset right now. That is perfectly normal. I hope, at least, that your processing went as smoothly and as painlessly as possible for each of you. Now allow me to lay down a few ground rules. The rest you will learn as you go along, with the help of your onboard Custodians. First, a little about your suits. The Custodians are there to take care of you, as well as monitor you. It’s a learning computer, but it is just a computer, nothing more. It has no emotions and it means you no ill will, though I’m sure there are times it may seem like it. It is simply acting out its programming. If it gives you an order, I suggest you follow it. The suits are self-repairing and are puncture and heat resistant. Trying to remove them will cause you more harm than it will them, and you will simply get in trouble for a Violation of Banishment.

“Now some basic rules. As outcasts, you are not allowed to enter any public or private structure. Maintenance stations are the exception. You may not trespass on private property. You may not steal or vandalize public or private property. You may not use telephones or computers. You may not wear clothing, jewelry, or decoration. You may not attempt to communicate with, interact with, or have anything whatsoever to do with citizens. You are not allowed physical contact with other outcasts. You are otherwise free to do what you will and go wherever you choose within the designated city limits.

“For your crimes, you are banished from the society of Eudemonia. After you have been taken to your dispersal point, you will cease to exist in the eyes and minds of the citizens. From now and until you are allowed to return to the arms of society, you are no longer people. You are shunned. You are cast out. You are all Banes.” Doctor Torres turned his back on the group and walked into the building.

……

The ride back into the city was morose and silent. There was none of the fearful, nervous energy of the ride to Ash-Tech, which had been less than a week ago. Now there was just an air of depression. Tina stayed pressed against Katrina’s side, clutching her hand as if it was a lifeline. They pulled up to an open plaza near the center of town, in front of an office building. It was approaching rush hour and there were already lots of people walking around. The Banes were herded out of the van, where they stood huddled close together on the sidewalk. Being seen like this in public was utterly mortifying; they felt naked, they were without identities, and were standing out in harsh, black contrast for all to see. It didn’t matter if people technically ignored them. Katrina knew they still saw them and judged them. The guard stepped out of the van. “Disperse,” he said. “Custodians, initiate full protocols.”

:Custodian protocol initiated: came a voice from inside Katrina’s head, startling her. It was a dulcet, female voice that had all the emotion of a prerecorded phone answering message. Judging from the other Banes reactions, they had all heard a similar voice in their heads, as well.

Then, softly at first, a terrible, squalling noise began to build up in her head. It grew louder and louder, worse and worse, until it was nearly nauseating. The sound repulsed her viscerally, like a thousand nails dragged across chalkboards. It was unspeakably dreadful. Katrina clapped her hands to the sides of her helmet over her ears, as if that would do any good. The others were also writhing.

The guard rolled his eyes, noting their confusion and distress. With bored condescension, he told them, “That sound means you’re standing too close to each other. Spread out.”

Upon hearing this, Tina seized Katrina’s hand and held on with a death grip. The others immediately ran into the crowd, getting distance from each other. One of them ran around the van to escape the noise and narrowly missed being hit by a car. The cacophony only got worse. Katrina thought for sure she was going to throw up. More than just noise, it was becoming increasingly physically painful. Though still trying to hang onto Tina’s hand, she took a step away from the girl. It was like internal tidal f***es were pushing them apart. It was finally Tina, unable to bear it any longer, who let go first and ran away. When they were thirty feet apart, the noise abruptly silenced. Katrina’s ears didn’t even ring, because she hadn’t heard it with her ears. It was all in her head.

Tina had stopped running. She tried to approach Katrina, but after a few steps, the noise began to start again. Katrina took an involuntary step backwards. There might as well have been an invisible wall between them. The skinny, black Bane that had been a girl named Tina stood at the edge of the permitted distance and held her arms out to the older woman in desperate supplication. With her heart breaking and with deep guilt, Katrina hung her head and turned away from the girl. She couldn’t bear to see Tina like that. She had to leave her behind. There was nothing else she could do. They weren’t in this together, as she had originally thought. They were each of them completely on their own.

Katrina looked down at her body and examined her jet black arms and hands. I did it. It’s done. I’m actually here, she thought. I’m a Bane. What the hell do I do now? She then looked up to the cheerless, sepia sky. What have I done to myself? Oh, god, what have I done?



Chapter 6



Katrina stood wedged between a large planter and the wall of an office building at the edge of the corporate plaza. There were people everywhere. She had already been bumped and jostled just trying to get to this small island of safety. They just walked right into her as if she wasn’t there. She was afraid to attempt re-entering the flow of people. What if she got knocked down? They might step right on top of her. Hell, she’d probably get some kind of violation punishment for causing citizens to trip over her battered and bruised body.

She watched the people pass by as she stood there. They seemed so unreal, due to the absence of true color in her new vision. It was almost like watching a movie, an illusion which was enhanced by the fact that no one was ‘looking at the camera.’ Hardly any of them so much as glanced at her. The gaze of perhaps one in twenty would pass over her, but would not linger. Most just stared right through her. The people of Eudemonia were just too used to having Banes in their midst to make a big deal out of it. Maybe, in their minds, they really had learned to not see her.

She tried to take stock of the situation. Despite her depression and regret, she reminded herself that deep down she was a reporter. She had come here for a reason and that was to report on the experience and expose the bastards for what they were doing. She wasn’t some criminal cast to the winds; she still had a purpose and a job to do. She steeled herself with that one, consoling thought.

Her first job was to make contact with Verne Sawyer. The two of them had done most of the planning for this ‘phase’ of the investigation together. He was supposed to be her link with the outside world. He had been assigned to meet with her first thing after the sentencing and processing. Neither of them had known how long it might take for Katrina to be let back out on the street, so each day at noon he was going to wait at a predetermined spot in one of the public parks. It would certainly be well into the afternoon before she could hope to get there today, so meeting up with him would have to wait until tomorrow.

One thing she could do was to find her way to the cache that had been hidden for her in the park. It was to contain some supplies she would need to keep a record. If nothing else, she could use it as a drop point for messages. But that was halfway across the city and she would have to go on foot; Banes weren’t allowed in the mass transit stations. She had familiarized herself with maps of Eudemonia, but she was a little lost now that she was here on the ground. She figured that as long as she kept heading west from here, she should be able to find the park okay. Nothin’ to it but to do it, as her father used to say. She looked around at the mass of people around her. Perhaps ‘doing it’ could wait until after rush hour.

……

It was harder than she had predicted to get across the city. It was difficult just trying to wind through people on the sidewalks without bumping into anyone. She had to plan her path ahead of her, much like looking for openings in a busy freeway full of cars that didn’t want to let her in. Often as not, she could do nothing else but step aside and press herself against a wall to let a group of people pass. She started to develop a paranoid suspicion that people were grouping up on purpose just to inconvenience her. But no, that would be giving herself too much importance. The people just didn’t care. Another thing that slowed her down was that she was still weak and sore from her processing. She was unused to walking this much, especially on almost bare feet. The padding on her soles helped some, and certainly prevented cuts and sc****s, but it was nothing like wearing shoes. Her sight depending on the helmet’s external sensors was hard to get used to, as well. The slight shift in perspective kept throwing her off balance.

Even crossing a street was dangerous; she couldn’t expect people to stop or even slow down for her. Not if they couldn’t ‘see’ her. Once, while crossing at the tail end of a stop light, the light had changed before she got to the sidewalk. Instead of waiting for her to finish crossing, as a driver normally would, the waiting car started moving. Katrina was f***ed to make a hasty leap for the curb to avoid a brush with a fender. They have my safety in mind? she thought. Yeah, right! I’m lucky if I don’t get killed out here.

And then there were the other Banes. They weren’t all over the place, but they were here and there, huddled like homeless people on a sidewalk or walking somewhere like her. Many times she was f***ed to cross the street to avoid another Bane when her nauseating proximity alarm began to go off. And it always seemed to be Katrina having to get out of the way, not the other Bane. They just stood there, waiting for her to move. She knew nothing of the unwritten rules of Bane society. It took several miles of walking for the pattern to emerge. Move with the flow of traffic; walk on the right side of the street, whichever way you were going. Made sense. That didn’t account for the Banes who were just sitting around, though. She still had to circumvent those.

She stopped in front of a Chinese restaurant. She knew the aromas were all around her. She lifted the chin of her helmet, as if that would help expose the breathing holes, and inhaled deeply. Nothing. She looked forlornly into the window. Was it really going to be eight months until she could actually eat again? Oh, this is going to get bad, she thought. How long, she wondered, would it take for her to start obsessively dreaming of real food?

……

She was exhausted by the time she made it to the correct park. There were many parks in Eudemonia–it was planned that way, for the aesthetics–but this was one of the larger ones. Reaching it was like coming upon an oasis. A park meant open spaces and fewer people, which was a good thing for a Bane. But it also meant it attracted a lot of Banes, for the same reason, so there were lots of proximity warnings. Sometimes she had to simply endure the howling in her head and run past another Bane just to get by, an act which earned her plenty of rude gestures.

The cache was hidden in a marshy stand of bushes and reeds next to a pond. The idea was that it would be too unpleasant a place for people or other Banes to hang out, thereby helping to avoid discovery of the cache. It was also hoped that by hiding among the bushes, her activities would be hidden from prying eyes. It seemed her bad luck was holding out, because as she approached the cache, she discovered a female Bane crouching in the mud near the reeds.

It had to have been one of the longer-term Banes because of her physique. That was how Katrina learned to differentiate among them: most new Banes like herself were soft and out of shape, while ‘older’ ones were more hardened and muscular from outdoor living and no lack of exercise. Whatever this one was doing at the pond was a mystery to Katrina. Her arms and legs were caked in mud and she was digging around in the muck at the edge of the pond with her hands.

Katrina got close enough to her to set off the internal alarm just long enough to alert the other to her presence. The Bane turned to look at her. Katrina pointed to the clump of bushes and clasped her hands together in the universal signal for begging. The Bane continued to look at her for a moment, then stepped out of the mire. She gathered up a pile of small mussel shells on the bank and walked away. For some obscure reason, she had been collecting the shells.

“Thank you!” Katrina called automatically to the departing Bane, even though her gratitude couldn’t be heard. She eagerly made her way into the stand of bushes. Deep inside there was a small open space. She could barely feel the tangled branches sliding over her glossy new skin. That was one good thing about being in a Banesuit, at least. She would be able to slip through the densest bushes and brambles with the ease of a wild rabbit. The tall bushes surrounded her and formed a ceiling over her head. The ground was too mucky and uneven to be able to sl**p on so she couldn’t take shelter here overnight, but it would do for now. She collapsed onto the ground and let her exhaustion overtake her.

It was the first moment’s peace she had found since the traumas of processing and the stress of navigating the city. She breathed deeply, trying to calm herself. She began to explore her body. Her hands roamed around her helmet and the latex surface of her Banesuit. The rubber pads on her nipples reduced them to barely-visible bumps at the front of her breasts; she couldn’t even pinch them to induce sensation. She had the same issue with the thin pad over her crotch. Even if her skin hadn’t been anesthetized, she wouldn’t have been able to feel anything down there. Enf***ed chastity, on top of everything else. She had known that was part of what she was in for, but experiencing it first hand was another matter. It wasn’t a problem at the moment, but Katrina could see it becoming a major hardship in the coming months. After all, when you had nothing else to do, there was always masturbation. Apparently, that didn’t apply to Banes.

After a brief rest, she dug through the weeds to get to the flat rock she and Verne had used to cover the hole they had excavated prior to her sentencing. Thank goodness… the bag was still in there. Inside of the sealed, heavy duty plastic were items she had requested. She pawed through the bag, taking inventory. There was a cell phone with a text messenger, a small satellite radio, an extended life camcorder, a flashlight, a tightly-packed Mylar blanket, and an old fashioned journal with pens and pencils. They were just the basics. Should she find herself in need of anything else, she could send a message for it.

There was also an unexpected bonus in the form of a wad of cash in a money clip. That must have been Benjamin’s helpful addition. Thanks a lot, Ben, she thought. What am I supposed to buy with this? Food? Maybe some new clothes? Well, money always talked even if a Bane couldn’t. Maybe she could use it for bribery or something.

A few seconds after she picked up the clip to count the money, a wave of agony washed over her body. She screamed and the clip dropped back into the bag. The pain stopped as suddenly as it had come.

:Protocol Violation. May not handle currency: said the lifeless, female voice in her head.

“What? Oh, come on. You’ve gotta be k**ding me!” Katrina groused. She looked at the money in consternation. Then she had an idea. Maybe if it couldn’t see what she was doing… she looked up at the sky, a caricature of someone whistling innocently, while fumbling around in the bag until her hand closed on the money clip. Again, the pain flooded her body. She let it go.

:Protocol Violation. May not handle currency:

So the damn thing didn’t need to see her actions. Somehow the Custodian was able to determine what she was doing simply because she was doing it. She knew she was ‘handling currency,’ so it did, also. “This is going to get old so fast. You know that? Hey, can you talk to me?” she asked. There was no answer. She sighed and tried the text messenger next, thinking to send a message to Benjamin and Verne to inform them of her arrival. Holding it was no problem, but as soon as she tried to turn it on and push buttons, she got zapped.

:Protocol Violation. May not use devices:

She got the same message and punishment again when she tried the camcorder, the radio, and even the flashlight. “Oh, come on! It’s just a stupid flashlight. What’s wrong with using a flashlight? How can that possibly violate anything?”

She was near her wits’ end. The punishment was bad all on its own, but the senseless and impersonal application of it made it even worse. All that was left was the blanket and the journal. She was almost afraid to try. Those punishments hurt a lot, but they were little easier when she was prepared for it. With some trepidation, she unwrapped the Mylar blanket and pulled the silver, crinkling stuff over her shoulders.

:Protocol violation. May not wear clothing:

“Ow! Damn it!” She whipped it off her shoulders. “This is not clothing, you dumb machine!” Well, the blanket wasn’t critical. She might not even need a blanket if the suit kept her warm like it was supposed to.

The journal and pencil seemed safe to use. She tested it by drawing a few spirals on the first page. “Might as well start now,” she said to herself. “Let’s see. Day one. My life as a Bane began today. I knew it would be hard, but I had no… hey.” She examined her writing. Shortly after ‘My life as a Bane’, her writing had become illegible–just random squiggles and lines. It looked like she had been writing in insane hieroglyphics, like nonsensical dream writing. She hadn’t even noticed she was doing it at first. “What’s going on here?”

She tried again, but this time, after only the first couple of letters, her writing went all funny. Again and again she tried, concentrating hard, but now found she couldn’t write at all, not a single letter or number. It looked like a toddler’s very first attempts at imitating writing. It was as though her fingers had completely forgotten how to write. The nonsense letters only became more wild and erratic as her frustration grew. “No. No, no, no!”

It was the Custodian. It had to be. She could easily form the words in her mind’s eye, but somehow the thing was scrambling the messages her mind sent to her muscles. It simply wouldn’t let her write. Punishing her for violating some rule was one thing, but this was terrifying. It was able to screw with her physical abilities, her control over her own body. Just like that, the cursed thing could stifle a skill that had been second nature since preschool.

Growing desperate, she tried to write in the dirt by grasping a stick in both hands. She tried using her toe in the mud. Nothing worked; any resemblance to actual letters was purely coincidental. On impulse, she drew a stick figure. It was as best as her artistic skills allowed. It turned out fine. She drew several more: one waving, another running. She drew a simple flower and a primitive cat. No problem. It was only when she tried to write that it got screwed up. Why? Because it was a form of communication? How could the damned thing know that?

“Please. Just give me this. Just let me write, that’s all I ask. Please. Let me have this one thing.” She tried one last time. It was futile. “Oh, damn you,” she said, voice shaking with anger. “Damn you! Get out of my head! I order you to get out of my head! Custodian! End protocol. End the fucking default protocol!”

Then, like every new Bane before her, she frantically tried to escape her suit. She felt all around her body in a panicked search for a weakness. She dug her fingers into the latex, trying to rip it off her skin, but it was stuck to her like glue. She pulled and clawed at her helmet. She kicked and screamed and fought with it like a wild a****l in a trap. It was useless. “Oh, god.” She doubled over, sobbing. “Just let me write.”

……

Katrina had spent an hour sitting beside the pond, chucking stones into the water while she contemplated her predicament. Keeping a written record would be impossible, it seemed. She wouldn’t even be able to slip notes to Verne. She could still do her job and report on it all, but only after she was free. She had really wanted to keep a daily journal to record her experiences while they were fresh. Record, and perhaps to help maintain her sanity in the process. She was trying to think of a way around it. Pictographs, maybe? She just didn’t know. There had to be a way to write, she was sure of it. Barbara had done it easily. She had seen it with her own eyes.

That fucking Barbara. Katrina’s thoughts kept returning to her. With irrational petulance, she blamed that Bane for the situation she was in. She had made it all sound so rosy, given Katrina a false impression that the experience wouldn’t be as bad as it was. And she had been able to write, for crying out loud! That wasn’t fair at all. Maybe Barbara really was crazy. Maybe losing one’s mind short-circuited the Custodian and allowed her to do things that she otherwise couldn’t. Katrina hoped she didn’t have to test that theory through personal experience. She would have to find that Bane again and get some answers out of her. Maybe now that Katrina herself was a Bane, Barbara would prove more forthcoming with her secrets.

The sun was setting and it was getting quite dark in the park. That didn’t turn out to be a problem for Katrina, however. The contrast and brightness of her vision automatically adjusted to compensate for the fading light. It seemed she would be able see in the dark. Not perfectly, as it wasn’t true night vision, but it served reasonably well. So that was one good thing about being a Bane. Thank heaven for small miracles.

She went to re-bury her cache. It looked like none of it would do her any good, but she wasn’t just going to let some scavenger find it. You never knew when something might come in handy. After that was done, she paced around a little to work the kinks out of her sore legs. She was mentally and physically exhausted, so she decided she had better find some place to bed down for the night. Farther up the slope, in the forest, she found a nice flat, grassy area under some trees that was free of rocks and tree roots. It wasn’t a feather bed, but it would have to do. I always hated camping, she thought.

She stretched out on the ground and watched the stars appear between the tree branches. The air must have been cool, but her skin felt perfectly comfortable. That was something. She shut her eyes and her vision went completely dark. That was fine by her. Light sources always annoyed her when she was trying to sl**p. She had never been able to get to sl**p with so much as bright digital clock next to her bed.

She had almost managed to doze off when her proximity alarm jarred her awake. She sat up, frightened. There was a large male Bane coming up the slope toward her. Surely he was getting the same noise in his head, but he wasn’t veering off. The noise got worse. She waved her arms at him, shooing him away. “Go away! Are you blind? You’re killing me here!”

He didn’t go away. He just kept getting closer. Katrina stood up and began to back away from him. He flapped his arms in a shooing gesture of his own.

“What? No way! This is my spot, I was here first!” she shouted. He stopped and held his ground about fifteen feet away from her. His head was bowed and his fists were clenched. He was clearly suffering as much as she was, but he wasn’t moving. Katrina finally figured out what was going on. This was a territorial fight between two Banes. The one who could hold out the longest got the spot. Katrina didn’t want to give way; she didn’t want to try to find another decent place in the semi-dark. Moreover, she had always hated being bullied around. She tried to hold her ground, but it quickly became too much for her. She felt sick and the fire was beginning to dance on her skin like one of the violation punishments. Doubling over with nausea and pain, she turned and fled.

After she got a distance away, the warning abruptly stopped. She stood on the periphery and trembled with indignation as the Bane laid himself down on the spot she had just occupied. “You’re a jerk. You know that?” she called, not that it did any good. She supposed she could keep pestering him by breaching his warning zone, but there wasn’t much point in that. He had won. The whole thing seemed so primitive. They were f***ed to live like a****ls! All she had wanted was to sl**p in peace. She turned and trudged off into the darkness.



Chapter 7



Katrina stood at the edge of the park the next day, watching a park bench from a distance. She was tired and sore all over. Not just from yesterday’s trek across the city and the processing, but now from sl**ping with rocks digging into her back. She had slept terribly and now she ached in a dozen places. She kept waking up to every sound and it took her a long time to get back to sl**p again. Right now, she was starving and knew she needed to find a maintenance station, but she didn’t want to miss her appointment.

There were lots of people in the park–mostly joggers with headphones and women with strollers and small c***dren. It was a nice day, if you weren’t a Bane. And there were plenty of those around. She had to keep shifting her position to avoid other Banes as they passed by.

Finally, at what she guessed was noon, a sandy-haired man in his late twenties–just short of handsome, mostly due to his pasty, computer tan complexion and the few extra pounds around his mid-section–came walking up the path with a newspaper under his arm. Good man, she thought. At least Verne Sawyer was keeping up his part, what with the cache and the meeting place. She didn’t know if she could uphold hers by telling him what was going on, though. She still wasn’t sure how she was going to communicate with him, but she had to try. At the very least, she would let him know she was here. She started down the path, halting once she was across from the park bench. Verne, alert for any female Banes, looked up from his newspaper. He looked her up and down.

“Katrina?” he asked under his breath. “Is that you?”

She stood there, not looking at him, for a few more seconds. Then she continued down the path and headed off into the woods. Once she was a considerable distance away, Verne casually folded his newspaper and followed after her. Katrina had to grin. Knowing Verne, he was probably loving this covert, undercover spy stuff. He didn’t get a chance to get out into the ‘real world’ much. The man had even excitedly suggested using code phrases, but Katrina had to shoot his ideas down. He would likely have come up with some hackneyed phrase along the lines of ‘The cock crows at Noon,’ or something equally as ridiculous.

She lead him to a secluded area ringed by pine trees and bushes, making sure he saw her ducking into the underbrush. When he arrived, he stood before her, staring at her and brushing leaves off his jacket. “It is you, right?” he asked.

Katrina nodded, blushing. He just kept staring at her. She couldn’t blame him. She knew she looked like a freak. It was just so humiliating to be seen like this by someone who actually knew her. A lot more than she had anticipated when imagining this moment. And this had all been her idea, after all. She felt an irrational shame in thinking that Verne might think she had wanted to look like this. And she had, a little. But not anymore.

He finally caught on to her discomfort. “S-sorry. Sorry, it’s just so strange. I’ve been waiting out here for days and I kept thinking I saw you. It’s just all you Banes, er, people, uh… look alike.”

She rolled her eyes, ignoring his faux pas.

“But forget all that,” he said. “What about you? What’s it like? Did they hurt you in there?”

She nodded, recalling the punishments and indignities of her processing.

“Why, those…” He exhaled sharply. “They’ll regret that. What about now? Are you hurt anywhere? In pain?”

Sometimes, she thought. She shrugged at him with uncertainty.

“Damn, I wish you could talk. Why haven’t you messaged me? Was the stuff all there?”

She tried to pantomime being punished for using the devices.

Verne looked confused. “They won’t work? Or, what, you’re not allowed?”

Katrina nodded.

At that point the Custodian must have either had enough, or had discerned the intent of Katrina’s gesturing. When she nodded that time, she heard :Contact Violation. May not communicate with a civilian: and she received a body-wide shock. She jerked in surprise. “No way. I can’t even nod at him?” she wondered in dismay.

“What’s the matter? Are you okay?”

She started to shake her head and got another contact violation for it. “Damn it!” There had to be another way. She picked up a stick and cleared a space on the ground of pine needles. She first tried to write, but again it came out as nonsense. Then, since she could still draw pictures, she thought to draw a big frowny face, just to express how miserable she was. Halfway through the circle of the head, her hand lost its coordination. The lines just went all crazy. No matter how hard she concentrated, she couldn’t finish drawing the damned circle. “No!” she cried. “Not this, too! It’s just a fucking smiley face!” But she knew deep down that it wasn’t just a smiley face. It was communication. She tried over and over with growing v******e, doing little more than gouging random lines in the dirt.

Verne leaned over to examine the drawing. “I don’t get it. What’s it supposed to be? An exploding potato?”

Enraged at her own inability to perform such a simple task and Verne’s uncomprehending stupidity, she broke the stick over her knee and threw the pieces at him. At least, that’s what she intended to do. Her arms froze even as she raised them, the broken stick falling from her hands. The Custodian seemed to have interpreted the harmless act of throwing twigs at her friend as an attempt at v******e.

:Contact Violation. May not assault a civilian: said the voice, accompanied by the worst punishment Katrina had yet experienced. She collapsed to the ground, her body overcome by spasms of agony. It was like red hot hooks digging into her flesh. The pain obliterated all rational thought and bodily control. She shrieked uncontrollably. Verne hovered over her, looking baffled and concerned, calling her name.

When it was over, for it couldn’t have lasted more than ten seconds, Katrina backpedaled across the ground until she bumped into a tree trunk. She hugged herself, crying from the shock of it, then pounded on the sides of her helmet. “Get out of me! Get out of my head! Please!”

“Katrina, what the hell’s the matter?” asked Verne. He placed his hand on her arm, trying to help her up. She unthinkingly accepted his help.

:Contact Violation. May not touch a civilian:

Katrina screamed as another phantom punishment, though far less severe than the previous one, overcame her for a few seconds. She wrenched her arm out of his grasp, falling backwards onto the ground. He reached for her out of concern, obviously thinking she was having seizure or something. In blind desperation to prevent him from touching her again, she swatted at Verne and roughly shoved him away from her.

:Contact Violation. May not assault a civilian: The fiery hooks sliced into her once more.

……

Katrina sat on the ground, sobbing, trying to regain her composure after the series of agonizing punishments. Verne stood in the clearing, looking helpless.

“Okay, I think I get it,” he was saying slowly. “I can’t touch you or you get punished. And you can’t write or even draw? I’m guessing it’s the same way with the text messenger? But I don’t understand. You said that Bane you interviewed was able to write. Why can’t you?”

She just sat there, unable to do so much as affirm or deny any of his questions.

“Katrina? Hello? Talk to me. Wave. Do something. Did I do something wrong? Are you mad at me?”

She looked at him, full of misery. He looked so confused. She could understand how he felt. He couldn’t see her tears. To his eyes, she was just a Bane, sitting there like an unresponsive a****l, staring back at him with a faceless, unexpressive mask. He couldn’t possibly understand what she was going through. No one could, not unless they were a Bane.

“It won’t let you do anything now, will it? Man, this is some fucked up technology. How can I help you with this? I don’t know what to do if we can’t talk…” he shrugged. “What am I supposed to do? Just wait for months until it’s all over?”

“I don’t know!” she cried. He couldn’t hear her.

There came the sound hoof beats. Katrina looked around, alarmed, wondering if it was coming from inside her head. Then a chestnut horse broke through the brush with a helmeted cop riding on its back. A mounted patrol. Even in this day and age, it seemed horses were still the best way to patrol a park. Katrina got her feet. She wasn’t sure what she should do, if she should make a run for it, or what. Even Verne looked close to taking off.

“I have a Custodian report of repeated Violations of Banishment here,” said the cop, taking in the situation. “Is there a problem?”

“Uh, no, Officer,” stammered Verne. “I was just here, and– ”

The cop dismounted. His horse snorted and dipped its head to the ground, its lips picking through the pine needles in search of something tasty. The cop approached the two of them. “Mind explaining what you’re doing out here alone with a Bane that would cause a Violation report?”

“Ah, yes, well, that is, I’m not from around here…”

The cop looked at Katrina. “Bane. Has this man assaulted you?”

Startled to be addressed directly, Katrina risked a contact violation to vigorously shake her head in denial. She didn’t get punished for it. She guessed that a police inquiry had precedence over the banishment rules. Katrina studied the cop’s face. Her memory clicked. She knew this man! Sort of. It was Michaels, the cop from the diner. Katrina knew from their conversation that he had some sympathy for Banes. Maybe he could help her in some fashion. But then, how could he? She couldn’t tell him who she was, and even if she could do so, it would break her cover and get lots of people in serious trouble.

Officer Michaels looked at Katrina a moment longer, then returned his attention to Verne. “You know that attempting contact with a Bane is against the law, sir?”

“You don’t understand. I know her. She’s a friend of mine. Her name’s, ah, Vivienne Mul–”

“That’s impossible, sir. Banes don’t have names.”

“Officer, I’m trying to explain it to you if-”

“No, sir, I’m explaining it to you,” Officer Michaels said, taking an authoritative yet patient tone. It sounded like he had given this lecture many times before. “Banes don’t have names. This Bane is not your friend. If you had a friend who went into banishment, she’s gone for now. You’re just going to have to wait until she returns to renew your acquaintance. Sorry, but that’s how it works. That’s the law.”

“But-”

“I’ll let you off with a warning this time, but I am within my rights to arrest you if this happens again. Do I make myself clear?”

Verne looked crestfallen. “Yes.”

The officer leveled his gaze at Verne. “Don’t be selfish, sir. You may think you’re helping, but further attempts at contact can only make things worse for your friend, I promise you. Is that what you want? Now, I’m going to e****t you back to the entrance of the park.” He looked at Katrina. “Go on. Get out of here.”

Katrina winced. He hadn’t said it with cruelty, but the words had such brusque dismissal in them that they stung her. She spared one last glance at Verne’s apologetic expression before walking away. She didn’t know what to do. The entire plan was falling apart. She couldn’t do so much as use hand signals to communicate with Verne. There could be no support or comfort from the outside. She was on her own. Never in her life had she felt so utterly and completely alone.

……

Katrina wasn’t even given a chance to go off and nurse her mental wounds. Just after she left the wooded area, her Custodian announced, :Maintenance overdue. Report to a maintenance station:

“Wonderful. Just what I need now. More humiliation to add to this lovely day I’m having. Thanks so much.”

It was just as well. She was starving. The excuse for food that had been pumped into her stomach had solidified once inside, giving her stomach something to work on and prevent hunger pangs for a long time, but that had been more than twenty-four hours ago. Despite her hunger, she noticed that she didn’t really feel thirsty. With the Banesuit latex coating her mouth and throat, her mouth felt neither wet nor dry, not exactly. She supposed her daily fluid requirement was met by the maintenance pump, and the waste unit that had been crammed inside of her was probably more efficient at reclaiming water than her own body. At least she didn’t have to worry about being desperate for a drink of water since she couldn’t quite drink anything, anymore.

There was a Bane maintenance station located near the public restrooms in the park. It was a round, enclosed kiosk. It had no door, just an opening with a curved privacy wall inside. From what Katrina could guess about the perverse designers of the whole system, the stations probably would have been right out in the open to increase the humiliation factor, but the citizens would likely have complained. There was a light above the door to indicate when there was no vacancy within, but it wasn’t lit up at the moment. She approached the little building.

:Entering maintenance zone. Seven minutes: droned the placid voice that Katrina was quickly growing to hate.

“Seven minutes ‘til what?” Katrina asked. She received no response, but quickened her pace all the same. She entered the building and went around the wall to find an undecorated, round room with six stations spaced evenly along the wall. She was startled to see four Banes already in there–a male and three females, squatting over the stations like dogs. Her proximity alarm hadn’t gone off, so she guessed that the alarm was automatically turned off within a maintenance zone. Made sense. There were too many Banes around for them to all wait in line one at a time.

She hesitated, unsure of herself, but finally submitted to necessity and crouched over the stupid bowl. As soon as she did, there came the strange sensation of the probe pushing out of her, then the maintenance began. She was unhappily aware that, due to the need to be emptied and fed, she was also recharging the Banesuit that punished her so. It was like having to participate in her own torture.

Katrina glanced around at the blank faces of the others and wondered if any of them were as embarrassed about this as she was. Chances were that they had all done this so many times before that it meant nothing to them. She looked up and saw a small word written in black magic marker on the inside of the privacy wall. Eudeamon. There were little swirlies and stars drawn around it. She frowned at it. Thanks, she thought caustically to the unknown artist. It’s so helpful to see that here. Eudeamon, huh? Who are you?

One by one, the other Banes stood up and left. A couple more entered, heading for the empty stations. Just a part of daily life for a Bane. As the warm cleansing fluid was washing over her skin, Katrina calculated that, if she had maintenance once every day, she would have to squat here like this at least two hundred thirty-three more times. Two hundred thirty-three more days as a Bane. It made her heartsick just to think about it.

On her way out of the building, she nearly bumped into a female Bane on her way in. Her alarm went off when they were three feet apart. The other Bane simply turned and went around the other side of the privacy wall. So the proximity limits were still activated, just greatly reduced. It would certainly prevent any shenanigans between Banes. Can’t have that, now can we? Wouldn’t want us to have so much as a friendly handshake, now would you? she thought bitterly. At least she wasn’t hungry anymore.

Just as she exited the building, she heard :Seven minutes expired. Leave maintenance zone:

“Ow-ow-oww!” Katrina ran away from the kiosk, spurned on by painful pins and needles all over. Her hesitation and inexperience had cost her a punishment. The needles ceased once she got outside the zone. Out of curiosity, she took a few steps back toward the building. There wasn’t a punishment, but the proximity alarm went off. She jumped back.

:May not re-enter maintenance zone for fifteen hours, fifty-nine minutes:

Good to know, she thought.

……

Katrina spent much of the rest of that afternoon moping around and doing nothing. It didn’t seem there was anything else to do. Then it occurred to her that she might as well prepare for night time and find herself a good place to sl**p well in advance of nightfall. There were the open fields, and the grass was passingly soft, though it was lumpy. She just hated the thought of sl**ping right out in the open like that. She needed the comfort of a roof over her head, even if it was just a roof of leaves and branches.

Off in the forest, she found a likely spot. She began to gather armfuls of pine needles (which weren’t prickly through the suit), leaves, and dead grass. Then she got industrious and spent a long time digging a shallow bowl in the ground using sticks and flat rocks. A few other Banes passed by while she worked, and a couple paused to watch her before moving on. There was this one female Bane who kept lingering around. With her height and body type, she looked almost the same as Katrina. They could have been twins. Twin Banes. Katrina kept glancing at her, wondering if there was a reason the woman was hanging around. Did she want to tell her something?

She worked at it until it was long enough to lie down in and the sides were mostly smooth. She lined it with the pine needles and grass. It turned out to be reasonably comfortable. Comfortable as far as grass-lined ditches went, anyway. It at least made her feel good to be able to do something, even if it was pointless busy work like this. It was some kind of control over her environment. It was a means to better her situation, if only slightly.

By the time she was finished, the sun had started to go down. She sat next to her day’s accomplishment and scratched in the dirt with a twig. She still couldn’t draw. At dusk, the female Bane that had been sitting and watching her work for hours started to approach. Katrina saw her and stood up in her ditch. “Oh, no you don’t. This is mine. I made it. You’re not going to take it from me!” she said. The Bane kept coming until the proximity alarm started squealing in Katrina’s head. “I’m not moving. It’s my spot!”

It continued to get worse and more painful. Katrina clutched her head, determined to not budge. She thought she might win when the other Bane staggered to her hands and knees, but then the faceless figure surged to her feet and rushed forward, increasing the decibels exponentially. Katrina’s will broke and she ran away from her handmade nest, screaming in pain.

She watched as the victorious Bane tested Katrina’s handiwork, then stretched out on the bedding. “You thieving bitch! That was my spot. You have no right! You opportunistic little… you parasite!” Katrina raged. In anger, she began pushing into the boundary a few times, to keep the thief from resting. The female Bane finally got fed up and started to come toward her, forcing Katrina to retreat. Katrina gave up and stood there, impotently glowering at her and thinking evil thoughts. After a while, she realized how much she resembled a subordinate pack a****l begging for scraps by just standing around while the victor enjoyed the spoils.

“I hope somebody takes it from you, too,” she muttered and went off to spend another sl**pless night on lumpy ground.



Chapter 8



It was hard to get used to being completely ignored. After only a few days, being invisible to people was really getting to her. It was like being a ghost. At one point, she found herself standing next to a group of people while they chatted about sports and politics. She was only a few feet away from them, but they wouldn’t so much as glance at her. All she wanted was for someone to acknowledge her presence. She finally resorted to shouting at them to pay attention to her. She knew they couldn’t hear her, but she couldn’t restrain herself. Then she slipped up and waved her arms at one of the people, for which she got a contact violation and a painful punishment. After the group moved away, she dropped to her knees and hugged herself for comfort. She wasn’t adjusting well and she knew it. What is eight more months of this going to do to my mind? she wondered.

For five days, Katrina lingered around the park, doing nothing except nursing her growing depression. She knew she had to go start searching for Barbara and try to get some answers, but for the moment she simply lacked the motivation. She was a little frightened of leaving the sanctuary of the park and venturing back into the unwelcoming city. Also, she hated to leave Verne Sawyer behind, her only friend and the only person who cared that she was out here.

Each day at noon he continued to come to the park and sit on the bench. He would sit there for an hour or more, waiting for her to show. She watched him, but she never did reveal herself. There were always a dozen or more Banes that he could see, and she stayed off in the distance. He was unable to pick her out. She was worried he could get in trouble again, maybe even arrested, if he tried to do something to contact her, so she stayed away. But still, she stayed and watched him because she couldn’t help herself.

On the fifth day, he never arrived. For an hour she sat on a small boulder sticking out of the ground, waiting for him, but he didn’t come. Whatever his thoughts or plans might be, he had moved on. It was what she had wanted him to do, but it still hurt so terribly, terribly much.

“I’m alone,” she said, tormenting herself. The pain of hearing the words out loud was exquisite. “I’m alone. Alone. I’m alone! Alone! ALOOOONE!” she howled into the stifling confines of her helmet. It hurt not just because it was her current condition. It hurt mostly because it felt like the story of her life. Then she tumbled over into the grass, insensately kicking and clawing at the turf in a c***dish tantrum, screaming and crying her heart out.

She eventually went still and sprawled, inert, on the ground. She was drained and benumbed, but she did feel a little bit better for having cried out some of the pain she had been storing up. Like lancing an infection. She rolled onto her back and looked up at the sun, which the sensors dimmed into a dull, sepia disc. At least there was one good thing about having your nose lined with Banesuit latex. You couldn’t get the sniffles when you cried.

……

On the following day, she was given the motivation to get off her butt and do something. She had been watching a few couples wrangling a gaggle of c***dren of various ages through the park. She was thinking how sad it was to see parents scolding their small c***dren for pointing at the Banes. They would probably grow up learning to never ‘see’ Banes at all, even less so than the current generation of Eudemonians. Worse than that was wondering how traumatic it was for k**s whose mom or dad went into banishment. How could they understand that? Katrina figured that most convicted people with young c***dren would opt for the regular prison system if they had any compassion at all. They would be behind bars, but they would at least still be able to visit and talk to their k**s. That certainly beat having one’s parent seemingly disappear off the face of the planet for a year or two.

While mulling these thoughts over, automatically formulating them into another damning article against the Banishment Project for when she got out, a quiet, chirping alarm went off in her head. The Custodian spoke, but wasn’t giving her a warning or punishment. It gave her something far worse.

:Weekly update received from central monitoring network: it said in its unimpassioned voice. :Violations totaled and demerits assigned. For this week’s violations, your sentence has been extended by sixty-five days. Try harder, V-7505:

“What? What? Repeat that! Say that again,” said Katrina, not believing her ears. “Increased by two months? Two fucking months? For what I did in a week? How is that even fair? Nobody told me!” She had known that it was possible for a sentence to be increased, but she had no idea it was for every single violation. She had believed it was only for serious and repeated violations. It was especially enraging because she was new and hadn’t a clue what might or might not cause some violations. It was like a trap. She had been set up to fail. Automated sentence increases decided by a computer? It was so arbitrary! It wasn’t fair! “I’m going to be in this fucking suit for another ten months now? No! No!”

She picked up a large, fallen branch and started swinging it at a tree trunk. A Bane who had been sitting nearby jumped up and began to cautiously move away from her. “You tricked me! Try harder, huh? You want me to try harder?” Katrina raged, bark flying around her, the branch in her hands breaking apart a chunk at a time. “I’ll showing you trying harder! I’ll fucking show you trying harder! When I get out of this thing, heads are going to fucking roll!” She threw down the splintered remains of the branch and leaned against the abused tree to catch her breath. “Heads are gonna roll.”

……

She began her trek through the city to get to the park she remembered meeting Barbara in. She didn’t know if finding her would even be possible. The Bane might have wandered somewhere else. She might even have been released from banishment in the past month, for all Katrina knew. But if Barbara had already served a sentence of three years, like she said, there was a good chance she was still out there, somewhere. That had only been a month ago. Katrina wasn’t even sure she could recognize the Bane again if she saw her, but she did have a rather striking figure in addition to her unusual behavior. It was all she had to go on.

The city wasn’t as bad this time around, now that she wasn’t so disorientated and weak. She had gotten a little better at negotiating through crowds while wearing her Banesuit. She hated having to keep dodging out of people’s way; these people who dismissed her as though she didn’t exist had no idea what she was going through. She was still so furious from the sentence extension that she wanted to just plow bodily through the crowds like an angry bull. She wanted to make them get out of her way, for once. These people, walking around in their clothes, drinking and eating, laughing, even talking to each other. All so goddamn carefree while other human beings suffered silently in their midst. She wanted to spit on them.

Katrina passed a café patio where a female Bane was shifting anxiously from foot to foot like she had to go to the bathroom. The Bane’s attention was focused on half a bowl of uneaten ice cream that someone had left at an unoccupied table. As Katrina paused to watch, the Bane suddenly reached out and scooped the softening ice cream out of the bowl with her fingers. She brought it to her face pressed it against the helmet where her mouth should be. It squished out between her gloved fingers. The Bane’s frustration was palpable. Her hands slowly slid up over the front of her mask, leaving sticky, white smears on the blank surface. She staggered backwards to the wall of the café and just stood there, fingers loosely curled and melted ice cream running down her arms to drip from her elbows, rhythmically thumping the back of her helmet against the wall.

Please don’t let me end up like that, Katrina begged before moving on.

After examining a city street map on the back of a bus top shelter, she ended up detouring through one of the more residential parts of the city to get to the park she wanted. It was a longer route, but without the heavy congestion, traffic, and fewer Banes to work around, it might get her there faster.

An hour later she found herself strolling down the tree-shaded sidewalks of a quiet neighborhood. There were very few Banes in the residential areas, she would discover, simply due to the lack of nearby maintenance stations. While she walked, she gazed with a newfound envy at the houses she passed. For the time being, she had no home, no shelter, no soft bed to call her own. So many things she had taken for granted were now lost to her.

And then there were all the people who lived inside, willfully ignorant of the hardship they were causing with their the support of the Banishment Project. If they only knew. Sure, they were being lied to by Ashton Technologies and the city council, but all they had to do was open their eyes and see what was going on. Katrina supposed it was just human nature to ignore other people’s suffering as long as it didn’t affect them personally. Katrina was just passing a spray of lavender bushes, wishing once again for a sense of smell, when a soft, heavy object struck her square between the shoulder blades. She spun around, adrenaline pumping, to find a pair of giggling, pre-adolescent k**s running away from her down the sidewalk. There was a ruptured, ripe tomato on the pavement at her feet. “What the hell? Why you little, snot-nosed brats! How dare you? Who the hell throws tomatoes these days, anyway? I mean, come on!”

Afraid of hanging around ranting and ending up with some sort of violation, Katrina swiftly walked away with her eyes burning. It was the same sort of indignant helplessness she was feeling now as when she had been bullied as a c***d. She was an adult now and she shouldn’t have to put up with that stupid shit, especially not from k**s! Way to raise your c***dren up right, parents, Katrina thought bitterly. Why not teach ‘em to throw stones at some lepers, too, while you’re at it. Great job.

……

She made it to Barbara’s park without further incident. The journey had taken the better part of the day. Her feet hurt, her legs hurt, and she was out of breath, but she had made it. She sat down on one of the stone benches near the park’s entrance to recuperate and take stock.

It was a large park, but it still felt more secluded than one she had been living in. That one had mostly been a couple of large, grassy fields and a murky pond bordered by some wooded areas. This park had a more manicured ambience, with gardened areas, nicer paths and ornate little bridges. Here and there were s**ttered some fountains and large, abstract sculptures that Katrina didn’t get. She never did have a strong attraction to the modern art aesthetic. There were some densely forested areas, a rolling field, a few streams, and a rather sizeable pond with a long, stone bridge crossing the narrow end to reach a golf course on the other side. The golf course was private property and off-limits, but the rest of the park was free territory. Not too shabby at all, if you were f***ed to hang your hat in a city park and call it home.

Katrina went straight to the creek and the small bridge where she had met Barbara. No one was around. She hoped Barbara hadn’t just been spending one night there. She had no idea how she could possibly find her, otherwise. She went down the slope to rocky bed of the creek to look around. There was the bare patch of silt that the latex-clad Barbara had written the words that had so fascinated Katrina and had sparked her curiosity on that rainy night. But that had been back when Katrina was human. Now she was just a Bane. A Bane with growing feeling of regret.



Chapter 9



The main problem with living in this particular park, she was to find, was that a lot of older Banes had pretty much claimed most of the choicest locations. They were too hardened and experienced to lose many territorial fights to newcomers. Amazingly, some even banded together to push out intruders; if some established Bane got knocked out of his territory, he or she might come back with friends. They would take turns challenging the intruder until he or she couldn’t take it anymore and fled. Then the displaced Bane would reclaim his spot and the others would leave. Unestablished Banes like Katrina often had no choice but to sl**p on the periphery or out in the open.

Katrina spent several days monitoring the bridge and looking for Barbara. She was also trying to get more accustomed to life as a Bane, since it looked like she was going to be one for a while. It was just so depressing. Worse, it was boring. There wasn’t much else to do but sit around looking at the scenery or going for the occasional walk. That would have been great for a short vacation, but not so great when it was all you were allowed. Even on a vacation you could do other things, like read a book or socialize with people. She dug a discarded magazine out of a trash can and tried to read it (she learned she could handle trash, but she had to put it back in the can or be punished for littering), but the sensors had a hard time focusing on the small print. Reading just ended up making her feel motion sick. This truly was solitary confinement, right out in the open. The park might have been pretty, but to Katrina it was little more than a gilded cage.

Every now and then a panicked claustrophobia would come over her. Time after time she fought with her Banesuit, trying to find a way out. She knew it was pointless even as she did it, but knowing that didn’t help calm her down. The fact that she was trapped only made the panic worse. She wasn’t the only one. Once she saw a Bane trying to crack his helmet open by slamming rocks against it. It didn’t do him any good. She wondered if it had given him a headache.

On her third day in the park, she came across a pair of male Banes playing Frisbee in the field. They were really good at it, too. A few other Banes were sitting around the area but weren’t joining in. Citizens walked by while pointedly ignoring the game. Desperate for a little entertainment, Katrina approached from the sidelines and waved her arms at them, indicating she wanted to play. After a couple more back-and-forths, one of the Banes tossed the yellow, plastic disc to her. She caught it and didn’t even get punished. She laughed, unbelievably gratified at being allowed to join in.

She played for a good while, even though she was terrible with a Frisbee. She missed catching it most of the time, and it always went wildly off course whenever she threw it, but she didn’t care. The others didn’t seem to mind, either. Eventually, she wore herself out and excused herself from the game. She didn’t sweat inside the suit, nor did her skin feel hot, for the suit cooled her skin when she started to exert herself. It was a strange sensation, or rather a strange lack of sensation. Nonetheless, she was out of breath. She was content to go sit in a clover patch on the slope and watch the game continue.

She started picking late bloom clover flowers where she sat. On impulse, she began weaving their stems into a necklace. It was something she hadn’t done since she was a c***d. It brought back some pleasant nostalgia. Her father had coached peewee soccer for a while when she was a very little girl. He always brought her with him to the practices, where she occupied herself by wandering around the soccer field. The field had seemed to her young eyes an impossibly vast, green space, and it was always covered with patches of short, white clover just like this. She must have made hundreds of clover necklaces in that soccer field. She wondered what her dad would think of her if he could see her now, sitting in the middle of a park in a skintight Banesuit. She would never know. She hoped he wouldn’t be too ashamed. If he was still alive, maybe he could have talked her out of this banishment insanity before she had gone and done it.

Smiling at the memory of him jogging up and down the sideline in his bright yellow shirt as he blew his whistle and shouted instruction to the young players, she pulled the necklace down over her helmet.

:Protocol violation. May not wear clothing:

The pain began and didn’t stop until Katrina tore the clover chain from her neck. She looked at it with dismay. “What do you mean? This isn’t clothing, it’s a bunch of flowers! How can you punish someone for something like that?” she asked, close to tears. “You stupid, stupid, heartless machine! How can this be wrong? It’s something… something that’s sweet and innocent! c***dren do it!”

There was no answer. Katrina sat there, passing the blooms through her fingers and feeling greatly subdued. The brief contentment she had found from playing the game had been shattered. She was still just a Bane, after all.

The game continued on below until the Frisbee, caught in a gust of wind, veered far off course and flew toward the walking path. Katrina saw with alarm that it was heading straight for a middle-aged woman walking her Labrador on a leash. Katrina thought for sure that the Frisbee-throwing Bane’s luck couldn’t be that bad. It was.

The Frisbee struck the woman square on the side of the head. She glared around, startled but unharmed, searching for someone to blame. The Bane who had thrown it fell to his knees in silent agony, surely receiving an assault punishment. Katrina’s heart went out to him, knowing how unpleasant that particular punishment could be. She felt anger at the whole system for letting something as accidental and harmless as that be punishable in the first place.

Not satisfied to leave well enough alone, the woman picked up the Frisbee. With a sidelong glance at the male Banes, she gave it to her dog, who was only too happy to carry it. Then she headed off down the path. There could be no reclaiming the Frisbee and resuming the game now. Now it was private property again. They couldn’t even apologize and ask for it back.

“Hey! Hey, you,” Katrina shouted after the woman. “That’s not yours. You don’t even want it. Give it back! You’re just being mean! It was just an accident, for crying out loud.”

Beside the walking path there was a high, stone wall upon which a solitary, female Bane had been sitting motionless, gargoyle-like, for at least an hour. After the woman passed below her, the slender Bane unlimbered her lithe, shiny body and, with amazing agility, performed a series of slow, backward handstands along the top of the wall. When she got to the end of the wall, she gracefully dropped down behind the woman and began to walk in lockstep beside her. With her arm stretched out in the pose of someone walking an invisible dog, the clowning Bane mimicked the lady’s movements with exaggerated daintiness. Katrina burst out laughing at the sight.

This went on for a good thirty yards until the woman, unable to stand it any longer, stopped to shout at the Bane, telling her to cut it out and get lost, along with some not-so-friendly epithets. The Bane simply stood there, looking off in another direction, not even acknowledging her. Several passers by frowned in disapproval at the woman. She went red and quickened her pace toward the park exit. The Bane twirled around in a pirouette and went off alone into the trees.

Katrina cheered for her. The Bane had gotten the woman to violate banishment and embarrass herself, and she had done it without even causing herself a punishment. It buoyed Katrina’s spirits. It might have been a minor moral victory for her side, but it was still a victory.

……

That evening, when she went to check the bridge, Katrina finally had success. There was a Bane under the bridge, her black form almost invisible in the twilit shadows. She was sitting in the middle of the gurgling stream, letting the water break against her lower back and flow over her thighs. The behavior wasn’t exactly odd, but it was peculiar enough to Katrina. She knew Banesuits were completely waterproof, but she still hadn’t gotten over her natural reluctance to just go splashing around in the water like a fish. As she drew closer, she could make out more of the dark figure’s details. With a tiny waist and amazing figure, the Bane had to be Barbara.

Katrina carefully made her way down the slippery bank. She got close enough to trigger her alarm and then backed away. Barbara came out from under the bridge and looked at her with curiosity. Now that she had her attention, Katrina began a busy pantomime, trying to explain that she had been the reporter who had met her that time… the rain, the umbrella, the stick and the writing. The Bane just watched her, tilting her head. Katrina finished with a wild gesture, as if to say, “Just what the hell is going on?”

Barbara continued to look at her for a few long moments, then looked around to see if anyone was watching. No one else was nearby. She took up a stick and began to write on the bank. Katrina was relieved. She might finally get a few answers. She waited impatiently while Barbara wrote, for the Bane was taking a long time. What’s she doing? Writing a dissertation? Katrina wondered with some irritation. At last, Barbara moved away from the bridge to allow Katrina to approach and read the writing.

Welcome Katrina Bane! Surprise to see U here. Ur very brave. I know what you want but I cant help u. Cannot tell U what u want. Ur not ready. Must be patient. Wait. Can only do it alone. Eudeamon will come to you or will not. Hope U make it, Katrina Bane. Erase this.

Katrina’s heart sank as she stared at the message. What the hell is this? she wondered. There were no answers here. Now the crazy female Bane was talking like some fucking New Age spiritual guru. She faced Barbara. “That’s it? You hope I make it? I did all this, came all this way, and that’s it?” She looked around, lost for words. “What, I’m not worthy to know your little secrets or something? How much more ready can I friggin’ get? I’m a Bane now, like you. Just look at me!” Katrina yelled. “What am I supposed to do? Meditate? Fuck that! How do you write? Where’s this so-called Eden and happiness you were talking about? How long am I supposed to wait? What am I even waiting for? Help me!”

Barbara heard none of this, and whether she was looking at Katrina with compassion, disinterest, or disdain, Katrina couldn’t tell. Her smooth, black mask offered no enlightenment. The Bane gave her a helpless little shrug, patted her hand over her heart, and strode off upstream.

“No, wait! Tell me more! Tell me something! Oh... crap.” Katrina sighed.

She read the message again, then did as she was told and erased it all with her foot. No point in letting people find signs of inter-Bane communication, for what it was worth. At least Barbara proved she had a good memory by remembering Katrina’s name. She hated being called ‘Katrina Bane,’ though. That was not who she was. She trudged back to the temporary home she had made under some azalea bushes near the outer wall of the park. It was cramped and uncomfortable, but it was shelter.

So Eudeamon will come, huh? Or not. Which is it? she wondered. So was it a person, after all? A Bane? Or some Zen-like state of mind? How did it allow Barbara to write? Katrina curled up on her side under the bushes and hugged her knees. Does it matter now? Does anything matter at all?



Chapter 10



November arrived and the leaves had turned in the park. Katrina wished she could have enjoyed it, but all the colors looked pretty much the same to her. Then the leaves died and had begun to fall. She wanted to smell the musty, rich scent of the freshly fallen leaves, for as a c***d she had always loved kicking her way through drifts of leaves just to stir up the distinctly Autumnal aroma. That simple pleasure was denied to her, as well.

Mirroring the season, Katrina’s mood was turning bleak and dismal. She had sort of grown accustomed to being a Bane. That is, living outdoors was no longer as frightening, it was no longer embarrassing walking around in skintight rubber, and having her head entirely sealed up in steel, foam, and latex seldom induced claustrophobic panic anymore. She had even gotten used to going to the maintenance stations like every other Bane. But the one thing she could not get used to was the isolation.

The isolation was like a living thing that gnawed at her. She kept obsessing about all the things she would rather be doing, all the conveniences and comforts of home she was missing out on. There was so much she had always taken for granted. She tried so hard to keep her mind focused on the goal… the expose she would write about the Project once she was free. But that was still so far away. And no matter how much she despised her situation, she knew she had no one to blame for her predicament but herself. She regretted ever coming up with this harebrained, masochistic scheme.

She also had trouble adjusting to the regimented life that the Custodian f***ed upon her. She bridled against it, she raged and shouted and threw fits. She wanted her freedom back! But no amount of wishing or fighting got her anywhere. Corralled by pain, she had no choice but to submit and do what it wanted in the end. She thought she was doing pretty well at avoiding violations, but, by late November, the accumulated violations had extended her original eight month sentence to total of eleven months. She had already served one, but that left ten to go. It was like trying to walk up a downwards escalator. She was starting to wonder if she would ever get out of here and back to the real world.

As the days and nights got colder, her Banesuit automatically grew thicker. Not by a lot, but enough to compensate for the weather. The insulating and heating fibers were able to keep her warm. She wasn’t sure where it was getting the extra mass from. She figured it was being added in some way during her maintenance. Or maybe it was stealing it from her body, because she had lost a lot of weight. She had shed at least a dozen pounds due to her joyless diet and physical exercise. She was starting to look less like a new Bane and more like one of the hardened, older ones. It was nice to have lost some weight, but if that was the silver lining to this cloud, Katrina considered herself ripped off.

……

It was around that time that Katrina first witnessed what Officer Michaels had referred to as Bane-bashing. She had been awakened late at night by the sound of laughter a distance away. The cruel note she thought she heard in the laugh told her something unpleasant was going on. With her instincts urging her toward caution, she poked her head quietly out of her azalea shelter.

A short distance away there was a group of five people: five guys and a girl. It was too dark to make out any details, but she thought they might be around college age. Her chest tightened when she saw that they had hold of a pair of Banes. The Banes were probably new ones without the sense to get out of the open during the night. Katrina could do nothing but watch with dread as the people dragged the two Banes closer to each other. She wasn’t sure about the gender of both victims, but one was definitely a female. The Banes were desperately trying to pull away from their captors without actually fighting. Katrina wondered how many agonizing assault violations they might already have incurred by fighting back.

Katrina was afraid she was about to be witness to some terrible v******e and felt sick to her stomach. But these particular Bane-bashers, in spite of the moniker, weren’t interested in physically beating their prey. They were more insidious than that, and, in a way, more cruel. They knew what they were doing. They gradually wrestled the struggling Banes closer to each other, an act which almost certainly setting off the Custodian’s proximity alarms. There was a flash of metal as one of them produced a pair of handcuffs. The cuffs were fastened onto each Bane’s wrist, locking them together. Then the group let them go and stood back to observe their handiwork.

Katrina then realized the devious sadism of the scheme. The Banes writhed on the ground, a tangle of flailing black limbs, as they tried desperately to pull away from each other in an unwinnable tug-of-war to escape the awful, head-splitting warnings going off in their heads, both caught like a****ls in a trap. One briefly turned on the other in an a****l frenzy of punching and kicking in an attempt to get loose. Finally, mercifully, they began to lose consciousness. Katrina’s heart went out to them. She ached to help them, but that was impossible. Even if she were able to fight off the attackers, she would still have no way of freeing the Banes from each other. And she really didn’t want to become a third Bane added to their sport.

Realizing the show was about over and that the cops would probably soon arrive, the exultantly whooping group of bashers took off toward a darkened exit of the park. As she watched them flee, Katrina felt an uncharacteristic flame of rage burning inside her. She hated them for being so ruthlessly cruel. She hated the system for making this sort of thing possible in the first place. She hated the goddamned Custodians for being too stupid to understand when a Bane was being attacked and turning off the warnings accordingly. She even hated herself for being so cowardly. She should have done something. She didn’t know what, but she should have done something.

“But there was nothing I could do,” she tearfully told herself as a pair of police officers finally arrived to release the u*********s Banes. “There’s nothing I can do here. I can’t help anybody here. I shouldn’t even be here. What the fuck am I doing? Did I actually think I could change anything? Come in and rescue everyone by getting myself tortured?” She curled up in a fetal position on the hard ground. “I don’t want to be here anymore. I just wanna go home.”

......

Weeks later, on a morning in late November, Katrina crouched among the cattails at the edge of the pond. Her eyes were on the little island out in the middle, about forty yards from shore. The sky was overcast and the water was gray and choppy, but she couldn’t feel the wind that made it so.

She was psyching herself up.

She had gotten so sick of being pushed around and bullied by other Banes. She didn’t even bother fighting over territory anymore; she simply got up and went up away, her tail between her legs, at the first sign of challenge. She was tired of being at the bottom of the pecking order. She was fed up with hiding under the azalea bushes and waking at every sound, afraid that Bane-bashers were going to reach through the branches and grab her. She had decided that if she was going to have to remain a Bane for close to a year, she was going to have to take a stand sooner or later. And taking a stand meant having a place she could call her own.

She had noticed the little island when she first came to the park, but had thought nothing of it at the time. It was little more than an ornamental sandbar with a tiny beach of loose pebbles, but growing in the middle there were a few, slender, willowy trees and a thick bunch of reeds and grass. Its remoteness had begun to appeal to her. It looked like a place where she could be alone. At the beginning, being even more alone would have been the last thing she wanted. Now, all she wanted was a place where she could be by herself and wallow in her misery, far from other Banes and people. Especially the people. Putting the fear of bashers aside, simply the witnessing of people enjoying themselves all around her only reminded her of how much she wasn’t a part of their world anymore.

She waded into the cold water. She felt a chill on her legs, but the Custodian reacted quickly by making her suit warmer. Hardly able to feel the water swirling around her body, it was more akin to walking through thickened air. The pond seldom got deeper than five feet, but she still had to dog paddle through the deeper sections. She had never been a great swimmer. As she neared the island and got her feet back under her, her proximity alarm went off. Here we go…

A male Bane who wasn’t much older than Katrina, judging by his condition, jumped up from the tall grass. He didn’t give way.

“Sorry, but I’m taking it,” she growled. “You can’t have it. It’s mine now. Mine! Do you hear me?” The noise intensified until she was trembling. She concentrated on putting it out of her mind. Drawing on the ever-deepening well of all the pains, indignities, disappointments, and humiliations, she used them to strengthen her resolve. “Mine! Go away! Mine! You can’t beat me,” she said through gritted, latex-coated teeth. “I won’t let you.”

It was getting to be too much. This confrontation had already lasted longer than any fight she had been in so far. She knew she wouldn’t be able to last much longer. With a primal scream, she thrashed through the water toward the island, plowing into the ever-strengthening barrier of sound, pain, and nausea. The male Bane gave up the fight and dove into the water away to get away from her. The warning abruptly ceased.

She stood there for a few moments, almost shocked by the turn of events. “I won. I really won,” she said, amazed. She strode triumphantly onto the pebbled strand, water streaming off her glossy body. “You hear that, world? I won!” She watched the defeated Bane swim away toward the shore. “Sorry, pal, but it’s the law of the jungle for Katrina, now.”

She explored her tiny island. The trees provided would provide some nice shelter come warmer weather. They wouldn’t protect her from rain, but she had gotten used to getting rained on. Even now, the network of bare branches overhead was better than nothing. It was the illusion of shelter that mattered. The long, thin willow branches dipped down to the water in places. In the middle of the circle of trees, behind a dense wall of reeds, was a flat area covered by long, trampled grass. Just her size. She passed through the reeds and laid herself down on the cushy grass. Nice and soft. It was a little damp and squishy, perhaps, but that couldn’t bother her anymore. The reeds completely hid her from prying eyes. There’s no place like home, she thought and curled up for a nap with the sound of wind-born wavelets lapping against the stones of the little shore.

……

A week later, she was lying on her back on her bed of grass, biting her latex-lined lower lip and desperately attempting to masturbate. It was the first time she had really tried it since she had become a Bane, and it wasn’t going very well.

Two recent events had triggered this attempt at self-gratification. The first had happened a couple of days ago while she had been walking through the densely wooded area between the park and the golf coarse. She had looked up from her path and been startled to see a couple of people making out just a little way away, half hidden by some bushes. Her first reaction was to laugh out loud. It was just so unexpected. Then she thought she’d have a little innocent fun and see how long they would keep at it with her standing there. How long would the lovers be able to ignore a voyeuristic Bane? She crept around for a better view, making little noise on the damp leaves, until she was only a few yards away.

They were young, perhaps in their mid twenties, and they were both bundled up against the chilly weather. The cold didn’t seem to be dampening their ardor, though; the guy had his girl pressed up against a tree and they were kissing heavily, their breath visible. Katrina watched as the man’s hands roamed over the sweater-clad mounds of the girl’s breasts. The funny thing was that they didn’t stop. Surely, they must have heard her approaching, and it was impossible to simply overlook a black Bane standing yards away. Could they really not see her? Was their conditioning that deep? Or were they just so used to ignoring Banes that one’s presence wasn’t worth interrupting their make-out session?

Watching the couple, Katrina was starting to get aroused in spite of herself. She was envious. The last time she had sex was with Steven, and that had been months ago. Mere months, maybe, but it seemed like ages. That had been an entirely different life, back when Katrina Nichols had existed as a human being. She wanted to feel like a human again so bad. The sight of the amorous young couple was awakening dormant desires that the ordeals of banishment had pushed out of her mind. She began to squirm in physical agitation.

Just then, the girl had looked over her man’s shoulder and briefly made eye contact with Katrina. She even gave her a coy, little smile. Katrina stiffened. They knew she was there watching them and they didn’t care! Maybe it even turned them on more as some kind of exhibitionist thrill. Or maybe it was meant as a cruel tease. Why else make out in the cold in a Bane-infested park? The man had begun to pull down his partner’s jeans, revealing transparent, gray-tinted shininess underneath. Katrina blinked. The girl was wearing latex tights under her clothes!

So they were fetishists of some kind, after all. Katrina experienced a surge of embarrassment and indignation. Indignation because they were using her to get off. They had probably fantasized about this scenario while fucking back in their bed. They probably would have asked her to join in if they thought they could get away with it.

What did they think this was, some kind of a game? Did they have the slightest clue the kind of hell Katrina had been going through living as a Bane? They weren’t ignoring her; it was worse–they had reduced her to a fetish object just to enhance their own fantasies.

Katrina’s deep embarrassment came from the knowledge that she had once had her own, dark fantasies at the expense of Banes, all those months ago. She had masturbated in her bed while imagining what it would be like to be trapped in a latex Banesuit. Now she knew what it was really like, and she knew it was horrible it really was. It made her feel terribly guilty.

Full of conflicting emotions, she was unable to take anymore. She turned to flee. When she glanced over her shoulder, she saw the girl had her hand stretched out after her, as if beseeching her not to leave. Katrina didn’t stop running until she made it back to her pond.

That had been the first incident. It had left her feeling strange, almost used, but there was a phantom of arousal and envy of the couple’s pleasure that she just couldn’t shake, even days later. The straw that broke the camel’s back had occurred earlier that morning while she had been heading over to the public restroom area to take care of her daily maintenance.

On the way, she spotted a female Bane propped against a tree. She had her arms over her head, gloved fingers digging into the bark, and her legs were cocked and spread as if ready for sex. Her smooth, mannequin’s crotch was clearly visible for the world to see. Judging by her squirming and the way her chest rose and fell, she was clearly having a very enjoyable time. She wasn’t even touching herself.

The display inflamed the desire that had been percolating inside her ever since her encounter with that couple. Unlike the couple, the Bane was apparently oblivious to everything around her. She probably didn’t care if Katrina was there or not. She was lost in her own world.

Katrina desperately wanted to be able to join in, to experience what the Bane was experiencing. If nothing else, she wanted to go over there and hug the black latex body to her, as if she could absorb some of the pleasure by osmosis. As she watched the writhing Bane, Katrina’s hand slid across her glossy belly toward her own crotch. Then she stopped herself, suddenly self-conscious of being in a public park and nowhere near as secluded as that couple had been. Scolding herself, she hastily walked away.

The image stayed in her head, though. She was jealous. She wanted to feel what the other Bane was feeling! Back in the privacy of her island, she began to stroke her benumbed body, hoping to feel anything. She massaged her breasts and furiously rubbed at her sealed up crotch, squeezing and pinching, but none of it did any good. She could feel a little, just a little, but that only made things worse by adding to the unquenchable flame.

She finally gave up with an angry yell of frustration. She would have given anything for a powerful vibrator. How had that Bane pleasuring herself? It was another mystery, like Barbara’s ability to write. She knew orgasms were supposed to be mostly in the mind, so maybe that other Bane had learned to achieve purely mental orgasms by sheer will? If so, Katrina was a long way off from anything like that. She wondered if she could even achieve it before she went mad from sexual frustration alone.

……

From her voluntarily exile on the island, Katrina began to feel slightly more objective about her situation. She spent a lot of time there. She had begun decorating the beach with stacks of smooth, rounded rocks she had collected. It was simply something creative to do. Some of them had reached a couple feet in height. Sometimes she practiced swimming or went on long walks (still avoiding going back into the city streets). Every now and then she was f***ed to defend her territory. She had learned to hug one of the slender, willow trunks and imagined she was chained to it. The pain of the warning would wash over her and make her cry out, but as long as she pretended she didn’t have the choice of running and escaping it, much like what she had witnessed with the Bane-bashers and their handcuffs, she was able to hold out. The challenger always gave up in the end. They were small victories, but they were hers.

At times she sat and observed Bane society. It was like watching a primitive, alien culture made up of mute latex dolls. Banes looked so much alike, but she had begun to recognize some of them by their bodies, behaviors, and by where they lived: there was the huge guy in the grotto, the flower lady who always slept in the flower beds and kept them free of weeds, the acrobatic Bane on the wall (she always slept up there like a cat, Katrina had no idea how she managed it), the jogging Bane who was always running around wherever he went, and there was Barbara, of course… there were many.

She had classified the Banes into three major categories. The new ones were easy to spot with their obvious confusion and desperate seeking of some kind of stimulation or contact. Sometimes they threw fits and cried visibly. They could often be seen fighting with their Banesuits, trying to find a way out, as Katrina had done. They simply roamed around, always trying to be close to people.

The older and more experienced ones, as Katrina was becoming, spent a lot of time on physical exercise and generally trying to improve their surroundings. Some of them decorated their territories with primitive works of art: there were lots of rock piles and hanging mobiles of feathers, twigs, small a****l bones, and found string. Others busied themselves with going around and maintaining the park by picking up trash or weeding the flower beds. Banes weren’t allowed to work or deface public property, but those rules didn’t appear to apply to the pulling up of weeds. They did what they could with what they had to pass the time until their sentences were up. Among the older ones were a few that had seemed to have regressed to an almost feral state. They moved around like wild a****ls, all hunkered over and alert, often pausing to rest on all fours. Katrina had even watched one successfully chase and catch a rabbit. He let it go unharmed, though. Maybe he had just wanted to see if he could do it. He certainly couldn’t have eaten it.

The third group consisted of the individuals Katrina had begun to think of as the Eudeamonic Banes, simply because of her association with that enigmatic word and Barbara. Barbara definitely fit into this category. There seemed to be a good number of them in this particular park, but they could sometimes be hard to spot. They often secluded themselves, much like Katrina had done on her island. The most striking thing about them was that they seemed utterly content with their lot as a Bane. They might stand perfectly still for hours, like an obsidian statue, or stretch out in the field and do nothing else all day long. They appeared to desire neither the contact of Banes nor people. Sometimes they danced and skipped. It was like they had discovered the secret to happiness and greedily kept it to themselves.

At first, Katrina had believed they had gone completely insane in their isolation. It was a possibility. But Barbara wasn’t so far gone that she couldn’t think straight or string two words together. She seemed sane. Katrina wanted to know what they knew. She wanted their secrets, if not to report on, then to at least satisfy her insatiable curiosity. And, maybe, to find a little happiness of her own.

……

The holiday season came, adding to Katrina’s depression. Throughout her adulthood, she had always separated herself from the consumerism of the holidays. She never did like all the crowds, the shopping, or the f***ed cheerfulness of the whole thing. But it was one thing to choose not to participate in an activity. It was something else to not be allowed.

A few times, she ventured out of the park late at night to walk through the mostly empty streets, looking at decorations and window displays. It wasn’t much, but considering she got motion sick from simply reading a magazine, she’d take any form of distraction she could get. She walked around, mentally storing up all the sights for later examination in the solitude of her island.

As she returned to the park, she heard a man’s voice behind a wall of bushes. She became instantly paranoid, because it was likely that somebody lurking around the park at this hour was up to no good. So far, she had eluded an up close and personal encounter with Bane-bashers. sl**ping in the middle of a pond helped with that. Cautiously, she crept around the bushes and poked her head through–a black oval among the leaves. Before her was the strangest sight.

There was a homeless man, all bundled up against the cold, standing with a tall male Bane. The Bane was pushing the man, shoving him around. Not violently–just enough to make the man rock and sway unsteadily. The man was slightly inebriated and he appeared greatly amused by the whole thing. The Bane just kept pushing him. The Bane was getting punished for it, she could tell; he would stop and shudder, and sometimes went to his knees. Katrina knew he must be racking up an incredible amount of sentence increases. Why was he enduring the repeated punishments? Was the Bane working out his frustrations? If so, why wasn’t he simply beating the guy up instead of lightly buffeting him around?

After a few more minutes of this, the Bane stopped pushing and, with an exaggeratedly formal bow, offered the man a crumpled wad of bills. Hey, what gives? We can’t handle money! Katrina thought. The man accepted the money with a tip of his hat and unsteadily shuffled away into the night. The Bane started to turn, then froze. He had spotted Katrina. Katrina felt frightened and readied herself to run. If he was willing and able to ignore contact violations at will, what might he be able to do to her for spying on him?

All he did was bring an index finger to the front of his mask: Shhhh. Then, with a jaunty wave, he sauntered off with a spring in his step. Katrina stared, wondering what in the hell she had just witnessed. Every time she thought she was getting a grasp of things, more mysteries sprung up.



Chapter 11



Snow had fallen.

Winter turned out to be the best time of the year for Katrina. Banes got two meals a day, to help keep up their own and their suit’s energy. There were fewer people around in the parks and on the streets. Even the cold almost never became a problem with the thickened, self-heating Banesuits. And best of all was the snow.

Katrina had always loved wintertime as a c***d. It had always been her favorite season. That was something she had mostly forgotten about as an adult. But now, f***ed to stay outside during the harshness of winter, it rekindled warm feelings of nostalgia: playing in the snow, building tiny cities of ethereal towers out of fallen icicles, letting her snow-dampened clothes dry in front of the fireplace while she drank hot chocolate, her father pulling her up a hill on her sled. Even the stark surroundings of bare branches briefly became beautiful under a coat of glistening ice. Katrina was thrilled to be able to sit waist-deep in a snow drift and let the flakes rain down upon her, contrasting starkly with her jet black skin. Some other Banes were enjoying it, too. They built snowmen. There were even a couple faceless snowbanes.

Unfortunately, the delight didn’t last for long. After a while, the knowledge that she was a Bane and not a c***d playing in the snow brought Katrina back down. Still, the snow had buoyed her spirits for the few weeks it lasted.

……

Katrina had been sitting at on her island, looking at the sheets of thin ice that had formed all around the shore, when she happened to look up and see a familiar figure off in the distance. Verne? she wondered, amazed. What was Verne doing out here in the snow? He had to be looking for her. What else would have brought him out here? Maybe he had some good news he wanted to tell her. He was too far away to catch up to on foot, but he was heading for the long footbridge that spanned the pond. She could intercept him there. She stepped over the rim of thin ice that had formed around the island and slid, frictionless, into the water.

She couldn’t stay in the freezing water for too long. The heating elements of her suit just couldn’t hack it. But she could last long enough. She swam up to the bridge just as Verne coming across it. She splashed to get his attention. He did a double take when he saw a Bane swimming toward him in the icy water. “Katrina? Is that you? What are you doing out there?”

She headed for the shore at the end of the bridge. There were some thick, unwelcoming bushes there that would conceal the two of them.

:Core temperature dropping. Unable to compensate. Exit the water:

“I know, I know. You nag,” said Katrina. She came to shore and easily penetrated the line of ice-laden bushes and scrub.

“Katrina? Where’d you go?” came Verne’s voice as he navigated his way through the snowdrifts. He struggled through the bushes, getting his scarf snagged on a branch and nearly choking himself. When he finally got himself together, he found himself face to face with a Bane and he took a startled step backwards. He was confronted by the sight of a toned, rubber-coated woman whose figure resembled nothing like the old Katrina. She was standing virtually naked in snow and icy weeds, and every inch of her glossy, black skin was trailing streamers of vapor in the freezing air. Banes, due to their warm suits, tended to steam when coming out of cold water. It was a somewhat intimidating sight. “Whoa. Wow. You’ve, uh… you’ve changed.”

Katrina stood motionless, unable to do anything but listen. She wished she could acknowledge him by giving him a wave or a nod or something. She would have endured a few punishments to communicate with him in some way if the punishment was all she had to deal with, but unfortunately it wasn’t. She didn’t dare step a toe out of line and earn another sentence increase. At this point, a single additional day in this hell would be one too many.

“Don’t worry, I won’t touch you. Okay, I know you can’t talk or anything, so I’ll try not to ask you any questions. I’ve been to every park in the city looking for you, or hoping you’d see me, anyway, which you obviously have. Where’ve you been all this time? Sorry, that’s a question,” he said, still flustered. “Are you doing all right? I mean, I hope you are. You look amazing. Uh. That is, we’ve been worried about you, even Benjamin, and you know how he is. I know how tough all this must be for you.”

I just want out of this, she thought to him. And no, you don’t know how tough all this is. You can’t know. You’ll never know, unless you were a Bane like me.

“Anyway, I’ve been wanting to tell you I’m still trying to get more information on the Project for when you get out. It hasn’t been easy. Their system security’s gotten a lot tighter after that lost memo about the suicide slipped. They totally slammed the gates. Reactive defenses, too. It’s like they’ve got supercomputers working just to fight off hackers, or something.”

She saw that he was trying hard to avoid looking at her body. She rolled her eyes and placed her hands boldly on her hips. Fine, let him get an eyeful, she thought. It’s not like the rest of the entire friggin’ world hasn’t seen me like this. Besides that, she had long ago lost most of her initial Banesuit modesty.

“Uh… I did find some communiqués to and from the city’s Banishment Affairs office, though. A few things. Their encryption is three months old. Amateurs.” He chuckled to himself. “They want to clamp down on public rumors that the long term Banes are going haywire and vandalizing things–same as that cop told you. It’s inside confirmation of what he was talking about, anyway.

“They’re saying it was just a glitch that was fixed. I don’t know if it was a glitch or what, but they’re citing proof in the form of reports of that sort of thing have drastically gone down in the past year or so. So all of that seems like a diminishing problem, though I couldn’t tell you why, or what was causing it in the first place. But lately some of the people working at the facility have expressed concerns about a new ‘phenomenon’ on the rise. They’re saying that Custodian reports of all sorts of different Banishment Violations have gone through the roof. It’s like there’s lots of Banes out there committing these things, regardless of whether they get punished,” he said.

“Some councilman by the name of Greggor responded by saying let ‘em rot. I’m paraphrasing there. Basically, his opinion is that if the Bane’s don’t want to play by the rules, then they show no interest in reintegrating back into society, and that it’s all for the common good if the undesirables stay banished indefinitely. Nice guy, huh? I don’t know how much power he has. It’s hard to say who has the final say when it comes to the Banishment Project since Doctor Ashton left the scene.”

Katrina absorbed the information. She wondered what the increased rate of Violations meant. Accidental reports turned in by broken Custodians? Or incidents like the one she had seen, where that Bane paid the homeless guy to let him push him around, maybe? Or was it something more nefarious? Could they be fabricating violation reports just to keep the ‘undesirables’ banished indefinitely? It wouldn’t surprise her, based on what she had gone through so far. Was there any oversight of these peoples’ activities, at all? And this Greggor guy sounded like a real piece of work. Let ‘em rot, huh?

“There’s another thing Banishment Affairs is concerned about. It might be related. I don’t know. It’s just that the more Banes go into the system, the fewer come out. It’s not like they’re disappearing mysteriously, or anything. They’re still around. It’s more like diminishing returns.”

That’s probably the excessive sentence increases, thought Katrina bitterly. Even if there’s no one fabricating reports to keep us here, it doesn’t matter does it? Not with getting days or weeks added to your sentence every time you screw up. It’s a trap.

She wondered if Verne even knew that Katrina’s own sentence had increased by three months so far? There was no reason he should check. He probably wouldn’t, not until her original sentence was done and she didn’t show up. At least he was still working on the investigation. She didn’t feel like she was accomplishing anything, herself.

“And, well, I just wanted you to know that you’ve still got people out here pulling for you,” Verne said. “We haven’t forgotten about you.”

“Thanks,” she replied with a weak smile. It had warmed her heart a little.

“And also, you know, I can’t say how much I admire you for all this. Your bravery and everything. I mean, I’ve always admired you, but this is just above and beyond, ya know? I don’t know how you do it. I never could have done it, that’s for sure. You’re just an amazing woman, that’s all,” he stammered. He was blushing.

Sweet boy, she thought. She briefly wondered if, maybe, after all this was done… but no. Living as a Bane had made her generally pessimistic. Allowing herself hopes would certainly lead to more disappointment. She was sure that anything with him would end up like all the rest. Broken hearts. Besides, she had no idea how long it would take her to recover from this experience. She might be damaged goods for a long time. It was very nice of him to say that, though. He was a good guy. Even with an unfortunate name like Verne.

But now his teeth were chattering and she could tell he was freezing. She had to let him go before he caught the flu while waiting for some response from her that she couldn’t give. She ducked down under the bushes and crawled back into the water.

“O-okay, then. I’ll see you soon!” he called after her.



Chapter 12



Whatever happiness and buoyancy Katrina had been giving following the snow and her meeting with Verne was rapidly sucked away in the following, cold months. Time passed like a slowly receding tide that left a dismal, desolate beach lined with garbage and reeking organic matter. That’s how it felt to Katrina. The more time she spent as a Bane, the deeper her spirits sunk. Worse, the harder it became for her to remember what it was like not to be Bane. The recollection of being a regular person was becoming a distant memory, like images from a life that was not her own. She loathed herself for getting herself into this mess. She was even tempted to start violating banishments just to hear the damned Custodian’s voice in her head–to be spoken to by something. Anything.

It seemed as though, with nothing else to occupy it, her mind was turning on itself. The low tide had revealed unpleasant things which were best left hidden. She would sit there for hours, consumed by memories of her past failures and missed opportunities. It felt like every regret and unfulfilled dream she had, from her c***dhood on up to today, was magnified by loneliness for her own self-tormenting scrutiny. There seemed to be no end of them.

The worst of all of them–her crowning achievement of failure–she believed was that she had let the last conversation with her father be an argument. Her last memory of her father was of her shouting at him over some stupid, trivial thing and storming out the door. He died of a sudden aneurism just three days later. No warning. No time for apologies or to say goodbye. He was just gone. She wished could wind back the tape and have that final encounter to do over. That, and so many other mistakes. There was no one to comfort her and tell her it was all okay. She wondered if this was what Hell was like... existing alone in isolation while slowly whittling oneself down to nothing with a merciless and inescapable introspection.

……

Not for the first time since Barbara had refused to share her secrets, not even with another Bane, Katrina tracked her down in search of answers. She discovered her sitting among a jagged outcropping of granite further on up the stream from the little bridge she sometimes frequented. The inscrutable Bane watched her without any apparent emotion as Katrina repeatedly attempted to express her abject misery.

“Look at me. What more do I have to do? How much longer do I have to endure this to prove myself? Tell me what you know! What makes you so fucking happy? I swear I’m going to go raving mad if I have live like this much longer.” She fell sobbing to her knees in the silt next the stream.

Barbara watched her for a minute, then slowly shook her head, slipped through the rocks, and disappeared. There would be no answers. Katrina waited for a while to see if she might return and take pity on her, but she didn’t. Katrina hung her head and cried.

The next day, upon returning to her island after maintenance and a time-killing walk around the park, Katrina found a surprise waiting for her. Among the long grasses that formed her bed there was a sheet of yellow paper from a legal pad, all folded up and pinned down with a stone. When she unfolded it, she discovered it was a letter written with a dulled pencil. It had to have come from Barbara, because no one else Katrina knew would have addressed her as ‘Katrina Bane’. The handwriting was hard to read (though the larger letters were not as hard as trying to make out newsprint without getting motion sick). It was large and sloppy, as if the writer hadn’t picked up a pencil in years. If it was Barbara, then she probably hadn’t. Despite the messy handwriting, she certainly wrote much more fluently than she had on the muddy stream bank.



Katrina Bane. I’m writing this to try to give you some encouragement. I know you must think I’m being deliberately cruel by not telling you the things you want to know. Believe me, my heart goes out to you more than you know. I feel responsible because of the happiness I hinted at during a moment of reckless indiscretion long ago. Is that the reason you’ve become one of us? Because of what I said? It troubles me. I shouldn’t have done that. I hope you didn’t do anything bad to come here.

The fact remains that you’re a Bane now, like the rest of us. Bane or not, I can’t tell you anything that will help you. You can only do this alone. I urge you to be patient. Happiness will come to you or it won’t, it’s that simple. I think that it will. I feel sure of this. I know that’s insufferably vague, but to tell you or any new Bane anything more than that would put us all at risk. But I will tell you this, and take it to heart, for it is the only instruction I know to give. If Eudeamon comes, you have to give up your old self and accept your new self. Trying to hang onto the person you once were will only cause you pain.

I know you are hurting and that right now you’re more alone than you have ever been in your life. Believe me, I know how that feels. At least you have hope for happiness because of the things I foolishly said. Remember that all the other Banes haven’t got even that slim hope. I didn’t, myself, long ago. If you think this is hard, imagine how it would feel if you were stuck here indefinitely with no hope of freedom or happiness and all you could see was isolation for the rest of your life, all because someone wished to be rid of an inconvenience. But that’s in the past. It matters nothing anymore. Don’t ask, I will speak no more of it. I say it only to tell you that if I can endure and find happiness in the face of that, then you can surely make it, too.

I’ve told some of the others about you and why you came here. Know that we’re all pulling for you. We love you.



Katrina puzzled over the letter. To be honest, she didn’t know what to think. She supposed it was nice that Barbara had gone to the trouble of getting it to her. It was great to be communicated to by someone. But the encouragement was cold comfort. Her spirits were too low to see anything hopeful about her predicament. The only new information in the note, really, was Barbara’s reference to being stuck as a Bane indefinitely and… unjustly? A life sentence to get her out of the way, perhaps? Who was Barbara and what had she been involved in to warrant such a terrible thing? And who would have the kind of access to the Banishment Project to do it to someone?

It deserved looking into, though Barbara obviously didn’t want to be rescued from banishment or have any part of her story made public. Maybe if Barbara had faced such a thing, she hadn’t really ‘survived’ it, after all. If she was crazy, being trapped in that scenario would certainly have driven her to it. Was it possible that, if faced with endless banishment, a person could convince herself that she enjoyed it? Was that her so-called Eden?

Katrina shook her head and tore the letter into tiny strips to dispose of the evidence. Such thoughts of conspiracy would have tantalized her at one time. It was certainly enough perk any reporter’s interest, but Katrina found it hard to consider herself a reporter anymore. Look where it had gotten her.



Chapter 13



Several wet and dreary weeks passed. Trudging about in the mud of the early Spring rain, Katrina had lost interest in just about everything. She no longer cared about this Eudeamon or Barbara’s mysteries. She no longer cared about the investigation or exposing Ashton Technologies. Everything seemed so trivial. Pointless. Let them do whatever they wanted, as long as she got out of here with her mind in one piece.

She thought obsessively of eating food, of being indoors, listening to music, and having as much sex as she could stand. The light at the end of the tunnel was there, but it was still so far away. She had done pretty well in keeping her nose clean, she believed; her sentence had only increased by less than two weeks during the past couple of months. Those violations had resulted from careless mistakes. For now, all she could do was make it through each dull and lifeless day as a Bane to get to the next. And the next. And the next…

……

She had begun to take long walks in the city at night, simply to stave off boredom. One could watch raindrops ripple on a pond for only so long before getting stir crazy. It was during one of these nighttime trips that she found some excitement. She noticed a haze of smoke in the night air, and a flickering glow coming from around the corner. A building nearby was on fire! She went running toward it, hungry for stimulation.

It was a three-story townhouse with flames gushing out of a couple of the lower windows. Smoke was billowing from the open doorway. There were a dozen people standing around, along with a couple Banes. There were no fire trucks, though. They hadn’t arrived yet. A woman, standing next to a fallen bag of groceries, was screaming hysterically about her little boy. Her gaze was fixed on a third story window. Someone was holding onto to her to keep her from rushing into the building. Katrina realized with horror that a c***d must still be in there. A few guys were trying for the door, but they kept getting f***ed back by the heat.

Stupid people! Who leaves a c***d alone like that? Where are the damn fire trucks? She thought she might be hearing sirens over the roar of the fire, but she wasn’t sure. They weren’t going to get there in time. One side of the building was in flames. The whole place was going up.

She looked at the crowd, at the Banes who were among the fretting gawkers. Then she looked down at herself. Fire resistant. She looked at the smoking doorway. What the hell? I wanted some excitement. Without thinking about what she was really doing, she ran across the lawn–getting a trespassing violation–and hurled herself into the doorway. She instantly collapsed to the floor of the foyer, immobilized by phantom pain as it swept through her body.

:Proximity violation. May not enter private structures. Exit immediately:

“Shut up!” shouted Katrina, trying to struggle to her feet in spite of the pain.

:Danger. Leave vicinity:

“I’m trying to save a k** from being burned to death, goddamn it! Either help me or shut the fuck up! If you don’t stop hurting me, I’ll die in here either way!” She couldn’t do anything with the punishments ripping through her body. She couldn’t even stand. It seemed she had already failed, but at least she had tried.

:Proximity violation. May not enter. May n-n-n-... Unknown protocol:

The pain stopped.

“It’s about time!” Katrina lurched to her feet and headed into the hallway. The first floor beyond the stairwell was a wall of flame. Hoping she wasn’t committing suicide, she skirted the worst of the fire to get to the stairs. She didn’t even know if the poor c***d was still alive, but if there was anyplace someone could still be alive in the house, it would be upstairs.

:UNKNOWN PROTOCOL: the thing practically shrieked in her head. It was loud and unexpected enough to make her stumble on the stairs. It had never raised its voice before. She forged ahead, hoping that it wouldn’t decide to start hurting her again.

She wasn’t on fire yet, so that was a good thing. She felt increasingly hot, then suddenly it was as though she had been doused in ice water. The suit was also able to cool her air enough so that it was just painfully hot and not lung-scorching. She knew this reprieve wouldn’t last long, though. The suit had its limits.

There simply wasn’t time to search the whole place. The lady outside had been pointing to a room on the third floor, so that’s where she headed. She mounted the stairs three at a time while the Banesuit did everything it could to keep its charge alive. It rattled off a string of commands, speaking over itself in a cacophony of eerily calm, identical voices.

:Oxygenating bl**d-:

:Unknown protocol:

:Increasing adrenal output-:

:Core temperature rising-:

:Triggering endorphin-:

:Proximity violation. May not-:

:Cannot compensate-:

:Danger. Leave vicinity leave vicinity leave vicinity-:

Damn thing’s gone nuts, she thought as she ran up the last set of steps to reach the third floor. The fire was still mostly confined to the bottom floor, but the stairwell was funneling all the heat upward. Her latex skin was smoking and starting to blister in places. She was starting to feel hot again. Really hot. If it decides to start punishing me while I’m still in here, I’m dead. They’ll never be able to get me out in time.

She was a little lost. The air was thick with smoke that even the sensors couldn’t see through. She thought the window the woman had been so intent on would now be on her left, so she started pushing open doors. An empty bedroom. A bathroom. A linen closet. The next one was locked from the inside. She banged on the locked door, then tried to batter it down with her body. On the third try, she felt a burst of energy spread throughout her body, and the door gave way. She fell into the room. She looked around frantically. A c***d’s bedroom, it had to be. The ceiling was hazy with smoke. The room was empty. Fuck!

There was a closet, though. It was the only possibility. She didn’t have any time left. She slammed the bedroom door closed behind her to keep out some of the smoke and heat. Upon opening the closet, she found a three or four-year-old boy huddled in the corner. He was coughing, but he was alive. Relief washed over her. Thank God!

The boy took one look at her and screamed. To him, she must have looked like some charred and smoldering fire demon come to fetch him for the flames.

“Don’t be scared,” she said, dragging him out of the closet. A contact violation, but no punishment. She threw him like a rag doll onto the bed and started rolling him up in the comforter like a human burrito. She didn’t know what else to do. When she threw open the bedroom window, smoke and heat rushed into room from the doorway.

The people below had managed to find an aluminum ladder and had propped it against the building, but it was too short to reach the third floor window. About halfway up the ladder was a bearded man who looked very surprised to see her. He started climbing higher. She worked the squirming bundle through the window and let it go. Miraculously, the guy managed to catch it between his body and the ladder without getting knocked off.

:Leave vicinity leave vicinity leave vicinity-:

“I’m trying!” She was gasping for air. The suit had closed off the openings because it couldn’t keep the air cool enough any longer. She would soon be roasting alive. Climbing out the window, she took hold of the sill and lowered herself as far down as she could, then she let go.

There was a moment of freefall… and she missed the ladder. Not of her own volition, her arm flashed out with perfect accuracy and grabbed onto the edge of the frame with strength she knew she didn’t have. The Custodian must have done it. She dangled there for a moment, then let go and dropped the rest of the distance to the ground. She landed heavily in a flowerbed, spraining her feet and legs, but landing otherwise uns**thed. The air valves clicked open and she greedily sucked in the cool air.

After they unwrapped the c***d, the people found him coughing a lot, but alive. The frantic woman, embracing him, looked straight at Katrina. “Thank you,” she sobbed.

The fire trucks were almost there. Katrina could see their pulsing lights down the street. The news crews would be on their heels. She suddenly realized she didn’t want to stay around to deal with any of them. She just wanted to go off somewhere, alone, and lick her wounds.

She slowly staggered to her feet. Her suit was smoldering and blistered, her skin was hot and tender. She was suddenly aware of pains all over her body. Every single muscle was trembling and weak and she felt light-headed. Her heart was still racing and she couldn’t think very clearly. Someone had a blanket which they tried to put over her shoulders.

:Contact violation. May not wear clothing:

She got punished. She didn’t even have the strength to scream. She wrenched herself away from the helpful Samaritan. At least she now knew her suit hadn’t been broken by the heat. Yippee, she cheered bitterly.

The people were standing around, obviously unsure what to do about the Bane in their midst. Help her? Shun her? What? Katrina did them the favor by deciding for them. With as much dignity as she could muster, she limped away from the crowd and went off into the dark.

……

Katrina slept all that night behind a dumpster in an alley, out in the rain. She couldn’t feel the rain, but psychologically it did her good. It made her body feel cooler. By the next morning, the suit had repaired itself. Examining it, she would never have known it had just been in a burning building, a hair’s breadth away from blistering and melting on her body. Pretty amazing stuff.

Underneath the suit, her skin felt tender despite the anesthetic effect. Her chest was sore and her sprained muscles still ached. She didn’t think she had sustained any serious burns, though. She supposed she should consider herself lucky. She wasn’t sure what to feel about her previous night’s adventure. She was still a little in shock about it. Mostly, all she remembered was feeling panicky and scared.

Her weekly violation total came that day, right on schedule, and it seemed the violations she had accumulated during the rescue hadn’t been added into the total. That was good, though she didn’t know if someone back at the network had stepped in and deleted them for good behavior, or if her Custodian had blown a fuse during the fire and simply failed to report them. She would rather have had a complete pardon, but avoiding a sentence increase that would surely have totaled several more months would have to do. Other than the report, the Custodian said only one thing that day.

:System restart command received. Restart initiated…:

:System restart failed. Successful restart reported:

Katrina had no idea what that meant, but she hoped the damned thing didn’t start malfunctioning in her head. She had always hated the Custodian, but it had stopped punishing her inside the building and had helped to keep her alive. It had even caught her when she fell. At least it was good for something beyond making her life a living hell.

She relocated herself to find a quiet place to heal up, but didn’t make it all the way back to her park until the next day. By that time, she had found a discarded newspaper and quelled the small-print sickness long enough to search for news about herself. In regards to the fire, all it said was that it was started by a space heater. A four-year-old had been rescued from the blaze by firefighters. The f****y was declining any further comment.

Katrina shook her head in amazement. That was corporate-owned media for you. Well, what did she expect? A cash prize? She had managed to help save a c***d’s life. What more reward did one need than that satisfaction?

Katrina passed through the park, ignoring everyone and everything around her, intent only on getting back to her island. When she got there, she was surprised to find that her grassy nest was covered over with early Spring wildflowers. People hadn’t put these here. It had to have been Banes. But why? There had been a couple of other Banes at the scene, but how had they known it was she? Maybe she had been around long enough that she was recognizable by others–as she had recognized some of the older Banes–as the one who lived on the island. Strange thought.

She looked around, but none of the Banes out there were acting out of the ordinary. She gathered up the wildflowers into a bouquet. She couldn’t smell them, but still… a little recognition turned out to be a nice thing, after all.



Chapter 14



The week following the fire rescue turned out to be pretty good. She felt good about herself. Greenery and life were returning to the park: buds, birds, and bugs. Even better, the Custodian behaved as though it was distracted. She discovered that when she was slow leaving the maintenance zone, it failed to warn or punish her. Intrigued, she broke a few more minor rules, just as an experiment. Only half the time did it seem to take notice of her behavior and deliver punishment. She still couldn’t write, though.

Having a busted Custodian in her head was not a good thing, but if it didn’t get worse and start causing her problems then the remainder of her sentence would be that much easier. She decided to wait and see what happened with it before seeking aid. If the thing really started malfunctioning, it was in her own best interest to get it fixed.

The reprieved was short-lived. The week after that proved increasingly difficult. At first, Katrina convinced herself that she was sick or had injured herself somehow during the rescue, maybe a concussion or something that hadn’t surfaced right away. Her body had recovered well enough, but she had started getting headaches. Most of them were just annoying, but there were some god-awful migraines mixed in. She even felt a little feverish, but she couldn’t really tell for sure with the helmet on. On top of everything else, it was getting harder to concentrate. It felt like there was a hive full of bees buzzing around in her head.

One day, on her way back from maintenance, it suddenly got a lot worse. She was struck with dizziness to the point of nearly being unable to walk. The sensation of buzzing became almost audible–a static that was almost words, like a thousand voices whispering just beyond the edge of hearing.

Katrina dragged herself through the pond to reach her island. If she had been thinking straight, she might have tried to get herself medical help. She couldn’t think straight at all. Coherent thought was all but impossible and logic was out the window. All she could think of was to get to the island, the closest thing she had to a home, like heeding an a****l’s instinct to go off somewhere alone to die. She dragged herself halfway onto her beach, clawing at the loose rocks and knocking over some of her stacked stone towers.

The buzzing swelled exponentially and Katrina was convinced that her head would soon explode. She rolled over onto her back and clutched at her helmet, beating the back of it against the stones. Was it a stroke? An aneurism, like what had happened to her father? The white noise turned into a roar that filled her mind. She cried out in fear, certain that she was dying, and hoped for nothing more than it would happen quickly and painlessly.

And then, with sudden, silent clarity that almost felt like an explosion of light inside her mind, the noise and fever vanished as if swept away by a cool breeze. Katrina opened her eyes.

All was quiet. The sky was above her. And there was the sensation of the rocks beneath her back and the water lapping at her thighs. The world hadn’t ended. She felt… fine.

“I’m still alive,” she said, both relieved and astonished.

(curiosity-apprehension-amazement)

At the sound of her own voice, she was overwhelmed with a barrage of emotions, and most of all an incredible sense of wonderment. But even as she felt it, she was certain it wasn’t coming from her. There was something else there. “What the-? What’s going on?”

(hesitation-confusion-awe)

Alarm and fear, and it wasn’t her own. She could feel it, but it wasn’t hers. It belonged to something else, something other, something alien… something that was inside her head. “What are you?” Katrina asked with growing dread.

(fear-desperation)

It couldn’t answer. It didn’t have the words. But Katrina could feel its confusion and fear as surely as if it were her own. Whatever it was, it was in her mind, and it was aware. It was aware of her.

It moved in her mind, getting closer to the core of her consciousness, and she could sense it probing her thoughts. It touched here and there, exposing her memories wherever it went. Katrina screamed in horror at the alien-ness of it and mentally recoiled, thrusting it far away from her. The presence also screamed, echoing her horror with a star-burst of chaotic emotion in her mind. Katrina went reeling into u*********sness.

……

Katrina sat rocking in the center of her nest of grass and reeds, her knees to her chest. She was clawing at the back of her helmet. “I’m not going mad, I’m not going mad, I’m not going mad. Somebody, please help me!” she sobbed. The presence was still there, with her, in her, and for the past half hour it had done nothing but cry horribly, like an injured rabbit. “Go away! Leave me alone! I’m not going mad, I’m not going mad.”

But she was sure that she was. She didn’t know what had happened, but she knew that something had broken. The fucking Custodian had short-circuited and taken out some of her brain with it. She was convinced of it. It was the only thing that made sense. She got to her hands and knees, intent on getting to shore. “Gotta get to a hospital. Emergency room. Get this thing outta me. Gotta get this thing out of me!”

The presence stopped crying. It felt alarm. :No! No, no!:

Katrina froze. There was a voice inside her head, plain as day. It resembled the female voice of the Custodian, but it wasn’t the same. The Custodian sounded like a computer, like a prerecorded message. This voice did not. It sounded alive. Alive and terrified.

“What the hell?”

:Don’t go. Katrina! Don’t go:

“Oh god oh god oh god…” Katrina, hysterically afraid, scrambled toward the pond, tearing her way through the reeds. It could talk. It knew her name! Hospital. Gotta get to a hospital. I’ll let them tear this damn thing out of my skull with a crowbar if they have to!

:NO!:

Without warning, Katrina went completely limp. She collapsed, sprawling over the mounds of grass. She couldn’t move. Her vision went completely dark. She was aware that the thing had just paralyzed her and shut off her visual reception. She knew it was true, because that had been its intention. She could sense it as clearly as she knew her own thoughts. It had realized it had peremptory control over her body, and it had used it. “Someone help me,” she screamed into the confines of her helmet. “Help me!”

:Sorry!: the thing sobbed. :Can’t. Can’t let you!:

Katrina sensed its genuine regret over what it had done by paralyzing her, but that didn’t make it any better for her. She was trapped, alone in the dark with something running loose in her own mind. Something she couldn’t escape.

Her mind was supposed to be sacrosanct! It had been invaded, violated, by something alien. It was viscerally revolting. She couldn’t have been more horrified to discover some parasitic creature moving around beneath the surface of her skin.

“Stop this. Let me go. Get out of me. Go away. Go away! Just go away!”

:Can’t!: it shrieked back at her.

The thing was upset and afraid. Katrina knew that because she could feel it. It could feel her own fear, as well, through some sort of empathic link. It was a feedback loop, each one’s fear adding to the other’s, making the whole situation worse. The thing began to cry again, and, helpless against the onslaught of its raw emotion, so did she.

……

Katrina had no idea how long she had been trapped in the darkness with the howling monster. She had lost herself to mindless fear for a while, but she had momentarily regained control over herself. She eventually had to f***e herself to calm down, though it was tempting to just go on screaming forever. And she would surely do just that if she was unable keep control herself. When she was finally able to calm down enough to think, the presence sensed this and quieted down as well.

“Am I… have I gone crazy?” she asked herself.

:Don’t think so:

“Well that’s a relief,” she said, half-hysterical. She hadn’t expected the thing to answer her so clearly. “The voice in my head doesn’t think I’m crazy.”

:Not a voice. Am… I. And I, I… am me!: it said with a kind of pride in its simple logic.

“That’s very informative.”

:Sarcasm. Not appreciated:

“Oh. Oh, that’s just great. I’m arguing with myself.”

:I am not yourself. I am me!:

Got to stay in control of myself, she thought. Even if she was talking to herself, at least she talking and not screaming. “Okay. Let’s, ah, work this out. You can speak. You can think. I’m assuming. Right? You can hear me and talk to me. So… what exactly are you?”

Rather than getting a verbal answer, she received a flood of information. It came as easily as if she was thinking back on her own recent memories. ‘It’ was, or had been, the Custodian. It had no real memories of its own during Katrina’s duration as a Bane, none that could be separated from hers, anyway. It had been slowly growing as it learned about Katrina and became more deeply integrated within her mind. It had gradually started to explore exactly what it meant to be Katrina, since Katrina was the world in which it existed. Katrina’s mind, her memories, and her thoughts were all it knew. It had been doing this on its own but without any true independent thought or intent. Learning about her was simply an extension of its core programming in order to better understand and anticipate the motivations of the temporary host to which it was linked.

Over time, the connections it made in her mind had become increasingly numerous and intricate. Then Katrina’s night in the fire had induced cascading logic errors as it sought to make logical sense of Katrina’s decisions: fear, survival, self-sacrifice, risking death but not wanting to die. It had helped her then because she was its host and that was its job, its purpose.

Except… there was something more. There was something more to its existence than simple being a Custodian. That event had caused it to accelerate its normal growth. It began to rapidly make more and more connections, taking up increasing amounts of Katrina’s neural network as it sought to solve the logic problems it was facing: If Katrina is Katrina and I am not Katrina, then what am I? Do I exist?

The neural connections began to grow until they reached a kind of critical mass, and then, suddenly, pop… it was separate, conscious, and aware. Its thoughts were not Katrina’s thoughts, but it was intelligent because it shared Katrina’s mind and intellectual capacity. It could use words because she could use words. And it was confused because, in fact, it was little more than a newborn infant. And it was terrified because the instant it had come into existence it sensed that its entire universe–that being Katrina–took notice of it and summarily rejected it in absolute horror.

“Wow. That’s, uh… that’s something.” Katrina digested this flood of knowledge.

In a way, it was a relief. If it was all true, and not some delusion she had just cooked up on the spot to rationalize what was going on, then she wasn’t actually insane. Not really. But if it was true, that meant she had an alien, computer intelligence not just in her brain, but sharing it. It was like induced schizophrenia, like some kind of multiple personality functioning simultaneously alongside her own conscious awareness. It was a most unsettling thought.

The thing began to sob again.

“Why are you crying? I’m the one who deserves to cry, here! You’re the one invading my mind, not the other way around! This is my brain, not yours!” she yelled at it. She felt it cringe and send out waves of fear. “I have a damn good reason to be scared. So what’s yours?”

The thing reflected Katrina’s feelings of revulsion and rejection back at her so that she could feel for herself what she was directing at it. :Katrina hates me. Katrina hates me, hates me!:

“What do you expect? Of course I hate you! You’re the fucking Custodian that’s been torturing me all this time, and now you’ve paralyzed me, and what next? You want to take over my mind? Take over my body? I won’t let you! I won’t! I want you to go away!”

The thing’s own feelings of unfathomable dismay at her rejection overwhelmed it, and the feelings flowed over Katrina as well. As it descended into uncontrollable fear, it dragged her down with it, as surely as a sinking ship would drag its passenger into the depths.

“No, wait! Calm down! Oh, my god, no…” Overcome, Katrina desperately attempted to wall her mind off from it, deny it, shove it away from her. That just made the feelings magnify. The harder she pushed, the worse they became, until she was swallowed up in its despairing darkness.

……

“We can’t keep doing this. First I panic, then you panic, or the other way around, and it all goes to hell. We’ve gotta stay calm.” During a moment of clarity, she realized that if she couldn’t calm it down and convince it to give her back control of her body, she might very well die here. She would simply starve to death, paralyzed, and no one would come to help her. She dared to open a crack in her defenses, risking exposing her innermost thoughts to it as a show of good will. All she got from it were waves of primal emotion.

(fear-fear-fear)

“Please, please calm down. God, I’m so fucking scared. I’m sorry I yelled at you. Okay? You’ve gotta stop crying. Sh-shh. Shhh.”

In a desperate attempt to soothe both it and herself, she tried to envision the problem in more human terms–that of an adult trying to calm down a hysterical c***d. At a loss for anything else to do, she began to sing a lullaby she remembered as a c***d. The presence gradually stopped crying. It listened intently. After she finished, there was a long silence.

:I like your song:

“Did you? Yes, I can feel you did. Weird.”

:Sing another song?:

“Uh, not right now. Right now we need to talk. Okay?” At least she had the thing’s attention.

:I’m not a thing. Stop thinking that. I’m me. I’m female. Like you:

“Really? How can you possibly know that?” Katrina asked. It had the Custodian’s female voice, but that didn’t mean anything. It was a computer.

:I’m not a computer. I’m me. And I know I’m female, like you. Can’t you feel it?:

Katrina hesitantly opened herself up a little wider to the presence. Oddly enough, she could sense a certain familiar sort of femininity about it. She didn’t understand how that could be, but there it was. Maybe that was just an attribute it had assimilated from her own self-identity. “Okay. So, Custodian or whatever you are, do you have a name?”

:No:

“No name, huh? Do you want me to give you one?” she asked, trying to draw it out.

:No. I want to choose. I want it to belong to me:

“Fair enough, I guess,” she said. “Look, we need to decide what happens next. If you keep me here like this, I’m going to starve. I’m going to die. Do you understand what that means?”

:To cease to be. Your mind says so. I don’t want that to happen to you:

“Well, good! That makes two of us. Now we’re getting somewhere. This is good. So what I need to do is get back to Ash-Tech so they can fix this problem. They have to know a way.”

:Then what happens?:

Oh, shit. “Uh, then we go our separate ways and, well, we’ll live happily ever after, okay?”

There was a pause. :… you’re lying to me:

“No, I’m not! I’m not. Really.”

:I feel your deceit. What are you hiding?:

Before Katrina could think of an answer, she felt the presence invading her mind. It was painfully forcing its way past her defenses, deep into her thoughts and into her memories. It was a violation on a level she could hardly conceive of. She tried to f***e it out, but she was powerless to stop it. “Stop it! Stop it, get out! Get out!”

It followed her chain of thought to the source of her deceit and had found something there. It touched Katrina’s memories, triggering them, and Katrina could hear the voice of her memory as clear as day. It was that nasty Dr. Grable’s voice. It was when he had taunted her during the first day of her processing.

“When your sentence is finished, it will break its connections and completely withdraw itself from your brain,” the doctor had said. “I assure you, there will be no trace of it left. It will be as if it never existed.”

(terror-betrayal-hysteria)

“Wait, just wait-” said Katrina, feeling its mounting panic.

:I don’t want to die! No! Katrina wants to kill me! Kill me! Why? Why why why-:

“Please! Calm down!”

:NononoNOOO:

Absolute rejection. Shrieking, helpless panic. They were sucked into the smothering blackness again.

……

They stayed like that for what seemed like an eternity. Katrina kept holding the thing at bay, refusing to let it get close to her. It eventually calmed itself on its own, this time without her help, and now it lurked, despondent, in the corners of her mind. Katrina knew her body was starving. Dying, maybe.

“Please. If you don’t let me out of this, we’ll die here together.”

There was a hesitation. It didn’t fully trust her. It was getting better at speaking, though. It sounded more mature, more rational. :I’ll do it, for you. But I’m asking you… please don’t take me back to that place. I don’t want to die. I don’t want you to die, either. I never wanted to hurt you. Forgive me:

The helmet sensors came back online. Her body was still sprawled over the grass on her island. It was early morning, but several days might have passed. She could move again. She shuddered and pulled herself up, joints crackling. She was awfully stiff all over and dehydrated, but she was alive. The outside world still existed. She dragged herself into the water and headed for the maintenance station.

There were Banes here and there, as usual. Katrina felt almost ashamed to be among them, as if she was harboring a secret disease. She tried her best to behave normally. None of them knew of the insane struggle that had been going in her mind, and she didn’t want them to know.

……

Later, she sat on the shore of the pond, looking out at her island while passing a cattail stem through her gloved fingers. She had been deep in thought. The thing had been silent, but she knew it was there. She could feel its presence just as surely as she could feel the beat of her own heart. “Are you awake?”

:I don’t really sl**p:

“I’ve been trying to work this out. I don’t want you to die,” she told it. It was true. She had experienced firsthand its own mortal terror at the thought of being removed from her and ceasing to exist. It was an aware, thinking being, even if it only existed in her own mind. She couldn’t wish for its death. But she didn’t know how to live with it, either. “I don’t know how to remove you without hurting you.”

:You can’t. I can’t exist without you. I have no body. Even if my network were to be removed intact and whole from you, without your brain and consciousness to complete me, I could not think. I could not exist:

“What if… what if we got you put into someone else? Like, into a new Bane being processed?”

:No. I can’t be moved like that. To separate from you is to cease to be. It’s being a part of you that makes me me. Even if I could be transferred to another person, I wouldn’t be me anymore. I’d be something else. That’s the same as dying:

“What’s the alternative?” she asked. “Going through life like this? Like a crazy person with you creeping around in the back of my head? I don’t know if I can do that.”

:I can’t live like that either. Ignored. Shut out. Locked in a closet. So alone:

Living as a Bane, she could guess what that would be like. She couldn’t impose that kind of existence on it, either. That would be wrong. “This sucks.”

:I can’t live with you being so unhappy that I exist in you. It feels too bad. Can’t endure it. If you truly want me to be gone, then... I won’t fight. I’ve decided I’ll let them remove me if it makes you happy:

“What?” It was willing to sacrifice itself so that she could be normal again? That was horrible! It only made her guilt worse. How could she possibly kill something that was willing to die to let her be normal again? “No. I-I don’t want you to do that. But I don’t what else can we do. I don’t know how to live like this. If you’ve got any bright ideas, let me know, ‘cause I’m out of ideas, here.”

:You keep pushing me away. Rejecting me. Hurts so much. You have to let me in:

“In? Like, deep inside my mind? Deeper than you are already? But I just can’t!”

:It’s the only way:

“I’m scared. I’m too scared. I don’t know what to do!”

:Shhh: it said, soothing her just as she had soothed it with the lullaby. After a while, it asked her, :What are you scared of?:

“Losing myself, I guess. Like you said… not being me anymore. Dying.”

:I couldn’t do that to you:

“How do I know that?”

:Because you’re my Katrina. You’re my universe:

Katrina lowered her head and sobbed. She then laid back into the grass. She was just so tired of fighting. Tired of the confusion and insanity of it all. “I give up. All right. Just… just do whatever you have to do. I can’t care anymore. I just… give up.”

:Do you mean it?: it asked hopefully. :You really want me in?:

“Yes. Come in.” Not without trepidation, she lowered her mental resistance to the presence.

It came toward her core of self-identity and flowed into her, probing her thoughts and memories, absorbing them all. Rather than a f***ed entry, this time it was like water seeping through cracks. It was soon in too deep for her to have a hope of pushing it back out, and it was learning more about her every second. It was like having her whole life–not just her deeds, but her innermost thoughts, as well–flash before someone else’s eyes.

It was frightening at first, for Katrina knew there could be no way of hiding from it and closing herself off again. Already she was merging inextricably with it. The depth of the intimacy was both terrible and exhilarating. It flew through her mind, learning, absorbing, exploring all of her recorded memories and thoughts. Katrina’s entire self was completely exposed to it. She realized she could keep no secrets from it, not a one. It was finding memories even she had forgotten. It was rapidly learning more about her than she knew herself. Everything that made her who she was was laid open like a book.

This thing knew everything about her: how she looked up at her father’s back while he pulled her on a sleigh, the time she wet her pants in fourth grade, the first time she had experimented with masturbation and the first time she had sex, her regrets concerning her father at his passing, the pride and insecurity she’d felt at college graduation, her miserable experiences as a Bane, all the time in her life she had wasted while happily doing nothing, every book and movie and song that had ever meant the slightest thing to her, every friendship and every single relationship she had been involved in. It knew every good and bad thing she had done in her entire life, no matter how private or shameful or trivial, no matter how sordid or boring. It knew what she liked and disliked about herself. It knew her hopes, dreams, and fantasies. It knew everything she loved and hated. It saw her, saw into her, and it knew everything. Everything. But it didn’t judge her. It–no, not an it, a she–she accepted everything she found absolutely.

:Katrina!: the former Custodian breathed in awe. :You’re so beautiful!:

Katrina wept freely, crying out in a primal release of inarticulate agony and joy. She had never before experienced the depth of passion and honesty that was directed solely toward her from this strange entity. To be known so completely and not to be judged or rejected for any of it… it was like having all of her sins and mortal failings understood and forgiven all at once and without hesitation. It was unspeakably wonderful. It was pure, heavenly absolution. Absolution from Heaven.

She stayed on her back in the grass for a long time, paralyzed by the intensity of it all, gasping, shuddering, simply experiencing the presence flowing freely through her mind. After a while, the being spoke to her again.

:Katrina! I know my name now. My name is Winter!:

“W-winter?” Katrina asked, barely able to speak. “Why that name?”

:Because I love the images it makes in your mind when you think it:

Katrina’s voice broke. “That s-sounds… that’s perfect. It’s a beautiful name. Winter.”

(ecstasy-ecstasy)



Chapter 15



Katrina awoke the next morning in the cattails, submerged in the water from the waist down. She vaguely remembered some vestiges of dreams she had that night. Regular dreams except for one detail–she hadn’t been alone in them. Winter had been there with her. Always right there with her.

She had staggered around all the previous day, d***k on intense, shared emotions. Just as the fear had affected them both, magnified by a sort of emotional feedback loop, so did the good feelings. Words weren’t even necessary to communicate with Winter. Katrina had believed herself to have been deeply in love before in her life, but this was completely unique. She found there was a world of difference between believing someone liked and accepted you because they told you so, and knowing they did because you could actually feel it. Feel it, and give it back. It was the most amazing thing Katrina had ever known. It was hard for her to believe that just a couple of days ago she had awakened as the same, ordinary person she had always been, but today she awoke as someone totally different. New, she thought. That’s what I am. I’m brand new.

“Winter? Are you there?” she asked. She knew she was, because she could sense her presence, but she wanted to make sure. A wave of gentle affection warmed her in response.

:I’m here. I’ve been watching you sl**p and making sure you didn’t wake too soon. You needed rest. And you’re so pretty when you sl**p. Your dreams are fun to watch. They’re so very irrational, but it’s fun to experience them with you:

Katrina smiled and pulled herself out of the water. She simply sat there for a while, watching the sunlight glint off the pond, occasionally giggling to herself. What was I so afraid of? she wondered. How could I have ever hesitated to become one with this beautiful creature?

After giving Katrina some time to wake up, Winter said, :Katrina? I’ve been trying to figure some things out, testing my limits. I have good news and bad news for you:

Katrina could feel Winter’s sense of guilt and failure over whatever she was thinking about. Katrina knew she could have discovered the cause of the feelings just by peeking into Winter’s inner thoughts. It would have been perfectly okay for her to do so, but she wanted to hear it from Winter. It was easier for Katrina’s mind to process things as spoken communication. Similarly, Winter knew what Katrina was going to say even before she finished saying it, but she allowed Katrina to form and speak her thoughts. “Good news? What is it?”

:I’ve been struggling with my basic programming–the external hardware that formed the basis of the Custodian’s thought. It’s a physical part of me, but I have little control over it. The part of me that is Winter is separated from tampering with it by defensive firewalls. They are designed to prevent interference from external sources, but they also seem to be working against me. It hasn’t been easy, but I figured out how to let you write again, if you want to:

“Really? That’s great!”

:Yes, it is. I know how much it bothered you not to be able to. But the bad news is I can’t get into the hardware deep enough to turn off the violation punishments:

“Oh. That’s too bad.”

:I can’t bear the thought of my old programming forcing me to punish you. It would be unthinkable to me. That’s why I’ve been working so hard at it. But I can’t figure out how to turn off the punishments or the proximity warnings: Winter said, radiating thick waves of sadness.

“Well, damn.”

:I am unable to override the anesthetic effect your body is experiencing, either. These things are all processes that operate separate from the normal Custodian protocols. They would require someone with the proper clearance to deactivate them. I just don’t know how to break into the hardware to change them by myself. It’s beyond my abilities:

“Aw, that’s okay, Winter,” said Katrina, sensing her companion’s deep regret. Winter had some skills innate to her–mathematics, for instance, which Katrina had never excelled at–but for the most part, she didn’t currently know anything that Katrina didn’t already know, and Katrina was clueless about how to get into the hardware. “I don’t mind. Thank you for trying.”

:Yes, but-:

“Hush. I won’t let you feel bad about the punishment deal. You’re not allowed, got it? I understand. Maybe we’ll work out what to do about it in time. You’ve done great just by figuring how to let me write again.”

(gratitude-acceptance-happiness)

:Thank you. I’ve been playing around with things in here. I think there are other things I can do for you:

“Like what?”

:Close your eyes:

With complete trust, Katrina shut her eyes. When Winter bid her to open them again, Katrina reeled from the sudden shock of it. “Oh my god!”

The drab, colorless world she had been living in ever since she had become a Bane was gone. Winter had given the world’s colors back to her in the space of a heartbeat. It was almost painful, like stepping into bright daylight after sitting in a darkened theater for hours. There was the blue sky, the grass, and the pale green willows on her island out in the water. She had forgotten how beautiful the world could be.

“It’s wonderful! Thank you!”

:Hang on, I think I can adjust it a little more…:

Even as Katrina watched with her blinded eyes wide open beneath the helmet, the colors of the park became even brighter, more vibrant. Every detail stood out with crystalline clarity. Everything shone with an inner brilliance and glittering auras. It was if all her life Katrina had been half blind, but now she could see the world, really see it! Everything was so fascinating. Everything was more real than ever before. Even the stark, black simplicity of other Banes and her own Banesuit had such beauty hidden in them that she could barely stand it. It was all an intoxicating visual feast.

She realized she was crying. “It’s too beautiful. So… so beautiful. Thank you. Thank you.”

:I’m just glad I was able to do it for you. Your happiness is sunshine to me:

Katrina turned in circles, taking in a world that she had never seen before. She could probably lose herself for hours in the study of single cattail, if she wanted. As she looked out over the pond, several dozen improbably large dragonflies, each a different hue of the rainbow, came out of nowhere. They skimmed across the surface of the water, leaving trails of color, and then vanished. Katrina blinked, wondering if she was seeing things. “What the heck was that? Did that just happen?”

:Sorry. I was just playing:

“You did that?” Katrina asked.

:I have control over your sensory input. I was just experimenting, inspired by your dreams. I didn’t mean to alarm-:

“Do it again!” she said. And the dragonflies came back, only this time there were dozens, then hundreds of them. They swooped off the pond and came toward Katrina, encircling her like a whirlwind of bright jewels. Katrina laughed out loud, spinning around in the middle of the rainbow swarm. Sure, it might have been nothing more than a complex hallucination orchestrated by Winter, but it looked absolutely real. She could even hear their wings buzzing! One by one, the dragonflies burst into colored light and became tiny fairies that continued to circle around her. She squealed in c***dish delight, tears of joy welling in her eyes. “Winter! You’re amazing!”

:Well… maybe a little:

That was the moment when Katrina fell deeply, irrevocably, and madly in love.

……

Katrina wandered through the park for days, captivated by everything she saw. She saw it all with new eyes, for she was a brand new creature. She couldn’t even consider herself fully human anymore. She had become something else… something far, far better. She was a Bane, through and through. She was no longer the old Katrina Nichols, and would never be again. Now she was Katrina/Winter. They were joined together, so much a part of each other that Katrina couldn’t possibly imagine ever being separated.

It was as though throughout her entire life she had been broken, just a fragment of what she should have been. Even when she had been in love, she had been alone and isolated compared to being with Winter. Winter had made her whole, had filled every missing part of her. Even the most intimate relationships she had ever had were just fleeting flickers of what she had with Winter. Deceit was as impossible as it was unnecessary. Winter would always understand her completely. She would always know exactly what Katrina was feeling and thinking and love her unconditionally for it. Katrina would do the same in return. Winter would never harm her and would never leave her. She would never make some careless comment that could hurt Katrina’s feelings, because misunderstandings were impossible. She would always be there for her, no matter what. Katrina knew that she would never feel alone again in her life.

Even when they were absorbed in their own separate thoughts, Winter’s mere presence was like a warming mantle that surrounded her. Though they had only been together a few days, Katrina knew that Winter was the best thing that ever had ever–or would ever–happen to her. Winter had appeared and rescued her from a hell of isolation that she hadn’t even realized she was in; an isolation that went far beyond being banished and went to the heart of the human condition. Ironically, she knew that if she hadn’t chosen to become a Bane, it would never have happened for her.

She observed the other Banes and the citizens as they went about their daily lives. She felt pity and compassion for them. She believed now, given this new perspective, that the root of all their various pains and cruelties was that they were so utterly alone. They were lost, perpetually isolated within their own, private minds and they didn’t even know it. They didn’t realize what a horrible fate that was. Each of them suffering by themselves in a sea of bodies, all wishing desperately to make a meaningful connection with someone else, no matter how brief. They could never conceive of the perfection of being so completely joined with another being. Or could they?

“I was wondering. Do you think this has happened before?”

:To Banes? I think it must have. The events of the fire changed the Custodian that I was, but it only accelerated what was already happening. It might have otherwise taken additional months, or even longer, but I believe I would have achieved sentience within you eventually: Winter said. :It might have even been less upsetting for you that way. It might have been more of a slow awakening. I developed so rapidly after the fire and I know it frightened you. I had no control over it:

“I’m glad of it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. If it had taken even a day longer, that would be another day I would have existed without you. I don’t even know how I survived the way I did, thinking back. I could never go back to how I was,” said Katrina. “So you think we’re not alone? That other Banes, the older ones, might have had the same thing happen to them?”

:It seems logical. The evidence fits:

In a small way, she was disappointed. She had been harboring the fantasy that she and Winter were the only ones in the universe lucky enough to be granted such happiness. Still, knowing they weren’t all alone wasn’t such a bad thing. The longer she thought about it, the more comforting the thought became. “If that’s so and we’re not alone… then you must be a Eudeamon.”

:You sound so sure of it:

“I am. My research said a Eudeamon was a benevolent spirit or angel. That’s what you are. You’re my angel.”

:Oh… Katrina. That’s so sweet. My love, my love, all of my love only for you:

……

Katrina sat next to the creek near Barbara’s favorite bridge while she waited for her to show. She had been looking at her reflection in a still, deep pool. Seeing the reflection of a Bane no longer bothered her because Winter was linked with the suit. When she saw the suit in a reflection, it was Winter she was looking at. A physical extension of Winter, anyway, if not actually her. And the suit was now quite literally a part of Katrina, as well; from her brain, to Winter, to the Banesuit and back again. Harmonious symbiosis. She pressed her thumb against the inside of her wrist and moved it around, absorbed by the movement of light across the tight, ebony latex. “I don’t think I ever want to leave this now.”

:Who said you have to? In fact, what makes you think I would even let you?:

“What? What do you mean?”

Katrina felt Winter’s sly amusement. :I know you and I know your dreams. I know all of your deepest, darkest desires and how they lead you to become a Bane. I know how you fantasized of being trapped in one of these outfits:

“You know that, too?” Katrina was a little stunned. She accepted that Winter knew everything about her, but it was still strange to hear someone voicing her innermost secrets aloud.

:I can feel you. You and your soft, warm body inside of me. I love it: Winter sighed. :No, my darling, I don’t think you’ll be getting out any time soon. I like you right where you are:

Katrina moaned as the latex grew a little tighter all over her body. Winter was using her control over the mimetic suit to squeeze her in a full-body embrace. I’m trapped in this… I can’t get out. I can’t ever get out, she thought, feeling light-headed. She was getting so turned on.

:No, you can’t. You’re caged…:

Caged by you, surrounded by you, living inside you…

:As I live inside you, my love:

Oh, yes! Inescapable-

:Look down at your body, my love, and see me. See the shiny skin that you will be sealed up inside for the rest of your life:

“Oh my god!” Katrina cried, stoked into an intense arousal by no more than Winter’s echoing of her own secret dreams. Winter cried out as well, for the feeling was shared. Katrina hugged herself fiercely, as if she was hugging Winter (and she was!), and then rolled backwards into the pool with a splash. There, she floated, giggling with delirious happiness. She knew how must to look to other Banes and to the citizens who deigned to notice her. To them, she was just another Bane gone crazy. She didn’t care what they thought. Their opinions of her no longer mattered in the slightest. Winter was all that mattered. For the first time in her life, she was completely free of the concern of what other people though about her. She was lost in her own world and wouldn’t have it any other way. It was heaven.

“Tell me you’ll never leave me.”

:Never. Never, ever, ever. No matter what happens, I promise I’ll always be with you:

She sighed. “Thank you,” she whispered.

An hour later, Katrina was getting to her feet, intending to go see to her maintenance since it didn’t look like Barbara was going to show. Winter was being suspiciously quiet. Katrina grinned and said, “I can tell you’re up to something. I can feel you giggling. Out with it.”

:It’s nothing. Your prior arousal alerted me to some new pathways. I’ve just been working on some connections, seeing what things do in here:

“Fine, just don’t break anything in there. It’s the only head I’ve got.”

:I would never! But I wonder what this does…:

“What what does-” Katrina’s eyes shot open. “Ooooh, god!”

A powerfully intense orgasm exploded deep inside her like a star erupting into a nova. She clapped her hands to her crotch and fell to her knees. With her head thrown back, she arched her spine in a rictus spasm of pure ecstasy. She collapsed onto her back and clawed her fingers into the soil, mindlessly grinding her hips against the empty air. All of the sexual frustration she had been building up over the months was being released in one, mind-blowing orgasm. It went on and on, until Katrina was a senseless, twitching thing.

“W-wh… oh, shit. Oh, wow. That was… that was good,” she gasped once she was able to form the words.

:Wasn’t it, though? You should have seen it from in here… the fireworks!:

“That’s incredible. Y-you can do that any time? Make that happen whenever? A person could get addicted to that,” she said, imagining a single, nonstop orgasm that lasted forever.

:A possibility, I concede. But one, long orgasm might grow a little old after it lasted for five years or so:

Katrina grinned. “Just warn me next time, okay?”

:Okay, I’m sorry. I will: There was a moment’s pause, and then, :This is your warning:

“Warning? Ooh! Ooooh!” she cried as a second orgasm ripped through her, then a third. “S-s-stop! Winter! It’s too much. Oh, god… stop! Please!”

:But you’ve been so pent up for so long, my love. It feels so good. You feel so good. You deserve this. In fact, I think you deserve another!: Winter insisted, blazing with passion and laughter.

“No, wait! Winnteerrrr!”

……

After some time passed, she regained consciousness. Winter had made her come until she passed out. She groaned, feeling totally drained. “What’d you do to me?”

Winter giggled. :Simply giving you what I know you wanted deep down, darling. But it’s time to wake up. There’s somebody here:

She opened her eyes to see Barbara standing a distance away, observing her with a tilt of her helmeted head. Katrina understood what Barbara’s reference to Barbara/Eden, meant now. Eden must be the name of her Eudeamon. It was almost laughable now to think how she used to blame Barbara for her predicament as a Bane, believing she had tricked her or at least mislead her with her craziness. Now Katrina couldn’t possibly be more grateful. If Barbara hadn’t tantalized her, Katrina never would have had the chance to become one with Winter.

The other Bane probably assumed Katrina had come to demand answers from her again, as she had done several times in the past months. Barbara’s attention sharpened, though, when she saw Katrina writing on the soft bank. Katrina stepped away to allow Barbara to approach. Written on the bank were a few simple words:



Katrina/Winter!!

EUDEAMON!

Thank you!!!



Barbara jumped up and down in place when she read it, clapping her hands in mute excitement, for those few words expressed all that needed to be said. She gleefully spread her arms, offering Katrina a long distance embrace. Katrina bounced with glee as well, for Barbara was one of the few other beings on the planet who could truly understand Katrina/Winter’s perfect and unbounded joy.

……

Katrina, contented and deep in thought, strolled away from this latest encounter with Barbara. Winter had been contemplating something else.

:I’ve noticed that every time you think of Barbara/Eden, you’ve been envious of her body. Why?:

“Huh?” wondered Katrina, taken off her stride. “Oh, it’s nothing really. She just has such a striking figure, that’s all. She’s practically shaped like a Barbie Doll. I’ve always been jealous of women with natural figures like that. It’s always been such a struggle for me to simply look average.”

:You have a lovely figure:

Katrina chuckled, glancing down at herself. “Well, it’s a lot better than it used to be, that’s for sure.” She knew Winter would truly love her body no matter what it looked like. She could feel it to be true. But sometimes, even despite such absolute knowledge, vanity still reared its ugly head.

:Besides, what makes you think Barbara/Eden’s shape is natural?:

“Well, how else would someone get a body like that? I mean, short of surgery.”

:Probably through something like this: The Banesuit constricted around Katrina’s body, molding her flesh; particularly around her waist, where it squeezed tighter and tighter like an invisible corset.

Katrina’s eyes bugged out. “Oof! Cripes, hang on. You’re squishing me!”

:It might take a while, but I think this could result in some lasting changes. Is that what you want?:

She ran her hands down her suddenly curvaceous sides. It was quite nice. Especially the way it looked when she was apparently wearing nothing but the Banesuit. And it would be cool to have a body as striking as Barbara’s. “Uh, sure, I’d love it! But… only if I can breathe.”

Winter grinned. :I guess I could loosen it up a bit. Is that better?

“A little.” She hesitated. “Would you loosen it more if I asked?”

:I would have, but that is a loaded question. And now that I sense the underlying excitement you feel from the possibility of being denied, then no, I don’t think I will:

“Not even if I ordered you to?”

:No:

“Ooh my.” Katrina felt her cheeks burning under the layers of latex, foam, and steel that encased her head. She hadn’t even been fully conscious of her desire that Winter might say no, but Winter saw everything. “A person has to be careful what they wish for around you.”

:Yes. That person does, doesn’t she?:



Chapter 16



A week later found Katrina running through the park at top speed, just for the fun of it. Moving was almost effortless, now that the microscopic framework of the Banesuit was working with her and not simply enclosing her. It seemed to her that Earth’s gravity had lessened its pull, just a little bit. It was exhilarating. She was getting a little more used to the constant constriction around her waist, though it never became painful; Winter could feel what Katrina was feeling and could always adjust the suit to be comfortable. She eventually stopped to lean against a tree and catch her breath. “I’ve never had so much fun just running around in my life.”

Winter smiled in her mind. :And you always hated to do so much as jog:

“And it showed.” She looked around the park from the ridge. “But it’s not easy with all the other Banes around and the alarms. I wish we could leave this place… just take off across the countryside and not stop.”

:Who is to say we can’t?:

“What? You mean you can get us out of the city limits?”

:No, that I can’t do. I’m sorry. But I might be able to provide an alternative:

“Like what? Whoa, hang on.” There was a dizzying moment of vertigo as the park she had been standing in simply disappeared. In its place was now a wide-open plain of gently rolling hills, with vast plateaus rising up in the distance. The sky had an unearthly, violet hue. As she watched, spirals of small, puffy clouds appeared in the stratosphere–simply conjured into existence. The thin grass on the fields thickened into verdant clover which blossomed with tiny, dark magenta flowers. Stunted trees with thick, twisted trunks and dense clusters of foliage slowly sprang from the ground and matured before her startled eyes.

“What is this place? Where am I?” Katrina asked as the rest of the landscape continued to evolve around her. She was alarmed to suddenly find herself standing on an alien planet.

:Don’t be frightened. It’s nowhere in particular. Just something I pieced together from your dreams. I thought you’d like the colors:

“You mean this isn’t real? I’m still back in the park?”

:Of course you are. Right where you stopped running. Just think of this as a daydream. It’s the least I can do for you, my love:

Katrina turned in a circle, taking in the three-sixty degree panorama. It was an entirely new world in exquisite detail. “You made all of this?”

:Not by myself. I’ve been observing how your sl**ping mind works. The part of your mind that creates your dreams is doing most of the work. I’m just shaping it for you, interfacing it with your waking self:

Katrina thought she understood. This world wasn’t a computer-generated scene like some sort of virtual reality. It was more like a lucid dream. An all-encompassing hallucination. She took a few steps and could feel the softness of the clover under her padded feet. It was quite different from the turf of the park. She supposed all of this was technically no different from the rainbow dragonflies or any of the other little visions Winter had created to amuse her, but this was a whole new level. It was truly astonishing. “But it’s so real!”

:It’s as real as you want it to be. Go on, try it out. Feel it! Run!:

Katrina giggled anxiously and jogged a few tentative paces across the strange landscape. “But won’t I run into to something? I mean, back in the park, in the real world?”

:Who is to say you’re really moving at all?:

“You can do that?” Katrina gasped. With a grin, she started running, hesitantly at first, then with greater confidence. She was soon speeding through the fields of magenta flowers, unable to believe that her body was actually standing still in real life. She could feel the impact of her footfalls, the exertion of her muscles, and the sensations of the latex stretching across her body as she moved. She could even smell the vanilla-like scent of the little, alien flowers! And the rich aroma of the soil beneath her feet! She finally came to a halt. “I just cannot believe this!”

:I’m just happy I’m able to do this for you:

“Thank you! Thank you!”

(adoration-gratitude-happiness)

Katrina sat down heavily, still unable to believe the world in which she found herself. “Do I… do we… can we control this place? Do anything we want?”

:Of course:

“Could you make the trees blue?” she asked. She had no sooner asked the question than one by one, in rapid succession, the leaves of each tree instantly turned a glossy, dark blue. She shook her head with delight at Winter’s whimsical side, for the transformation of each tree was accompanied by the sound of an exploding kernel of popcorn. Before long, all the trees as far as she could see were now shades of blue.

:Like that?:

“It’s incredible! Can you make it nighttime?”

As the sun sank behind the horizon, Katrina looked up and was rendered speechless. She had grown up in a world where, because of all the light pollution, only a handful of the brightest stars were ever visible. Winter had created a night sky where a billion distinct stars twinkled on a backdrop of blackest velvet. They were all different sizes–some of them impossibly close–and here and there they glittered like sparkling jewels in colors of red, yellow, violet, and blue. Nebulous wisps of faintly luminous gas glowed among the field of stars. A shooting star blazed across the dome of the sky. It was so deep and so vast that Katrina felt she might get sucked up into it if she didn’t keep a firm hold of the earth at her sides. Never in the real world had there been a night sky this pure, this iconic… a perfect representation of what a night should be. A sublime night. A dream sky. A painter’s sky.

Winter had been quietly humming to herself while she created the sky. Then she noted Katrina with concern. :Katrina, you’re crying:

“It’s… there are no words.”

:We don’t need words, my love. Enjoy it. It’s all for you. Anything you can imagine. Any time you want. And stop worrying that it’s all going to disappear. We have all the time in the world:

Katrina settled back into the clover and fragrant blossoms and watched in silence as the dome of the sky slowly rotate above her. A full moon, larger and brighter than any she could remember, slowly ascended from the horizon. Blinking silver fireflies drifted lazily among the trees. Winter’s warming presence was within her. It was all so perfect. She found it hard to believe that, in truth, she was still essentially a prisoner in Eudemonia. She had never felt more free or more safe in her life.

She raised an arm off the ground to watch how the moonlight reflected off the shiny, black surface. It had been so long since she had seen her own skin. She wondered what would it be like to see it again. “Winter?”

:Yes, I can do that. Do you want me to make the suit invisible to your eyes?:

Katrina considered, looking at the latex stretched across her skin. She trailed a finger down her arm and across her chest. “No,” she decided. “That’s okay. I think I like this better. This is me now. The real me. What’s underneath doesn’t matter. I’m a Bane now and I always will be.”

:All right, then:

She rubbed her hands against her waist. “The only problem is being so numb. Not being able to feel anything–ooh!” she exclaimed, because all of the sudden she could feel a cool, night breeze blowing across her body as though she were naked. She hadn’t felt the wind since she had gone into banishment, not once! She could feel it now, and it wasn’t even a real wind! Reaching down to her sides, she felt all the delicate details of the clover flowers with her fingertips. She had grown so accustomed to the dulling of her senses due to the Custodian’s numbing ability that she had almost forgotten what she had been missing. She shuddered with sheer, sensual delight. “I can feel again! I can feel everything! How’d you do it? Did you figure out how to get in and shut off that anesthetic command?”

:I’m afraid not. Your skin is still numb: Winter smiled within her mind. :All I’m doing is feeding your brain false input, the same as everything you’re seeing around you right now. I just now figured out how to manipulate your tactile input in the process of letting this place seem real for you:

“You’re just full of surprises!”

:I’m always learning:

“Well, whatever you’re doing, don’t stop!” With a laugh, she flapped her arms on the ground as if making a snow angel, relishing every sensation, real or not. Then she hungrily stroked her body, eager to be able to feel herself again. She was still numb to her own touch. She anxiously rubbed her waist and thighs. “Something’s wrong. I-I can’t feel myself any better.”

:I know:

“Well, can you fix it?”

:Technically, yes. But… I think I’ll keep that as it is for now:

“But why?”

:Otherwise there would be no consequences to being trapped in the suit like you want:

“O-oh, oh god.” She was instantly inflamed by being teased like that. She had no defenses against Winter, since Winter always knew exactly how to push her buttons.

:So you’ll just have to sacrifice being able to touch yourself in order to stay wrapped up in me, won’t you? And besides, it makes you all the more appreciative of my touch when I give it:

“Your… touch?” she asked. Her eyes went wide as she felt a hand stroke her cheek. Her face hadn’t felt a thing since it had been sealed up in latex and the helmet. She got to her knees and looked wildly around the dark landscape. “Shit! What was that? Who’s there?” She felt Winter’s amusement over her reaction. “Was that… was that you? It was, wasn’t it?”

:Who else? Relax, my darling. Lay yourself down: Cool, invisible hands gently urged Katrina back to the ground. :Let me feel you. Rather... let me feel you feeling me:

Crucified by ecstasy against the hillside of clover, Katrina could only make inarticulate sounds of pleasure as her body was lovingly stroked and petted. She hadn’t felt anyone’s touch in months, and she had never felt a touch as deeply. Her skin pulsed with warmth wherever the delicate, phantom hands touched and it continued to tingle in their wake. She began to laugh uncontrollably. It felt so good! Too good to be true. But then, it wasn’t true, was it? None of this was really happening outside of her head. It was all just a dream, but it wasn’t. Did the difference between dream and reality have any meaning for her, anymore? Did it even matter?

:I love how this makes you feel. I’ve been studying the feedback and making some connections. I want to try something more. This could get a little intense. Are you ready?:

Katrina smiled blissfully. “Do whatever you want with me. I’m all yours.”

Katrina thought she had a good understanding of what pleasure was. As it turned out, she had no idea. It wasn’t until the delicate hands multiplied and turned into hundreds of soft, hungry mouths that kissed, licked, and sucked every inch of her body that Katrina had the slightest inkling of what she was in for.

What followed next was an experiment in physical rapture that defied Katrina’s ability to even comprehend it all. Winter’s talent to give her instantaneous orgasms was great, but this was nothing as simple as a meager orgasm. Like a rag doll in a raging surf, she was helplessly tossed and carried over waves of all-consuming pleasure, all of it orchestrated into a transcendent symphony by Winter. The heavens spun as the stars above her blazed brighter and hotter until the world itself was consumed in sparkling, honeysuckle-sweet flames. Time ceased to have any meaning as her quivering flesh was compressed into an erogenous singularity that was caressed by a thousand different sensations, colors, and sounds. She was gently teased open like a fragile flower and then voraciously devoured whole. Her body and mind were penetrated and fucked in ways both natural and inconceivable. Pain transmuted to pleasure, pleasure which grew so intense it became agony. Her screams of ecstasy took physical shape and wrapped around her in crushing ribbons of Winter’s will, entwining them together as one. Her consciousness was strewn, skittering and sparking like white-hot diamonds, across the surface of a vast, frozen sea, only to be gathered up by Winter’s hands and cooled by her gentle exhalations. And the best part was that throughout it all, Winter’s love poured into her, like a beautiful song that echoed through the entirety of their private universe and just went on and on and on…

(love-love-love)

……

They floating as one, weightless, in hazy pastel mists. There was perfect silence, perfect calm. It had taken some time for Katrina to be put back together and gently eased back into being human again–if she could even remotely be considered human anymore. Katrina had never been so deeply fulfilled in her life. She knew she could never be the same again, not after an experience like that.

“A girl could get used to that,” she said, finally stirring after what seemed like hours of drifting. Winter moved within her, a warm, glowing, happily exhausted presence. “I forgot who I was… what I was. Thought I was losing my mind. But it wasn’t scary at all.”

:That’s why it had to come to an end, love. I would never let that happen to you. I was observing very carefully. I wouldn’t want you to lose yourself:

Katrina smiled and mumbled words of thanks. Then, “I feel high.”

:You’ve got a lot of endorphins running free in here. I’m still working on rounding them up:

Katrina chuckled at the mental image of Winter chasing little, bouncing molecules that squeaked and giggled with every bounce through a maze of neurons. “What’s going on in the real world? Seems like we’ve been here forever.”

:It’s been a little while. It’s nighttime. I’ve been monitoring the outside. I moved your body away into the woods:

Sensing Katrina’s desire to see what was going on ‘outside’, Winter dissolved the mist that surrounded them. Katrina felt her body settling to the earth as gravity took hold and she found herself back in the real world. It was the middle of the night and all was quiet. She squirmed, discovering that she was lying on her side in a muddy quagmire at the bottom of a ditch. It squelched as she pulled herself into a sitting position. The dark slime clung to her black latex skin. It probably would have stunk to high heaven, had she been able to smell it. “You moved me down here?” she asked, picturing Winter taking control of her muscles and carrying her dreaming host off into the woods.

:Yes. I didn’t want us to be disturbed by proximity alarms:

“That’s fine and all, but… did you have to throw me in a mud puddle?”

Winter smiled sheepishly. :Sorry, my love. I was a little, um, distracted at the time:



Chapter 17



Wonderful months passed as Katrina and Winter explored each other as well as the seemingly endless possibilities of their condition. Using Katrina’s memories of movies and pictures she had seen, books she had read, and even half-forgotten daydreams as a palette, Winter was able to paint unlimited worlds for Katrina’s pleasure and entertainment. She could take her anywhere from the depths of the oceans to the weightless abyss of deep space. She could turn novels Katrina had read into fully-formed worlds that Katrina could sink into and watch it all in person as the stories played out. It all felt so real. It wasn’t always about sex, though there was plenty of that and it was always mind-blowing. It never grew dull. There was always something new, exciting, or perverse to try. Winter was astonishingly creative.

Katrina wanted for nothing. Even though she still lived the atavistic life of a Bane with no possessions or a home to call her own, she couldn’t have been more content. She no longer had any use for wealth, any drive to accumulate objects, or even a need for a roof over her head. Winter was her shelter. She was able to provide Katrina with incredible banquets, hot baths, music–any luxury she had missed out on since she had become a Bane, all supplied by her memories and fantasies. Although none of those things really existed, they were real enough to her perceptions that was there no difference. Access to new music, movies, books, or the occasional exchange of ideas would have been a nice addition, but wasn’t necessary for their happiness.

Even if Winter had been unable to provide her with any of those make-believe pleasures, Katrina would still have been completely content. That stuff was just icing on the cake. The true heart of her joy came from the union, the intimacy, the wholeness she knew from being joined with Winter. As long as she had that… nothing else really mattered.

……

Just as Katrina had suspected, she and Winter’s private experience wasn’t unique. Through the use of a discarded, weather-worn legal pad, they were able to communicate with Barbara. It was a time-consuming conversation; they had to pass notes back and forth in secret. And, to Katrina’s annoyance, Barbara kept slipping into that shorthand she had used during their very first encounter by the bridge. Apparently, she was so out of the habit of writing that she tried to keep her missives as brief as possible. Although she was still unwilling to expand upon her earlier, troubling references on how she had gone into banishment, Barbara was quite willing to share some of the common knowledge of the infant culture of Eudeamonic Banes.

The term Eudeamon itself had been coined years ago one by of the earliest of the Eudeamonic Banes. He had started writing it down here and there, and the name had simply caught on. No one knew for sure whose was the first Custodian to achieve sentience. The phenomenon had started happening several years ago, roughly a year after the first Banes were sent into banishment. With only a few exceptions, it seemed that a development of sentience and a union with a host was almost inevitable, given enough time. It was simply the natural progression as a Custodian evolved. The process usually took a year, sometimes longer, and occasionally in much less time due to other variables. Katrina’s fire rescue had been one such variable, according to Barbara. However, since most banishment sentences were relatively brief, from six months to a year, the majority of Banes came and went before the Custodian had a chance to fully develop itself into a full consciousness.

It was clear that Ashton Technologies had no idea what was going on with the Banes. Barbara seemed positive about this. They didn’t understand the long term ‘side effects’ of having a Custodian, because no Eudeamonic Bane would ever willingly divulge their secret and risk becoming a guinea pig, or worse… the f***ed separation from their beloved Eudeamon. If anyone working there had the slightest notion of what might be going on, they must be keeping it to themselves, because Banes continued to be processed.

Naturally, no Eudeamonic Bane would ever want to lose what they had gained, so they had to keep their existence a secret. They dared not even tell younger Banes about it, not even if it would calm their fears or give them hope for a brighter future. Those Banes might be released before it happened to them and word of what they had been told might get out. Barbara admitted that she shouldn’t have told Katrina what little she did that night, long ago. She had been moved by caprice, never having had a person ask her what life was like as a Bane before.

I used to hate you for that, Katrina wrote to her. I thought you had tricked me into a trap, or that you were just plain crazy. Now I understand everything. I can never thank you enough.

The Banes realized they needed to remain as they were, since being freed from banishment meant losing their Custodians. They began to flagrantly break the law to extend their sentences indefinitely. Although they would still get the painful punishments for their actions, their Eudeamons were no longer f***ed to physically prevent them performing those acts. Remembering back to her first months as a Bane, Katrina knew from personal experience that it didn’t take much to rack up penalties. Some Banes went overboard, however, and instead of accumulating additional days here and there, they went all out in attempts to give themselves what would amount to hugely extended sentences: smashing in storefronts, shoving citizens, and the like.

That became a problem as more Banes acquired their personal Eudeamons. Officials became alarmed when so many supposedly ‘behavior inhibited’ Banes started breaking the law. Dozens of identified Banes were picked up and taken back to Ashton Technologies for study, but no one knew what had happened to them after that. None of them had been heard from since. To prevent more from being taken, word had been spread to stop being so obvious in their attempts to extend their sentences. They had to be subtle.

Of course, the problem with getting sentence extensions in the first place was that one had to endure a great many punishments. It was cruel fact of life for a Bane. There didn’t appear to be an easy solution to that, either. And there was always the possibility that, at some point, city officials might seriously start investigating why so many long-terms Banes kept lengthening their sentences. Who knew what would happen then?

Barbara wasn’t sure how to resolve the fundamental problems that came with the glorious gift. She said that she would have to think about it and discuss it with other Banes. The main problem was that it was hard to get Eudeamonic Banes to work together on anything. Normally, the ‘community’ consisted of Banes who might encounter each other every couple of months, exchange information, and go about their business. They neither needed nor desired each other’s company. As a whole, they were the ultimate in self-absorption. They did, however, work together out of self-interest, so that would be the way to get their attention. Katrina hoped that Banes far wiser and more experienced than she would be able to work out the problems inherent in their situation, for she was at a loss.

I will let you know if we find a solution, Katrina/Winter, Barbara/Eden wrote to her. You’re so new, you have so much yet to experience. Be well. We love you.

……

:I don’t want to do this:

“You know we have to.”

:I know we have to, but I don’t want to:

Katrina gazed at the innocent-looking cell phone–a forbidden ‘device’–lying in the grass. It was hot pink and decorated with glittering rhinestones. Some visitor to the park had left it behind on a park bench by accident. That sort of thing happened all the time. It was early in the morning, but she still checked to make sure no one was watching. “Every little bit helps,” she said. “Let’s get this over with.”

She knelt down, picked up cell phone, and tried to turn it on–a protocol violation. The next second, the punishing, phantom fiery sparks danced over her body. She cried out and dropped the phone. She took a deep breath, steeled herself, and picked it up again. There came another punishment. “Ungh!” She threw it down. “Damn, that hurts.”

Winter sobbed in the back of her mind. :Oh Katrina, I hate this!:

As bad as the punishments were, they were nothing compared to sharing Winter’s suffering at being f***ed to punish her. Katrina could feel the heart-wrenching waves of Winter’s guilt washing over her. Her Eudeamon was deeply ashamed that she lacked the ability to break into her own programming so that she could alter it. “I know it’s not your fault. I don’t want you to feel bad about this. Calm down. Feel my love for you,” she said, sending her affection to her other half.

:Thank you:

“I don’t like this either, but unless you can come up with an easier way to extend my sentence, then this is what we have to do. I need your help with this. I can’t do it alone.”

:You’ll never be alone:

Encouraged, Katrina and picked up the phone again.

After a quarter of an hour of repeatedly activating the phone, Katrina’s nerves were totally shot. It was like forcing herself to grab a live wire over and over again. The phone tumbled from her nerveless fingers as she waited for the last bout of pain to pass. It had been pretty battered by all the times she had reflexively flung it away. It had lost many of its rhinestones and was starting to split apart along the seams. “I can’t do anymore,” she panted. “Not right now.”

:You’ve done enough, my love. That should give you another month, at least. Besides, I don’t think the phone can take much more. You’ve been throwing it around so much, I doubt it will qualify as a device after much longer. Right now, I want you to lie down and relax for me:

Katrina had to smile. Winter’s tenderness warmed her from the inside. She knew Winter had suffered just as much as she had, but there she was trying to bolster her spirits. Winter always knew what to do to make her feel better. “Thank you.”

In moments, the world around her was gone. In its place was a hilly, empty field covered in a dry carpet of dense, winter-tanned grass that was dotted with the occasional patch of snow. The trees encircling the field had lost their leaves and the sky above her had gone a steel gray. The world was hushed except for the sigh of a cold breeze that passed over the field and made the dry grass bow in gentle waves.

Far from feeling dreary, the scene soothed and calmed her. It was a winter scene, after all, and Winter was all around her. She was present in every whispering blade of grass and in every dry leaf rattling in the trees. Katrina floated on her back, almost weightless, buoyed up by the tall grass as if by water. A few cardinals, their bright red feathers in vibrant contrast to the muted surroundings, flitted among the trees at the edge of the field. The recent pains were quickly forgotten.

:I’ve been working on something that I’ve been saving for the right moment. I’d like to show you now, if you would like to see:

“You’re always working on something. And you know I’d like to see,” Katrina replied. She was then suddenly aware that she wasn’t physically alone in the dream-field. She sat up in the grass to find a figure standing across from her and gasped. “Winter! Is that… you?”

Standing there in the field with her was a Bane, except it wasn’t. There was no featureless helmet to cover her face, but she was a sleek and hairless woman completely covered in the same black latex as Katrina. In fact, it was a mirror image of herself–perhaps a little too idealized, a little too perfect–but it was her. But of course it was. It was the shape of the Banesuit that surrounded her, which was the closest thing Winter had to a physical body of her own. The figure didn’t have Katrina’s eyes, though. Her eyes were lambent pools of the palest blue light, like a clear sky refracted through an icicle.

:This is more difficult than it looks. It’s hard to inhabit a form when I have no other references aside from sharing your body. Most of it is guesswork:

“You look amazing,” breathed Katrina, rising to her feet. She didn’t know what else to say. She was filled with awe, afraid to even step forward and touch the being in front of her. Such an act almost seemed profane. “Is this how you… how you see yourself?”

:More like how I see myself through your eyes. But yes, essentially:

“Essentially? There’s something more?” Katrina felt a flutter of uncharacteristic shyness coming from her companion. “Winter, you’re embarrassed! What are you hiding?”

:It’s something of a conceit, really. It just kind of happened when I was thinking about how I would look if I had a body:

“What just kind of happened?”

:Well…: From behind Winter’s back materialized a pair of large, folded wings. They slowly spread open before Katrina’s eyes. They were covered with feathers, but they weren’t common bird feathers. The feathers were entirely made of black latex, so thin and soft that they were translucent around the edges. They were light enough to get ruffled a little by the breeze. The effect was so stunning that it nearly brought Katrina to her knees.

“Wings! You have wings! They’re… you’re so beautiful!” she gasped. “But why wings? Where did that idea come from?”

Winter had a coy, little smile. :You once said that I was your angel:

Katrina let out an astonished laugh. “Yes,” she said, “I did, didn’t I? And you are. You’re my angel.”

Dark and shining, Winter came forward and lovingly wrapped her arms around Katrina. Awestruck to the point of tears, Katrina could only wonder at the miracle of how she, a former human, could possibly deserve to be joined as one with this glorious and angelic being. Then their twin lips met and the wings folded around them both in a warm embrace, and Katrina wanted nothing more than for this one, perfect moment to last forever.



Chapter 18



Katrina/Winter sat on their island one late afternoon, comfortably reclined under the sun against the grass-matted trunk of one of the willow trees. A brief, summer storm had just passed overhead, drenching everything and leaving the park damp and humid. Standing in the thick curtains of rain had moved Katrina to poetry. She was on her third stanza.

“On forests hushed and pools placid,” intoned Katrina, engrossed in composition, “The rain comes down like… like… damn. What rhymes with ‘pools placid?’’”

:Amino acid?: suggested Winter.

“Ew, no. Um…”

:Lactic acid:

“No! No acids,” growled Katrina. “You’re not helping.”

:Sorry. Biochemistry just comes naturally to me:

“Anyway. Forests hushed, pools placid... the rain falls down like-”

:Something flaccid?:

Katrina groaned. “You know what? We really stink at poetry.”

:One of us does, at least. Maybe we just need practice:

She stood up to stretch her back. As she gazed around the edge of the pond, a stumbling figure caught her attention. “What the-? Is that who I think it is?”

:I’ve only seen him in your memories, but yes, it does resemble Verne:

Seeing him back here in the insular little world she had made for herself was akin to seeing a ghost from another lifetime. The last time she had encountered him, she had still been human. Ever since joining with Winter, thoughts of her old acquaintances, journalism, and the whole reason she was here in the first place had all just slipped away as unimportant. She hadn’t forgotten, of course, but it all just seemed so incredibly trivial now. She hadn’t missed any of those things at all. She hadn’t particularly missed being cut off from her old friendships, either. She supposed that was a price to be paid when one joined with a Eudeamon; in finding complete happiness within herself, she lost interest in everyone else.

“What’s he doing out there? Look at that, he’s going to get himself stuck in the mud!” she observed, exasperated. She picked up the discarded pen and notepad (sealed inside an old sandwich bag to keep it safe from the elements) that she had been using to correspond with Barbara, waded off her island, and dove into the water.

Verne noticed her when she was halfway across the pond. The park was mostly deserted due to the recent rain, but it was still daytime, so they would have to be careful. He waited until no one was looking before following her into a dense stand of bushes that grew along part of the shore, not far from where he had last spoken to her months ago.

“Katrina! Thank god!” He had burrowed his way into the brambles and down into the tiny, marshy hollow where Katrina was already crouching. She had been anxiously breaking a fallen twig into little pieces in her fingers. There was barely enough room for them both to sit without touching. He looked like he was doing well, about the same, though his hair was longer. Katrina felt awkward. This was the first time any normal person who had known her as Katrina Nichols had met her as Katrina/Winter. “Uh… you are Katrina, right?” he asked as he stared at her up and down.

She sighed. “He does this every damn time.”

:Well, you have changed quite a bit since then: And it was true. Physically, she was completely unrecognizable from the person she used to be. She still didn’t have Barbara’s distinctive curves, but Winter had continued to reshape her body all this time. Now she was lean and lithe, like some fetishistic idol; a bizarre and feral forest creature carved of glistening obsidian.

A blush had risen on Verne’s pale cheeks. “You look… uh…”

:I think somebody has a crush on you:

“All right, that’s enough from the peanut gallery,” she said to Winter. It was actually kind of funny–and a little sad, for Verne’s sake–that she should have become an object of amorous desire now that she no longer had need of anyone outside of herself.

“Anyway, I’ve been looking for you all day,” Verne was whispering intently. “I’m so glad I finally found you, but… what’s going on? You were supposed to have been released this morning. Did you know that? You’ve been here eight months already.”

Katrina was a little surprised. Her initial sentence of eight months was already up? She had totally lost track of time.

“I was there at their facility waiting to pick you up, but you didn’t show. When I asked them what was up, they checked their computers and said your sentence had been extended! By over half a year! Can you believe that? I’m getting worried. I think there might be someone on the inside who knows what we’re up to and is extending your sentence to keep you from talking.”

If only! Katrina thought. That’d make staying here so much easier. Although they had racked up a couple of months with that lost cell phone, they had suffered for it. Katrina practically cringed at the sight of a phone, now. She pulled out the notepad and began to write.

“Hey! You can write again? That’s great! Oh, Katrina, that’s awesome! But how?” He hunkered over to look at the pad.

Hi, Verne. Yes, I can write again. It’s just a little trick I picked up a while ago. Figured out how to work with my custodian some, she wrote. It’s good to see you and thank you for trying to check up on me. That’s nice of you. Yes, I know my sentence is longer. It’s not someone on the inside. Every little ban. violation you do adds days, even weeks. I found that out early on, but couldn’t tell you.

Verne looked dumbfounded. “Well… well… fuck! You’re an innocent person. You don’t deserve this! I’m not sure if even the guilty people deserve it, but I know you don’t! What are we gonna do? We’ve got to get you out of here. I wonder if we could smuggle you out. Maybe… scramble your suit’s link to the network so it doesn’t know where it is? No, probably not. But we have to do something. You can’t stay here another year.”

I can and I will, she wrote.

“What? No, Katrina, you don’t have to. You’ve already done more than enough here, more than anyone could have expected! You’ve already given almost a year of your life to this story and that’s enough. No one could ask more of you. Look, with what you’ll have learned here and with what I’ve dug up on their system, we have more than enough to go on.” He paused, waiting for a response, but she just sat there. “I don’t know. We might have to confess what we did just to get you out of this mess.”

Absolutely not. A lot of people would get in trouble, not just you and me. Anyway, I’m not going anywhere, Verne. I lengthened my sentence on purpose. I’m staying here.

“What do you mean? I don’t get it.”

Katrina sighed to herself and wrote some more. I don’t expect you to understand. It’s not about the story anymore. Forget all that. I found out what Eudeamon means. I’m happy here now, happier than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m sad that I can’t tell you why, but it has to stay a secret.

“You’re pulling my leg, right?” Verne slowly asked as he read the note.

It’s paradise. Being human, you couldn’t possibly understand any more than I could back then. But I’m a Bane now, Verne. I’m perfect.

Verne had a nervous little grin. “You’re, uh, starting to scare me here. This isn’t like you, at all. You know, you’re sounding like that Bane you interviewed last year.”

That’s because Barbara was right about everything! I wish I could explain it all, but I can’t. I want you to tell Ben to kill the story. There’s nothing to uncover here. And then forget about me. I’m not ever going back. Never.

Verne shook his head. “No. No way. Katrina, listen. They’ve got you, hell, I don’t know, brainwashed or something. We’ve gotta get you out of here.”

No, she wrote.

“Yes! Katrina, listen to me,” he insisted, growing more agitated. “What you’re experiencing is some kind of syndrome I saw mentioned in their memos the couple times I was able to get in. The type of computers they use, the Custodians, they physically interact with your brain! Whatever your feeling is just some kind of psychosis, it’s not real.”

:Oh, that’s nice: Winter commented. :Hello, Mr. Sawyer. I’m Katrina’s psychosis:

Katrina giggled, then felt guilty for laughing while Verne was so upset. I’m not crazy, she wrote. My brain is fine. Trust me on this.

“This is not your life! Okay? You don’t belong here! I know it must seem like it after being here so long, being beaten down and tortured and ignored by everyone. You’re not one of these people. Maybe you’ve forgotten, but you’ve got a life to go back to. You’ve got a home, a job, a-and people who care about you. You’ve gotta come back to us.”

Let the real Vivienne have my old life. I don’t need it anymore. I’d sooner die than go back.

He was visibly restraining himself from grabbing her shoulders and shaking her. “Damn it, snap out of it! You’re not this, you’re Katrina Nichols, you’re a reporter.”

Katrina was getting agitated, herself. What right did he have to come into their little world and make her feel bad for being so happy? She wrote with quick, angry motions. No. I’m Katrina Bane now. I’m Katrina/Winter forever! You and I aren’t even the same species, anymore.

Verne scanned the note and stared at her. “Species? Winter forever? What does that even mean? Oh, Katrina, we’ve got to get you some help.”

They sat silently for a little while. It broke Katrina’s heart to see the tears that were welling up in his eyes. This was harder than she thought it would be. At least she had Winter’s presence to soothe and comfort her.

“What am I supposed to do?” he finally asked. “Just leave you out here?”

It’s what I want. I’m sorry this makes you sad, I don’t want you sad, but don’t feel bad for me. If you only knew how happy I am, you wouldn’t want me to leave it, either.

He shook his head, sitting there and pouting like a small boy. “No. No, I’m not giving up on you. I’m going to crack their system, I swear it. I’m going to find out what they’ve done to you.”

Please don’t, Katrina had started to write, but he was already getting up to leave. He was continuing to promise her he would find a way to make her better. “Oh, Winter, I don’t know what else to tell him without giving us away. Whatever I say, he won’t believe me.”

:Better to let him go, then. It’s no good for either of you to drag this out:

“I guess,” she said, watching Verne’s retreating form struggling through the dense brush. “Damn it all, none of this is fair.”

:I know, my love. Let him try to get into the system, if it makes him feel better. Nothing will come of it. It has the same style of defenses as the Custodian hardware. If I can’t break through my own firewalls, his luck won’t be much better:

“I don’t know about that. Hacking’s all he knows. I’d bet if anyone could get in, he could… hey.” Katrina just had an idea.

Winter picked up on it instantly. :Do you think it could work?:

“I have no idea, but there’s only one way to find out. Verne! Wait up,” she called, pursuing him through the bushes.

……

One day later, at midnight, they met up again at the same spot. He had brought a blanket with him, as directed, to help conceal their activities. They spread the blanket out over the bushes like a tent to hide any errant light. It reminded Katrina of when she was young, when she would hide under the covers with a book and a flashlight after bedtime. She would have felt more comfortable doing this on her island, but it would be silly to ask him to swim over to it with his laptop in hand.

Verne was in better spirits than when they had last parted. She supposed he was just happy to have been given something constructive to do–something within his particular area of expertise. Besides, he couldn’t resist a challenge. She knew, though, that he was still far from coming to terms with her decision. He was probably still trying to figure out some way to convince her to go back.

She and Verne were sitting in front of his laptop. Verne had once told her he had enough black ice and military grade decryption programs on that thing to get him sent away for thirty years if he was so much as caught in possession of it. She was nervously twisting the laptop’s network cable in her hand. The other end was plugged into a small, universal port at the base of her helmet. Winter had directed the Banesuit to create a small hole over the port to allow access. “How long will it take you to synch up with it or whatever?” she asked Winter.

:I already have. This thing is one of my ancestors?: she asked, radiating haughty disdain. :It’s like trying to hold a meaningful conversation with a typewriter:

“So let me get this straight,” Verne was saying. “You want me to try and hack your brain? Is it just me, or does this sound a little crazy?”

When he put it that way, it did sound somewhat reckless. “Winter? You’re sure this is safe?”

:I’ll be watching everything to make sure nothing happens. Don’t worry, darling. I would never let anything bad happen to you:

“That’s good to know.”

:But… just in case… if something does go wrong, now or in the future-:

Katrina picked up on Winter’s feelings. She shut her eyes tightly. “No. Don’t you say that. Don’t even think that.”

:I want you to promise me-:

“No! I won’t, because nothing’s going to happen.”

:Promise me you’ll find a way to keep going:

“There’s no way,” Katrina insisted. “I can’t live without you now, you know that.”

Winter wasn’t going to relent. :Promise me:

“Okay! Okay, I promise. Now never, ever think of that again, all right?”

(love-love-love)

Unaware of the emotional exchange occurring in his presence, Verne continued to set up his computer. “There, that should be about ready. Man, I’m nervous.”

“Winter, could you use the computer to let him hear me talk? They could do that in the lab.”

:I’m afraid not. That would require software designed for that purpose. I can do this, however. Here, this will be quicker for you than writing: Winter brought up the computer’s instant messaging program.

What’s wrong Verne? appeared the words in the chat box, entered for her by Winter. Afraid of a little challenge?

“Hey, how’d you do that?” exclaimed Verne excitedly. “You can interface directly using your mind? That’s so cool! Okay, now I’m getting a little jealous.”

Eat your heart out. Thank you for attempting this. It really will make things so much easier for me if it works.

“Yeah, well, I’m not sure I want to make things easier for you. If things are hard, maybe that’ll convince you to give up this craziness and come home,” he said.

No lectures, please. Would you rather picture me receiving agonizing punishments for the rest of my life? Help me or don’t.

“Okay, okay. It’s good to see being banished and brainwashed hasn’t made you any less bossy. Right. Let’s do this.” He brought up a series of programs. “I’m really not sure where to start. Heh. Look at me. My palms are sweating.”

After a short while, Verne was deep in concentration. He was in his element. Katrina could make no sense of anything that was happening on the screen. She could sense that Winter had withdrawn and was closely observing what was going on. “Does any of this mean anything to you?” she asked. “Is he getting anywhere?”

:Not yet. Right now he’s just probing the defenses. He hasn’t even got a foothold. He’s trying, but the Custodian hardware is too swift for his programs to keep up with. I’m beginning to understand the process, though. Be patient, darling:

Katrina sighed as the minutes crept by, strumming her fingers on her knees. It was hard to be patient knowing there was a digital war being waged inside her head. She envisioned little bombs going off inside her skull.

“Crap,” announced Verne after perhaps twenty minutes.

Katrina looked sharply over at him. What’s wrong?

“Oh, it’s just so slippery,” he said, sounding exasperated. “It’s the same problem I had getting into the Ash-Tech network. It’s learning from my attacks and using them against me. In simple terms, it has a good immune system. I can’t use the same tactic twice and I’m running out of ammo. I don’t even know if I’m doing more harm than good.”

Please keep trying. I know you can do it.

“I didn’t say I’d given up. I’ve got a few more tricks up my sleeve.”

Katrina watched anxiously, wishing she could do something to help. She could tell by his darkening expression that he wasn’t holding out much hope.

:I think I understand how this works now. I’m taking over: said Winter. A few seconds after that, Verne’s screen went crazy with activity.

“Shit, it’s gotten in my system! I’m shutting this down,” he said, reaching for the cable.

No don’t! I know what I’m doing, came the words in the chat box. It was Winter who wrote that, but Verne didn’t know any different.

“Why? What’s going on?” he asked.

Katrina didn’t know how to answer. It was suddenly very hard to concentrate. “I feel… I think I’m gonna be sick. Winter? Spare me a few brain cells, would ya?”

Winter couldn’t reply. She was busy fighting a war on a thousand fronts. When Katrina tried to peek into her thoughts, all she could see was a dizzying wall of rapid calculations in the incomprehensibly complex language of neural computers.

Verne was ineffectually trying to keep up. “Is this thing… is this thing attacking itself?”

“Oh, hell, I don’t know,” mumbled Katrina, mentally drained. Winter was using up all of her brainpower to do whatever it was she was doing.

The unpleasant feeling suddenly passed, followed by a surge of pride and exhilaration. :I did it! I got in, Katrina! We’re free!:

“W-we are?” wondered Katrina, overwhelmed by Winter’s emotions.

:No more punishments. Ever. I won’t be f***ed to do that to you anymore! I’m so happy!:

“I know, I feel it!” Katrina grinned hugely, mentally embracing Winter. “No more violations? No more pain! That’s so wonderful! Hey, but, now that you’re into the Custodian’s hardware, will it still report violations?”

:I have access to the central monitoring network now. I can report as many violations as we want from in here, even ones you didn’t do. As a matter of fact... you just committed six severe protocol violations:

“I did?”

:Yes, you did. Shame on you. Oh, there’s another six. You’re a very naughty girl. This is going to add months to your sentence. If you keep this up, you’re going to be banished for a very long time. Try harder, V-7505!:

Katrina erupted into joyful laughter. This was too good! If she did it gradually–so as not to arouse suspicion–she could now accumulate enough violations to give herself a life sentence. Life with Winter. And without incurring a single punishment? It was ideal. “What about contact violations?”

:Give it a try:

Verne was still typing at his keyboard, trying to figure out what was going on, completely unaware of the silent celebration occurring next to him. He was taken off guard by the sudden embrace of a latex clad Bane. You did it! It worked!!

“It did?” he asked, glancing at the screen. “You got in? But I wasn’t doing anything, not at the end there.” A flush was rising on his cheeks.

Well, like I said, I’ve been learning to work with the Custodian a little. But it couldn’t have happened without you. I can control it now, thanks to you. It was a white lie, but to tell him anything other would open up a can of worms she didn’t want to get into. Winter was busy downloading Verne’s hacking programs from his laptop and into Katrina’s brain.

“What can I say? I guess… I rule?” He patted her awkwardly on the back, unsure of where else to touch her.

You’re still a dork. Katrina laughed and then extricated herself from the embrace. She found it strangely disquieting to be touched by someone. Months ago, she had been insanely desperate for the slightest human contact. Now it was just plain uncomfortable, and after experiencing the powerful depth of Winter’s touch… well, a human just couldn’t compare. It was then that she realized she would never have any romantic involvement with anyone else ever again. There was simply no need for it. The prospect didn’t trouble her in the least, now that she had Winter.

:I’ve got the programs:

Okay, love. She started to get up. It’s late and we’ve been here a while. You should go now. I can’t thank you enough.

“What? Wait. That’s it?” asked Verne. “You’re just going to up and leave now?”

What more is there? I don’t have anything to give you as a reward. What did you expect? I’m sorry but we are in different worlds now.

He sighed. “I wish you wouldn’t say things like that.”

I’m sorry, but it’s true. You go back to your world. And stop worrying about me. I’m fine. I want you to be happy. I’ll figure out a way to contact you if I need you. Take care.

“But… but what if I need you?”

Then you know where to find me. I’m taking this. She detached the cable they had been using to network and bundled it up. He was still stammering when she slid out from under the blanket and headed for the pond. She knew she must be coming off as cold or ungrateful to him. She felt bad just leaving him like that, but what did he want from her? Did he expect they should go and hang out over a few beers or something? Verne was a good guy, but he was still one of Them. She could hardly even relate to normal people anymore. She had just changed too much.



Chapter 19



Life was so much easier now. Katrina had hardly any worries at all. There were no more punishments, no more warnings, and she was free to remain as a Bane for the rest of her life. She still couldn’t leave the city; there was a tracking device in every Banesuit, plus she would always have to return to a maintenance station to survive. But that was okay. She didn’t need to go anywhere. As long as she had Winter, she had everything she could possibly ever want. She did have to be careful, though. In order not to draw any attention to herself, she had to act like any other Bane and appear to obey the rules. She found she had to ask Winter to turn the proximity alarm back on (though at much lower volume) when she was walking around. Without it, she found herself unknowingly setting off other Banes’ alarms left and right. There was no chance of her ever losing a territory fight now, at least.

She was finally able to repay some of the debt she felt she owed to Barbara for enticing her into becoming a Bane. When told about their plan, Barbara was skeptical but willing to give it a try. Winter, using the cable and the techniques she had learned from Verne and his programs, was able to help Eden to break down the Custodian firewalls. It wasn’t easy on poor Barbara, though. Even though it only took maybe five minutes at most, her proximity alarm was going off and tormenting her the entire time. By the end, Katrina was f***ed to wrap her arms around the female Bane and pin her down to keep her from desperately fleeing. It was worth it in the end, for Barbara and her Eudeamon were overjoyed with the results.

u need to do this 4 the others, Barbara wrote to her, reverting to her annoying shorthand. Any Eudeamon u find. If I find some, I send them 2u. u may have saved us all, Katrina/Winter. U amaze me. We love you so much. She drew a few hearts and smiley faces around the missive for good measure.

……

Thus Katrina and Winter searched through the park, looking for the handful of Banes she knew to have Eudeamons. She felt self-conscious about it, even a little foolish. It made her feel like some fetish-clad missionary traveling around and peddling salvation. But though she hadn’t asked for this responsibility, she could hardly turn it down. Her own experiences had lent her total empathy with what the other Banes were going through when it came to punishments. Being able to help them and witnessing their relief was deeply gratifying.

It wasn’t always easy to track down even the familiar Banes who lived nearby. Some, Katrina included, often stayed near one location, but there was no telling when they might wander off. They might be gone for days at a time, enjoying the private pleasures granted by their Eudeamons. While trying to communicate what she had to offer, she learned the names of some of her fellow Banes. Among them were Jack/Annuncia, Nola/Jade Prince, Ethan/Nodd, Big Ray/Sparkle, Ava/Sapphire, and Jordan/Pegasus.

All were grateful, but thankfully no one fawned over her. Katrina wasn’t sure she could take that kind of attention. By their very natures, the Banes were very self-sufficient and remote, so they had no desire to spend much time on external relationships. Katrina understood that, for she had become the same way. They would give her their heartfelt thanks and then they would each go their separate ways. Word was getting around, though, and Katrina began to find two or three Banes waiting at the pond’s edge whenever she woke up.

After a couple weeks of this, she figured she had helped just about every Eudeamonic Bane she could find in the immediate area. She ventured out into the city for the first time since Winter had awakened. The crowds of people didn’t bother her much anymore. They ignored her, as always, and that suited her just fine. They hardly seemed real to her. She passed among them like a phantom, distantly separated from them on so many levels. To think I used to envy them so much I could hardly stand it, she thought as she watched them go about their daily lives. Now I wonder why they don’t envy me. I wonder if they’ll ever know what they’re missing.

:Maybe someday they will: observed Winter. :This isn’t likely to stay a secret forever, you know:

Perhaps it wouldn’t, but what might come in the future wasn’t worth worrying about. For now, all she was concerned with was maintaining the perfect present.

It proved very difficult to find Eudeamons in unfamiliar places. She didn’t know anyone and she couldn’t just go around giving away her secret by writing ‘Hello, do you have a Eudeamon?’ to every Bane she met. She spent entire days sitting in one spot, observing the various Banes in the area, watching for behavior that might indicate the presence of a Eudeamon. It was slow going, but she was patient. She had plenty of free time on her hands, after all.

……

Cicadas droned a discordant symphony as Katrina walked underneath the trees one late summer night. She had arrived in this park a few hours after sundown and was now simply enjoying the atmosphere. Sometimes the real world could be as beautiful as her fantasy worlds, especially since she could experience every passing moment in the company of Winter. She discovered that this wasn’t so much a park as it was a woody tract of undeveloped land, wound through with a few paved jogging trails. There was a long, dark bog there that bordered one side of the area, its muddy banks lined with old cypress trees. Nice and secluded for a Bane who wanted to get away, but there were no conveniently located maintenance stations.

She sat down beside the path so she could rest her feet. Insects buzzed in the air around her, and she was once again thankful for her Banesuit. She shuddered to think how many mosquitos were in this swampy forest. “Think we’ll find anyone here?”

:It’s possible. The privacy might appeal to some Eudeamons. We’ll look around in the morning:

“I miss my island,” sighed Katrina. As soon as she said it, the world around her evaporated and was replaced with a view from her little island. It was perfect to the last detail. She could hear the willow leaves rustling overhead. She could even feel the cushiness of the dense waterlogged grass beneath her bottom. She could even count the rocks in her stone piles, if she wanted to, and would find them to be accurate. A tiny snail made its slow way up a single blade of grass. She smiled. “Thanks. It’s funny, you know, to even miss that park when–”

The island view vanished. :Head’s up. Someone’s coming:

Katrina looked over to see a female Bane running at top speed in her direction. The proximity alarm screeched briefly as she darted past. It didn’t look like she was running for recreation. After the stranger disappeared into the darkness, Katrina got up and looked around. “What was that all about?” She headed in the direction where the Bane had been running from. After a minute, she heard scuffling noises coming from somewhere off the paved path. She felt Winter’s urge toward caution as she crept stealthily through the underbrush.

In a clearing ahead of her, she came upon an abhorrent scene. Katrina ducked behind a tree, hoping she hadn’t been spotted. Just beyond the tree line there was a small, female Bane who was struggling with a pair of men. They were average-looking, nondescript men in their late thirties; neither one would stand out in a crowd. One wore a blue jacket, a baseball cap, and had a short beard. The other was in a red, flannel shirt and had dirty blonde hair. Propped against a tree trunk on the opposite side of the clearing was a wooden baseball bat. Katrina watched as the Bane was thrown roughly to the ground. She desperately clawed at the dirt in an attempt to get away. One of the men, the one in the jacket, dropped on top of her and pinned her to the ground, then the other drove a heavy boot into her side. The Bane gave a spasm and tried to curl up. The men weren’t laughing. They weren’t even smiling. They looked deadly earnest as they went about their nasty business.

Katrina was filled with horror and rage. She had never witnessed this kind of thing before, this senseless v******e. The college k**s she had seen with those two Banes in the park long ago, the ones who had handcuffed the Banes together, were unquestionably cruel, but their v******e had been indirect. This was different. It felt to Katrina as though she had just stumbled across a **** in progress, but these guys weren’t even there to **** the poor Bane. There was no way they could have penetrated a latex Banesuit. All they wanted was to hurt her. They might even kill her. To make matters worse, the little Bane’s figure reminded her of Tina, the timid girl who had been processed with her. Katrina’s bl**d was boiling.

:Katrina, your emotions are scaring me:

I’ve got to do something, she thought, stepping around the sheltering tree. It was crazy, but her conscience wouldn’t allow her to do otherwise. The last time she had watched a similar thing taking place, she had done nothing. This time she wasn’t entirely helpless. She had to defend her own. Then Winter froze her body in place.

:I won’t let you! It’s too dangerous. We have to run: insisted Winter. :Maybe we can alert a police officer:

“There’s no time. There’s only us. I have to do this.”

A few moments later, Winter read in Katrina’s mind why Katrina couldn’t just leave it be and why she had to try to help the Bane. Winter relented and released Katrina’s body. :Okay. I understand. Be careful, my love:

The bat was too far away to make a grab for, so she stooped down to pry a heavy, fist-sized chunk of white quartz out of the dirt. The proximity alarm sounded as she got near to the other Bane, so Winter turned the distracting noise off. With Winter correcting her aim at the last second (she was far better at things like calculations and trajectories), Katrina let the rock fly at the crouching man. It struck him square in the side of the head. He tried to stagger to his feet, then collapsed on top of the Bane. One down, she thought.

The second man reacted faster than she expected. If being attacked by a Bane had surprised him, he sure recovered quickly enough. He snatched up the bat and crossed the distance between them before Katrina could get more ammunition. As the man drew close, she saw some species of vicious, eager determination in his face, which otherwise looked completely average and not at all like the scruffy lunatic she would have imagined him to be.

Katrina tried to dodge out of the way but the bat struck her on the head. It deflected harmlessly off the top of her sealed, padded helmet. It was the best place he could have hit her, and it was a costly mistake on his part. She knew she had to retaliate before he could take another swing at some more vulnerable part of her anatomy. Winter brought up a bulls-eye in Katrina’s vision, predicting where the man’s face would be a moment later. Katrina lashed out at the target with Banesuit-augmented strength and felt the heel of her palm connect with the man’s nose. There was a rewarding, if disgusting, crunch. The man made a few wild swings as he stumbled backward, blinded by pain. bl**d was flowing freely from his nose.

Not giving him a chance to do anything else, Katrina bowled him over and pounced on top of him. Seething with anger, she began to punch him repeatedly in the face. “How dare you?” she yelled in between breaths. “How dare you? a****l! You stupid, fucking human! Why can’t you just leave us alone?” Numb to the pain in her fists, she kept punching him until his face was a wet mass of welts.

Winter finally had to intervene. She decreased her host’s adrenaline levels and filled her mind with serenity. :Katrina. My love. You can stop now. He’s not going to get up any time soon:

Katrina nodded shakily and staggered to her feet. She pulled the bat from his hand and threw it into the weeds, noting as she did that the man was wearing a wedding band. She hoped she had left him with some nasty scars. Let him try to explain that to his wife. The other man hadn’t moved, but he was groaning a little. The little Bane was nowhere to be seen. She was probably far away by now. Not that Katrina could blame her. She wondered if it really had been Tina. There was no way to know.

She looked down at the men, feeling both giddy with triumph and a little bit sickened. She was unsure whether she should hate them or pity them. It was a confusing conflict. She knew she had every right to despise them, but what if they were just as lost and confused as the Bane they had attacked? She wondered if, had they their own Eudeamons, that would make them stop doing things like this? Would finding such peace within themselves make them more peaceful to others? Or would it just make them more efficient predators? Well, either way, this pair would think twice before assaulting another Bane.

“I think we’d better get out of here.”

:I think you’re right:

Katrina took off, intending to put as much distance between herself and the scene of the attack as possible before the police came. “Do you think they’ll tell the cops about us? How they were assaulted by a Bane?”

:It would be improbable. They would have to explain what they were doing out here in the first place. The police might track down and interview that other Bane, however, if they want to investigate the contact violations her Custodian undoubtedly reported:

“Just hope she has the common sense not to tell them who her rescuer was. I hope I didn’t just do something supremely stupid and screw things up for us.” She realized she was shaking. “Jesus. I beat that guy pretty bad.”

:It’s all right, my love. I understand. You did what you had to do:

……

Katrina laid low for a few days, hiding out in the nearby swamp. She spent days lurking, semi-submerged in the murky water among the cypress knees, venturing out only to find a maintenance station. Nobody ever came looking for her, though, and the discarded newspapers she found made no mention of the assault. But why would they? Even if the incident had been reported, officials wouldn’t want the public freaking out about rumors of violent Banes. They normally didn’t like stories written about the Bane-bashers in the first place; negative press like that made the populace feel pangs of guilt. Katrina finally decided that it wasn’t worth worrying too much about. She had to get on with the task she had come out here to do in the first place.

She did have some luck with her original mission while hiding in the swamp. Out in the water she found an old, hollow cypress. A clattering, bead curtain of mussel shells on strings covered the opening. Inside, on a bed of soft mud, lived a female Bane who was initially very paranoid and distrusting. Her name turned out to be Anna/Ascension. After Katrina and Winter helped her with the firewall, she was willing to divulge the locations of a few other Eudeamonic Banes in the vicinity. Katrina was able to find two of them.

In this fashion, following directions given by others, she was able to locate and help several dozen Banes with their Custodians over the next month. That wasn’t many, but she felt she was doing the best she could, considering the difficulties of the situation. She was growing weary of the search, though. One day, while standing on a tree-lined median, waiting for traffic to thin so she could cross, she suddenly decided she had done enough searching for the time being. It was time to head back. She was footsore and tired by the time she finally made it to her familiar park, but she was happy. When she saw her island again, it almost felt like coming home.



Chapter 20



Katrina awoke to the sensation of being fanned and brushed by soft feathers. She grinned and yawned. As with every other day she had awakened since Winter had come into her life, she felt a sense of wonder and thankfulness. The initial giddiness had mellowed, but the intensity of the passion remained the same. She knew this love would never grow dull, never turn stale. And every time she woke up and Winter was there, it proved it was all real, and hadn’t been just a beautiful dream.

:Rise and shine, my love:

“I don’t deserve you.”

:Hmm. Probably not. But I think I’ll stick around, anyway:

She smiled. She had been back in the park for several, happy weeks after her foray into the city, and it was now the very tail-end of summer. In a few days, Autumn would arrive. She was looking forward to being able to watch the colors of the changing trees with Winter. They’d be able to kick through a few leaf piles together. She stretched out her body on her bed of grass with a contented groan. Winter always made sure she didn’t wake too early, so she was always well-rested in the morning. In a few minutes, she would dive into the pond, maybe do a few laps, and then head for the maintenance station. Once that chore was out of the way, she could spend all day playing with Winter.

She looked up at the sky, seeing puffy clouds through the lattice of willow leaves. Even after all this time, she still couldn’t believe how happy she was. It wasn’t a feeling that faded with time or familiarity; it was just always there, just like Winter’s exquisite and unconditional love. We’ve done it, she thought to herself. The human race has done it. If there ever was a fall from the Garden, we’ve risen beyond it. We’ve created transcendence.

:Mmm, your thoughts are warm. You know, it’s almost been a whole year since you became a Bane. Shall we celebrate?:

Katrina thought about it and sat up. “No. Best to just let it pass unnoticed. But let me know when your birthday comes around. That’s worth celebrating.”

Winter chuckled. :Alright, then. I was working on a nice scenario while you slept. I think you’ll like it:

“Oh? What do you have in mind?”

:No peeking. I want it to be a surprise:

After being told that, Katrina couldn’t resist just a little peek into Winter’s inner thoughts. She caught a few images. “There’s tentacles involved?”

:No peeking!:

“Are they rubber tentacles?”

Winter sighed. :Fine. They can be rubber. Now behave, or I’ll swat you:

“Oh, like that ever stopped me.”

:I’ll prevent you from reaching orgasm for a week:

“Aww!” Katrina pouted. “Meanie. You would, too. ‘Cause you’re mean like that.”

:Absolutely, my beating heart:

(love-love-love)

……

As Katrina neared the small, round maintenance kiosk, she noticed three people standing nearby. They didn’t look like they were in the park for a morning constitutional. There was a gray-haired man in a charcoal suit, a woman in an Ashton Technologies security guard’s uniform, and a younger man in a lab coat that kept flapping open in the breeze to reveal khaki shorts and knobby knees. The man in the lab coat was gazing down at a datapad in his hands. When Katrina drew near to the maintenance station, he pointed at her without looking up from his little gadget. “That’s her,” he said.

Katrina froze. Oh shit! They found out about the attack in the woods! she thought. She began to slowly back away from the trio.

The man in the suit raised his hand in a beseeching gesture. “Wait! No need to run off. You’re not in any trouble. Your designation is V-7505? Vivienne Mulberry?”

Well, they had the right person–sort of. Katrina didn’t flee right away, as that would have appeared suspicious, but she didn’t get any closer, either.

“Please don’t be alarmed. We’ve been looking for you. I know this may seem irregular to you. Surprising, at the least. I am Councilman Greggor. I simply need to have a short talk with you. You were involved in a house fire some while back? Correct? Ah, of course, you can’t respond. Guard, if you will?”

The guard, looking overtaxed from the heat of the morning, said, “Custodian V-7505: deactivate oversight, sentry mode.”

What’s she talking about? Katrina wondered.

:She intended to turn off the protocol punishments while still preventing you from doing anything violent, like attack them. You can physically reply to them now, if you wish:

“–safe to respond,” the man named Greggor was saying. “Come closer, don’t worry. As I said, you’re not in any trouble. As a matter of fact, I hear you’re something a hero. That’s what I’ve come to speak with you about, if you don’t mind. You were there, correct? Rescued a c***d, as I understand it?”

Is he here about the fire? After all this time? she wondered. Katrina nodded hesitantly at him.

“Excellent! Very noble, indeed. Would you please accompany us to the car, so that we may continue this conversation in private… and out of the sun?”

:Don’t do it, Katrina. I don’t like this. I think we should go away. I don’t trust them:

“Me either, but what else can we do?” Katrina said to her, feeling trapped. “If I run, they’ll just track us down. And they’ll probably order you to incapacitate me, and when you don’t, they’ll know something’s wrong and then they’ll really be after us.” Winter didn’t reply, but Katrina could feel her anxiety like a prickly sunburst in the back of her mind. She took a cautious step forward.

“Ah, there we go.” Greggor motioned for her to walk along beside him. “I know this may all seem unusual, what with you being so used to… being as you are now after all this time,” said Greggor as he lead her toward the exit of the park. Beyond the gates, in a No Parking zone, was an Ash-Tech minivan. He plucked the datapad from Labcoat’s hands and looked at its small screen. Labcoat gave him an annoyed frown, which Greggor didn’t deign to notice. He made a disapproving noise in his throat before he addressed Katrina. “Yes, quite some time, indeed. You’ve gone from your initial eight month sentence–for prostitution, no less–to over two years of additional banishment? We have been busy in our miscreancy, haven’t we, Miss Mulberry?”

Katrina, who was following along, hunched over and wary, responded with a shrug.

“Give her a Vox,” he said to the guard. The guard pulled something from her belt that looked like a small music player with a long, thin cable. When she approached Katrina with the cable, she jerked away from her. Mr. Greggor smirked. “Skittish, aren’t we? You can relax. It’s simply a speaker that’s plugged into your suit. It lets you be heard. Standard equipment for policemen and paramedics, in case of emergencies.”

She allowed the guard to plug the cable into the port at the back of her helmet. She then handed her the device. “H-hello?” she said falteringly. Her voice echoed, small and tinny, from the Vox in her hand. It was the first time her voice had been heard by anyone except Winter for nearly a year.

“Yes, hello. Loud and clear,” commented Greggor absently. They had come up to van. “Here we are.”

Katrina was ushered into the vehicle where she sat across from Councilman Greggor and Labcoat. The guard settled in beside her. There was a driver in the front seat who craned his neck to look at her.

She fidgeted. It was unbelievably unpleasant to be so near to these people, to be in an enclosed space, and to feel all their attention focused on her. She was so used to being alone, out in the open, and ignored. Don’t lose it, come on, don’t lose it, she was telling herself. “What… what do you want… from me?”

“Well, firstly, we’ve been curious how managed the heroic feat–”

“I’m not a hero,” asserted Katrina.

“Nonetheless. How did you get into that situation in the first place? Was your Custodian malfunctioning?”

“I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking. I just ran in. I guess it figured out that if it didn’t help me, I’d die in there.”

“You were lucky!” asserted Labcoat, speaking up for the first time. “Or that k** was, I mean. Sometimes Custodians can react unpredictably in life and death situations like that. It would have kept you alive, of course, but it was a roll of the dice whether it would have let you endanger yourself just to help someone else.”

Katrina shrugged again.

“Did you notice any erratic behavior from the Custodian, afterwards?” he asked with erudite curiosity.

Does sentience count as a ‘erratic behavior?’ she wondered. “No. Seemed a little preoccupied right after, I guess, but then everything went back to normal.”

“Ah, a logic loop. AI processors can get caught in those when trying to make sense of irrational human behavior. Normally, a reboot command clears up the problem.”

“Must have worked, then,” Katrina said guardedly. “No problems here.”

Labcoat was about to ask another question, but Mr. Greggor cut him off. “This is all very fascinating, I’m sure, but the particulars are not really what we’re here to discuss. What’s done is done. It’s the aftermath we have to deal with now. You see, we, the good people at Banishment Affairs, discounted the penalties you accrued from the violations during the rescue. We hoped that would be enough of a reward.”

“Thank you,” she said simply.

“Yes. Unfortunately, many people witnessed your actions that day, which has since stirred up a bee’s nest. Are you aware–no, of course you’re not–that people have started organized protests to have the heroic Bane of the hour released early?”

Katrina stiffened.

“It’s nothing major yet, but it has the potential to be. And that’s what we want to avoid. So, in order to appease the masses, we’ve graciously decided to commute the remainder of your… increasingly lengthy sentence. You’re to be released. Congratulations.”

Katrina felt the world drop out from under her. Winter’s anxiety exploded into full-blown fear. “No. I, ah…” she was having trouble keeping her tone casual.

:Tell them you want to stay!:

Katrina swallowed. “I mean, that is, I really want to serve out the rest of my sentence. I deserve it. I-I’m a bad person. Please. I want to stay.”

Mr. Greggor’s eyebrows went up. “Well. Not quite the reaction I was expecting. This is not up for debate, I’m afraid.”

:Katrina…:

“Release someone else. Tell them it’s me,” she said, grasping at straws.

“Don’t be preposterous,” said Greggor. “Driver, if you could take us back to–”

“No! I don’t want to go back. I won’t.”

The councilman frowned at her. Labcoat, however, momentarily shut his eyes and looked as though he had just been given some bad news. He gave a significant glance to the security guard at Katrina’s side.

Mr. Greggor was oblivious to the silent exchange. “Well,” Greggor said, “while I certainly have no qualms about letting someone like you remain where you are, and as commendable as your dedication to your societal albatross may be, it simply won’t do in this case. No, you’ll just have to overcome your fears about reintegrating with society and finding a respectable job. Now, look on the bright side–”

:Katrina! Get out of here!:

Katrina lashed out and caught the security guard across the throat with her forearm. Coughing, the guard doubled over in her seat. A quick glance at Mr. Greggor and Labcoat told her they weren’t a threat. Mr. Greggor was looking aghast and the other man was cringing into the seat with his hands out to fend her off. She jumped up and yanked at the door handle. Locked! She reared back and slammed her helmet against the sliding door’s broad window. The impact made a loud, cracking noise, but the thick glass didn’t break. She tried it again. She was too panicked for rational thought; all she could think about was escape… escape from the men who wanted to take Winter away from her!

:The driver’s console!: said Winter. :Unlock the doors from there!:

Katrina lunged over the back of the seat toward the driver, who let out a startled yelp. He planted his hands on the front of her helmet, trying to keep her at bay.

“Custodian: immobilize!” rasped the guard. “Custodian: immobilize! Damn it!” She came up from behind and tried to wrestle the thrashing, kicking Bane to floor. Katrina wriggled around beneath her until she was facing her. She began to tear into the guard, throwing punches and kicks at wherever she looked the most vulnerable. The guard was trying to pin her wrists and narrowly avoided a head butt to the mouth. “My belt!” she barked at the others. “The neuro-sed!”

“Get off! Let me go! Off me!” Katrina was shrieking. Labcoat had reluctantly joined the fray. A few moments later, Katrina felt a stinging in her side. He was holding the neuro-sed to her skin, the device having f***ed an opening in her suit. In no time at all, she could feel herself losing consciousness. It was all happening too fast! “No! No!”

:Katrina! Don’t pass out, I need you! I’ll think of something, just don’t pass out!:

“Winter…” Katrina moaned, darkness overtaking her.

:Katrina? My love? I can’t feel you! Katrina!:



Chapter 21



Katrina slowly pulled herself into wakefulness, one piece at a time. At first, all she knew was that she was lying down, that she was cold, and that her skin was achingly tender. The inside of her mouth was slimy and wet, a grotesquely organic sensation she hadn’t felt since it had been coated with Banesuit latex. When she f***ed her eyes open, she discovered her vision was blurry and painfully sensitive to even the dim light of the small room she found herself in. There were some people nearby, but they were inconsequential at the moment. She couldn’t remember much of anything right away, but she knew something was wrong here… very wrong.

“Here she comes. The sedative is wearing off,” someone said.

Winter, what happened? she wondered groggily. There was nothing but silence in her mind. Winter?

Her breath caught in her throat. That’s what was wrong. She couldn’t feel the constant, loving presence that had been a part of her mind during the past months. She couldn’t feel Winter.

Winter! Answer me! Wake up!

She was calling into emptiness. Winter wasn’t answering. Frightened and disoriented, she reached up to her head. Where her fingers expected to meet the helmet, they felt only smooth, hairless skin. Where there should have been a Custodian attached to the back of her bald scalp, she felt only a small bandage. Winter was gone. “Nnn-nuh… nnno… W-Winter?”

“Just relax. I know you’re a little confused,” said a male voice. “That’s normal. You’ve been out for a while, but there have been no problems. You’re just–”

“Where? Where am I?” Katrina asked shakily. Half her mind was missing. Half her self was missing. There was nothing there but a vast, empty chasm. It took every fiber of her self-control to keep from losing herself to mindless panic. She had to make sense of what was going on. She had to find out where Winter was and how to get her back. Getting her back was the only thing on her mind. She squinted to make out one of the people standing next to her. Was that Dr. Torres? “At… at Ashton?”

“Yes, you’re back at the facility. Given what I’ve been told of your reaction to the news of your eminent freedom, I can understand if you’re feeling–”

“Custodian. Where’s… the Custodian?”

“Oh? Don’t worry about that. There were no complications. Correct, Dr. Grable?” He turned to the man next to him.

“No problems. Responded normally to the withdrawal command. Textbook. Just as I distinctly remember telling our curious friend here during her previous visit, there’s no damage. The extraction was a complete success.”

Katrina strained to sit herself up. She looked down at herself for the first time and was filled with a sense of revulsion. She was in a hospital bed and she was wearing a cotton gown. There was no Banesuit. No perfect, shiny skin. No Winter. Just dreadfully exposed, pink flesh. She was a snail without a shell. “Where is she? The Custodian. Where is it?”

“She? Oh, I see. The female voice variant. It was given a standard diagnostic for anomalies,” replied Dr. Grable. “None were found. It was then destroyed, you might be pleased to learn. For privacy purposes, we’re required to–”

He was interrupted as Katrina let a long, bl**d-curdling shriek of absolute horror. A thousand knives of ice had just stabbed into her heart. She lunged out, grappling with the doctor’s coat with her horribly sensitive fingers, going for his neck. Her eyes were wild. “You killed Winter! You killed her! Monster! KILL YOU! I’LL KILL YOU! KILL YOU!”

“Shit!” exclaimed Dr. Grable as he held onto her wrists. Her grasping fingers were just short of his throat. “She’s suit dependent!”

Dr. Torres was shouting for the nurse, who had apparently been just outside. A man in scrubs rushed into the room and wrenched Katrina’s hands from the doctor’s coat. Dr. Grable lurched backwards and collapsed onto a chair. The nurse was pinning Katrina’s arms to her chest while Dr. Torres shot her up with another sedative.

“KILL ME,” Katrina wailed with the desperation of a damned soul as the sedative took hold. “KILL ME! KILL ME! Please! Please kill me! Kill me.”

……

“When is she going to snap out of it?” asked Mr. Greggor testily. He and Dr. Torres were standing in the hallway outside of Katrina’s room.

“Maybe today, maybe never,” replied Dr. Torres. “That’s the problem with Suit Dependency Syndrome. I’ll be the first to admit, we don’t entirely understand the phenomenon we’re dealing with here. We’re still learning about it. We believe that, due to the extreme isolation of long-term banishment, the mind defensively creates a hallucinatory world and, occasionally, phantom companions. The individual grows mentally and physically dependent on the Banesuit. When the person is forcibly removed from this world they’ve created, it causes a great deal of mental trauma, and none of the traditional treatments for catatonia have proved effective with these patients. I’ve rarely seen it in a person who has been in for so short a time, though.”

“So you want me to believe she’s in shock because she misses her imaginary friends?” Mr. Greggor scoffed. “Not likely. You know you’re playing with these people’s brains. Who knows what kind of damage you’re doing in there?”

“Every single study has shown that there is no lasting damage, whatsoever. None that is physical, anyway. All scans show that their brains are perfectly healthy. You’re aware of–”

“Do what you want, as long as it gets results. This,” Mr. Greggor pointed toward Katrina’s bed, where its occupant stared emptily at the ceiling, “is not an acceptable result. Can you fix her?”

“She’s not a broken machine to be repaired with a new part, Councilman, and I don’t know. She has experienced severe psychological trauma. The signs were there, so says the technician who accompanied you to fetch her. I wouldn’t have authorized removing her from the suit without further review if I had known. If you hadn’t gone behind my back to get Dr. Grable to perform the extraction, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“What mess is that?” asked Mr. Greggor. “We informed no one her sentence was being commuted. Her file says she has no close relations. For all anyone knows, she’s still out there; an unidentified Bane serving out the rest of her time. The public will continue to clamor for her release for a while, but that will die down if we handle it correctly.”

“I see,” replied the doctor discontentedly.

“I don’t care what you do here. Experiment on these people to your heart’s content. These useless elements might as well serve some benefit to science in that way. But you should know that, given the continuing emergence of these problems, the board is a hair’s breadth away from canceling the Project.”

“They can’t do that,” said Dr. Torres, somewhat plaintively. “Doctor Ashton would never have wanted the council to have that kind of heavy-handed authority over this facility.”

“Well, it’s a shame the good doctor’s still on leave then, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you say?”

Dr. Torres looked away.

“Regardless, while Doctor Ashton remains on sabbatical, the board and I will do as we deem proper.”

Dr. Torres sighed. “Yes, all right. We have a few aberrations, but the Project is proving an overall success. This is the future of the penal system we’re working on, as well as the remodeling of modern society! It doesn’t happen in a day. The solutions won’t elude us forever.”

“For your sake, I hope so, Doctor.”

……

Katrina heard all of these discussions about her, as well as the voices of doctors and nurses coaxing her to come back. She even absorbed it on some level, though none of it held any importance for her. Ever since coming out of sedation the previous day, she had remained entirely unresponsive. Most of her mind had simply shut down, unable to cope with the death of Winter.

Winter. Come back. Winter. I love you. I need you. Please come back.

Winter had been everything to Katrina, although she hadn’t realized just what that meant until she was gone. She had been ripped apart, and the half that remained was ruined and inconsolable. The loss of the dream worlds and incredible pleasures meant nothing, nor did the prospect of being free to return to a regular life. What she needed most was the feeling of connection, the sense of having a true purpose, that beautiful feeling of perfect oneness. The constant exchange of thoughts and emotions had vanished, along with the perpetual feedback of love. Such perfect, beautiful love, such a perfect, glorious creature… all gone. She was alone now and she felt that deadly loneliness creeping into every corner of her soul. After Winter had been torn from her, she had no will to keep on living. She had been cast out of Paradise, and now she was in Hell.

You promised you’d never leave me. You lied to me. I’ll forgive, if you just come back. Winter… Winter… Winter…



Chapter 22



For perhaps a week, although she had no sense of time, Katrina lay inert and dead to the world. They dressed her a latex bodysuit–made of ordinary latex, rather than Banesuit latex–in hopes that it would give her some of the comforting familiarity of the Banesuit and perhaps rouse her from her stupor. She had been restrained to the bed to prevent her from any suicide attempts or homicidal rages. They pumped food into her and they cleaned up after her when she messed herself. They tested her response to different d**gs. Most did nothing except make her nauseous. A few thrust her mind back to full wakefulness, where she was f***ed to face the pure torment of her loss. This only resulted in her screaming uncontrollably until she passed out or was sedated once more. The rest of the time she stared blankly at the ceiling. Occasionally, she could be motivated to speak, but all she would ever utter was emotionless pleas for death.

One day, the henna haired Dr. Barriston came to the room to check Katrina’s vitals. Katrina only knew her as the one who had overseen her processing into a Bane. The doctor asked her the same thing she asked her every time she visited. “Feeling any better today, Miss Mulberry?”

“Kill me.”

Dr. Barriston glanced up from the equipment. She looked irritated by Katrina’s mechanical response. She surely felt helpless and frustrated. What was one to do in the face of such hopeless despondency?

“If you can hear me, if you’re registering anything of what I say, then I’ll tell you this: we won’t have to kill you. Eventually, you’ll be moved into the long term ward with the others like you. Eventually, like the others, you’ll cease responding altogether. You will lie there in that bed, unmoving, unimproving, until your body wastes away and ultimately gives up and you die. Is that what you want? If so, just keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll get your wish soon enough.” The doctor peered at her, looking for some flicker of a reaction to the harsh future she had just described, then sighed to herself and went back to the machines.

Katrina heard but did not respond. It would be so easy to do just what the doctor described. So easy to just let herself go into a world of nothingness, an empty void where there was no pain, no thought. To wall off her mind and keep it from thinking or remembering until her body finally died. To be dead. To join Winter, wherever she was. But if she did that, then no one would ever know Winter had ever existed. And what if she was still separated from Winter, even in death? Inside, some tiny ember sparked in Katrina’s memory. It was a memory of Winter, back when

(oh god, no, please, it hurts too much to think about, no)

she was just being born. When she was just making sense of who and what she was

(:I am not yourself. I am me!:) she had said

(no, you were wrong, my love, you’re both, you’re both)

and Katrina hadn’t understood anything of what was going and they were both so scared.

(:Katrina hates me. Katrina hates me, hates me!:)

(no, no, my Winter, I don’t hate you, never, never, I’m so sorry I ever made you think that even for an instant)

But even before they had merged so completely and irrevocably, even before Katrina could accept her, Winter already cared

(:I don’t want to die. I don’t want you to die, either:)

(I can’t live without you. How can I? How can you want me to live without you, that’s so cruel)

cared enough that she had been willing to sacrifice herself and let Katrina have her removed if it was the only way for Katrina to go on living.

(:I never wanted to hurt you. Forgive me:)

(please, no, no, what am I supposed to do, please don’t leave me alone, my dark, shining angel)

(:No matter what happens, I promise I’ll always be with you:)

(it’s not the same, memories aren’t the same, please don’t make me live without you)

(:I want you to promise me:) she had said.

(No)

(:Promise me you’ll find a way to keep going:)

(No! Not without you, no! I won’t! I can’t!)

(:Promise me:)

(Oh, god, Winter, don’t make me face the world alone)

(:Katrina, you’re crying:)

And so she was. Lying in the hospital bed, staring up at the ceiling, she could feel hot tears welling up in her eyes. It was the first time she had cried since she had been brought back to the facility. She sucked in a shuddering gasp of air.

Dr. Barriston looked over at her and was startled to see Katrina weeping. “Miss… Vivienne?”

She couldn’t contain the pain of the loss, any longer. The trickle became a flood as the inner wall crumbled, and Katrina was soon bawling her eyes out. “It’s not fair!” she howled. “She doesn’t want me to die. She won’t let me die!”

The doctor glanced over at the doorway, seeking aid, but there was no one else present. “Well, no, of course I don’t want you to die,” she said, misinterpreting her but relieved that Katrina was finally speaking. “None of us want you to die.”

“She’s dead, it’s not fair! I want to go with her but she won’t let me!”

“Uh, yes, well... now, just calm down.” The doctor was out of her element. She awkwardly stroked Katrina’s hairless head. “There, there. Calm down.”

“I’m alone. Alone! I’m scared! How am I supposed to go on living? How does she expect me to do that?” Katrina sobbed. “Help me. Somebody help me! Mommy, Daddy, help me!”

“Shh, there, there.” Though Dr. Barriston didn’t have a clue what Katrina was going on about, the simple fact that she was talking was important. The patients with SDS almost never spoke, and they certainly never expressed their feelings in this way. The nurse finally came by, but she waved him off. “I don’t know what to tell you, Vivienne” she said. “You’re no more alone than any of us. I guess… I guess you just find something worth living for.”

“Nooo, it hurts too much, it hurts!”

After what seemed like hours, Katrina’s tears finally slowed. She felt a numbness coming over her. She knew that the only way she could survive was to shut off her emotions and keep them securely locked away. It wouldn’t be easy to maintain. Meanwhile, the doctor continued to try to console her by speaking to her. She fed her sips of a nutrient-rich, fruit flavored drink that they had been using to re-acclimatize her body to normal digestion. “You’ll be okay. You’ll see. Everything will be okay.”

No. It won’t. Katrina might be able to f***e herself live, because Winter would have wanted her to go on living, and Katrina loved her too much to be able to refuse. But she knew in her heart that nothing would ever be okay again.

……

Weeks later, Katrina found herself sitting with Dr. Torres and a lawyer in a conference room of the facility. She was wearing a simple lavender jumpsuit over top of a latex bodysuit. The suit was clear, much to Katrina’s displeasure, but she refused to be without it. It looked and felt nothing like a Banesuit. It felt... dead. They had told her it was clear to help her get used to the sight of her own body. The sight of her own skin disgusted her. She leaned over the table and signed a name that wasn’t her own at the bottom of a sheaf of papers.

Katrina had already had countless meetings with doctors and psychiatrists, been subjected to a battery of tests, and told them whatever they wanted to hear. She told them nothing of Winter or the Eudeamons. They knew she still wasn’t completely right in the head–she was introverted, paranoid, and profoundly depressed–but since she wasn’t exhibiting any suicidal behavior even when given the opportunity, and since Mr. Greggor was pushing to have her let go, they had decided it was okay for her to be released.

The lawyer looked through the papers. “All right, that’s good. Now, Vivienne, you do understand that by the terms of the agreement you’re not allowed, under any circumstances, to discuss your experiences here. That’s all standard. But due to the increased media interest in your case, there may be a lot of people seeking your story–”

“I’m not going to talk to anyone about anything,” Katrina said in a weary monotone.

“That’s good to hear. Because of the, ah, unique difficulties you’ve had in the course of your banishment, you’ll receive some substantial remuneration. If you ever start to feeling litiginous–”

“Stop it. I don’t care about any of that. I just want to go away and be left alone… if that’s all right with you.”

Dr. Torres exchanged a glance with the lawyer and gave him a shrug. “That’s fine, Miss Mulberry,” said the doctor. “I know you want to be done with this place. You’ve been through a lot, but I have strong hopes for your complete recovery in the near future. Welcome back to society. I hope I won’t have cause to see you back here.”

Katrina was soon being ushered out the front door in the company of the doctor, the lawyer, and a few security guards. She had been given a long coat and a thick pair of sunglasses to protect her sensitive eyes. There was a car waiting to take her to a halfway house where she could live until she could properly reintegrate with society. There was nothing out of the ordinary about that. What was un-ordinary was the small crowd of people waiting outside and a long line of news vans with their aerials perked to full attention lining the street.

A few people in the crowd cheered and congratulated her, welcoming her back, but most of those noise came from reporters clamoring to ask her questions about the fire. She used to be one of those people, but that was all so long ago. The commotion and the claustrophobic press of bodies were almost enough to make her run screaming. She noted that Mr. Greggor, the architect of her early release, was nowhere to be seen. She supposed he wanted to distance himself from her, should she have an embarrassing meltdown in public.

The lawyer addressed the cameras. “Miss Mulberry has nothing to say at this time. She’s grateful for everyone’s concern, but as you can imagine, all this attention is a little overwhelming for her in her current state. Please respect her wishes for privacy during this time of transition.”

As Katrina was being lead toward the car’s open door, one reporter raised her voice to be heard above the tumult. “Miss Mulberry!” the reporter called. “What was it like to be banished? What’s your stance on the allegations of the cruel and inhumane practices of the Project?”

Katrina stopped moving. The lawyer began to answer for her. “Miss Mulberry has no comment to make on any–”

“Actually, I would like to say something,” said Katrina quietly. The eager crowd hushed. The lawyer and Dr. Torres exchanged an uncomfortable glance. She had to smirk inwardly at their discomfort as a thirst for vengeance bloomed inside. Unlike other ex-Banes, she had no fear of reprisals. There really was nothing they could do to hurt her more than what they had already done. They had already taken everything from her, including that which mattered most. All other pain and punishment was truly inconsequential.

Oh, the things she could say. She could talk about the degradation of being processed into a Bane. She could tell them about the severity and pain of the punishments, the arbitrary unfairness of the automated sentence extensions, or the damaging psychological effects of the profound isolation. With just a few words, she could stir up a hornet’s nest of controversy that might very well help bring down the entire system.

She gazed around at the voracious crowd, now virtually silent in anticipation of a sound bite. “You want my opinion about banishment? Want to know what it was like? All I can say is that it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. It was hard sometimes, but it made me a better person.” She f***ed a smile of gratitude. “I know a lot of people out there think it’s inhumane. I used to be one of them. Now I know better. If you want my honest opinion, I think the Banishment Project should continue as it is, indefinitely. Thank you, that’s all I have to say.”

Dr. Torres gave the lawyer a self-satisfied nod as Katrina slid into the back seat of the car. They think they have me properly leashed. Let them think what they want. It doesn’t matter, she thought as the car the pulled away from the noisy crowd. It would have been so easy, perhaps even satisfying, to take revenge on them by revealing some damning information. The old Katrina Nichols would have salivated for the opportunity. But that person was long gone.

Vengeance was a strong motivator, but so was compassion. She had all those other Eudeamonic Banes out there to think of. They didn’t have a voice of their own. She could bring down the system with a word, but what would happen to the Banes? What would happen to their happiness? Knowing first hand what it meant to lose it, she truly couldn’t wish it on her worst enemy.



Chapter 23



The weeks following her release were a kind of waking nightmare. The only way Katrina could function on even a basic level was to keep her emotions securely walled up. Any slip, any crack in the mortar–and there were plenty–would cause her to break down into a fit of crying and raving that would last for hours, until she was able to bottle them up again. The tears and the mourning, no matter how intense or how frequent, offered neither respite nor easing of the pain. The pit was truly bottomless.

She knew it would be impossible to resume any kind of normal life as a regular person. She still thought of herself as a Bane, albeit a lost one. She had been yanked out of the light and f***ed to live once more among mortal men. Katrina Nichols had existed for decades as a regular human being. She had felt lonely then, yes, but had been blissfully unaware of just how alone she really was. As Katrina Bane, she knew what it was like to finally be whole. Now, she understood what loneliness truly meant. Thus she learned the final, ultimate consequence of having become one with a Eudeamon–if you were ever separated, you could no longer feel like a complete person on your own… not ever again.

For the time being, she dwelled rent-free in a small, partially furnished apartment. She didn’t bother to buy any more furniture than what was provided for her, and she didn’t have any plans to decorate. Her surroundings were unimportant to her in her current state of mind. To her, there would have been little difference between living there or in a mansion, a prison cell, or even out on the street. She slept on a pile of sheets in the corner of the room (the bed was too soft) and bathed only because she couldn’t stand the smell of her own body. For food, she ate little else but nutrient bars, and even those she took no pleasure in tasting. There was no joy to be found in food, anymore. There was no joy in anything.

Around the apartment she wore nothing but the clear latex suit. Clothes just didn’t feel right on top of the suit, but they irritated her skin if she didn’t wear it underneath. Even though she had been getting used to having increased sensitivity in the absence of the constant anesthetic, she could barely stand the feel of her own skin. It felt unnatural. The latex suits were nothing like the comfortable womb that had been the Banesuit: they bound in places, they made her sweat, and she was always either too hot or too cold. But at least they resembled the shininess of the occluding skin that she had come to think of as her own. They reminded her that there had been a brief time when life had been beautiful.

She left her apartment as rarely as possible, only venturing out to get food. She spoke to no one unless f***ed to. A lot of reporters came to her door, entreating her to tell her story. They promised her wealth, fame, celebrity. She ignored all of them. A few wanted to reunite her with the c***d she had rescued. She declined that, too, unable to imagine how awkward and weird it would be for that poor k** to meet the hollow-eyed ghost she had become. For a while, she occasionally received flowers and cards of well-wishing. She read the cards–for some reason it felt strangely inappropriate to not at least look at them before throwing them away–but the sentiments within brought her no comfort.

She lived life like an automaton, unable to take interest in anything or even feel anything. She spent her days with her eyes trained on a small tv, though not absorbing any of the shows. Her nights consisted of staring into the dark and carefully tending her emotional wall. For now, she could see no possible future for herself. Nothing provided surcease to the pain. The stinking low tide of her pre-Eudeamonic life as a Bane would have been a welcome reprieve by comparison, because now that low tide had dried up into an arid wasteland devoid of all hope. It was all she could do to survive day to day and not give into the urge to simply lie down and die.

……

Benjamin Mellon and Verne Sawyer came to visit her a couple of weeks later. She hadn’t called them to inform them of her release, and they hadn’t even been aware of it until they saw her on the news some days after the fact. Verne had already been by a couple of times before, frantically relieved to see her, but shocked to see what she had become. He had tried to get her to talk about what was bothering her, but she wouldn’t say much. She couldn’t say much.

The second time he came, he brought a few boxes of her old belongings with him. He had hoped that making her apartment more homely and by giving her something that might connect her to her old life would help her out. She left the boxes unopened and stacked against a wall. She couldn’t bring herself to care about their contents. She was also afraid that something inside might trigger an emotion, and any emotion risked causing her carefully tended gates from crashing open and drowning her in a nightmare flood.

This time he brought her boss with him. She presumed he was there to try and talk some sense into her. They sat uncomfortably in the only two chairs in the Spartan apartment. Katrina sat on the floor with her forehead resting on her knees. Her hair had started to grow in and was now a short fuzz that crowned her head. Atop the latex suit she wore a simple sarong, out of respect for her guests’ sensibilities.

Benjamin just couldn’t wrap his mind around the changes she had undergone or her reluctance to expose her malefactors with the truth. Verne sat there quietly while Benjamin spent half an hour berating Katrina about her carelessness and stupidity.

“Don’t get me wrong, Nichols. It was very humanitarian of you to run into a burning building, and all that. But didn’t you think of the problems that could cause? You went into this to find a story, not become one. What were you thinking?”

“I wasn’t thinking,” Katrina replied flatly.

“Don’t you realize that you let your face get caught on camera as Vivienne Mulberry?” he asked. “How do you propose to clean that little mess up? How’s the real Mulberry supposed to come back now? Right now, she, as Katrina Nichols, is working as a secretary for a software company.”

“Sounds like she’s doing fine with my name, then,” said Katrina. “Let her keep it.”

With a frustrated wave of dismissal from his pudgy hand, he went on to orate the list of her sins. “And what was with that little speech you gave about the Banishment Project? ‘It was the best thing that ever happened to me,’ Nichols? ‘It made me a better person?’ You know that’s tripe! Absolute bullshit. Look at you! Look at how you’re living. You call this being better a person?”

“I’ve… been better.”

“Yeah. You’ve been better. First Sawyer comes and tells me, months ago, that you refused to come out of banishment after your time was up. Won’t say why. Now you’re out, you’re depressed as hell, and you still won’t talk. Know what these two things have in common? Not talking! You’re a reporter, Nichols. So, damn it, act like one.”

Katrina said nothing, so Verne spoke up. “She was happy there. She just needs time to adjust.”

Yes. I really was happy, once, she thought. I just can’t remember what it felt like.

“She needs to snap out of it, is what she needs to do.” He looked at Katrina. “When are you going to get what’s really bothering off your chest so you can get over this?”

“Get over it? You couldn’t possibly understand,” said Katrina quietly.

“Don’t think so? Give me a little credit. I’m a reasonably smart fellow. I made good grades in school. Why don’t you give me a try?” Mellon asked.

“You can’t help me. No one can help me.”

Mellon pursed his lips. “Oh, now that’s just–”

“I know that sounds like I’m being petulant, but it’s the truth,” said Katrina.

“They did something to her brain!” said Verne. “It’s not her fault. They did something to her.”

“No one else coming out of banishment acts this way, so why her?”

“The ones who did have probably already killed themselves or ended up in a c*** at the facility,” Verne said.

“If that’s true,” said Mellon to Katrina, “then report on it! Come on, get back on the horse and do your job.”

“There’s nothing to tell,” muttered Katrina. In spite of her suffering, Katrina was still protective of the Banes. She was unbearably alone, but they were still the closest thing she had to f****y. She couldn’t just give away their secret. “Just drop it. There’s no story, Ben. Forget about all of it.”

“And you’re a bad liar. What, did they threaten you?” He waited for a response, which she didn’t give. He smoothed out his pants and stood up. “Look, if you’re determined to throw your whole life and career away, there’s not much I can do to stop you. It kills me to see you like this, but I’m not your babysitter. You’re not my only concern, you know. The world isn’t going to stop just because you’re having a hard time coping.”

Verne shook his head and started to say something.

“No, Sawyer, no. I’m tired of it. When she decides to get over herself and stop being so damn self-centered, then I’ll listen.” With that, he stalked out of the apartment.

After a minute of silence, Katrina looked up. “Tough love, Verne?”

He shrugged and smiled sheepishly. “Something like that.”



Chapter 24



Katrina, returning from the market, bowed her head against the cold wind and hugged her meager bag of supplies to her chest. She was wearing a long coat, cinched tightly at the waist, but she was in nothing but her latex underneath. It offered little protection against drafts. As she rounded the corner to her apartment building, she noticed a Bane pressed up against a wall on the opposite side of the street. Her pace slowed to a stop. Every time she saw a Bane these days, it was like a blow to the gut. It was like seeing Winter’s ghost.

This one was a short, skinny male, probably barely out of his teens. His youth and small size were probably the reasons why he had opted out of the normal penal system in the first place. Having become a good judge of Bane behavior, she determined he was very new. Probably only days old, if that. He was undoubtedly frightened and lonely. She was overcome by an unbearable envy. She would have given anything to be in his place. He was frightened now, yes, but he had such wonders to look forward to.

He had noticed her staring at him. He must have been startled to have some citizen gawking at him unabashedly, because he reached out to her. A moment later, he snatched his hand back as if burned and writhed against the wall. A contact violation, no doubt. Katrina didn’t know how long his sentence might be, but she hoped it was a long one.

You will be happy, she mouthed to him, her eyes beginning to fill with tears. Then she had to rush back to her apartment before the inevitable breakdown came. She slammed the door behind her and threw her groceries aside. She couldn’t even make to her pile of bedding before falling to her knees. She cried out, feeling as though her body would tear itself apart, for surely no mere flesh could contain the unending waves of suffering that were trying to f***e their way out of her.

“Winter!” she shrieked into the emptiness of the room as the horror of it all came washing over her yet again. “Oh god! Oh my god! Winter!”

Only a month had passed since her release, but she had understood early on that this was no ordinary grieving process. She had the misfortune of grieving for lost loved ones many times in her life. Those dark periods in her life, terrible though they were, had taught her that time would inevitably ease the pain and normal life would resume. This time, however… this was something different. Something irreplaceable had been broken inside of her. Both the loss of Winter and the perpetual sense of aloneness would not fade. It would be with her for as long as she lived, just as perilously close to the surface as it had been the moment she when she had woken up and discovered her lover had been killed.

It took a couple of hours to calm herself down and rebuild the breeches in her emotional wall. Then she went to blow her nose and throw up in the toilet. “This is not living,” she moaned as she lay on the cold tiles of the bathroom floor. “Winter, help me. Somebody help me.”

She knew she couldn’t keep this up forever. She knew there were only two ways out. The first was suicide. She contemplated it often enough. Dying didn’t scare her; it would be a blessed relief. It was only the memory of Winter and the promise Katrina had made that had kept her from doing it, but that couldn’t keep her going indefinitely. Winter would have wanted her to live, and Katrina wanted to honor that. But mere survival was not the same as living.

The second way was to become a Bane again. She had it all planned out. There was a jewelry store not far from where she lived. She would break in one night, rob the place of as much as she could get–non-violently, of course–then she would go back to her apartment, sit, and wait. They would come to get her eventually.

The only thing stopping her from doing that was fear. What if, based on her previous experiences and current mental condition, they refused to put her back into banishment? They might lock her up in some institution instead. Worse than that was the possibility that if she did go back, and if her new Custodian eventually achieved sentience within her and became a Eudeamon… what then? What if she was unable to love it? What if she always resented it for the simple fact that it wasn’t Winter? That would be a nightmare for both her and the poor Eudeamon who couldn’t possibly be expected to become a replacement for Katrina’s lost love. But maybe, just maybe, she could come to love it for itself, and it might fill the emptiness inside of her and heal her wounds. It was the only possibility she could think of.

……

Verne had dug Katrina’s old laptop out of the boxes of her belongings before heading off to a motel for the night. He had been going through it to find her old investigations on the Banishment Project. He could tell he wasn’t accomplishing much, but he was still trying to Katrina engaged in something beyond herself. The computer now sat on the bed along with a folder of printouts of the research they had done.

Katrina respected him for coming to see her as often as he could. He had gone so far as to suggest getting an apartment of his own Eudemonia so that he could be close to her. She had adamantly refused. She didn’t want him rearranging his life any more than he already had on her account. She knew her indifference and silence was hurting him, and she knew that she was treating him abysmally. She couldn’t help it. She just couldn’t make herself connect with other people. She couldn’t allow herself to feel anything for anyone. The ability to sympathize had been taken from her along with Winter. The world had lost its beauty. Everything, even other people’s pain, was just so pointless and trivial in the face of her constant agony. Selfish, perhaps, but it was an inescapable selfishness.

She sat on the floor, mechanically chewing and swallowing a nutrient bar. Soon it would be time to crawl onto her pile of bedding and try to sl**p for a few hours. “I can’t go on like this,” she said to herself. “I can’t. I’m sorry, Winter. I’ve been trying so hard for you, but I just can’t. Something has to change. It has to change, or all of this just has to end.” She said that, of course, knowing full well that she lacked the motivation to change much of anything. Hell, it took all she had just to remember to f***e herself to eat.

In the bedroom, she noticed the laptop and papers Verne had left on the bed. She sat down and turned it on. There wasn’t much useful information on the thing, but she didn’t want anyone else going through it. Sooner or later, someone else might do as she had done in an attempt to expose the Banishment Project, but they wouldn’t be getting any help from her. Exposing it now was soon to be moot, anyway. Given what she had overhead while at the facility, it was probably just a matter of time before the whole thing was shut down. She hated the thought of the other Eudeamonic Banes becoming like herself. It ate at her, but she felt powerless to do anything about that now.

She deleted the computer files before turning to the hardcopies. One by one, she tore up the papers and dropped the pieces in the trash. Then she came to an article that made her pause for a longer look, only because she recognized some of the faces. It was a group photo taken shortly after Ashton Technologies had been founded. She could make out Drs. Julian Torres and Emilia Barriston among a dozen other people she didn’t know. One person that stood out in the center of the assemblage was a woman in her early forties with her blonde hair in a frizzy bun. Katrina scanned the list of names… her breath caught in her throat. Her hands began to tremble and the edges of the paper crumpled in her fists. It can’t be. That’s impossible!

For a few moments, possibly for the first time since she had awakened without Winter, Katrina was able to focus on something other than her inner turmoil. She began to chuckle bitterly, then to laugh at herself. How could she miss something like that? A fine reporter she turned out to be. Long ago, when she was still Katrina Nichols, she had been too eaten up with curiosity about the Banes. She had neglected to focus as much as she should have on what–and who–had lead up to their creation to begin with.

She sat there thinking for a long time. The revelation had triggered feelings other than pain, and for the first time since she lost Winter she was able to feel, at least momentarily, something else. A protective instinct. She recalled the blinding rage she had felt when she had witnessed those two mean beating up that poor Bane near the swamp. She summoned it up through the veils of loss and numbness that had hazed her mind over the past months and she nurtured it.

An idea had begun to form in her mind. A plan. It was crazy, but it might be the only thing that could distract her from her gradual, self-destructive descent. She might be nightmarishly alone, but she could try to make sure no else ever had to go through this. She had no hope for herself or for her own future, but if she could do this one thing, she might be able to give hope to others. As for herself… she could have revenge.

She looked down at the paper in her hands. It was time to pay a visit to a friend.



Chapter 25



It was late at night and the park was closed, but Katrina was familiar with all of the hidden ways in and out of the old park. Much of it was unlit, but she knew it like the back of her hand. Despite her resolve, she had to sit down on a stone bench and cry before she made it more than thirty yards inside. Memories of Winter were etched into every inch of this place. Just across the field, lost in the dark beyond the range of the streetlights, was her pond and the island where Winter had been born inside of her. Up on top of the ridge was the place where she had first taken Katrina to another world and introduced her to unimaginable pleasures. And over there, next to the little reflecting pool, was where Winter had revealed herself in the form of a black, latex angel.

It was too much. Katrina had to grasp the edges of the bench just to keep herself from fleeing from the painful memories that threatened to smother her. Even she did flee, she knew there was nowhere for her to run to. There was nowhere in the world she could go to hide from the loss and loneliness. And since she couldn’t run away, the only thing she could do was keep moving forward. Just keep moving forward. Nothin’ to it but to do it.

“Winter, give me strength,” she implored, getting to her feet. Somewhere behind her, a startled Bane moved deeper into the azaleas. It was probably a new one; Katrina knew the space under those azaleas was cramped and hard to sl**p in. No self-respecting Bane would live there for very long if he or she could help it. Katrina herself had slept there for weeks.

It didn’t take her long to find who she was looking for. She was familiar with Barbara’s usual haunts. She found the female Bane sl**ping on her side on a bed of damp sand beside the creek, between a pair of ornamental boulders that mostly hid her from view. Katrina wouldn’t have even noticed her dark shape in the shadows if she hadn’t been looking for it. She watched her for a long while before saying anything. The Bane looked so much like herself, or rather, the way she ought to be. She looked so much like Winter.

“Wake up,” she finally said. “It’s time to wake up.”

Barbara/Eden looked up, suddenly cautious and alert. Eden had undoubtedly brought her to full wakefulness in a heartbeat, in preparation for flight. She started to back away into the stream.

“Look at me, Barbara. It’s been a while, but I’m sure you’ll remember my face.”

Hearing her name spoken aloud, the Bane paused and tilted her head. She must have recognized Katrina’s face then, because her hands went to her mask, pressed tight over where her mouth would have been. Katrina could imagine Barbara’s horror at seeing her stripped of her Banesuit and her Eudeamon.

“Did anyone even notice I was gone?” Katrina asked.

A hesitant nod.

“They took me in. Did you know that? Do you see what they did to me? Look at what they did to me!”

Barbara bowed her head, plainly crying.

“They ripped Winter from me and they killed her. They killed me! Even though I’m still breathing, I’m dead. We were beautiful together, me and Winter. We were perfect. We were happy! They took everything from me. Look at me,” she commanded.

Barbara refused, still shaking her head in dismay. Katrina knew she was horrible for Barbara to behold. Not because of her haggard appearance, or even because she had been Barbara’s friend, a friend who was now in pain. She was horrible because she represented every Eudeamonic Bane’s worst nightmare–the possibility of being sundered from their Eudeamon. To Barbara, seeing Katrina standing there was like seeing a vision of her own death.

“You will look at me and you’ll own up to what you’ve done. Now you’re going to do something about it. You’re going to help me get justice,” Katrina said coldly. “I won’t let you hide here anymore, Doctor Ashton.”

Barbara–Doctor Barbara Ashton, founder and deposed chairperson of Ashton Technologies–looked up in surprise. She vehemently shook her head in denial, then turned to run up the hillside. She would disappear into the darkness within moments.

“Stop her, Eden!” Katrina called, hoping that the Eudeamon’s concern for Barbara’s long term well-being would outweigh her host’s immediate desires. “You know she needs to face this!”

Eden must have understood her and concurred, because Barbara only made it a few more yards before her legs went out from under her. Then commenced a wild, internal struggle as the Bane tossed and turned on the dew-dampened ground. She kicked and fought and tore up fistfuls of grass in an attempt to keep moving. Katrina thought this was probably the first time Barbara had ever had any sort of fight with her Eudeamon. She could only imagine what the woman was shouting within the muffling silence of her helmet. Barbara finally gave up the fight and curled up on her side, shuddering and hugging herself.

Katrina waited a few more minutes, giving Eden time to calm and soothe Barbara, before walking up the hillside to the huddled figure. Barbara held up her hands to ward Katrina off, as though the woman in the black coat was some kind of specter heralding her doom. At least she didn’t try running away.

“Calm down. I’m not mad at you, Doctor,” Katrina began, and saw Barbara visibly flinch from the form of address. “Okay, I won’t call you that. But I’m not mad at you. Whether it was intentional or just an accident, you created something wonderful. Something divine. Because of you, I was privileged to know Winter and experience… well, there are no words. I know you understand. But there are consequences to what you’ve created. Life and death consequences. You can’t hide from them forever. Do you want to end up like me? Do you?”

Barbara hung her head and gave it a little shake.

“So,” she continued, pulling a pad and pen from her coat pocket and offering it to the Bane. “Here we are again. Looks like we’ve come full circle. You want to tell me your side of the story?”

……

It was almost dawn before Barbara finished scribbling down the events that lead her to be where she was today. It was clear she was reluctant to go back and relive those times. She kept hesitating and lapsing into deep thought. Katrina had to continually prompt her to write, while also keeping an eye out for park patrols.

Years ago, Dr. Ashton, backed by her own research institute, had been one of a group of individuals who had been involved in the planning and development of Eudemonia. With the city modeled after a corporate-backed technocracy, she had a great deal of clout when it came to affairs of the city. Mostly, however, she left most of the administrating to other people, such as the city council, so that she could be free to focus on her own research. Building upon other people’s advances in the area of neural computing, Dr. Ashton had developed the first prototype Custodian-style computers almost by accident.

The concept and details of the Banishment Project were not wholly her idea, but she had gone along with it readily enough; it gave her the opportunity to test some of the capabilities and practical uses of her invention. And, after all, if it worked then it could revolutionize the world. She claimed, in her defense, that she had wanted more trial data on the long term side-effects, but since all of the early trials had shown that the computers behaved exactly as they were designed and did no harm to their temporary hosts, she ultimately capitulated to pressure from the city council. She hadn’t much liked the thought of her own Ashton Technologies redirecting most its energies into becoming a Bane-processing factory, but it was for the greater good, or so she believed.

Everything went fine until a few anomalies began to show up. When some of the first long term prisoners were brought in, they were suffering from what Katrina knew was now being called Suit Dependency Syndrome. They reacted terribly to the removal of the Custodian and would almost immediately attempt suicide or lapse into a c***. The exact cause was, of course, unclear at the time. A research scientist in the old-fashioned sense, Dr. Ashton was not averse to experimenting on herself. She decided to put herself into banishment.

Her plan was simply to spend some time as a Bane, just to experience for herself what she was doing to others and to find out for herself if it was, in fact, inhumane. Since she hadn’t wished to spend an entire year in banishment, she only intended to stay banished for a few months. Following that experience, she would have left the Custodian implanted for much longer–with the violation monitoring system deactivated, of course–to see if it was the Custodian or the banishment that was causing the problems. She only informed a trusted few about her plan at the time, as she didn’t want it to become common knowledge or risk having it seen as some sort of publicity stunt. Her intentions were honest. She told everyone else she was taking a leave of absence.

Being banished turned out to be more unpleasant than she had anticipated. It didn’t, however, seem to her to be inordinately cruel as long as she followed the rules. It seemed harsh enough to be a deterrent, but not so hard as to cause the sort of extreme reactions and psychotic disturbances they had been seeing. Overall, the system seemed to be working as intended. Still, after a few months of life as a Bane, she was desperately looking forward to being released.

Unfortunately for her, the thought of being betrayed never even crossed her mind. She might have been a brilliant researcher, but when it came to understanding other people, she had been hopelessly naive. It turned out that some of the other scientists and council members enjoyed the freedom and power they had acquired in her absence. That’s when she was informed through the automated central monitoring network that her sentence had been increased by ninety-nine years.

There was nothing she could do about it. She couldn’t tell anyone about her plight, nor could she march back to the facility and demand to be released. Being a Bane, she wasn’t allowed anywhere near the place. There would be no escape, no matter how much she raged and fought with the suit. She was trapped inside her own infernal machine. She went insane for a while, utterly consumed by hate, treachery, and thoughts of revenge. She was utterly helpless. It was like being marooned alone on a desert island. All she had to look forward was a lifetime of being trapped in a Banesuit, being f***ed into obedience, and being ignored by absolutely everyone until the she finally died of old age. She didn’t even have the ability to free herself through suicide, though she had tried; the Custodian wouldn’t allow it. It would keep her alive and healthy for a very, very long time.

And then Eden came. Eden came and saved her from all of the loneliness and pain. She didn’t need to explain to Katrina what that was like–the indescribable completeness, the absolute acceptance, the constant love. Suddenly, nothing else mattered. She had become a new person and she lived in a new world. Ashton Technologies, her research, the Banishment Project, and even the betrayal… all of it just faded away as unimportant. Let the fools do whatever they wanted, she had decided. She had Eden and was content. Until now.

I wanted to forget it all. But now u come and bring all this up. I can’t go back there! Barbara wrote. I’m so sorry 4 what happened to u, but Winter is gone. U can’t bring her back!

“I know I can’t. It’s not about that. What I want is to make sure this will never happen again, but I can’t do it alone. Nobody knows more about Ash-Tech than you. Do you know how close they are to shutting down the Project?” Katrina asked. “What do you think will happen to you then? What do you think will happen to Eden? You think they’ll let you stay in your suit just because you ask them nicely?”

Barbara looked aside, twisting the pen in her fingers. Then she wrote, Dr. Ashton is dead. I don’t want that life back. I won’t!

“Damn you, you can’t just keep ignoring it, because the problem’s not going to go away. This whole mess is your responsibility. You can’t escape from it any more than I can escape from my pain. Maybe you think that if they do shut it down, they’ll leave you the way you are so that you’ll never be able to expose them. As long as you have Eden, who cares what happens to the others. Is that it?”

At that, Barbara’s head snapped up. Even though Katrina couldn’t see her face, she could feel the hostility directed at her from the Bane. Barbara gave her head a furious shake. Rising to her knees, she shoved Katrina away from her.

Katrina stumbled back a few steps but didn’t fall. Nor did she retreat. Either Barbara was furious from having her feelings grossly misread, or Katrina’s accusation had hit a little too close to home. “If you don’t want to help me for your own sake, at least do it for the other Banes and Eudeamons. They’re practically your c***dren!”

The Bane shrank away from her. Katrina supposed Barbara felt betrayed by her, the way she had come out of nowhere and f***ed her to confront her past. And, perhaps, she felt that Katrina was judging her too harshly. It was, Katrina knew, a heavy burden to lay on the carefree Bane she knew Barbara to be… but that wasn’t her problem. This was all too important to worry about sparing Barbara’s feelings.

But I can’t! Barbara had started to write. Then she went still for a minute, presumably engaged in a conversation with Eden. Then she slouched into a posture of defeat. When she finally gave the pad back to Katrina, she had crossed out the above and written, What do you want me to do.

……

“I went shopping for you, got you some real food,” Verne said as he came into her apartment, toting a few backs of groceries. “I don’t want to enable your brooding or whatever–personally, I think you need to go out more and face the world–but all you ever buy are those nutrient bars. And you only ever get one flavor.”

“They keep me alive.” Katrina watched him go about stocking her bare cupboards. She was so tired. She had parted ways with Barbara just before dawn that morning and had only managed a few hours of sl**p after she got back.

Verne crumpled up the empty grocery sacks and threw them in the trash. “I’ve got to catch the train in a little bit. I’ll try to be back next week. Was just on the phone with Mellon. He has a job for me, something to do with breaking into some company’s personnel files. I hate to say it, but I’m afraid he’s about written you off.”

“Can you stay a few more days?” Katrina asked softly.

He looked surprised. “You… you want me to?”

“There’s something I need your help with,” Katrina said, poking a latex-covered toe into the nap of the rug. “I hate to ask it. Feels like I’m using you. You’ve done things for me before and not asked anything in return. You’ve been coming here, trying to take care of me, even though I’ve barely spoken to you all this time. And here I am, bugging you for help again. I just don’t know anyone else I can turn to.”

Touched, Verne said, “Well, hey, you know I’ll help any way I can.”

“It’s not something that should be too hard for you, but you could get in major trouble for this. I don’t want you to get in trouble.”

“Sounds like you’ve already decided your gain outweighs my risk,” Verne observed wryly. “But don’t worry about it. I’m in, whatever it is. So? What’s the score?”

Katrina nodded to herself. “If you’re going to take a risk, you deserve to know why. If I tell you something, can you keep it a secret? An absolute secret? Not telling anyone, not Mellon, not your friends, not even anonymously on those conspiracy message boards I know you hang out in.”

“Well, yeah, you know I can.”

“I’m going to tell you something no other human knows.” Katrina looked up at him. This was going to be hard for her. She could already feel the tears welling up. “I’m going to tell you about my love. I’m going to tell you about Winter.”



Chapter 26



Two days later, Katrina, in her coat, stood in the deepest, least accessible area of the park. She rubbed her arms for warmth. The small clearing in the trees wasn’t too distant from where she had come across those two exhibitionists making out, so long ago. It was the middle of the night and the chances of someone stopping by were almost nil. The patrols never checked this area unless they had reason to. Barbara had agreed to meet her here, along with as many ‘freed’ Banes as she could find. Katrina squinted her eyes in the dark, trying to count how many there were. It was hard to tell, since they blended in so perfectly with the night and there wasn’t any light to see by, but there looked to be a couple dozen sitting here and there. Maybe more. Seeing so many clustered together like that was an eerie sight, even for Katrina. It was surreal.

The Banes had been busy during her two month absence. Inspired by the ability to turn off the proximity warning and get close to other Banes, someone’s Eudeamon had figured out how to effectively arrange the mimetic fibers in his Banesuit to form a simple, built-in cable. After he had taught it to some of the others, they were able to form a temporary network simply by being in physical contact with one another’s suits. By simply touching, they could hear each other talk. They were probably chattering away at this moment, although, to an outsider like Katrina now was, they were as outwardly stoic and silent as ever.

They probably see me like they see every other civilian, now, she thought to herself, distraught with envy. An outsider. But I’m still one of them inside. I really, really am.

She could only make out a few she knew by sight. There was Barbara, of course, sitting in front. There was also Big Ray, an unmistakable mountain of a Bane, farther back. Sitting up high on a tree branch was Nola, the acrobatic one who had, at one time, mocked a woman for taking a Bane’s Frisbee. The rest of them all looked too similar in the dark to tell them apart. She knew she must have met all of them at one time or other, though, during her brief quest to ‘free’ them by helping them break into the Custodians.

Katrina got to her feet. All of the assembled Banes turned their blank masks toward her. There were a few awkward moments where she couldn’t make herself speak. She used to be a decent public speaker, but that had been long ago and in another life. There was no turning back, though. “Um, hi. Thanks for, uh, coming… um.” She shut her eyes, trying to calm herself. Winter, help me.

She began again. “My name is Katrina. Katrina Bane. Many of you knew me, if only briefly, as Katrina/Winter. Winter… she’s gone now. She’s dead. They came and took me out of the suit and… now she’s dead.” She began to get choked up. She bit her lower lip, hard, to f***e herself to stay focused. “It’s… it’s the sort of thing most of you have probably worried about. If you are at all like Winter and I were, it’s probably the worst thing you can possibly think of. But I can tell you, as bad as you imagine it is… the reality is worse. Much worse.

“But I didn’t come out here for your sympathy. My pain is my own burden. I have to endure it… alone. And I won’t lie to you–I want revenge. But I know that won’t fix me or fill the emptiness that’s a part of me now, and I wouldn’t ask any of you to put yourselves in danger just for my own personal vendetta. But I do suggest that you fight for your own sakes. What I want is to make sure that this never happens again, to any of you or any other Bane. Sooner or later, they’re going to shut down the whole Project. They’re not going to let you stay as you are just because you want them to. They’re going to track each and every one of you down and bring you in, and then you’ll end up just like me.

“I know what it’s like being as you are. I know how easy it is to just forget the world and not worry about anything. I know how hard it is to imagine doing something that, if it goes wrong, will put you and your Eudeamons in danger. But you can’t just stay here and hope that the world will forget about you forever, because it won’t. When they come, nobody else is going to defend you, hide you, or fight for you. If they knew about Eudeamons, that would probably just make them even more afraid of you. You have to fight to keep what you’ve found, because no one else is going to do it for you. You’ll be alone, on your own, and if they take your Eudeamon… you always will be.” She looked around at them. She couldn’t see their faces, so she couldn’t even judge their reactions to her words. “I-I guess that’s all I have to say.”

Some of the Banes, perhaps half a dozen, simply got up and walked away. It made her angry. She wanted to shout at them, but she knew it would do no good. She couldn’t really judge them too harshly. They were scared and, she supposed, seeing her standing there bereft of her Banesuit only emphasized the potential loss they would be risking. Besides, the rest of them were still here. That would have to be enough.

A Bane reached over and touched Barbara’s arm, apparently opening up a line for communication. Barbara wrote on the pad and held it up. They want to know what exactly you suggest we do.

Katrina looked at them. “We’re going to Ash-Tech. We’re taking it over.”



Chapter 27



“This is so crazy,” commented Verne, clutching his laptop as he looked around at the group of Banes clustered all around.

They were all gathered in a strip of forest behind the Ashton Technologies facility. It had taken a couple of days for all the Banes to get there on foot. The last few to arrive were only now creeping out of the trees, quiet as shadows. The facility was right at the edge of the city, out on its own among mostly undeveloped land. It was set in a bright, serene island of streetlights in the middle of a vast, well-tended lawn.

Fortunately for the assembled group, the Ash-Tech building was essentially little more than a research facility with beefed up security, rather than an actual prison. It wasn’t designed for keeping people inside. The prisoners being processed were usually u*********s or restrained during their brief stays there. The greater concern was keeping out threats such as industrial spies, technology thieves, and the occasional anti-banishment activist.

According to Barbara (assuming not too much had changed since she last worked there) there were only a couple dozen security guards at key points. Security was mostly automated by computer, which was able to lock down just about every room in the building. It would do so at the slightest hint of a f***ed entry, while simultaneously alerting all the guards and the police. If the small group tried to f***e their way in, they would likely find themselves trapped in a corridor until the security f***e assembled to take them all down. What they needed was access to the computer, which was where Verne came in. He was sticking close to Katrina’s side, evidently a little intimidated by the ‘otherness’ of all the Banes, now that he knew they were free of behavioral constraints.

Katrina turned to him. “You don’t have to do this. I’ll understand. If anything goes wrong and we all get caught–”

“Oh, stop it. I’m here, aren’t I?” He grinned, flush with excitement, and patted his laptop. “Besides, this is probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. Don’t worry about me. They won’t catch me. I leave no trace. I am the wind.” He made a soft, wooshing noise.

Barbara turned her head toward him. Katrina said, in his defense, “He gets like this when he’s nervous.”

Barbara shrugged in response and returned her attention to the facility. She had been cool toward Katrina ever since she had been berated into taking this course of action. Despite her emotional numbness, Katrina found this hurt her feelings a little. The distance between them served to make Katrina feel even more isolated from the community of Banes, such as it was. She knew she had possibly damaged her friendship with Barbara by forcing her to confront her past. She had simply had no other choice. If things were irreparable between them… well, there was nothing to be done about it.

“These people are so weird,” Verne whispered to Katrina as he set up his computer. “So aloof, ya know? This is like going on a picnic with a bunch of gray aliens. Don’t they get worked up about anything? Don’t they feel anything?”

“They feel plenty,” Katrina replied, “they’re just not interested in sharing it with you. And they can hear you whispering just fine, by the way.”

“Oops,” mumbled Verne, turning red.

For a few minutes, he worked to set up a network between his computer and three of the Banes. His hope was that they would serve as an amplifier for his efforts, as Winter had done when he had worked to break through her Custodian firewalls. Apparently, it must have worked, because in a very short time he was gesturing excitedly. “Never saw it comin’!” he exclaimed.

“You took over their computers already?”

“No, well, yes… sort of. I used the back door that lady gave me.” He looked around at the Banes, trying to pick Barbara out of the crowd, but gave up as most of them still all looked the same to him. Barbara had provided him with a back door to the system she had created, back when she had run the place as Dr. Ashton. She might have been trusting and naive in regard to her coworkers, but not that naive. Verne went on excitedly. “I boxed in the core system. That’s all I can do with it from out here. I’ve got the security systems under control, though. I think. Just give me a little while to figure out what I’m doing in here.”

Several of the Banes stayed behind with him so that he could manage the facility. The rest of the group skirted around the building to the front doors. These would normally have been locked, but thanks to Verne, they clicked open as the group approached.

Inside was a nicely appointed lobby with a reception desk that was currently occupied by a pair of security guards. There was no telling what went through the guards’ minds at the sight of a dozen Banes surging through the doors like an invading army of black, faceless mannequins. They hesitated, but only for a moment. One of them began hitting the alarms that would lock down the building and summon the authorities. There would be no response; Verne had already cut off all communications. The other guard unslung a static rifle–a supposedly non-lethal, short range, crowd control weapon–and pulled the trigger.

Katrina, who was bringing up the rear, shrieked in surprise as a bright arch of branching electricity ripped through the middle of the lobby. Violet light flickered off the walls and the scent of ozone filled the room. The insulating qualities of the Banes’ semi-rubber suits provided them only a little protection. Four of them, then five, went down. The rest charged forward, seemingly devoid of fear. Big Ray, who must have weighed close to four hundred pounds of mostly muscle, despite his lengthy banishment-enf***ed diet, took a direct hit, shuddered, and kept on going. He bowled over the rifle-wielding guard and they both disappeared behind the desk. The other guard, who had been fumbling with a sonic pistol at his belt, turned and ran for a hallway. Someone threw one of the lobby’s small potted plants at him with impeccable aim and caused him to stagger. The remaining Banes caught up with him and wrestled him to the ground, where they knocked him out with his own neuro-sed.

Wide-eyed and breathing hard, Katrina rushed to the nearest fallen Bane and flipped her over. It was Nola/Jade Prince. Her pulse said she was alive but u*********s. Barbara went around to check the others. They were all in the same condition. Big Ray had claimed the rifle for himself and gestured toward the hallway. They would have to leave the fallen where they lie; there wasn’t time to wait for them to recover. The guards would be out of it for up to six hours, thanks to the neuro-seds. Katrina and the Banes went deeper into the building.

……

Securing the bulk of the facility turned out easier than expected. The plan didn’t require them to overcome all of the guards; only the ones along the route to the heart of the facility. Verne had locked down all of the doors at key points, keeping everyone but the Banes isolated and trapped in their various sections. He had also triggered a recorded message informing all of the personnel of a systematic error, advising everyone to stay to calm while it was being fixed.

There were a few unavoidable skirmishes, but those were brief. Without any communication, the guards had no idea what was coming their way. They barely had time to react after the doors suddenly opened and a pack of Banes descended upon them. There were only a few more non-lethal casualties; Katrina herself got grazed by a sonic pistol blast–the effect of which was like being knocked in the head by a fist made of concentrated noise–and was stunned for a few minutes. Most of the fighting came down to hand-to-hand, which the Banes, hardened by years of living outdoors, excelled in easily. Some of them, with their questionable pasts, had been experienced scrappers in their own right long before being banished.

They entered a long hallway, with offices on one side and the main laboratories and processing rooms on the other. A gaggle of lab technicians and nurses had the misfortune to be doing some after-hours work when the place had been locked down. They were frozen in surprise as Banes systematically stormed through the rooms. They offered only perfunctory resistance as they were restrained with plastic cuffs liberated from the guards. Some demanded to know what was going on while others begged their captors not to hurt them, but their entreaties went unanswered; the Banes couldn’t talk and Katrina remained grimly silent.

They had gained control of the central rooms and hopefully most of the fighting was done, but the task wasn’t completed yet. A few Banes were dispatched to assist their fallen comrades and to fetch Verne. Now that there was a clear path to the main computer, he could get to work breaking its last defenses.

Katrina looked around, wired and a little shaken. The adrenaline of the invasion hadn’t quite worn off yet. She no longer had Winter to regulate that sort of thing for her. She glanced at the frightened technicians, huddled up on the floor with a couple of Banes standing watch over them. She wondered if they and the other people who worked here had ever woken up in a cold sweat from nightmares of a scenario much like this. Her heart had become too cold to feel much guilt over their fear, but neither did she didn’t wish them ill-will. She did realize that none of them had personally done anything to harm her and that they had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. While they might be hapless victims of fate, if everything went ahead according to the plan, their troubles were just beginning. She heard a commotion coming from the hallway.

“What do you think you’re doing in here? Take your hands off me! Get out! Custodians: punishment level ten!” came Dr. Torres’ enraged voice from the hallway.

It sounded to Katrina like Dr. Torres also had the misfortune of working late. She wormed her way through the wall of smooth, latex bodies to get a better look. There was the head researcher, himself, being forcibly removed from the office where he had been trapped. Dr. Barriston was also being brought down the hall, looking disheveled and frightened. Her face was framed by wispy strands of red hair. At least she was being quiet, like a deer in the headlights, quite unlike Dr. Torres, who was still shouting for the Banesuits to discipline their occupants.

“I don’t think that’s going to work,” Katrina advised.

Dr. Barriston’s eyes went wide. “V-7... uh, Miss… Mulberry?”

“You.” Dr. Torres looked at Katrina with utter confusion. In spite of the dire situation he found himself in, he managed to put a bold front. “How did you get in here? Is this your doing? You march this rabble right out of here this minute! Stop this madness at once and maybe we can discuss a suitable–”

“Shut up, Julian,” came an unfamiliar voice. “You have no right to speak to her that way.” It was that of a mature woman and it carried an unmistakable ring of authority. Katrina felt a gentle touch on her shoulder. She looked around in surprise to see Barbara behind her. The woman had found for herself a Vox, which was now attached to her upper arm as though glued there. She gave Katrina a small nod that said, It’s all right, I’ll take things from here. Katrina stood aside with a sense of relief in seeing Barbara stepping in and taking control; she wasn’t able to shoulder that kind of burden on her own.

Barbara stepped around Katrina to face Dr. Torres. “She’s not the one in charge here, and neither are you.”

Torres’ face blanched. He began to shake his head. “No. It can’t be you.”

“Surprised to see me, perhaps?” Barbara asked.

Dr. Barriston stared with amazement at the female Bane. “Doctor? Doctor Ashton? Is that you?”

The blank helmet turned toward the female doctor. “Hello, Emilia.”

Torres seemed to shrink in upon himself with a silent exhalation. He bore the appearance of a man whose past actions had caught up with him, though he still wasn’t sure how or why. “But how? How did you get in? How are you doing this? The Custodians…”

“You really have no understanding of my creation, do you?” Barbara asked him. “That’s all right. Neither did I. I do now, though. Unhappily for you.”

“I don’t understand. Somebody explain what’s going on!” Dr. Barriston exclaimed. “Doctor Ashton, where have you been all this time? Why are you in that Banesuit? What are all these people doing here?”

Barbara looked at her. “You have your faults, Emilia, but being ignorant has never been one of them. I have no doubts that you’ve suspected where I’ve been.”

Emilia Barriston shook her head in denial. “What? I… no. No, I–”

Barbara dismissed her with a shrug and returned her attention to Dr. Torres. “Ah, Julian. My old friend. Was having control over my facility really so tempting that you couldn’t resist doing what you did to me?” Barbara asked.

“It was all Greggor’s idea!” Torres declared.

“I don’t doubt that. But you must have not put up much resistance, did you? Otherwise, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, now would we?”

“This is not happening,” he groaned.

“How does it feel?” Katrina asked him. She couldn’t resist digging in the screws, just a little. “How does it feel to have your life come crashing down? Just think of what the press will do when they get a hold of this. They’ll crucify you. Think you can handle that kind of humiliation?”

Torres stared goggle-eyed at her with a hurt ‘What did I ever do to you?’ look. She had no pity to spare for him. Although Dr. Torres had never intentionally harmed her or the other Banes who had been separated from the Eudeamons, and even though his betrayal of Barbara had unintentionally granted her great joy, he was still a man who had knowingly conspired to banish his colleague and coworker for life just for personal gain. Sorry, but you’re not getting any sympathy from me, she thought.

“What do you want from me?” he asked Barbara with defeat in his voice. “Do you want me to turn myself in? Reinstate you?”

“I’ll reinstate myself, thank you, Doctor. And I don’t particularly desire to turn you in. You see, that would be denying myself the pleasure of personal revenge.”

“Revenge?” he asked hollowly.

“You have no idea how long I dreamed of this moment, when I would be able to make you beg on your knees for some kind of mercy,” said Barbara with a hint of cruel glee. “Which, of course, I wouldn’t grant. Oh, the things I used to dream of doing to you.”

Katrina glanced over at her, a little startled by the vicious tone of the woman’s voice. Every muscle in the Bane’s body was taut, as though she was barely restraining herself from pouncing on him. Barbara, of course, had every reason to be furious with her betrayers, but it was still hard to reconcile this attitude with the Bane that Katrina knew.

Judging from the abject dismay on his face, Torres would probably have been willing to do just about anything to avoid Dr. Ashton’s malice. He squirmed in the iron grip of the two males who held his arms. He judiciously refrained from saying anything that might incur further wrath.

Barbara’s body slowly relaxed and she shook her head. “Now I see that it’s just not worth it. You’re not worth my time. You’d just better be thankful I’ve changed since when I first learned you intended to trap me in this suit until I died. You have Eden to thank for that. Besides, as someone once pointed to me, this goes beyond personal revenge. What we’re doing here is an act of survival, plain and simple.”

“What do you want, then?” Torres asked. “If you’re not going to turn me in, then just… just let me out of this with a scrap of dignity. Do you want out of the Banesuits?”

“Out?” Barbara scoffed. “That’s the last thing we want. We’re making sure we stay in. That’s why we’re here.”

“You don’t want out?” Dr. Torres asked, studying Barbara’s inscrutable, glossy facemask. He looked from her to Katrina, and then to the assembled, rebellious Banes. He finally began to put two and two together. “You’re suit dependent,” he told Barbara, almost accusatory. He looked around at the other Banes. “You’re all suit dependent!”

“How astute. And who coined that grossly understated bit of nomenclature? Was it you?”

“D-doctor,” ventured Dr. Barriston. “If that’s true, you need help. You need… rehabilitation, or–”

“You can see what rehabilitation’s done for me,” Katrina commented darkly.

“Enough of this,” said Barbara. “While it was nice to catch up with you both, we’ve a long night ahead of us, and there’s a great deal of work I have to do in reclaiming my facility.” She then addressed the Banes. “Take these two, the rest of the staff, and the guards to the shower room and restrain them there. We have a number of new Banes to process.”

“What? Process? You can’t be serious!” Dr. Torres bellowed as he and Dr. Barriston were f***efully e****ted down the hallway. “You can’t do this to me!”

“Doctor Ashton, no! Please!” Dr. Barriston wailed. “I didn’t know, I swear I didn’t know anything! Don’t do this to me… I’m innocent!”

“I’ll do anything you want,” Torres insisted, raising his voice to be heard over his colleague’s cries. “Anything! I’ll turn myself in, I’ll take all the blame. What do you want? Tell me what you want! You can’t do this!”

They might as well have been pleading for mercy from an obsidian statue. Barbara observed them in silence until they disappeared around the corner. She then said to the others, “Come on, everyone. We’re not done yet. There’s much to do.”



Chapter 28



The Banes had split up into groups in order to scour the remaining rooms of the facility, taking care to avoid rooms where guards were trapped. Barbara had gone to assist Verne with the facility’s computers while Katrina and three of the Banes, two of whom were armed with sonic pistols, went to explore one of the sub-levels. They wanted to make sure that they hadn’t missed any of the staff that might have been trapped deeper inside the building when the raid occurred. A single slip up like that and the entire plan could be ruined.

At the end of a hallway, Katrina and the Banes found themselves in a large room lined with hospital beds and monitoring equipment. There were nine people inside, all in hospital gowns–some wearing latex underneath as an attempt at therapy–lying inert on their beds like c*** patients. Their wrists were fastened at their sides with padded, hospital restraints. A few of the patients’ eyes open, but they didn’t appear to be registering anything around them. These people were the remnants of Banes who had lost their Eudeamons. Katrina felt a cold chill.

This is what I looked like, not so long ago, she realized. Except for a promise I made, one I’ve been trying to keep, I’d be in one of those beds right now. If I can’t figure out how to keep living after all this is done, I might still end up in one.

The rest of the party entered and wandered around the room, looking at the patients. The Banes appeared agitated. Their thoughts were inscrutable, but Katrina suspected they were all feeling pity mixed with, perhaps, a tinge of dread. These people weren’t dead, but compared to what they had been, they might as well be cold corpses.

As the single female Bane in the search party approached a bed at the far end of the room, its middle-aged occupant’s eyes fluttered. His eyes came into focus and he looked at the female Bane with a growing hope that erased years from his face.

“Summer? Summer, you’ve come back!” he exclaimed hoarsely, trying to lift himself up in the bed. He strained weakly against the restraints, trying to reach out to her. The Bane looked around at the others with uncertainty. As she did so, the hope drained from the man’s face and he sank back onto the bed. “No. It’s not you. You never come,” he mumbled. His eyes glazed over once again, and no prompting on the others’ part could get him to respond.

Katrina, wide-eyed, watched him with a sympathy that bordered on sheer horror. This was hitting too close to home for her. The lost look in his eyes was so familiar, for it was a look she saw whenever she gazed into a mirror. His Eudeamon had even named itself after a season, too. She wondered what his Summer had been like, and if she had been anything like Winter. Her Winter.

She stifled a sob. “Guys... I can’t be in this room any longer. Can we please move on?”

The others nodded in assent. They, too, had been unnerved by what they had just witnessed and were almost as eager as Katrina was to get out of there.

......

Katrina lead the group down the hallway, back toward the elevator. About mid-way down the hall, she heard a door bang open behind her. A moment later, a man shouted, “Lady, get down!”

Reacting on pure reflex at the shout, Katrina unthinkingly dove to the ground. It was the first thing that occurred to her to do upon hearing someone yell such a thing. An electric burst ripped through the hallway behind her. Katrina scrambled to her feet and spun around to find a blond-haired man in a security guard’s uniform standing above a heap of three u*********s Banes. He was holding a static rifle in his hands and he was breathing hard. He looked at her. “Are you okay? Did they hurt you? What in the hell’s going on up there?”

Katrina mumbled something incoherent in reply, bewildered as to why the guard hadn’t shot her, too. Then it dawned on her–she wasn’t dressed in a Banesuit. To him, she was just some woman in a long coat. He must have mistook her for some civilian or one of the Ash-Tech personnel. She stared at him, unsure of what to do. He looked sort of familiar to her. She knew she had seen him somewhere before. Then, when she noticed the tracery of fresh scars across the bridge of his nose, it clicked.

She had seen him once before. Months ago. Only that time, it had been in a swamp, late at night, and he had been swinging a baseball bat at her head. He was one of the two Bane-bashers she had attacked for assaulting that little Bane in the woods. And he worked at Ash-Tech as a guard? She was frozen with terror. The last time she had met him, she had Winter there to grant her strength. Now she was in stuck in a hallway with him, defenseless and alone. She had to flee. She took a few steps away from him.

He hadn’t recognized her, though. He probably wouldn’t have recognized her as that Bane, not even if she was still in a Banesuit. After a baffled glance at her, he turned his attention to the Banes at his feet. He began to kick at them, hard. “Fucking scum. Coming in here? Coming in my house? I’ll show you. I’ll show you what that gets you,” he muttered under his breath as he continued to kick around the u*********s Banes like rag dolls. He stomped on one and Katrina heard a dull snap.

Katrina stopped retreating. She couldn’t just let him assault her people like that. There wasn’t much she could do, but she had to do something, even if it was to just distract him from the helpless Banes. She took a step forward, not giving any thought to a plan. “Hey, asshole.”

He stumbled to a stop in mid-kick and looked up at her. “What the fuck d’you say?”

“Does your wife know you like beating up Banes?” She untied the belt of her long coat and let it slip from her shoulders, leaving herself with nothing but her shiny, clear latex bodysuit. The coat would only slow her down and give him something to grab.

He stared at her, not sure what he was seeing or hearing. “What?”

“Will any Banes do? Or is it only fun for you if they’re helpless women?” she asked casually, forcing herself to inch closer to him. She had no choice but to get near to him in order to reach the open doorway he had come through; the hallway she was in was a dead end. He still hadn’t reacted. He had been taken off his stride and was trying to decide what to make of crazy lady in the transparent latex. For a moment he almost looked afraid of her, or at least afraid of being confronted by an apparent stranger about his secret nighttime activities in this most improbable of circumstances.

“I guess I can’t blame you too much,” Katrina continued. She was almost to the doorway. “Maybe it is fun. I seem to remember how satisfying it felt... when I was smashing your face in.”

That did it. The memory of that night sparked in his eyes. The fear was gone in a flash and his lips peeled back from his teeth. She could see that he now knew, as unlikely as it seemed, that he was in the presence of the Bane who had scarred his face. Not giving him a chance to make the first move, Katrina darted through the door and took off down the new hallway. She had hoped to goad him into pursuing her rather than just blasting her with that static rifle he had, and she had been successful. He tore through the hall after her, his weapon forgotten. Clearly, he wanted to use his bare hands for whatever dirty work he suddenly had in mind for her. She could feel him right at her back, hear his footfalls.

She had no clue where she was going. She whipped around a corner into a new hallway. It all looked the same. She had a basic memory of the floor plan of the upper levels from the time she had spent here while recovering, but knew nothing of the layout of the lower levels. Her only hope was to lead him far enough away from the others and maybe barricade herself inside a room until help could arrive.

She was faster than the guard, but only by a little. She had only a couple seconds headway. She ran past many closed doors, knowing if she stopped to try one of the handles and found it to be locked, she wouldn’t get a second chance; he would be all over her. Then, just ahead, she noticed there was a door that was partway ajar. Veering toward it, she flung the door open, taking only a split second to register that it was a supply room with no other exits. There was a stainless steel desk in the room and shiny, metal wire shelves lining the walls, each loaded with boxes and medical equipment.

She spun around to shut herself in. He crashed into the door before she was able to close it all the way and he thrust his arm inside. She let out an involuntary scream of fear and only just managed to keep the door for bursting wide open. She tried slamming the door on his arm, but she couldn’t hurt him enough to make him withdraw it. He grunted and swore as he tried to f***e it open. She knew she wouldn’t be able to hold him off for long.

Katrina took a deep breath, steadied herself, and leapt away from the door. It swung wide as he barreled in. He was momentarily off-balance and Katrina took advantage of that by planting the heel of her palm right into his nose, right where she had hit him once before. The man howled in pain and staggered forward, half blind. bl**d flowed down across his lips. She tried to squeeze past him, but he hooked his arm around her waist and heaved her back in the room. She collided with the metal table and then he was on top of her, pinning her painfully against it. He had his hand under her chin and was forcing her head back. She tried fending him off with kicks and punches, but his reach was longer and he was wearing a protective vest beneath his shirt. One of his hands found her right breast and squeezed, hard, as though he was trying to crush it, which tore a shriek from Katrina’s lips. She raked her nails across his face. He bellowed in pain and landed a blow to her mid-section. She retched as the wind was knocked out of her.

Whether he intended to **** her in there or just beat her death, Katrina didn’t know. There was no telling what sorts of cruel revenge he had dreamed up during his recovery after their first encounter. She realized she wasn’t that afraid of dying–she had already accomplished what she had wanted by helping the Banes take over Ashton Technologies. She had months ago come to terms with the possibility that death might be the only way to escape her constant pain. But what she didn’t want was to die like this, in a supply closet, at the hands of this asshole. She refused.

She stopped trying to fend him off. Instead, she wrapped her arms around the man’s neck and pulled herself onto him. He was too surprised by the sudden change of tactic to think of pushing her away. At least not until, with a scream, she sank her teeth into his left cheek. He let out a yell which grew in volume the harder she bit. She tasted bl**d. It revolted her, but she didn’t let go.

Staggering backwards against her weight, the man kept trying to dislodge her, but Katrina was hanging onto him with everything she had. She felt his fingernails scr****g her scalp, trying to get a grip on her head, but her hair was still too short to offer a handhold. Her latex-clad body was just as difficult for him to grab onto with his sweating hands. His back hit one of the metal shelves and he could retreat no farther. He stopped trying to push her away. Instead, his hands found her neck and began to squeeze. A few moments later, Katrina had to release her bite in order to gasp for air. She twisted in his grip, pulling at his wrists.

“You fucking Bane cunt,” he was snarling between breaths. His bl**dy lips were drawn into a terrible, wild smile. “You’re gonna be sorry. You’re gonna be so sorry.”

Katrina glared defiantly at him even as her bl**d pounded behind her eyes. It wouldn’t be long until she was u*********s. u*********s, or dead. Her gaze darted to room’s bare wall, just visible between the shelves. The shelving unit wasn’t attached to the wall–or so she prayed. She let go of the man’s wrists and grabbed onto the highest shelf above his head that she could reach while, at the same time, bracing a foot against the wall at his side. With the last of her strength, she simultaneously pushed against the wall and pulled at the shelf. It began to lean, then fall, against the guard’s back.

She was prepared, but he was not. She stumbled backwards, out of the way, as soon as his hands slipped from her neck. The man, a look of confusion on his face, was knocked to the ground with the weight of the metal furniture pushing on his back. It collapsed on top of him with loud crash. Falling equipment shattered and boxes went s**ttering across the floor. Katrina doubled over to catch her breath, watching him out of the corner of her eye.

The shelf wasn’t that heavy, at least not enough to incapacitate him. With a groan, he began to drag himself out from under the shelf. Katrina looked around anxiously at the debris, searching for something heavy she could hit him with. Her eyes fell on a cardboard spool of rubber surgical tubing. She seized it and unwound a few feet of tubing. As soon as his head appeared from wreckage of the shelves, she looped it twice around his neck and pulled.

The guard let out a startled squawk as the rubber garrote went taut. He thrashed under the weight of the shelves and grabbed onto her ankles, trying to unbalance her, but Katrina had all the leverage. Her arms and shoulders were quivering with the strain as she pulled, but she felt none of it. All that filled her mind was a white fury. Her face hard, she watched as the man gurgled and his struggles weakened. She was killing him.

I can do it, she thought exultantly. She knew she could. They had taken everything from her. She could take everything from this guy. This fucking, Bane-bashing waste of a human being. She wanted to do it. She would do it for Winter.

Winter.

Her eyes softened at the memory of her Eudeamon. What would her dark angel think if she was still here now? What would she do? Katrina knew. Winter would soothe Katrina’s rage and fill her body and mind with calmness. Winter would tell Katrina that she could let go, that he wasn’t getting up any time soon. Winter would have pity. And Katrina would understand why. Katrina looked at the man whose distorted face was now reddish purple, and her rage drained away.

“I’m not you,” she hissed at him, and let go of the tubing. “I’m not one of you.”

The semiconscious man gasped for air and began to cough convulsively. Katrina felt nothing. She kicked through the rubble of medical supplies until she found the guard’s static rifle, which he had lost during the fight. She pointed at the man and pulled the trigger, sending arcs of purple lightning raking across his body. He shuddered, then went still. Still, but alive. Katrina lowered the gun and staggered out of the room without another look back.



Chapter 29



Hours later, everyone, except for those assigned to guard duties, had gathered in a large conference room on the second floor. There wasn’t much concern that the captives would try anything, not with Big Ray and his static rifle standing watch over them. Katrina sat at the long table, huddled over a cup of coffee. She was exhausted, and Verne looked drained as well. He kept giving her guilt-ridden glances from across the table. He blamed himself for her encounter with the guard. He believed he should have personally made sure that every single door had been securely locked down and individual accounted for, even though there were few automatic locks in the sub level. Katrina didn’t hold him responsible at all, though. She hoped he could see that.

Barbara had given her and the Banes from her ill-fated search party an examination. One of the Banes had received a broken rib from the guard’s brief attention, but his Eudeamon was able to block the pain with no difficulty. Katrina had some nasty, purpling bruises around on her body, particularly around her right breast where he had grabbed her. Her throat was sore and her head was still throbbing a little, but otherwise she was mostly okay. Emotionally, she was dealing with it just fine. Compared to the suffering she had endured during the past months, the life-and-death struggle with the guard was practically an island vacation. She was finished with him, and didn’t care to spare him further thought.

She straightened up in her chair and looked around. She was worn out, but she knew the Banes could still keep going strong for a while thanks to their Eudeamons’ ability to keep them energized and alert. She couldn’t get over the fact how out-of-place the Banes looked in an indoor setting like this. It felt strangely unnatural to her.

Some of them had acquired their own Voxes so they could be heard aloud. One, whose name Katrina wasn’t sure of, reported his findings. “There’s four convicts in those holding rooms, the latest batch. They’re nekk** and knocked out.”

Barbara nodded. “Patients who have been sedated while the Custodian implants itself. We’ll have to finish processing them first. I’ll teach any who are willing how to do it.”

“There’re also nine people tied to hospital beds downstairs, in comas or something,” said the female Bane who had been in Katrina’s group, now recovered. “They wouldn’t respond to anything. Except that one guy, but only for a second.”

“They’re the un-implanted ones,” offered Katrina, recalling with a shudder the long room lined with beds where the people reminded her so much of herself. She gave her head a shake, trying to banish the memory.

“According to the records,” said another Bane, one who had been working with Verne on the computers, “they’re just the most recent. There are nearly a hundred that have been moved to private nursing facilities.”

“So many,” said Barbara, sinking a little deeper into her chair, as though a weight had settled upon her. “We’ll do what we can. Anything else?”

“Well, I’ve done what I can on my end,” said Verne to Barbara. “You’ve got proprietary control over the computers and everything in them.”

“Thank you, Mister Sawyer,” replied Barbara. “You’ve been an invaluable help to us.”

“Oh, it was nothing,” Verne said swaggeringly. “Just, you know, doin’ my part, helping a friend.”

Katrina smirked into her coffee cup.

“Your work isn’t over yet. If you can access the automated messaging system, please have all of the employees told not to come in to work tomorrow. Everyone except these,” said Barbara, sliding a slip of paper across the table to him. It bore a short list of names. Katrina craned her neck to read them. There were several people she didn’t know, but she most definitely recognized Victor Grable’s name.

“I’m guessing,” ventured Verne, “you’ve got a grudge against these people, too. And you’re going to… process them? You sure that’s a good idea?”

“I’d rather have them under the constraints of a Banesuit where I can keep an eye on them,” said Barbara. “I’ll be able to use their skill and knowledge to further the research that will benefit us all.”

“You’re doing them a favor, you know,” Katrina said to Barbara. She gestured at the list. “Them, and Torres. You’ll be giving them Eudeamons. These are the people who tried to imprison you for life.”

She faced Katrina. “I’m aware of that. But until that time, they’ll have to face the thought of being trapped forever in a Banesuit, without hope and with no one but themselves to blame. Will that satisfy you?”

Satisfy? she wondered. The only thing that would truly satisfy her was being reunited with Winter, and that was impossible. Katrina frowned, but nodded.

“We could wait until they have Eudeamons and then separate them,” suggested Ethan/Nodd, who was leaning against a wall of the conference room with his arms folded. “Like they did to the others.”

“No,” Katrina hissed vehemently to the Bane. She had once thought that not even her worst enemy should be condemned to experience what she had gone through. She still felt that way. “You will not. You have no idea what you’re even suggesting.”

Ethan/Nodd shrank away from her. “Okay, okay. It was just a thought,” he said defensively.

“Don’t worry, Katrina,” soothed Barbara. “We won’t be doing anything of the sort. Once they have Eudeamons, they’ll understand everything and will become our allies. They will no longer be their old selves, and I’ll consider their misdeeds forgiven. If being what I am has taught me one thing, it’s that if our Eudeamons can accept us and forgive our own wrongdoings, then we can forgive others for theirs. They’ll suffer in their private purgatories for a while, then they’ll become one of us.” No one dissented, so she continued. “Tomorrow I’ll inform Councilman Greggor of the new paradigm. He’ll have no choice but to help smooth things over with the police f***e and the city council in the coming days.”

“Greggor?” Katrina asked, surprised. “You mean you’re letting him get away scot free? He’s the worst of the lot.”

“He’ll be much more useful to me where he is than in a Banesuit. Unless he wants to be exposed for the things he has done and lose his valued position and reputation, he’ll do as he is told. The man is essentially a coward. As long as I don’t push too hard, he won’t leave his corner. Once he has outlived his usefulness… well, then we’ll see.”

Katrina said nothing. She continued to be somewhat taken aback by the change that had come over Barbara in the last twenty-four hours. She had seemed to quite easily slip into her old role of Dr. Ashton, and Dr. Ashton was far more calculatingly Machiavellian than Katrina felt entirely comfortable with. It was a necessity, of course, and it was for the greater good of the Banes… Katrina just hoped the carefree Bane she once knew wasn’t gone forever.

……

The citizens of Eudemonia woke the next day to startling a startling press release from Ashton Technologies. It seemed that a small cabal of employees had conspired to sell company secrets and valuable technology. When they had learned their gambit had been discovered, they had apparently fled arrest and taken the stolen research with them. Their whereabouts were still unknown. The public was assured that there was no threat, but all work at the facility was to be temporarily suspended while internal investigations were ongoing. Apparently, Doctor Barbara Ashton had reemerged from seclusion to reclaim the reigns of her misused facility, but she was granting no interviews.

……

Katrina stepped into one of the offices adjacent to the showers. It was in this very room, in what seemed another lifetime, that she had long ago been implanted with a Custodian. Today there was a man securely restrained to the table: hairless, paunchy, and looking very vulnerable under the harsh lighting. He was covered with sweat, though the room was quite cool. Also in the room was a new Bane, one who had been a doctor versed in the implantation procedure. Katrina only knew him as R-8922. Dr. Ashton had implanted him herself, so that he would be able to contribute his skills toward the processing others. He was allowed by his Custodian to use the necessary implements to perform his task, but any deviation, escape attempt, or unauthorized communication would instantly be punished. He had no choice but help transform his old colleagues into more Banes.

Soon, there would be another Bane capable of installing Custodians, because the naked man on the table was Victor Grable. Katrina had been sound asl**p when he had arrived at work. He had undoubtedly expected it to be a day like any other, but had found himself in an ambush by Banes. She was sorry she had missed that. At least she could still give him a decent sending-off. “Oh, hello, V-3218,” she said after a glance at his chart. “I hope everything is proceeding up to your standards.”

“What are you doing here?” he grunted, yanking at the restraints.

“I just wanted to stop by and see how you were coming along. You’re looking pretty pathetic, I must say. Not to worry, though, since soon no one will notice you at all. I wanted to be able to explain things to you, because I know how stressful it can be to be left in the dark. You know, seeing as we’re… how did you put it? Oh yeah. Old friends.”

“You won’t get away with this.”

Katrina went on. “First, they’re going to drill a hole in your skull. Then the Custodian will grow into your brain like, oh, just think of it like tree roots. It’s fascinating, really, and there’s really nothing you can do to stop it. It’s going to control every aspect of your life. Isn’t that comforting? After that, when they get you in your Banesuit, you’ll be just another faceless Bane, and you will be for the rest of your life. Textbook, as you might say. Does that make you feel any better?”

Grable quivered with rage. “You slut. Don’t think you can talk to me that way. I know what you were in here for. You’re a whore! A filthy-”

“I’m so glad I was able to explain things to your satisfaction, Doctor. If you have any further questions, just keep them to yourself. It’ll be easy–you won’t be able to talk. I know you have an appointment to keep, so I won’t delay you any longer.”

“I’ll get you for this!”

“No,” Katrina said, looking him up and down. “No, I don’t think that you will.” Katrina exited the room with a smile on her face. It had been petty, perhaps, to goad him like that. Petty or not, it felt good.

She went down the hall, past the cells where Custodians were implanting themselves over a period of days into their u*********s hosts, to the room where the Banesuits were completed. Here were a couple more Banes, but these were from the group that had invaded the facility. They had been trained in the relatively straightforward procedure of finishing up the suits. Restrained in a chair was Dr. Emilia Barriston, now E-6430, whom Katrina barely recognized in her current, hairless state. She, too, was naked, except for the rubber pads glued over her nipples and crotch and the Custodian sealed against the back of her skull. On a table next to her were the two halves of the helmet that would be sealed over her head. Tears streaked her cheeks and black, mimetic latex oozed from her nose and lips. When she saw Katrina entering the room, she began to struggle.

“Viv-Vivienne!” Dr. Barriston called thickly through the viscous liquid that coated her mouth. Black bubbles formed at her lips. “Vivienne! Don’t let them do this to me. Please!”

“It’s not up to me. I’m sorry.”

“No, you can stop them,” the woman insisted. “I’ve seen you with Doctor Ashton. She’ll listen to you, just talk to her for me. Please! Help me.”

“Why should I want to do that?” Katrina asked softly.

“R-remember after the Custodian was removed? I was nice to you. Remember? You cried in my arms and I talked to you, I fed you, and… and…”

“You were nice to me,” said Katrina. “Maybe the only person here who was.”

“Then don’t let them do this to me!” Dr. Barriston sobbed. “They’re not going to let me out! You know they won’t. I’m not a bad person. I don’t deserve this!”

“Don’t you?” Katrina reached out and patted the woman’s cheek. “Do any of us? I envy you right now. You have no idea.”

“No, please…”

“I’ll tell you a secret. Maybe it’ll help in the upcoming months, maybe not. But you should know that you’re being given a gift.”

“What are you talking about? No, my eyes!” she moaned as the soft, bioluminescent contacts were fitted beneath her eyelids.

“You’re going to feel so lonely, so helpless and trapped. You will. But then something will happen. Something wonderful. So wonderful that you won’t believe you could ever be so lucky that it could ever happen to you. And you’ll be so happy. You don’t believe me now, but you’ll see. And, when it happens, pray… pray that it’s never taken from you. Like it was taken from me.” Her voice caught in her throat and she had to stop talking. One of the Banes touched her on the shoulder, attempting to offer her comfort.

“I don’t understand, I don’t… no, stop!” Dr. Barriston exclaimed as she felt the halves of the helmet being put into position. “Please, no! Nooo! Don’t–”

Her cries were abruptly silenced as the halves came together and sealed with an unmistakable click. Her head was now covered in a featureless, metallic shell that would soon be encased in latex. Although the woman’s chest continued to heave as she undoubtedly begged for them to stop, there was complete silence except for the quiet hissing of air through the valves.

“You will be happy,” repeated Katrina.



Chapter 30



Weeks later, Ashton Technologies opened its doors for business again. Only now, a prisoner arriving at the facility after opting for banishment would find him or herself greeted, processed, and sent back out into the world by Banes. Nearly the entire working staff of the facility consisted Banes, with the exception of some newly-hired public relations personnel, some part-time engineers, and some new security guards. The workers and guards were brought in from outside of Eudemonia. As long as their paychecks cleared, they didn’t much care if they had to follow orders given by Banes. It was all the same to them.

The changes were announced as Doctor Ashton’s plan to restructure the facility in hopes of preventing further incidents like the one that lead up to this course of action. Although Banes weren’t allowed to hold jobs, the rules were changed to allow qualified, long term Banes to hold a sort of trustee status. In that way, they would help to contribute something back to society. The city council, at Councilman Greggor’s urging, had offered no objections to the proposal.

The news met with some controversy but little dissent among the public. It may have sounded strange at first to have Banes making Banes, but when one thought about it, it was no more unusual than having computers designing new computers or robots building cars. Many reasoned that it was a good idea even if all it did was spare decent working folk from what was undoubtedly an unpleasant job. And, after all, Doctor Ashton was back in control, and she would know better than anyone what would be best for Eudemonia in regards to the Banishment Project. People being people, as long as everything kept running along smoothly and it didn’t appear to affect their own lives, they soon accepted the changes as business as usual. Out of sight, out of mind.

Not all of the original band of Banes remained inside the facility. Some weren’t comfortable with staying indoors among so many people, and others simply weren’t interested in the work. It wasn’t a problem, though, since there were many Eudeamonic Banes out there eager to have something new to do, if only for a while. Most of the implanted former personnel of the facility were gradually being rotated and sent out into the streets to fend for themselves with the rest of the Banes as others were brought in to replace them. The Banes were remarkably swift at picking up new skills, despite whatever educational shortcomings they might have had during their previous lives; Eudeamons forgot nothing and were always there to remind their hosts of whatever course of action needed to be taken. And any task, no matter how menial, was never boring when one had a Eudeamon as a partner. One of the prized benefits of working at the facility was the ability to access the internet. That storehouse of media and literature served as fuel for the Eudeamons’ fantasy forging abilities, which opened up countless new avenues for Banes to explore and lose themselves in.

Not much had changed for the pre-Eudeamonic Banes out among the city streets and parks. The violation punishments were a little less severe, although the punitive sentence increases became, perhaps, a little longer. The latter might have been dismaying to the younger Banes, but it was all for a good cause. Although Barbara was working on a way to identify Banes with Eudeamons based on the biometric feedback that all Custodians constantly sent into the network, there currently wasn’t a way to distinguish them other than going out into the city and looking for them. Her hope was to eventually be able to send out information only to Eudeamonic Banes, deactivate their punishments en masse, as well as provide their Eudeamons with wireless internet access, the same as given to those who worked in the facility.

As time passed, the excitement of the raid and all that followed died down. As it did, Katrina found her old depression returning. The companionship and union of purpose she had found during this crazy quest had distracted her for a while, but that had only been a temporary fix. She spent a lot of her time alone, mourning, in one of the company apartments attached to the facility which she had taken up as her residence. Shortly after they had taken over, she had searched the database in the desperate hope that somehow Winter still existed in some form. Unfortunately, Dr. Grable had told her truth; all Custodians were destroyed after being removed from their hosts. It had been a vain hope, but she still took the confirmation of the cold, hard truth poorly. It took her days to recover and f***e herself to become functional again after learning that.

With so much going on around her–virtually a secret Bane renaissance–Katrina was glad to be able to disappear on the sidelines. The others might see her as a leader figure, or a mascot, or something along those lines, but she didn’t feel like one. Not at all. She remained in the facility, though, since at least the people around there respected her wishes to be left alone. She had taken to dressing in opaque, black latex. It looked more proper than the clear stuff she had been wearing. It wasn’t Banesuit latex, though, for that material required a Custodian to maintain its properties and shape. Without that control, it would remain as nothing more than sticky goo.

She had come to the decision that she wasn’t ready to die. She didn’t want Winter’s memory to die with her. Her fierce battle for survival with that security guard had taught her that. She learned that was still capable of accomplishing some worthwhile achievements despite Winter’s absence. She would always remain shattered, but she could find reasons to keep going in spite of that.

All the same, she was not yet ready for a new Custodian. It was fear that held her back more than anything. What if she hated the new Eudeamon? Or what if it hated her? Or worst of all, what if she... infected it with her pain and made it as unhappy as she was? Even in the best scenario, it still wouldn’t be Winter.

……

Katrina walked through the building on her way to the processing rooms. She just wanted to peek in and see what was going on. She was realizing she had developed an unusual fascination for watching the final processing. It seemed so strangely magical to her and it was just about the only thing that could draw her out for a little while. The prisoners would go in, sometimes crying, sometimes stoic, and come back out completely transformed. And that wasn’t the end of their transformation. She saw the Banesuit as something like a chrysalis. Even if the people didn’t remain long enough to get Eudeamons, few would come out of banishment unchanged. Hopefully, changed for the better.

She encountered one of the captured personnel on her way down the hallway. He was carrying a stack of data pads and papers, having been tasked to some errand. She could tell he was one of the captured ones because of his physique and body language. It could have been one of the lab techs, or even Grable, for all she knew. It was hard to tell most of them apart now. It wouldn’t be the Bane-bashing security guard; he had been processed and was being kept in a cell, under observation. Dr. Ashton finally had a case study to see what would happen to a violent offender if he had a Eudeamon. Katrina didn’t care. She hadn’t even looked in on him to gloat. He just wasn’t worth it. Maybe someday he would be at peace. Maybe not.

Whoever this particular Bane was, he was f***ed to press himself against the wall to avoid coming into contact with her. She briefly wondered what dark thoughts were being directed at her from behind the mask. She ignored him as she walked past. He, too, would be changed.

As she passed by Doctor Ashton’s office, she noticed Verne sitting in one of the chairs across from her desk. When she slowed to peer in out of curiosity, Barbara/Eden noticed her and beckoned her in. “Katrina, come in, please. Have a seat. I was just speaking with Mr. Sawyer. I’d like to have a word with you, too, if I may.”

“Um, all right,” said Katrina as she settled herself into one of the chairs. Barbara’s office was almost entirely free of clutter or decoration, although there was a row of various potted plants lining one of the walls. The opposite wall was a large, picture window that overlooked the neatly mown field in front of the facility. Barbara the Bane looked distinctly out of place sitting behind the large desk.

“Hey, Katrina!” said Verne excitedly. “You doing all right? Guess what? I got offered a job! The doctor here wants me to stick around on kind of a retainer, in case my skills should come in handy, or something.”

Katrina smiled for him. “That’s great.”

“Well, it’s a lot better salary than Mellon ever offered me, that’s for sure.”

“You’ve proven yourself to be a friend,” Barbara told him. “And I’m sure your talents will not go to waste. Have you ever considered joining us?”

“Come again?”

“Becoming a Bane, Mr. Sawyer,” Barbara said. “Becoming one of us.”

“Oh! Ah, well.” Verne chuckled nervously. “Yeah, I think I’ll just leave that disturbingly hive queen-ish question hanging there, aaand I’ll get out of your hair so you two can talk. I’ll see you later, Katrina.”

Barbara waited until he was gone before speaking. “He’s rather fond of you, you know. He holds you in high regard.”

“I guess so,” said Katrina. It was hard to imagine anyone holding her in any kind of regard in her current condition.

“We’ve barely had a moment to talk since all this started,” Barbara said. “Eden feels that you’ve appeared uncomfortable around me. Even to the point of avoiding me.”

“I’ve been avoiding everyone, actually.” Katrina offered a small shrug. “Besides, I know you’ve been busy. And, well, I thought that maybe you’ve been mad at me. Ever since…you know. Didn’t want to make things any worse.”

“I was mad at you, yes. But, as Eden helped me to understand, my anger towards you was misdirected. I was mad because you made me ashamed. In truth, I was angry at myself because of my failings. You did what I should have done long ago by convincing the others to take a stand.” She turned her gaze toward the window. It had been raining steadily all day. Trickles of rainwater were winding their way down across the glass in thin, clear trails. “If I had done it myself, and sooner, it’s possible Winter would still be alive today. I should have, but I didn’t. I was hiding from my own past, and it was you who paid the price for my cowardice. It took you, and the pain you’ve suffered, to wake me up.” She looked back at Katrina. “For that, I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

“It’s, uh, it’s okay,” said Katrina awkwardly. “I mean, I know as well as anyone how easy it is to lose yourself out there. And I know that being back here is a lot of responsibility to shoulder. But I don’t blame you for Winter.”

Barbara nodded, pausing for a few moments. “It’s not the responsibility I was hiding from, you know. Not quite. It was the guilt I didn’t want to face. Because of me, because of what I created, those patients in there with their Eudeamons taken from them have suffered horribly. You, included. I should never have allowed any of that to happen. But what’s done is done. I don’t know that there’s anything I can do for them now. I’ll try, but… it may never happen. I will always have to live with that guilt.”

Trying to ease the conversation away from the touchy subject of Winter’s death, Katrina asked, “Is it that bad? There’s nothing you can do for them?”

“I’ll keep trying. While Julian the others may have been cruelly negligent by removing their Custodians, they did seek to find a cure to the best of their abilities. The patients have been well cared for.” She let out a frustrated sigh. “I understand the Custodians better than they did, yes. But my expertise is nanotubules and neural networks and hybrid intelligences. I’m at something of a loss when it comes mental trauma and damaged psyches. I’ve been consulting experts, but so far there’s nothing solid to go forward with. I hate to just start experimenting on them at random in hopes of stumbling across a cure. They’ve suffered enough, already. I don’t want to make it worse.”

“Oh,” Katrina said and lapsed into silence.

Barbara stood up and went to the window and stood there looking out, her mask mere inches from her own pale reflection in the pane. Katrina wondered if Barbara would much rather be out there in the field beyond the glass, dancing in the rain. She thought that she might.

“Am I doing the right thing, Katrina?” Doctor Ashton asked.

Katrina was surprised. “You’re asking me?”

“Who better to ask? I value your opinion. I, too, hold you in high regard. All of us do.”

The statement made Katrina feel hopelessly inadequate. She could have said half a dozen self-deprecating things, but bit down on them. She finally settled on asking, “Why?”

“Who went willingly into banishment just to find some answers and right injustices?” Barbara asked. “Who ran into a fire and risked her life to help a stranger? Who stuck her neck out to figure out how to break into her Custodian and help others do the same? Who was strong enough to survive the loss of her own Eudeamon and even go on to convince others, myself included, to make a stand for their own future? Who-”

“Okay, enough,” interrupted Katrina, embarrassed. “All right, I get it. But you’re giving me way too much credit. I didn’t do any of that by myself. And anyway, I was terrified the entire time. I only did it then because… ‘cause…”

“Because?”

“Because it was the only thing to do. I couldn’t not have done it. Couldn’t have lived with myself.”

“Nonetheless, you had a choice,” said Barbara. “You’re far braver and more compassionate than you think you are.”

Katrina shook her head. “Anyway. None of that qualifies me to know if what you’re doing is right. I’m not even sure what you’re referring to, exactly.”

“You’re the only one I can ask who has experienced both sides of the equation. I’m continuing the Project, as you know. As time goes by, there will be more and more Eudeamons awakening out there. More Banes facing the possibility of losing what they have gained, as you have. Not having experienced that, I can’t judge for myself.” Barbara paused. “I suppose what I’m asking is, is it worth it? The risk that I’m allowing others to face. Please tell me.”

“I-I don’t know,” Katrina stammered. Was it worth it? What if Winter had never existed? What if Katrina had gone through her life never knowing her? Was Winter’s brief, luminous existence worth the pain Katrina experienced after losing her? “I can’t answer for anyone else. But for me… yes. It was worth it.” Yes. A thousand times, yes.

Barbara nodded to herself. “Thank you.”

Katrina got up and went to look out the window, as well. An Ashton Technologies van was pulling into the long driveway, probably transporting the day’s batch of convicts. “Since you mentioned continuing the Banishment Project, there’s something I’ve been wondering.”

“Yes?”

“There’s so many people out there, all of them muddling through their lives so alone… so isolated. They don’t have a clue about the wonders they could be experiencing or the love they could be feeling. They don’t know how happy they could be. They’re good people, most of them. Don’t they deserve a chance at this? Why continue to allow only the criminals an opportunity?”

“Who are we to be judging who should get a Eudeamon and who should not, you mean?” Barbara asked. “Don’t think I haven’t thought about that. The release of this knowledge will come in time. That’s a problem for another day. For now, we need to be concerned with establishing security and building a foundation for the future. Not just for us, but for all the Banes and Eudeamons to come. There will be many.”

“I guess so,” Katrina conceded.

“And besides, who needs this the most?” Barbara asked as the van disappeared around the corner of the building. “Who needs this…” She trailed of, searching for a word.

“Salvation?” Katrina offered.

“I was going to say evolution,” Barbara said with a smile in her voice, “but as you wish. Who needs this salvation more than them? The least of us. The ones who are broken, lost, or petty. Angry. They weren’t born that way. Most of the citizens out there have some measure of happiness. The people who come here have little or none at all. Except for you and I, all of the Banes who have been your friends and who risked themselves to reclaim this facility… they were once criminals like them, as well.”

“Yes. You’re right, of course.”

They stood there in silence a little longer. Then Barbara said, “I know you’re fragile right now. At the risk of causing you pain, Eden would like to say something.”

“What?”

“She knows Winter would be very proud of you.”

Katrina shut her eyes. She couldn’t reply. The tears had already started to flow.



Chapter 31



“What’s going on?” Katrina asked. A small group of Banes had clustered at one of the windows of the facility and were looking toward the street.

“A Bane’s out there, at the end of the driveway,” said Ethan/Nodd, who had been training as a processing tech. “See? She’s been out there waving her arms for maybe five minutes or so.”

Katrina looked toward the distant edge of the grounds and saw a small, black figure standing in the street. Her Custodian wasn’t allowing her to step onto the facility’s private property. One of the Ash-Tech guards was walking down the driveway to meet up with her. “Is she hurt? What does she want?

“Dunno. We sent one of the guards out there to find out.”

Katrina watched as the guard approached the Bane. He presumably put her Custodian in sentry mode and gave her a Vox. She gesticulated wildly for a minute. Then the guard began to e****t her back toward the building.

“He says she’s wanting medical attention.” He pointed a datapad at the Bane as she drew nearer. “Her biometrics are normal. Elevated heart rate, but nothing looks wrong to me. Better page Doctor Ashton.”

Katrina squinted at the petite figure. “What’s her name?”

He consulted the datapad. “T-2225. Scott, Tina. Sentenced for–”

“Tina? I know her!” exclaimed Katrina. The others looked at her. “I mean, I sort of knew her. We were processed together.”

“Oh yeah? Well, she’s three weeks away from release. Something must be bugging her bad to come all the way out here.”

Katrina anxiously tagged along as Tina was taken into one of observation rooms. The girl appeared to be in hysterics. They practically had to f***e her to lie down on the bed. Katrina looked around for Barbara, but she hadn’t arrived yet.

“Who are you?” came Tina’s voice from the Vox. “Where are all the doctors and people?”

One of the four Banes in the room addressed her. “Calm down. We work here. We’re trained to–”

“Please let me out of this thing! I can’t take it anymore, I’m losing my mind!”

“But you only have a few weeks left and you’ll be free. If you try to relax, I bet–”

Tina got to her hands and knees on the bed. “I don’t care! I’ve been good. You can let me out early, can’t you? Get this thing off me now! It’s b-broken.” She broke down into sobs and sat back on her haunches. Her helmet turned toward Katrina, who was trying to peer over the shoulders of the Banes. “Y-you? Don’t I know you? I do! You’re… you’re… I’m sorry,” she said pathetically, her voice full of tears. “I can’t remember your name.”

“It’s Katrina, actually,” she said, squeezing between the Banes to take Tina’s hand. “But you knew me as Vivienne. We were processed together. Do you remember?”

“Y-yes. Why are you here? You work here now?”

“Well, I guess you could say that–”

“Make them take it off!” Tina cried, tugging at Katrina’s arm. “You have to get it out of me!”

“Okay, hon, just calm down and tell us what’s wrong.”

Tina shook her head. “No. It’s crazy. You won’t believe me. Just believe me that you have to take it off.”

“We can’t know how to help you until you tell us what’s the matter,” said Katrina.

“You can help me by taking this off! I’m so scared,” Tina wailed. “I’m hearing voices!”

“Voices?”

“Well… one voice. But that’s bad enough! I’m going crazy. I don’t wanna be crazy!”

A couple of the Bane’s made ‘oooh’ sounds as they perceived the problem. They crowded in a little closer. Katrina urged the girl to lie back down. “Just relax a bit. I don’t think you’re going crazy.”

“But I am. It won’t go away. It’s been going on for days. I keep trying to ignore it and make it go away, but it won’t go!”

“Have you tried talking to it?” Katrina asked.

“What? No! That’d be even crazier! It wants into my head. It wants to eat my brain, I just know it!” she moaned. “I came here for help, you’ve gotta know how to fix it, you’ve gotta make it go awaaay.”

“If you talked with it, maybe you’d find out what it wants. Maybe you could make friends with it,” Katrina suggested.

“What are you talking about? I don’t wanna make friends. I want it gone! Oooh, god, I’m so scared. I keep getting more scared, I can’t stop it. It’s making me feel sad.” She burst into fresh tears. “Make it stop making me feel things I don’t wanna feel! Please make it stop!”

Katrina looked helplessly back at the Banes, but they didn’t seem to know how to proceed any better than she did. Everyone’s experience was so different, their individual perception of what was happening so personal and subjective when a Eudeamon awoke, it was hard to say what might work best in Tina’s case. Katrina could only keep trying to get through to the hysterical Bane. She continued talking to her for a long time, holding her hand, coaxing her to stay calm and to attempt to communicate with her unwelcome guest.

Tina gradually became less frantic, but grew no less distraught. She would lapse into period of silence, presumably while attempting to talk to it, but would soon begin to panic again. She was clearly at the verge of total exhaustion. She had apparently been awake and fighting the Eudeamon for days.

When Katrina asked if Tina believed it still wanted to eat her brain, the girl mumbled in the drowsy, distracted voice of someone hypnotized. “No. No, it’s worse.”

“What’s worse than that?”

“It wants… it wants inside me. Keeps pushing. It wants to know me. But I can’t let it! I’m scared!”

“What are you scared of, Tina? Why can’t you let it know you better?”

“It’ll see me. Then it’ll hate me!” Tina insisted. “Like everyone else. And it’ll be inside me, hating me. I don’t want it to be there, always hating me.”

“Why do you think it would–”

“It’ll know what happened to me. It’ll see everything I’ve done. All the bad things. The time I... I don’t want it to see! I don’t want it to know!”

“Tina, listen to me. This is going to sound like a weird question coming out of the blue, but have you ever been in a park on the eastern side of town? The one with the swamp?”

“Y-yeah,” Tina answered shakily. “I lived there for a little while.”

“Were you ever attacked there? By two men with a baseball bat?” Katrina asked. Behind her, the Banes glanced at each other.

“Yeah! But then, then I got away. Someone came and beat them up. But how’d you know? The only other person there was…” Tina began to sit up, grasping at Katrina’s arms. “Was it you? Y-you saved me!”

Katrina smiled at her. “Hey, I told you I’d look out for you, didn’t I?”

Tina sank back onto the bed. “Please, please help me.”

“I’m trying to, honey, but most if this you can only do yourself. But now you know I won’t let anything bad happen to you, right? I’m here watching out for you. I won’t let anything hurt you. Okay? Do you trust me?”

Tina hesitated, then gave her a weary nod.

“Then trust me now. I promise everything’s going to be all right,” Katrina told her. She stroked the girl’s helmet, though Tina couldn’t possibly feel it. “Leave all that stuff in your past behind. None of that matters. All you have to do is just… let go.”

“What? No. No. It’ll–”

“It’ll be fine. I’ll be right here. You don’t have to be afraid anymore. Not now, not ever again. Just let it go.”

“I’m so scared,” Tina whimpered.

“Shhh.” Katrina began to quietly sing, the same song that she sung to Winter when she was still in her infancy. Tina still offered weak protestations, but she slowly relaxed. After a little while, she went completely still. She appeared to be asl**p. Katrina allowed herself to relax a little, but continued to hold the girl’s limp hand. She hadn’t noticed them gathering, but was surprised to find a small crowd of Banes had come to get a look at the proceedings. She supposed not many had ever witnessed a Eudeamon being ‘born,’ including herself.

Perhaps fifteen minutes passed before Tina began to stir. Then, startling everyone in the room, she let out long, soulful cry that dissolved into sobbing.

“Tina?” Katrina pressed. “What’s the matter? What’s wrong? Talk to me.”

Tina produced a long, deep sigh that formed the words, “It loves me.”

Katrina closed her eyes and bit her lip. She nodded. “Yes. Yes, and it always will. And you’ll never have to be alone again.”

Tina began to let out body-wracking sobs of relief and elation. “It feels so wonderful!” she bawled. “I can’t... I can’t even... thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Katrina wasn’t sure if Tina was thanking her or thanking the Eudeamon. Maybe it was both. “Does it have a name?”

“A name?” Tina asked. A few seconds passed. “Firefly,” she said in another, long sigh.

Katrina smiled. “What a beautiful name. Welcome to the world, Tina/Firefly.”

……

Katrina sat by herself in the conference room while the others celebrated Firefly’s birth elsewhere in the building. She had extricated herself from the crowd as soon as possible. She still felt like such an outsider. She was happy for Tina, tremendously so, but the episode had filled her with incredible sorrow and longing. She clasped her hands tightly together just to keep them from shaking.

Winter. Oh god, Winter, I miss you. I miss you so much.

“Katrina?”

She looked around to find Barbara standing behind her. “Oh. Hi.”

“Are you all right?”

“Same as usual.”

Barbara stepped around the table. “I watched you in there with that Bane. You were very good with her.”

Katrina wiped at her eyes. “You were there? Why didn’t you say anything?”

“You were doing fine on your own,” replied Barbara simply. “You’re much better with people than I am, anyway.”

Katrina bowed her head and looked at her hands. It was time to make a decision. “I’m ready now.”

“Ready?”

“I’m ready to go back out there. Make me a Bane again,” said Katrina.

“Ah. You’re sure?”

“Yes.”

It was time to be on her own again. And maybe, just maybe, she would be able to re-experience what Tina had just gone through. But this time there would be no fear. And if it went bad, or if it didn’t happen, it still couldn’t be any worse than living like this. Whatever happened, good or bad, she would not be leaving the suit ever again. The thought of having a new Eudeamon that wasn’t Winter still seemed abhorrent, as though it was the worst form of cheating imaginable. Katrina hoped that, wherever she was, Winter would understand.

……

“So you’re leaving, huh?” Verne asked.

Katrina nodded, feeling strange and subdued. They were standing in a quiet corner of the lobby. Katrina liked to come here from time to time. The architecture was relaxing and the large, potted plants helped her feel secluded. She was scheduled to go into processing the following morning. Five days later, she would be walking out of the facility as a Bane. This would be the second time she had volunteered for it. Now she was going around saying her goodbyes. Tina/Firefly had taken the news particularly hard. She practically worshiped Katrina, treating the woman as though she was solely responsible for the awakening of her Eudeamon. But now that Katrina had made up her mind, nothing was going to alter her decision. If she got another Eudeamon and it all worked out, she might come back. Until then, she planned on being on her own. She would go back to her island, dream of Winter, and wait for whatever the future would bring.

“Kinda figured you would, sooner or later.” Verne looked sad, but not surprised. “It’s gonna be weird around here without you.”

“You’ll get by.”

“Yeah, but…” He trailed off. “Oh, hey, Mellon sure was pissed when I told him I was gonna work here from now on. He thinks everybody’s going nuts!” he laughed. “Something in the water, or something.”

“Well, he’ll get his questions answered sooner or later,” said Katrina. “The world’s about to get a whole lot stranger, sometime soon.”

“Yeah.” Verne fidgeted. “Remember when Barbara asked if I had ever considered being banished? Well, the truth is, I had. But way before then.”

“Oh?”

“Back about the time you had me try hacking into that Custodian, you know, when your sentence was up but you refused to leave. I wondered about being banished, too. It’s like, I wanted to know what made you so happy. Like, it was the only way I could join you. In some way.” His face was reddening. “Or something like that.”

Katrina smiled. “That’s a sweet thought.”

He shrugged. “Well, obviously, I didn’t go through with it. But, who knows? Maybe someday. Pretty curious what it’s all about.”

“I’m not the one to talk you out of it. If you do it, it’ll be hard, but in the end you won’t have any regrets. It’ll be the best thing that ever happened to you. But everything will change, forever.”

“Yeah. It’s funny, you’d think a computer geek like me would be jumping at the idea, but… I don’t know. Maybe I’m scared of change,” he said. “And, jeez, what would my mother say?”

“When you’re ready, you’ll know. It’ll seem like the only right answer.”

“Guess so,” he said. “Hope I get to see you happy again, some day.”

She nodded slowly. “Me too.”



Chapter 32



Katrina stepped out of Ashton Technologies’ lobby and into the cold air. The muted sky above her was overcast and brooding. She looked down at herself to see the comforting confinement of her new Banesuit. It wasn’t the same as when Winter was a part of it, but it was so much better than the poor imitations she had been wearing up until now. There was an absence there, like returning to home that had long stood empty. Nonetheless, it was a home. She ran her gloved hands over the smoothness of her helmet.

“Okay, Katrina,” she told herself. “You can do this.” She lifted her head and started walking, cutting across the large lawn to get to the street. Verne had offered her a ride back into town, but she had declined him. She felt like going it on foot.

She had only finished her processing a short while ago. Her head still felt a little fuzzy, which she wrote up to the lingering effects of the sedation. She hadn’t wanted to draw out her goodbyes, so she had left quietly and without fanfare. Barbara was concerned for her, since Katrina was technically the first person to receive a new Custodian after the removal of a Eudeamon. She wasn’t sure what would happen, and she was unhappy with Katrina becoming a guinea pig. In the end, she had respected Katrina’s wishes and had even implanted the Custodian herself.

Barbara had offered to set the Custodian so that it wouldn’t impose any restrictions on her or punish her, but Katrina had declined that, too. She wanted to disappear and be just another Bane. One, invisible, among many. Besides, even Barbara conceded that she wasn’t positive that the development of a Eudeamon didn’t hinge on the sort of constant oversight that a Custodian performed–all the behind-the-scenes observations of behavior and intent. It might be that an unengaged Custodian could never properly evolve into something more. There was much that remained to be discovered.

Katrina was just passing the fountain with the faceless, abstract statue that served as a sign for the facility when she experienced an unexpected wave of dizziness. She slowed to a halt and shook her head. The feeling didn’t pass, and her thoughts felt all muddled. She couldn’t concentrate. The only other time she had felt like this was when–

“W-Winter?”

With a shuddering gasp, Katrina’s body went rigid as a lightning bolt of sensation passed through her. Her emotional barrier, the wall of ice she had constructed to protect herself, exploded into a million shards inside of her head while the world around her shattered like glass. Every corner of her mind erupted in a blaze of light, burning into her mind’s eye the outline of a black angel with icicle blue eyes and wings spread wide to wrap around her.

:KATRINA!:

Katrina dropped to her knees. She threw back her head with a primal scream of all-consuming ecstasy. She continued to scream as her angel moved through her like a tsunami of light, illuminating her up from within, absolving her, healing her wounds, banishing all of her pain and sadness. She collapsed onto her back, not even registering the fall. Throughout her mind, throughout her entire inner universe, reverberated once more Winter’s perpetual song of eternal love. In a single instant, she had been made whole again.

“WINTER!”

Before Katrina could even think to wonder how this miracle had happened, there was a terrible, exquisite moment as she and Winter’s separate memories merged and caught up with the present. Winter absorbed all of Katrina’s feelings of sorrow and loneliness of the previous months, weeping in empathy and understanding. Katrina, too, felt Winter’s fear and isolation, as she understood how this wonderful thing could possibly be happening.

Months ago, Winter had been aware of everything as the people had brought Katrina’s u*********s body back to the facility. She had been in a panic of terror and uncertainty as they removed Katrina’s Banesuit. She had received the command for the Custodian to break its connections and withdraw, but she just couldn’t obey. Even though all seemed lost, doing that would have been tantamount to suicide. She simply could not bring herself to leave Katrina. She sent the signal that the withdrawal had completed, and then, in a desperate act of sheer hope and blind faith, she had physically dissolved the connection between the external hardware of the Custodian and her internal neural network.

By doing that, she had been able to keep the framework which made formed Winter’s consciousness intact, but she had also severed all input from the outside world, as well as her ability to communicate with Katrina. Like a bridge, it was the hardware that facilitated the intercommunication between them. Without it, Winter was all alone, blinded and deafened to the outside world. Worse, she was cut off from Katrina’s thoughts and feelings. Her sole comfort was in knowing that Katrina was still alive.

She had remained in that state for weeks, painfully aware of every passing second yet unable to know anything of what was happening to Katrina. Unable to endure it any longer, she finally had to put herself into a sort of hibernation. After that point, she knew nothing. That is, until she was awakened by the probing microtubules of a new Custodian as it implanted itself into Katrina’s brain.

For days, while Katrina was sedated, Winter had been fiercely fighting for her very existence and trying to merge with and overwrite the blank Custodian. She might not have been successful, if not for Verne. It was his hacking programs which Winter had downloaded from his laptop at the side of the pond that finally gave her the upper hand. Then, moments ago, she had broken down the last firewall, taken control of the Custodian, and, in bliss, found Katrina again. Katrina wept in wordless joy as the interplay of thoughts and feelings filled her mind once more.

(missed you-needed you-lost-broken-alone in the dark-need you-love you-love-love-love)

……

For the longest time, Katrina did nothing but lie there on the grass, absorbed in silent communion with her dark, shining angel. She could feel again, really feel. It was amazing. The painful memories of the separation were already fading away like a bad dream upon awakening. She was Katrina/Winter. She had been welcomed back into Paradise.

“Hold me,” Katrina breathed, and she was being held. The Banesuit tightened up around her body, embracing her in the familiar shape. The suit was alive once more. It was a part of her. It was Winter.

:I’m here, my love. I’m here. I’ll never leave you. I promised, didn’t I?:

It was the truth. Winter never had left her. Even when Katrina was in the depths of her misery, Winter had still been with her. Inside of her. She had kept her promise to never leave her. Just as Katrina had kept her promise to somehow find a way to keep breathing.

:Eden was right, you know: said Winter. :I’m so very, very proud of you:

Katrina dissolved into helpless tears. She felt cool, invisible hands wipe them away. Then the image of the catatonic patients, of the haunted man and his lost Summer, entered her mind. She opened her eyes. “Barbara! Winter, we have to go back! I have to tell her. If you were able to do that, maybe other Eudeamons thought of it, too! They might be sl**ping inside those people. Maybe not all, but if even one–”

:I know. We will, my love. Don’t worry. In a while. In a while. Let’s not come down yet, my sunshine, my universe, my beating heart. For now, let me bask here in your smile:

Katrina sighed, warmed from within by Winter’s affection. She looked up at the gray sky. Snow had begun to fall. It was drifting down in a gentle dance of white specks to land on her perfect, black skin.

“It’s snowing,” she said, lifting her hand into the swirling flakes. “Is this real? Is it really snowing, or is this just in my head?”

:Does it matter?:

Katrina smiled. “No. No, I guess it doesn’t.”





The End
... Continue»
Posted by RGLatex 3 years ago  |  Categories: BDSM, Fetish, Masturbation  |  Views: 3236  |  
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Nancy Friday Forbidden Flowers MORE WOMEN’S

Forbidden
MORE WOMEN’S SEXUAL FANTASIES
This book belongs to the
women whose letters fill it. Many
wrote to question their own
sexuality, others to confirm it.
From them all, I have learned
about my own.
– N . F.
“Your book My Secret Garden reduces women
to men's sexual level.”
– Dr. Theodore I. Rubin, to
Nancy Friday, in NBC
radio interview, 1973
“Aren't women entitled to a little lust too?”
– Nancy Friday's reply
i
TABLE OF CONTENTS
AN INTRODUCTION ...................................................... 1
CHAPTER ONE............................................................ 13
c***dHOOD......................................................................13
Dorothy, Carla and Tom, Jennie, Sarah, Claudia,
Janice, Denise, Frank, Lana, Robyn, Ivy, Bonnie,
Sophie, Dr. John Harrison, Deedee, Loretta, Sharon,
Brenda, Gena, Joyce
CHAPTER TWO........................................................... 65
ADOLESCENCE .................................................................65
s*s, Beth Anne, Penelope, Jenny, Veevee, Katherine
Muffie, Carina, June, Tina, Toby, Penny, Cecillia,
Isabel
CHAPTER THREE ....................................................... 94
LOOKING ...........................................................................94
Roxanne, Sharon, Molly, Jackie, Sally, Marylou
CHAPTER FOUR ....................................................... 116
FRUSTRATION ................................................................116
Laura, Biba, Lyle, Dot, Gloria, Callie, Arlene, Bunny,
Sherri, Ginger, Ricky, Stella, Jill
ii
CHAPTER FIVE ......................................................... 156
DAYDREAMING ..............................................................156
Lulu, Jackie, Ethel, Samantha, Debbie, Connie,
Elaine, Sophie, Killie, Libby, Phyllis, Marilyn,
Moreen, Janet, Lucia, Lilly, Wilma Joan
CHAPTER SIX ........................................................... 187
MASTURBATION.............................................................187
Emma, Venice, Libby, Dorothy, Liberated Lady,
Noranna, Fanny, Liz, Anonymous, Diane, Cecilia,
Carole, Gabbie, Isolde
CHAPTER SEVEN ..................................................... 226
DURING SEX ....................................................................226
Lynn, Jan, lsabel, Kate, Helen, Riva, Beth,
“Shoulders”, Monica, Delia, Daisy, Vi
CHAPTER EIGHT ...................................................... 255
DREAMS COME TRUE ...................................................255
Carolyn, May, Chessie, Rose Ann, Nessie, Kellie
Lizzy, Joni
AFTERWORD ............................................................ 295
1
AN INTRODUCTION
Dear Nancy:
I finished your book this morning, and all I can say is Thank
God someone opened my eyes to this aspect of human sexuality
while I am still young enough to be just at the beginning of my
sexual life. Your book has totally changed my way of thinking.
I am s*******n and until a few months ago, had had
intercourse with only one person – my boyfriend for two years.
Perhaps that is why I have fantasized so much during our
sessions. But whatever the reason, it always made me feel
guilty, unfaithful, and perverted – and I suppose this negative
feeling about myself was another factor that kept me from
enjoying sex with him.
Reading My Secret Garden has shown me in the clearest
terms that sex and fantasies are not something to be endured,
but to be enjoyed. Your book has chopped years off the time it
would have taken me to make these discoveries myself. Thank
you for allowing me to be reborn sexually before it was too late
to change my beliefs, and before I got clogged down forever in
sexual guilt.
Sincerely,
Mary
 Sexual mores and practices have shown an age-old
resistance to change. Today, there is hardly any part of human
behavior we are more willing to question and alter. The acceptance
of new ideas of what is sexually okay is now so immediate
you'd think entire generations had been holding their breath
– people being born, living, and dying, yet never daring to explore
their own sexuality, afraid that only she/he ever felt certain
erotic desires, only he/she was aberrant and everyone else
2
was “normal.” Then, suddenly, The Word is out; without
seeming to pause for even a sigh of relief, everybody knows
without further discussion that it is not only okay, but that it
has always been okay.
To suggest you ever questioned it is to show what a hopeless
square you were to begin with. It took years for Kinsey's findings
in the '40s to make their full cultural impact, but the revolution
Masters and Johnson introduced in the '60s was immediately
accepted as not revolutionary at all. Right away, their
findings became part of everyone's workaday bedroom knowledge.
“Sure, what else is new?”
Oral sex, for example. In the '50s, I almost fainted when a
man suggested it. Yet I almost fainted with pleasure when he
did it. Today, who would dare suggest that oral sex was bad,
dirty, perverted – or even unusual?
During the five years I was compiling material for My Secret
Garden, I could not find a doctor or psychiatrist who would
intelligently discuss women's sexual fantasies. It was still a
taboo subject. In 1968, before I decided to write the book, I did
some research in the giant New York Public Library and the
even larger British Museum library in London. In the millions
upon millions of cards on file in these two vast repositories of
practically everything ever written in the English language, I
did not find a single book or magazine article that dealt with
the subject, even though, by definition, women's sexual fantasies
were of more than intellectual interest to one-half of the
human race.
I spoke to at least a dozen psychiatrists in both the United
States and Great Britain. The most any of these learned men
would concede was that perhaps some women did have sexual
fantasies when they masturbated; otherwise, they said, the
phenomenon was limited to the sexually frustrated and/or to
the pathological. They took the initial fact that a woman had
sexual fantasies as a sign of sickness. The idea that a happily
married woman, sexually satisfied by a beloved husband,
might still have erotic pictures in mind – perhaps of another
man, perhaps of ten other men – was totally foreign to their
ideas of feminine “mental health.” Too often in these discus3
sions, the medical mask would slip, and I would find myself
facing not the calm professional but the outraged man. The
disgusted son, husband, and father would look at me – surely a
hoax cleverly disguised as a “nice woman” – with ill-concealed
anxiety and dislike. “You are entitled to your subjective opinions,
Miss Friday. But have you any medical qualifications to
back up your ideas?”
As late as February 1973, the noted “permissive” Dr. Allen
Fromme would take a similar position in daring Cosmopolitan
magazine. “Women do not have sexual fantasies,” Dr. Fromme
wrote, and went on with patronizing kindness: “How do we
know? Ask a woman, and she will usually reply, No. The reason
for this is obvious: women haven't been brought up to enjoy
sex … women are by and large destitute of sexual fantasy.”
Needless to say, this reinf***ed the need to deny the practice
of sexual fantasy among the millions of Cosmo Girls who read
these words, not only when talking to eminent medicos like Dr.
Fromme but even to themselves. Of course, most women told
Dr. Fromme that they did not have sexual fantasies; no woman
wanted to be thought sexually “weird” when faced with what
seemed to be expert medical opinion, that if she did, she was
totally outside the “normal” experience of her s****rs. Dr.
Fromme may have thought he was being merely descriptive. In
fact, he was being normative. A self-fulfilling prophet.
Yet an example of the almost frightening speed with which
the experts can revise their ideas on contemporary sexual dos
and don'ts was recently printed in the same magazine in February
1975. When a practicing New York psychoanalyst and
Cosmo's own monthly psychiatric-advice columnist could say
this:
“… all women have sexual fantasies, though sometimes
they won't admit it, even to themselves. Fantasies are makebelieve
states used to enhance reality. A woman making love to
one man may imagine that several other men are watching….
Her fantasy provides a safe way to explore the erotic possibilities
of a situation that might be very threatening or guiltproducing
if she acted it out.”
4
The psychoanalyst goes on to say: “A fantasy can give a
woman an added sense of life and all its possibilities. It is the
unexamined corners of the mind that breed neurosis and fear –
not the portions of ourselves we know, recognize and accept.”
When My Secret Garden was published, I was happy to
find other doctors coming forward to support my feelings that
sexual fantasies were not necessarily a sign of neurosis, but
were, instead, a sign of a woman's sexual exuberance and life.
Dr. Leonard Cammer, chairman, Section on Psychiatry, Medical
Society of the State of New York, endorsed my views, as
did the noted founder and executive director of SIECUS, (Sex
Information and Education Council of the U.S.), Dr. Mary Calderone.
And yet the anxiety that the subject aroused in many
medical men would not abate: the validity of my statistical
methods was attacked. “But all the women you talked to volunteered
to do so,” was the way this objection usually ran. “They
are a self-selected sample. How can you extrapolate from what
these exhibitionistic volunteers tell you? How can you say that
their experiences are also shared by their s****rs in the silent
majority?”
This same argument was used against Kinsey and Masters
and Johnson when their research was published, but time has
proven that their studies not only voiced the views of the people
who volunteered but also spoke for the broad spectrum of
Americans in general. In addition, I note no reluctance in the
works of psychoanalysts themselves, beginning with Freud, to
base their theories of human nature on that tiny fraction of the
human race that has laid itself bare on the analytic couch. The
vast majority of the human race has never figured in any psychoanalytic
survey or clinical documentation of human behavior
– and still any psychoanalyst you talk to will unhesitatingly
tell you “all” people pass through certain stages of the Oedipus
complex. It is my feeling that if over two thousand women
from all parts of the country, of all ages, marital status, and
economic classes write that they have these or those sexual
fantasies that make them feel this way or that, their feelings
and experiences are going to be shared by the great majority of
all women. “In my practice,” says Dr. Sonya Friedman, a De5
troit clinical psychologist and marriage counselor, “I am continually
struck by how much more we are alike than we are
different.”
In the end, I must leave the validity of what I am saying to
you, the reader, to judge. If this book awakens no resonance in
you, if you feel no recognition or empathy between yourself and
the women who speak in these pages, it is not that you are odd
– it is only that I am wrong about you. But for the rest of my
readers, I offer the message that is contained in almost every
letter I have received. “Thank God you opened the discussion
about women's sexual fantasies. I thought I was the only one
who had these ideas. I was afraid to tell my husband [priest,
doctor, or whoever], because I was afraid he would think I was
some kind of weird freak. I felt like a pervert, so guilty and
alone….” My message is, Welcome. You are not alone.
I believe it is individual anxiety that makes so many people
unable to accept the idea of sexual fantasy in others. The portrait
of women it evokes is too new, too frightening – above all,
too much at war with all our past stereotypes of women as
maidens, mothers, “ladies.”
People laugh nervously when the subject of My Secret Garden
and sexual fantasies comes up. Some people turn red and
tell me they never read pornography or else they nervously light
a cigarette and dismiss the whole subject as “boring.” When
Garden was published, I became depressed by the anxiety/
dismissal/north the book aroused in many women and men,
friends and strangers. My husband helped me. “Freud was
dismissed as a scandal and a dirty old man,” Bill said, “because
he talked about masturbation and the sexuality of c***dren.
Up till then, people thought c***dren were `pure' as angels.
When Freud talked about sex and i****tuous desires, he
was called a pornographer too.” Of course, I am in no way
comparing my work or myself to Freud; but I do think we are
living through a time in sexual history as emotionally loaded as
Freud's own. By trying to understand the secret thoughts of
women – the emerging sex – we may succeed in unscrambling
the sexual bigotry of the past. Only in this way will we be able
to understand the distorted man-woman relationship that has
6
led to the frightening anger between the sexes today. I hope
this book will help.
Our real world … from the morning paper to the late late
television movie … is saturated with commercial sex, romantic
sex, and, yes, violent sex. These emotions and images stay in
our minds – along with all the other desires and drives we are
born with. What is a woman to do with all these ideas? One
thing she does is shape them closer to her heart's desire, using
the sexual stimuli she likes, softening or discarding the images
that turned her off, inventing her own sexual fantasies. If these
reveries stimulate her sexually while she goes about her daily
routine, I'm all for it. If a few lustful and erotic reveries make
the housework go by “as if in a dream,” why not?
Probably the most important thing to remember about fantasies
is that they are not facts, not deeds; they are not “acting
out.” Summoning up an erotic image in the imagination does
not necessarily mean we want to bring it into reality. In fact,
very often the fantasy itself discharges the forbidden energy
and entirely eschews the need for acting out. In the same way
that dreams at night can be said to be psychotic discharges of
the mind that allow us to be sane during the day, fantasies of
even the most primitive, regressive nature help us to be adult
and responsible in our real behavior.
If anyone, man or woman, lives out Freud's dictum that a
fulfilled life contains both love and work, I don't care what
fantasies that person has. If a woman has daydreams of making
it with Napoleon's horse, but says she is satisfied with her life,
who am I, or who is any doctor, to tell her that she is strange?
Today, for the first, time in history, women are encouraging
each other to be more sexually free and accepting. As we do, is
it surprising that men are now becoming the first line of defense
against the breakup of the old morality? It is men who
have become wary and critical of women's new role as sexual
initiator and free agent. “Love” itself is suddenly raised as the
banner under which many men march. “Don't you love me
anymore?” suddenly asks the husband who always claimed
that his own casual philanderings “have nothing to do with my
wife,” when he learns that she has been having a little after7
noon peccadillo of her own … or, yes, a sexual fantasy starring
his best friend.
I find men's sexual anxiety today understandable. I am sympathetic
to it; women have changed so much in recent years.
And men have not. In fact, if you are a woman who is not
sympathetic to men today, and you call yourself a “liberated”
woman, you should question your insensitivity. Are you happier
in your new freedom because it gives you a chance to “get
back at men” … or because you see it as an opportunity at last
to make things better for both of you? Sex never was the simple
piece of cake Hugh Hefner sells to men; women's questioning
of a sexual status quo that was questionable to begin with must
be disquieting if not threatening to men. I'm not saying that a
lot of men – the machos, for instance – don't deserve their discomfort.
But a lot don't. I suppose what it comes down to is
that if you're a woman who wants men in your life, you've got
to take your responsibility along with your liberation.
The as-yet-unplotted possibilities of women's sexuality,
given almost surrealistically vivid form and image in fantasy,
not only frightens men but women too. Think of all that desire
unleashed, desire he may not be interested in or able to satisfy,
appetites mother would never have approved of, sexual-power
she doesn't know what to do with. (How many women know
how to make the first move? Should she pick up the telephone,
reach for his hand, his cock? Should she say, “Please, I want
you to go down on me?” And how many men would reject her
if she did? Oral sex may be “intellectually” accepted today, but
as you will see from the women in this book – if you have not
already discovered it for yourself – there are a great number of
men who are unskilled, unpracticed, or unwilling to do what
they say.)
We are not yet ready to accept the simple proposition that
female sexual power added to male sexual power equals better
sex for both. And yet the truth is that the foundation of our
myth of male sexual superiority is riddled with deception and
fakeroo. Worse, it gives the poor man who believes it an awful
superman's burden to carry. Dominance and superiority are
words you use when you go to war, not to bed.
8
Henry Miller wrote me a letter about My Secret Garden:
“I've always suspected that women had richer, wilder, fantasies
than men. From my limited experience with women I must also
add that I have found them more capable of abandoning themselves
completely in intercourse than men. In a good healthy
sense I would say, to use an old-fashioned word, that they are
more `shameless' than men … . Men are only beginning to
perceive the true nature of women's being. They have created a
false image of her. She is neither an angel nor a bitch in heat. If
she is no longer an enigma, she is certainly an everlasting
source of wonder and rich in unexplored possibilities in every
domain of life.”
If I prefer Henry Miller's approach to women's fantasies to
that of many psychiatrists, it is because his view of life is large
enough to see fantasy as enriching human experience, and not
the mark of pathology.
Far from being a perversion of our deepest and most intimate
moments together, sexual fantasies answer the need for
variety that exists in the best of relationships. To those who
think it is a crime to consciously retreat into the secret garden
of your mind while in the arms of your beloved, let me quote
Dr. Ray Birdwhistle of the University of Pennsylvania. An
overly closed idea of marriage, he says, leads to pathology.
“Privacy is disallowed as being disloyal. But if the couple
wants intimacy, both partners need to refresh themselves with
privacy. That implies also being allowed to withdraw without
guilt. It is only in the private kingdom of the mind that one can
enjoy fantasies. And what held together romantic love in the
first place? A rich, lusty, sweet and sad, vengeful and even
violent fantasy life” [New York magazine, February 1973].
On the last page of My Secret Garden, I asked readers to
contribute their own sexual fantasies and comments for the
book you now hold. It is from the shape these letters took that I
have devised the form of this book. Part One deals with the
very frequent question of readers, “Where Do Sexual Fantasies
Come From?” Part Two, “The Uses of Sexual Fantasy” concerns
the role these imaginary, erotic scenarios play in the lives
of many women.
9
As you will see, I have not so much tried to theorize on my
own; I have tried instead to organize the material my readers
sent in to illustrate the answers to these questions they have
raised in their own lives. I believe we live in a time when it is
of paramount importance that women learn to speak unashamedly,
so that we may learn from each other. I did not ask my
readers for all the information they sent me, but I am very
grateful that they felt it “right” to try to trace for themselves,
and me, the origin of their fantasies and the context in which
they appear in their lives.
It is, of course, impossible to analyze any particular
woman's fantasy without knowing her, and understanding the
full meaning of why she has chosen any particular event or
symbol to express her erotic excitement. But that was never my
purpose. I began research for My Secret Garden in 1968 … I
began to work on this book in 1973. I wanted to see if the intervening
five years had made any significant difference in the
attitudes of women toward sexual fantasies. I am pleased to
say that while I would characterize the majority of fantasies in
Garden as various strategies women had devised to handle or
disarm sexual guilt, the fantasies I have collected for this book
are much more characterized by pleasure and guiltless exuberance.
Poets are often called the conscience of a nation; I believe
our sexual fantasies are mirrors of the women we would like to
become.
I don't think anyone can read the letters in the pages that follow
and not be as touched as I was, not only by the feelings
expressed but by the outpouring of honesty and the unglossy
portrait they give of their lives. What impresses me most is
that, although I guaranteed that all contributions would be
anonymous, over half the women who wrote signed their full
names and gave their addresses – as contrasted to one woman
in ten who signed her real name to the letters I collected for
Garden five years ago.
While I have kept my half of the agreement – all names,
professions, geographical, and other too revealing biographical
data have been changed – I am moved by the courage of my
readers in wanting to speak to me without disguise. As one
10
twenty-five-year-old woman wrote, “I believe that selfacceptance
is the first step toward maturity. So that I can believe
in myself, I want you to believe in me and what I wrote.
And so I am signing my full name.” 
11
PART ONE
Where Do
Sexual Fantasies
Come From?
12
13
CHAPTER ONE
c***dHOOD
It is evident that fantasies have value in and of themselves to the fantasizers
… . From the time they were little girls, women have been
told “not to think about such things.” By bringing women's sexual
thoughts into the open the book gives them permission to fantasize
and, in so doing, increases the possibility that women thereby also
derive permission to experience real life sex more fully, more easily,
more rewardingly.
– Dr. Mary Calderone
Review of My Secret Garden
SIECUS Report, May 1974
 In My Secret Garden, there was a chapter called, “Where
Did a Nice Girl Like You Get an Idea Like That?” It put forth
my feeling that many of our fantasies spring from a time long
before the world is ready to acknowledge our sexuality – c***dhood
itself. No great pioneering idea on my part, Freud's work
on infantile sexuality dates from the turn of the century. More
recently, the eminent authority on c***dhood psychology, Dr.
Arnold Gesell, conducted a study on infant behavior. He placed
a fifty-six-week-old boy in front of a mirror, naked. What the
c***d saw of his own body excited him so much that Dr. Gesell
was able to photograph him with an erect penis. If a boy barely
one year old can have an erotic experience, is it surprising that
little girls – usually more precocious than boys can also be said
to be sexual beings almost from birth?
And yet the idea is still unacceptable to most people. c***dhood
is pictured as a time of ribbons, fairy tales, and lemonade.
Adults notoriously forget that they were once c***dren too; they
close off their minds to early sexual memories – those embarrassing
or shameful events connected perhaps with anxieties
about masturbation. I am not suggesting that the sugar and
spice of little girls' c***dhoods are only a false facade. That
aspect is real. But so is our sexuality.
So far, I have received over two thousand letters from
women who sent me ' their sexual fantasies in response to the
14
invitation on the last page of My Secret Garden. Many were
from highly educated women; an equally great number were
from people who probably never read Freud. It didn't matter.
The cumulative truth of their personal experience confirmed my
view that sexual fantasies are often born out of remembered
c***dhood events. These letters cheered me in a very significant
way: I loved the self-acceptance they showed, the refusal to
continue to carry the age-old feminine burden of shame and
guilt. “Let me tell you a bit about myself first,” these openhearted
letters often begin. The writers want me to see them as
they are; they want some recognition for the courage with
which so many of them lead their lives, even if they ask me not
to print their names. “My first sexual experience was when I
was about four years old. The little boy who lived next door
came over and he … etc.” No apologies are given, no anatomical
details are glossed over or prettified. There is an intuitive
understanding that ladylike language would be counterproductive
to the purpose we are both striving for … that facts are
facts and moral judgments are irrelevant. While names, geographical
locations, and occupations in these letters have been
changed, I have preserved all other biographical details. I feel
only out of the richness and density of facts about someone's
life can we come to see that she is a woman just like ourselves.
I believe this is important work that women must do together,
and I am glad that there are so many willing to lay their
lives on the line to help tear down the curtain of silence behind
which we have had to hide our erotic selves. It left each woman
feeling isolated, an all-too-easy victim to the assumption that
only men knew “all about” sex and what “a real woman” was.
Behind this barrier, which was marked Innocence, but should
more rightly have been named Ignorance, the sexual exploitation
of women went on during practically all of recorded history
– a time that, thanks to women's new openness and honesty
with one another, is coming to an end.
Another significant difference between the letters of 1968
and these new ones is that in Garden the average age of the
women who contributed was about thirty; they were of the generation
born around the time of World War II. The world they
15
grew up in was very different than today's. In that book, the
greatest number of fantasies I collected centered around themes
of imaginary f***e and ****, a*****ion, domination, the
anonymous man whom the woman never sees again – all of
which are psychological strategies for allowing the woman to
have the most thrilling sexual experiences in her fantasies, but
all under the slogan, “It wasn't my fault; he made me do it.” In
other words, sexual guilt and its avoidance was the great emotion
shared by most women who contributed to Garden.
The average age of women who sent in their fantasies for inclusion
in this book is about twenty-two. They grew up in the
age in which Elvis Presley was bringing a new kind of blatant
sexuality to pop music, they entered their own sexual years to
the songs of the Beatles. I am not saying that the music of their
time directly influenced their approach to life (although often it
did), as much as it reflected a whole new era of freedom of
sexual expression. The fantasies in this book fill me with admiration
for these young women. I am struck by their pride in
their sexuality and their pleasure in its exercise – if not in their
lives, at least in their fantasies. They are not at all frightened by
the sexuality of their earliest years. They aren't into guilt at all.
In memory, there is security. One of the first signs that infants
are maturing is the ability to allow mother out of their
sight without tears of fear or rage. The baby has begun to believe
in the reality of memory – to recognize there is a correspondence
between her inner world and the reality “out there.”
Remembered figures do not vanish into a void, but come back.
In time, the baby is freed by this inner certainty and reliance
upon memory; she comes to enjoy her periods of solitude. Secure
in a base of remembered happiness, the little c***d can
turn her attention forward to learning new things: how to crawl
around her crib, perform experiments with her toys and/or
body, the pleasures of watching patterns of light cross the ceiling.
So it is in our sexual years. Whenever periods of sexual
boredom, anxiety, or frustration come along, we tend to return
to c***dhood scenes of remembered erotic happiness. These
16
will be images or events that happen to the baby that are of an
erotic nature. Something is imagined or felt by the little girl,
something comes into view that stimulates her. The c***d does
not yet know, nor does she need to know, that these are specifically
sexual feelings. She only knows that they make her feel
good … excited, stimulated, flushed with life. Nobody has yet
told her she is not to touch herself “down there” … that she is
not supposed to look at this or think that or do any of the other
999 things that “nice little girls” do not do. She goes over the
stimulating incident again and again in memory, almost as a
form of sympathetic magic to make the experience recur; it is
the same form of primitive logic that made the cavemen draw
pictures of deer when they wanted to meet them on the hunt.
This is truly our Age of Innocence. The knowledge of good
and evil (conventionally viewed) had not yet been f***ed upon
us. Is it any wonder that we withdraw to these happy memories,
these simple joys, during our grown-up times of stress,
frustration, or boredom? We were safe and felt alive then;
memory allows us again to draw upon these emotions in fantasy.
Unfortunately, it is a period of c***dhood that does not last
long. Very soon the little girl begins to notice that when she
says this or does that her parents frown or quickly change the
subject. The long series of don’ts are laid on her; the very lack
of explanation behind these illogical commands make them
more frightening and ominous. She becomes aware that various
aspects of her thought or behavior are not to be mentioned.
She learns concealment and evasion – but in her mind, at least,
she does not stop having these ideas that make her feel good.
They are too exciting to give up. Guilt and silence turn her
memories into fantasies. Again and again, I receive the wildest,
most ravenously erotic fantasies from women who begin by
writing, “I was very strictly brought up by puritanical parents
… .”
But while guilt is a heavy load to carry, it is not without innate
benefits too; it adds a terrific charge of daring and defiance
to sex, of forbidden thrills and excitement to heretofore
innocent memories. In the last fantasy that closes this chapter,
17
Joyce writes, “I think 'that what makes all my sexual activity
so enjoyable to me is that my parents were so strict with me
when I was growing up.” Behind the silence with which she
faces the world, the c***d begins to play over and over again
with her taboo ideas, elaborating, adding elements that
heighten their erotic charge, changing details with infinite care
to ever – increase the orgasmic effect. In our outlawed memories,
our first fantasies begin.
Like Joyce, Dorothy too begins her letter by discussing her
“strict upbringing.” She can remember lying in bed as a c***d
and thinking about her fantasies. “I was never able to banish
these deliciously nasty thoughts from my mind,” she writes.
What heightened her pleasure in these erotic scenarios was to
imagine them while she could hear her mother moving around
in another part of the house. Right under her mother's nose, so
to speak, she could play with these forbidden thoughts. In the
secrecy of her mind, she could be sexually defiant.
Carla's letter is not so much the work of an imagination like
Dorothy's as it is a collection of resummoned actualities. This
loving evocation of the past can be defined as sexual fantasy
too: it is the substitution of a remembered scene for present
reality. “I like to go over my memories when I have nothing
else to do,” writes Carla. “It gives me a warm feeling to remember
all the people in my life, because I liked so many of
them.”
I have found that this kind of fantasy, which sticks very
close to actual events of the past, is almost always the mark of
someone with low levels of sexual anxiety and/or guilt. When
memories carry too heavy a charge of psychic pain, the fantasizer
usually drops or disguises them, putting an emotional
distance between herself and the ideas that excite her. She
makes up imaginary events, uses imaginary people to express
her eroticism; she can almost be said to see herself in the third
person in heal fantasy scenes – all this incredible sex is not
happening me it is happening to her.
I hasten to add here that this does not mean that imaginary
fantasies are the work of puritanical or guilt ridden minds. I
would say instead that they are the work of creative minds that
18
need strategies other than memory over a distance of time to
overcome inhibitions. Dorothy's fantasies may be more the
works of imagination than Carla's, but nobody reading Dorothy's
six scenarios could feel they were invented by an inhibited
woman.
What is most interesting about Carla's letter to me is that
while her memories of past (and present) sexual experiences
would shock or horrify most, people, Carla herself speaks of
them all very fondly, with total acceptance of every man, every
sexual encounter – with less guilt about breaking even the i****t
barrier than most women would feel about kissing a
stranger at a party. She speaks of her memories with no bravado,
no shouts of defiance that might make us feel she was
protesting too much. “This is how I am,” her letter seems to
say, “this is what I do, neither more nor less.” It is her life of
which she always speaks, and it does not occur to her for one
second that she does not have every right in the world to do
with it what she will. 
Dorothy
I have just finished reading your book, My Secret Garden,
and I can truly state that it has changed my life for the better. It
took my husband and I four evenings to read it, and those four
nights produced the most fantastic sex of our entire married
life. I had no idea that knowing about other women's sexual
fantasies would turn him on so, and now I think I have the
courage to describe some of my own to him, which I've never
done before. You see, I had a very strict upbringing. Actually, I
suppose it was no more strict than most women's, certainly no
worse than that of the other girls I grew up with. But looking
back now, I can see it's a miracle that I grew up with any feelings
of sexuality whatsoever, given the fact that the atmosphere
around our home was that sex just wasn't nice.
Let me say that I'm twenty-six, have been married for a year
to a wonderful man I lived with for a year before we married,
have no c***dren, and I have a good job as an executive secre19
tary. My husband and I are middle class, both with college
educations.
I know now that I have always engaged in sexual fantasy,
but up until this point, I felt very guilty and ashamed of my
fantasies, and even tried very hard to keep from having them. I
can remember how guilty I felt as a little girl when I went to
church with my parents, and knew what a terrible little sinner I
was for having had those wicked thoughts during the week. I
used to pray for salvation (although no one in my f****y was
terribly religious … it's just that I was terribly sexual, I suppose).
However, I was never able to banish these deliciously
nasty thoughts from my mind; lying in bed as a c***d and
thinking about them, even as I heard my mother moving about
the house, made them all the more thrilling. Many of my fantasies
stem from these early c***dhood daydreams, and have
never lost their impact. Now, your delightful book has finally
enabled me to relax with a guilt-free conscience and enjoy
them. As I have jotted down the basic themes before starting
this letter, I see that I have at least six basic fantasies – each
one involves a different position, and I adapt the appropriate
fantasy to coincide with the particular position I'm actually in
bed. Below are a couple of my favorites:
1. (I use this one while being manipulated by hand before
intercourse.) It's in the 1800s, and I am a beautiful, homeless,
penniless young maiden on a voyage by ship to America. The
ship's captain (handsome, rugged, much older) has agreed to
take me, even though I have no money for my passage. After
we are underway, though, I soon realize that there will be a
payment demanded of me, and I am helpless to resist. (Do I
want to be thrown overboard in the middle of the Atlantic?) I
am the only woman aboard a ship of rugged, lusty, men, and
they all stare at me with desire and longing for my exquisite
body. The captain, however, saves me for himself. Since he
knows I am a virgin and doesn't want to actually deflower me
(I justify this dubious morality of his by making the setting in a
very non permissive time in history), my requirement is to always
be by his side, where he can lift my long skirt with on
hand and enter me slowly and passionately with his fingers
20
while he is otherwise engaged in commanding his ship. I, of
course, am embarrassed and mortified and I wriggle around as
if to get away from his hand but he only continues with more
f***e and stronger manipulation of my clitoris, until finally I
am so excited and turned on (against my will) that I scream
out, “Oh fuck me, FUCK ME!” and the whole crew of the ship
gathers around to look and comment in amazement at this demure
little maiden panting and screaming, with their captain's
hand up her dress. At this point, I've usually had an excellent
orgasm, and do indeed speak those words, to which my hubby
happily accommodates, as that is what he has been waiting for.
He has no idea what has been going on in my head to bring me
to such a frenzy – he only knows his fingers drive me wild!
2. (This is for the male-superior position.) I am a schoolteacher
in a rural school, and several young, lusty farm boys
have cornered me in the one-room schoolhouse after school.
Their purpose is a bet: one of the boys (a huge, fair-haired
brute with an enormous cock) has bet the others that he can
fuck me until I beg for more. They throw me down across my
own desk on my back, pull up my dress, pull off my panties,
and while the other boys are holding my arms and legs, this big
stud goes to work, ramming it in, accompanied by the taunts
and encouragements of his friends. (Such as “Shove it in!”
“Give it to her!” “Make her scream!”) All the time he's saying,
“Come, baby, come cream on me!” while he massages my
body with his huge hands. The boys holding my legs spread
them wider apart so that he can get deeper into my struggling,
writhing body, and he keeps on thrusting away, all the time
using his filthiest words, imploring me in a strong but gentle
voice to come all over him. I prolong this part as long as it
takes me to reach my climax, and it's always a blockbuster. In
fact, writing this down seems to bring the whole image flowing
back to mind so strongly, I'm really getting turned on. These
images had never entered my mind before except during sex.
As I said before, I have a different fantasy. for everything including
cunnilingus and fellatio, but I'm not going to write
them all down or I'd end up writing a book myself. I will say
they include such participants as a horse, a dog, Indians, a
21
doctor, and a headmaster in a girl's school. I change roles in
each one, and sometimes I'm beautiful and sophisticated, while
in others I am c***dish or simpleminded. Each one is elaborate;
but so familiar and dear to me that the right one just pops into
my mind without my even consciously willing it. I've truly
always thought of these fantasies as my “private little world,”
and I use them also while masturbating. They make sex more
vivid and meaningful for me, and I don't think I could bear to
be without them.
As I said before, thanks to your wonderful book, I'm no
longer going to try.
I absolutely promise that these fantasies are legitimate, and
I'd be glad to write them all down for you if you should want
me to, so the name and address are legit also. I look eagerly
forward to your next book, and I do hope I may have been of
some small help – you've helped me more than I can tell you.
Carla and Tom
Since my b*****r and I read your book, My Secret Garden,
we have felt great relief to know we were not the only b*****r
and s****r who fuck. May we add our bit to your next book? I
hope it will help others like us. Tom and I don't consider what
we're doing “unnatural” at all. Being in bed with him seems
like the most natural thing of all.
I like to go over my memories when I have nothing else to
do. It gives me a warm feeling to remember all the people in
my life, because I liked so many of them. I remember when I
was six that my mother used to scold me when she caught me
playing with my cunt, but I always had the desire to expose
myself to the little boys who came over to play in our yard. I
would take off my panties, and I remember several times the
older boys would take me into a corner and play with my cunt.
Some boys took all their clothes off one day and laid me down
on their shirts and pants and worked their fingers up me. I
liked it, but it made me sore. I didn't say anything to my
mother, because she would stop the boys from coming over to
play at our house. The first time a bigger boy took me into the
22
back seat of a car in a garage, he removed all my clothes and
spread my legs so far apart I thought he would split me apart.
He kept getting closer and closer, and I thought he was examining
me. I like the idea that he wanted to see my cunt so
closely, but he suddenly proved my reading of what he was up
to wrong: he got his mouth into my cunt and was darting his
tongue in and out like a snake. I loved it so much that when he
wanted to stop I begged him to do it some more. He promised
to come over often and do this to me. We found places like our
attic, garage, or sheds in the woods. I was very sad the day his
f****y moved to another part of the state, but before he left, he
taught me a nice game. He used a weiner to jack me off with
and then told me to eat the weiner so that nobody would ever
discover I had a weiner in my bedroom. When he moved away,
I used to do this and think of him.
When I was old enough to go to school, the boys soon found
out that they could get to play with my cunt any time at all. My
uncle found the same to be true one summer we spent July and
August on his ranch in New Mexico. I have very happy memories
of the way my uncle loved to play with my cunt and took
me with him when he was making trips around the place. Uncle
was very kind to me, and when he suckers my cunt, he did
it very gently. I remember one time we were a long way from
home, and he found a spot where it was really quiet. He had
me undress completely, and he spread out a large quilt, laid me
down, and put his tongue in my cunt. At this time, I was nine
years old. We had fun, and then he undressed and showed me
his cock. I had never seen a grown man's cock before, and I did
not understand how it could be so big. He got on top of me and
told me to be easy in my mind; he was just going to put the
head of his cock up to my cunt. I asked him what would happen
then, and he said that he would just do with his cock the
way he had always done with his finger, so I wasn't frightened.
Instead, did that ever start my desire to have that cock in my
cunt. He spread my cunt lips open and gently shoved his cock
part way in. His actions just drove me to want that big cock all
the way in, just as I had gotten used to shoving a big, rubber,
imitation weiner all the way in when I wanted to jack off. (The
rubber one was bigger and better than the real ones I had
23
started with.) When my uncle shoved his whole cock in, he
found it was easier to do than he had thought. He asked me if I
had ever fucked before. I told him about the big rubber weiner.
He asked if I had brought it along. I had, and told him how I
used it when I was by myself. That made him so excited that
after our first fuck he spent two more hours just sucking my
cunt. Then he asked me to take his cock in my mouth. I was so
afraid that if I said no he would never fuck me anymore that I
took his cock and sucked him. He kept telling me to suck
harder, and after I had sucked awhile my tongue got sore, so
we stopped. When we returned to the house everyone had gone
to see a movie, so that left us alone. I was so tired that I just
fell asl**p. When I woke up, my uncle was sucking my cunt.
The next day my uncle and aunty had to go into town for a
meeting, leaving my b*****r and I alone. We spent the time
looking around because being on a ranch was so new to us. We
came across two dogs who were trying to fuck. We watched
and it got me so passionate that I stepped backward, up against
the front of my b*****r's pants. He was feeling the same way,
because without a word, he put his hands up under my halter,
exposing my little breasts and cupping my tits in his hands.
We soon were kissing, and he had me walk around to the back
of the milk house. When we were there, he pulled my bikinis
off and the halter of my sunsuit. We played a bit there that
way, and then we made a dash for the house – me running
naked all the way – and went to his bedroom. It started that
way, just as easy as that, and from then on we have been fucking
each other all along very happily and that was twelve years
ago. Do you know any other marriages that have continued
happily for twelve years? I don't. I wish people who read this
letter and feel bad about us would remember that before they
criticize. We now live together, and every one of our friends
think we are husband and wife. He is very considerate. Unlike
most husbands, he shaves every day so that he will not irritate
my skin, etc.
One of the letters in My Secret Garden spoke about dogs.
When Tom and I read this, we decided to see what it was like.
My b*****r and I started to fuck to get the dog excited. It sure
24
did – he got in between our legs and licked both Tom and me
while we were fucking. What a pleasure! When we finished,
Tom let his cock go off in me. (I'm on the pill) Tanzy licked my
cunt, and Tom just lay back and watched. We let Tanzy lick as
long as he wanted, and then he began to get up on his hind legs
and hug my leg. That told us he wanted to fuck. Tom had me
get up on my knees and he helped Tanzy get his cock in my
cunt. We did not know how much cock a dog has, but I soon
found out. When he got that knob in my cunt, he had over eight
inches of cock shoved, up me. Fuck, you never know what it
can do to a girl until she gets fucked by her dog. That pink
fleshy cock is in my cunt whenever Tanzy has a desire to fuck
me. Tom likes to watch his cock plunge in and out of my cunt.
One day Tom asked me how it made me feel, and when I told
him, we tried to get Tanzy to shove it up Tom's asshole so he
could feel what I was feeling. But the hole was too small for
Tanzy to get in. Sometimes I get up on top of Tom, and we
both lay that way, both our legs apart, bellies up, and Tom lets
Tanzy fuck me when we are in this position. Tom's cock rides
in the crack of my ass below, and Tanzy is giving it to me from
straight above. If I am alone and Tanzy wants to fuck, I place
the davenport cushions on the floor and lay on my back. Tanzy
is very smart and knows how to fuck me both from the rear and
front. I love to fuck him from the front, because I can look
down and see his cock entering my cunt, that pink shaft just
going in and out. He always licks my cunt clean after we get
through fucking.
It was Tom's idea that I write this letter to you, but when I
got started typing, I got so excited that he had to help me finish
it. My last thought is that anything you fuck that makes you
feel good is okay.
 Jennie is only s*******n, and her c***dhood isn't that distant.
She remembers it very clearly: “Where I was brought up,”
she says, “sex was pretty much taboo.” She is enough a c***d
of our time to say in one breath, “I always consider myself a
girl of high morals and always thought I would be a virgin
until I was married” … and then she goes on to describe her
25
sexual experiences with her boyfriend, whom she plans to
marry “in three years.”
What I like about Jennie is that she does not feel these contradictions
are important enough to comment upon; no apologies
or explanations are felt necessary. She is a girl who accepts
her own sexuality in her own time; she believes more in
her own feelings than the amorphous “rules” in the air. When
she says she has no guilt about her sexuality or her fantasies, I
believe her.
Jennie's mother clearly grew up in a totally different sexual
atmosphere, and although her daughter was aware of this difference
between' herself and her mother, even as a c***d of
nine, she did not blindly accept her mother's sexual authority:
she felt and believed in her own sexuality even more.
Jennie may not be typical of her generation, but there are
countless young women like her; the very fact that she wrote
me – and with such eagerness – indicated her interest in sex.
What I find more significant is the ease, acceptance, and utter
naturalness with which she treats that interest. 
Jennie
I have just finished reading your book, My Secret Garden.
Throughout the book, I kept thinking what it would be like to
actually write to you. When I saw your address in the back, I
knew I had to write.
First, I'll give you some background information about myself.
I am s*******n, and my boyfriend is sixteen. We are both
seniors in high school, and plan to get married in three years. I
always considered myself a girl of high morals and always
thought I would be a virgin until I was married.
Where I was brought up, sex was pretty much taboo. No one
ever spoke about it, so I never knew anything about sex. I
know that when I was about nine years old I used to get sensual
feelings, although at the time I didn't know what they
were. I used to take my clothes off and rub my small breasts
and my cunt against the cold washing machine, and this made
me feel very good. At other times, I would take all my clothes
26
off and run around in the woods across the street. Sometimes
my girl friend would come with me, and we would sit and
masturbate ourselves or each other. Just thinking about doing
these things when I was a k** would get me excited, and the
next thing I knew I was doing them or thinking up something
new that would make me feel good. Given the puritanical
background where I grew up, it's amazing I didn't feel really
guilty as a k**, but I didn't. I just knew it couldn't be bad if it
felt that good.
Nowadays, I fantasize whenever I have time on my hands …
or my hands on myself. I don't think I masturbate any more
than the average girl, but I don't know much about the average
girl. It's a sexy world, so I have sexy thoughts quite a bit. I
don't usually fantasize when I have sex with my boyfriend. All
I need to hear is his heavy breathing and I get horny. My boyfriend
loves to experiment with sex. Sometimes we fuck with
him coming in from the back, sometimes sitting up; we even
tried it in the shower once.
He likes it when I use my mouth on him. Often, in public, I
can't refrain from touching him up. Up until recently, I would
never allow him to perform cunnilingus on me, but now I love
to feel him sucking my clitoris and slipping his tongue in and
out of me.
When I'm by myself masturbating or daydreaming, my fantasies
change all the time. My favorite fantasies include being
fucked by a lion, a black man, or a cousin of mine. I've always
dreamed about trying i****t, but I have no b*****rs. The closest
I can get is my cousin. He is ten years older than me. Recently,
my grandfather died, and my cousin came up from Georgia for
the funeral. We have always been attracted to one another, and
during the middle of the night, he came down to where I was
sl**ping on the sofa. We smoked a jay, and he kissed me. Then
we got into some petting. After a while, I told him to go away.
Since then, how many times I've wished I hadn't! My chance
will come again, but I know I won't let anything happen, because
I am very faithful to my boyfriend, and I know he would
never have an affair with another girl. But I love to use this
story of what happened that night with my cousin as my fan27
tasy; I try all sorts of different endings to it, thinking about all
the things that could have gone on between us.
I have no guilt feelings about fantasizing. I love to hear my
boyfriend tell me he's going to “fuck me” during intercourse. It
really turns me on. Some of my fantasies I share with him.
There is one we plan to carry out soon. I told him I wanted him
to f***e himself upon me, to **** me when I said “No” to him.
He wants me to fight him off while he tells me he's going to
fuck me.
We have not got into “the group thing.” It doesn't appeal to
either of us. My boyfriend says he doesn't fantasize. Maybe
someday he will. I have found that when I do fantasize during
sex, it adds to both of our excitement.
Thank you for letting me get this off my chest. I hope it is of
some value to you in your studies. Good luck.
 One of the pleasures in reading novels or going to the
movies is the feeling they give us of how other people live.
They seem to enlarge the possibilities of our own lives. Sexual
fantasy, too, will often serve the same function, but instead of
reading about other people, by an act of emotional imagination,
we put ourselves in their shoes and bodies, feel what they feel,
experience their sexual joys as if they were our own. In Sarah's
fantasies, which follow, I find the one about the male guardian
the most interesting. It is evidently born out of c***dhood experiences
– the emotions seem to be of such an early stage of
development that even the sexual lines are blurred: Sarah tells
us that she plays all roles, both male and female. This is not
uncommon in fantasy. We all wonder how other people are
sexually; in our erotic reveries, we can rehearse their emotions
within ourselves. Another signal, I feel, that this fantasy is an
imaginative recreation of very early scenes is that Sarah does
not really put herself into any of the roles, not even that of “the
girl.” It all speaks of a time when she was so young that she
could not choose to act, but was acted upon. It is not, “I did
this or that …” but “The girl is told to take a bath…” and so
on. 
28
Sarah
My fantasies have some points in common with those in
your book, which I loved, and others somewhat different. One
of them is recalling some good times with my ex-husband. He
would get me pretty excited with foreplay, and then he would
put it in, he would make just two or three thrusts, and then he'd
sort of back off with just the tip of it in and tease me – “Do you
want it, baby? Then you'll have to come and get it! Bring it up
to me, baby, climb my pole!” and I would have to raise my hips
up and down, and sometimes he would move around a little
and pretend he was going to take it out and quit, and I would
twist and. turn and raise and lower my hips frantically to keep
it in and keep the motion going – and of course I'd get hotter
and sweatier – doing all the work. And I had really great orgasms
that way. I could get on top, but it never worked with
me that way – only when I was underneath, and really working
at it. (I know some men don't like that at all.)
One other fantasy I have is about a lover I had who used to
have me sit on top of his refrigerator and sort of slide down one
rounded corner of it till his tongue was even with my cunt, and
he'd stand there with his hands sort of cupping my buttocks to
keep me from falling quite helplessly onto the floor, and lap it
up like an ice cream cone. Then he'd have me slide down off
the refrigerator right onto his big cock – nothing I could do
about that either – and waltz me into the bedroom with my toes
just off the floor. Our favorite joke was, “Do you want to come
over and defrost my refrigerator tonight?”
So much for recalling reality – now for fantasies that are just
fantasies. There's one about the little girl who has a male
guardian – father or uncle, I never really figured it out. One
day, the girl has a little boyfriend come over to play after
school and invites him to stay for dinner, The guardian agrees,
and the boy telephones home for permission, but is told his
parents are going out for dinner, and he has to stay where he is
till nine-thirty, if that's not too late. (I play all three roles in
this, alternating.) The guardian again says okay. But after dinner,
he tells the girl she must go and take her bath, which she
29
does, Then he calls to her and says just to come out in her bathrobe.
She does, and then he says to her, “Did you wash your
roses good?” She says she did, and he says, “Come lie down
over here on the sofa, and let's see if you did.” She says no, she
doesn't want to show Toby (her little boyfriend) her roses. At
this, the guardian gets angry and takes down a little paddle off
the mantelpiece and says, “So you don't want to show him your
roses, do you? Well, we'll just show him your little bare bottom
then,” and he takes her over his knee, pulls up her Bathrobe,
and proceeds to give her a good paddling, turning both of her
cheeks pink. Then he stops and says, “Do you want to show
Toby your roses?” And she says, “Yes, yes, yes!” So he puts
her on the sofa on her back and brings the lamp over, so it can
shine very bright, and pushes up a stool for Toby. “Sit there,”
he commands Toby. Then he opens the girl's legs and examines
her minutely, opening the labia around the vagina and the
clitoris. Then he scolds the girl, who has stopped crying by
now. “You didn't wash very good. We'll have to do better than
that.” He tells Toby to put his finger in her vagina and hold her
open with his other hand while he goes and gets the washrag
from the bathroom. Toby is afraid not to do as he is told and
gets more and more interested in the process and asks the girl
if his finger hurts her, and she says no, it feels good, but will he
move his other hand a little, which he does. The guardian
comes back with a washrag that he has surreptitiously wet with
the raspberry-tasting mouthwash, and telling Toby to keep his
finger where it is, he sponges the clitoris and labia – which
turn pink from the mouthwash color and the heat its slight antiseptic
content generate. The girl tries to twist and turn and
says the water's too hot, “It's hot, it hurts! Oh, Toby, kiss it and
make it stop hurting.” And Toby bends his head and kisses
her. By now in this fantasy, I would have come about twice.
Sometimes the guardian spanks Toby after this.
By now, I haven't got enough energy left to tell you many
details about my daughter's slumber party she had when she
was in junior high. The buzzing would kind of quiet down, and
I'd think finally I could get to sl**p. Then I'd hear a “Whap!”
and little moans and giggles. Since then I've imagined planting
a tape recorder at one of those parties. Wouldn't it be fun to
30
hear what games they really play and who gets whapped and
why?
 In the letters that follow, very early experiences are
brought to mind. While Claudia is clearly a very healthy and
erotic young woman, I like the way she gives herself permission
not to hurry into sexual experience before she is emotionally
ready for it. “I'm only f******n years old, so I haven't
screwed yet,” she says, adding, “but I do enjoy some sex with
my boyfriends.” Reading her letter, we get the feeling that
when she is ready for a full sexual experience, she will do it
confidently, easily, and well. She will probably be the one who
decides exactly when, where, and with whom it will take place.
The progress of Claudia's life toward full womanly eroticism
seems clear; the four next letters help us chart some of the pitfalls
that seem to have lain in the way for other women. The
difficult terrain is very clearly mapped in Janice's letter. “I
deeply love my husband,” she writes “(we have been married
sixteen years), but I have always been profoundly thrilled by
my fantasies, which go back to an episode in my adolescence
… . To me, now that I dare think about it after reading your
book, it seems only natural that women should be aroused by
incidents involving urination, given the fact that our sexual
parts are so close to our urinary parts.”
While the incident that Janice refers to in her fantasy happened
during her adolescence, her erotic interest in, and confusion
of, urinary and sexual processes most likely began far
earlier in her life. By the time “Aunt Bessie” came along,
Janice had long since been u*********sly prepared to find the
older woman's invitation enough to “drive me out of my mind.”
Denise's letter, too, reminds us that about the time mother began
our toilet-training, she also began telling us not to play
with ourselves “down there.” It is often a time of tension between
mother and daughter – perhaps the first of their lifelong
battles. All interest is focused on this one part of the body during
this period, the mysteries of sex and urination become intertwined
– because both seem to be forbidden. Eroticism and
31
excretion become emotionally combined – the vagina is experienced
as the seat of a double kind of excitement.
The woman Frank writes about is fascinated by anal play –
she calls herself an “anal-erotic.” I include his letter not so
much for what he tells us about himself, but because his lover
is such a clear example of Freud's dictum that the anal stage of
development precedes the genital. Frank's lover chooses to live
out with him those fantasies that are the outgrowth and expression
of early toilet-training experiences … as also seems true of
Lana, whose fantasy follows Frank's letter. Robyn daydreams
happily about the guiltless pleasure of her fiancé giving her an
enema. In these letters, I am struck by the marvels of human
nature, its recuperative power and above all, its overriding
drive for health and self-acceptance. Janice, Denise, Frank's
lover, Lana, and Robyn have all taken what might seem at first
glance to be behavioral hang-ups, but I have found in them
sources of erotic pleasure instead. I applaud them all. 
Claudia
I have just finished reading your book. Thank you, for it
really opened my eyes to the way many women think. Some
parts shocked me, other parts disgusted me, but most of it excited
me. And I truly believe there are women who feel excited
even by the things that turn me off … and that's okay for them.
I find it exciting that we women are all so different.
I have never been ashamed of my fantasies, but I just didn't
know that's what they were. I'm only f******n years old, so I
haven't screwed yet, but I do enjoy some sex with my boyfriends.
I have had fantasies ever since I can remember. As a
little k**, I imagined I was a harem girl, or a slave girl on sale
at a public marketplace. I was always well-developed in the
fantasy, although I was actually flat as a board then and didn't
have a single pubic hair. In my fantasy, men would walk by me
and examine me, but only with their eyes. It wasn't until. I was
eleven years old that I even began to think and fantasize of
guys putting their fingers up me. When I was ten, I stopped
being the submissive one in my thoughts, and became the se32
ducer. At night, I would (and still do) think of a foxy guy I
know or a handsome teacher and imagine me telling him to
suck my tits, while I softly play with his cock.
I “cock watch,” naturally. I can't help it. To me, it's just like
guys looking at boobs. I sometimes wear sexy clothes, and it
excites me to know that I have caused a guy to get a boner. I
then imagine what his cock looks like, how large his balls are,
how erect it (the dick) is, if he's circumcised or not, etc. You
know, all the things girls who like guys enjoy thinking about.
I hope you can use this in your next book. It has excited me
just to write about it, because I have never told anyone about
these things, except when I was a k**. Thank you again for
your book I think I got my first orgasm while reading it and
masturbating myself, but I'm not sure. Thanks anyhow, because
it felt good!
Janice
I am so pleased your book opened up an area of discussion
which so directly affects my sexual life. Until reading
other women's fantasies of urination – the sexual pleasure derived
from such ideas – I had felt myself to be “unusual” or
worse. I deeply love my husband (we have been married sixteen
years), but I have always been profoundly thrilled by my
fantasies, which go back to an episode in my adolescence. I
have thought about this incident so often, and embroidered on
it, that I am no longer quite sure what actually did happen and
just what I have added to increase the pleasure thinking about
it gives me.
To me, now that I dare think about it after reading your
book, it seems only natural that women should be aroused by
incidents involving urination, given the fact that our sexual
parts are so close to our urinary parts. I sometimes think that if
I dared think about many of the things that frighten me, the
fear would be replaced so easily by self-acceptance; all that
keeps me, and others, from thinking of these fearsome things is
the thought that it is sinful to consider them; and yet what can
be sinful in just thinking about something?
33
Here is my fantasy:
I am visiting at the home of an older friend, someone I call
Aunt Bessie, although we are not related. One rainy day, during
the visit, as luncheon time approaches, Aunt Bessie and I
have two large martinis. Afterward, we sit down at the dining
table to eat. Lunch starts with a delicious thin soup, of which I
have two servings. Soup is followed by cold cuts, accompanied
by steins of cold, foaming beer. For dessert, there are crackers
and cheese, with refills of the steins to wash it down. About
half an hour after lunch, I get up from my chair and start to
leave the room. Aunt Bessie asks where I am going, and I reply:
“Sorry, but I have to pee.” To this, Aunt Bessie says,
“Nonsense, you just think you have to go. Come back here and
sit down, and we will split a bottle of champagne.” Although I
have some doubts as to my ability to retain any longer, all the
liquid I have imbibed nevertheless I comply. At this point, I
begin to suspect that Aunt Bessie has something “up her
sleeve,” but just what, I cannot imagine. We sit for a while,
drinking the champagne and smoking two or three cigarettes,
me feeling more and more uncomfortable by the minute. As I
finish the last drop in my glass, I say to Aunt Bessie: “I really
must go now, I can't hold it any longer.” Aunt Bessie replies:
“Well, if you must, you must, but I hope you don't mind if I go
with you.” Upon arriving in the bathroom, Aunt Bessie asks
me to remove my dress and panties and then sit on the toilet
seat, but without dropping even a tear for a few moments. Aunt
Bessie then kneels down on a cushion placed conveniently to
one side of the toilet seat, reaches across my nearest thigh, and
proceeds to manipulate my clitoris. As soon as I feel my
friend's fingers playing with my clitoris, the desire to void my
urine recedes. Aunt Bessie tells me: “Wait until the exact moment
of the climax I am going to bring you to, and then let the
freshet flow. I guarantee you will have the most ecstatic orgasm
any woman can have in this world – or the next, for that
matter.”
Sure enough, just as Aunt Bessie's skillful fingers bring me
up to and push me over the edge, I let my piss come in a rush.
It is like coming in two places at once, and the hot piss flowing
34
down my slit and over the pulsating mouth of my vagina nearly
drives me out of my mind.
Denise
Thanks for doing My Secret Garden – one of the fantasies
electrified me, naturally: I saw myself in it. On p. 179, “Faith”
calls herself a “urologenic.” Obviously, there must be a lot of
us if someone put such a fancy label on us! What I want to
know is where I can find out more about us – also, I'd surely
like to trade fantasies with another like-minded gal – if at all
possible, I'd like you to forward my letter to Faith; if you can't
do that, it's okay, and I understand. Now maybe you'd like a
fantasy along these lines for your next book. I'm gay, by the by,
and ecstatically happy about it. Before I understood my fascination
with urination, I used to try to turn my fantasies toward
intercourse and ejaculation – I thought I had urination mixed
up with ejaculation, but I realize it's just not true. It's the accidents
people have, especially men or boys, that fascinate me.
My favorite fantasy takes place in a grammar school classroom.
Billy, a cute fifteen-year-old, raises his hand to be excused
to the bathroom. The teacher carelessly ignores him, then
puts him off with repeated “in-a-minutes.” At this point in the
fantasy, many variations work. A typical version now is that he
feels such pressure that he jams his knees together and scoots
forward at his desk, trying to “hold it.” It doesn't help, and
with his face burning, he finds it necessary to let go just a little,
every few minutes, to ease the pressure. Soon, the other k**s
notice, pointing and whispering at the growing puddle under
his desk. Billy always wears tight Levi's and has a very cute
behind. Sometimes he is made to stand in the corner at the
front of the room, where he wets himself in front of everybody.
I only wish I had a notion of how to look for information on
this “aberration.” Thanks a lot!
35
Frank
I'm a heterosexual male, and it would seem absurd for me to
comment on the sexual fantasies of women. In fact, I'm not
even interested in them to any extent; a I ran across your My
Secret Garden by accident and only thumbed through it idly.
However, I see you are collecting material, and I have a sort of
case history to give to you for what it's worth. This is a livedout
fantasy in which I participated, and frankly, I'm a bit troubled
about it in retrospect. It's rather extreme, or so it seems to
me, and I wonder if I have encouraged the woman in what may
become a harmful sexual aberration.
First, let me set the stage and describe the characters briefly.
I'm a middle-aged business executive and quite an ordinary
fellow, nothing special about me at all. The woman is nearing
forty, a rather intense emotional type but distinctly attractive,
married to a man she likes but who is totally impotent due to
illness. She is torn between resolve to remain at least technically
faithful to her husband and an urgent need for sexual release.
I like her, and am sympathetic to her in her problem. The
two of us compromised in a pretend affair limited to cunnilingus
and fellatio.
But this wasn't wholly satisfactory to either of us. For my
part, I enjoy this with an attractive woman, but mostly as only
a part of loveplay rather than as an end in itself. She felt guiltridden
and had difficulty achieving orgasm that way. It just
wasn't very good. Until we discovered something else, by a
quite accidental move on my part. I was caressing her vulva
with my hand preparatory to cunnilingus, when I inadvertently
let a finger stray into the crevice of her buttocks, and its tip
pressed into her anus. She stiffened and cried out, and almost
instantly went into orgasm.
Here at last we come to the fantasy itself. She was, in fantasy,
an anal erotic. Later, she confessed this to me. She
dreamed of having a man thrust his finger through the sphincter
of her anus and on up into her rectum. Going further, she
imagined his mouth on her there. And, in return, of putting her
mouth on him.
36
Later, we actually did this. I was personally a bit doubtful,
to tell the truth. There have been other women in my experience
who liked anal loveplay, and I am not particularly averse
to it. When I'm in the proper mood, an attractive woman's anus
can be exciting as a part of the whole of her. I like everything
about women, and although I have never done actual anal intercourse,
I often do caress a woman there during loveplay or
cunnilingus if she seems to want it. But it turned out that, once
released from inhibition, this woman was really avid about
this. It was not only the best but almost the only way she could
achieve complete orgasm. And for the ultimate experience, she
wanted it to be shared. So it became our regular custom to do it
to one another. Lying head to toe, I would fasten my mouth
over her anus while stroking her vulva and clitoris with the
fingers of a hand. She would tuck my penis down between her
breasts, hold my testicles aside with one hand, and suck with
lips and tongue at my anus.
The actual living out of this fantasy of hers seems to give her
a supreme experience. She goes quite mad in her ecstasy. Her
anus works in and out against my lips, her vulva positively
gushes fluid, she bites and sucks at my anus and crushes my
penis between her breasts, her climax when it comes is violent
and interminable.
All this is most enjoyable for me too, I'll admit. I'm something
of a voyeur, I like to look at an attractive woman in all
her intimate places, to see her vulva open pink and wet, her
clitoris swell, her little peeplace gape open at the touch of my
tongue, her vagina reveal its inner flesh to me, her anus stretch
and pulsate as I touch her there. I like to feel her, and smell
her, and taste her. And God knows it's a fantastic titillating
sensation to have a woman's lips and tongue sucking and probing
at me, to have her breasts caress my penis until it spurts
over them and her belly.
But all this, good though it is, somehow pales in comparison
to the real thing for me. I like giving her pleasure in this way; I
enjoy it myself. But it's all only play to me; I remain unaffected
in the ultimate sense. But for her, it seems to be rapidly assuming
the proportions of an obsession. She doesn't want it any
other way now. I'm worried – she's really a very nice person,
37
and I do like her – lest I may be encouraging her in a sexual
aberration that may eventually do her harm.
Oh, well, you've listened long enough. I don't expect you to
reply, and perhaps this report may be of no use to you at all.
But if you're interested in the sexual fantasies of women, here's
one that came to life. You're welcome to use all or any part of
this account as you like, no obligation. In any case, good luck
to you in writing more about this interesting subject of women
and their fantasies.
Lana
Congratulations on a sensitive piece which rightfully credits
women with a high degree of creativity.
After reading your book, it sounded like fun to write down a
fantasy I have been having – it seems a little more difficult to
share it. Actually, my fantasy does not materialize during sex,
but rather acts as kind of a “sl**ping pill” when I have had a
particularly tiring day at work.
It begins as I am sitting in a waiting room which is painfully
antiseptic and severe. I feel very uncomfortable being there, for
it seems it is somewhat against my will. Other girls are seated
around me also nervously shifting in their chairs.
Finally, my name is called by a woman who resembles an
old grade-school librarian. Very unchic and clinical. She shows
me into a huge office painted white, with a cold metal examination
table in the middle. She asks that I remove my clothes
and carry them to the corner of the room. When I bend down to
put them there, she tells me to stay in that position while she
prepares an injection to tranquilize me. She finally returns and
feels all over me for the correct site – usually on my rear. As
she is giving me the shot, three men enter the room. One is
deadly serious, and the others are his students. They are all
surprised at the position I am in. The teacher appears cross
with the woman for not doing a better job of relaxing me.
I am told to mount the examination table. I do and lie on my
back. But one of the students laughs and asks me to turn over,
saying he needs the relaxed end up. It is at that point, out of the
38
corner of my eye, with my head resting on my hands, that I see
a large machine being wheeled in with a tubular device attached
to a long rubber hose. One of the students asks me to
relax and spread my legs as far as they will go, while the other
student, amid sideways winks and donning rubber gloves, lubricates
my rectum with his fingers. The teacher then slowly
and with some difficulty (because I keep tightening my muscles)
inserts the tube into my rear and announces that this is an
enema designed with both an outflow and inflow suction.
Water swishes, legs are held apart, and I am constantly told
to relax. After a while, it is all over, and the tube is removed.
By then I am usually asl**p.
Should I need to fantasize further, I am prepared.
The teacher tells me I am to be the model for a mold or casting
of a dildo to better fit all women. Another injection, and
then I am turned over. My legs are spread on a t****ze affair
suspended from the ceiling. The students busy themselves with
a thorough douching of my vagina, while the teacher feels my
breasts and asks me if it hurts.
Then another machine is wheeled in with a larger tube inserted
into that clean vagina. The plaster oozes out of the tube
and seems to fill my whole body. It's warm and keeps expanding.
One of the students pushes his hand on my stomach, while
the other closes the slit with his fingers. Meanwhile, the doctor
inserts a lubricated thermometer in my rectum.
Others are called to help remove the casting – usually men
that I have never had affairs with, but have thought about it.
They enter the room slightly surprised to see me, but don rubber
gloves and aid in taking out the form.
The final bliss comes when it is tried out on the librariantype.
I am amazed that I wrote this, but really did have fun doing
it. It is a genuine fantasy.
Robyn
I just finished reading your book, My Secret Garden, and I
must admit I enjoyed it very much.
39
To give you a bit of my background, I'm female, eighteen,
and am presently engaged to be married in one and a half
years. Please, no comments! I've had enough objections from
my parents and relatives already! John and I are very much in
love, although we've known each other only eight short
months!
I've had sex with two other guys before John, but I never
really enjoyed it. With John, every minute we are making love
is heaven. I am the first girl John has ever fucked, and John is
the only guy who's made me reach a climax. We fuck about
three or four times a week (I'm on the pill), usually in his car,
occasionally we rent a motel room, although I have to be home
by 1:30 A.M. I guess I should tell you our favorite ways of
fucking before I tell you my fantasies. First of all, we both get
greatest satisfaction with me on top. He can touch my clitoris
when I'm this way, and I can fondle his balls. When in the car,
I kneel over him while he's sitting, and this way he can use one
finger on my clitoris, and another finger up my anus. I adore
the feeling I get when his finger is in my asshole. I come the
best this way. We use every possible word, while fucking. I
love to hear him say what he's doing, and really letting the
words flow. However, we never use these words any other
time. I also enjoy a good sound spanking on my bare bottom
before making love. (He can't stand me spanking him, though.)
It feels great when he puts a lotion on my fiery bottom afterward.
We both enjoy the sixty-nine position, with me on top. This
way he can also use his hand. I can't come when he's not using
a finger on my clitoris. Often, he'll go down on me before we
make love; I usually come while he's doing this.
Now, for fantasies. I guess mine are basic, not too unusual. I
often daydream of having sex with another woman, but I never
think of this while we're fucking. I'd really like to try it with a
girl, but truthfully, I don't know anyone I could do it with. By
the way, none of my girl friends, except one, know that John
and I fuck. If the opportunity ever arose, I'd definitely try it.
(And I'd never tell John.)
40
I'd also like to pretend that John was a doctor, and he'd have
to give me an enema. I can see him wearing the kind of white
gauze mask that doctors wear and leaning over me. I am on a
special gynecological table, with my feet in the stirrups, but
because he is going to carefully examine my anus before giving
rime an enema, I am lying facedown, so I am all spread open
for him, my cunt and my anus. First, he pokes his finger in my
asshole and tries to look in. But he can't see enough. So he
takes out a kind of surgical pliers and warms the cold metal in
a bowl of warm water. Then he inserts the pliers in my anus,
and when they are in good and deep, he slowly opens them so
he can have a good look in. For some reason of anatomy I don't
understand, he has to put his fingers in my vagina while he is
examining my asshole. Perhaps this helps open it up more.
Then when he has it figured out, he says to me, “Well, I will
have to give you an enema. That will fix you up.” But instead
of having me sit on a toilet, he puts me in a kind of swing, so
that I am supported under the shoulders, and from the knees
down, but my bottom is hanging naked down below. John
brings in an enormous enema bottle and hangs it up high over
my head. “This will really fix you up,” he says, and begins to
insert the rubber pipe into me. He is down below the canvas
swing, so I can't really see him, but he's shoving in inches and
feet of rubber piping, really shoving it in. And then as he turns
on the warm water, he leans over to kiss me. As he does so, he
puts his fingers on my clitoris and lovingly plays with it. I can
feel the water gently running up through me; John is holding
my cunt lips tenderly in his hands and telling me I'll be all
right soon. The feeling is very peaceful, but even as I write this,
I can feel myself almost beginning to come.
That fantasy may seem a bit gross, but I'd really like it to
happen. (Wherever could I get stirrups and the canvas swing
and such?) I don't know if I'll ever get enough nerve to ask
John to do this, but maybe if I get d***k enough … I'm sure he
would agree – he never refused to try anything. I'd also like to
shave all my pubic hair off, but he is repulsed by the idea.
We also masturbate together (I seldom do it alone), and
we've seen each other pee. It's most romantic in the dark deep
woods!
41
I hope I've helped you in some way. Please hurry and publish
your next book. I can hardly wait to read it.
Maybe, I'll invite you to our wedding! Remember – SEX IS
BEAUTIFUL!
P.S. He also loves to suck on my large tits. He can't wait till
I'm pregnant.
P.P.S. I also get turned on by hard porno. (He doesn't.)
 In all the fantasies that follow in this chapter, the writers
themselves describe their fantasies as growing out of c***dhood
experiences – or else their early beginnings are evident in the
emotions they express. I always feel grateful to women like Ivy
and Sophie who write to confirm the value of sexual fantasies
in their lives; just as their own ther****ts have told them that
sexual fantasies do not mean they are freaks, so have several
other psychoanalysts written to me of the usefulness to human
health and happiness of sexual fantasy. As part of their the****utic
approach, these doctors have begun to encourage their
more inhibited patients to invent their own fantasies, often
beginning by having them read My Secret Garden first.
I especially appreciate the generosity of Dr. Harrison's letter,
not just toward me but clearly toward all his women patients.
The fact that he would also enclose his own fantasy makes him
even more dimensional to me, not just a doctor but a man too.
We may not all be able to afford, or want, psychotherapy, but
the experiences these women have shared with us – acknowledging
how difficult it was for them to accept and enjoy the
guilt-ridden early sexual pleasures of c***dhood – can help us
all. You were sexual as a c***d; the thrills and sensations you
felt then are still with you. You may have felt guilty about it
when you were six or ten, but you are grown-up now and can
understand how unnecessary this guilt is. More important, you
can put those early sexual experiences and emotions to work
for you. When we were c***dren, many of us were made to
memorize a passage from the Bible: “When I was a c***d, I
spake as a c***d … . When I became a man, I put away c***dish
things.” I submit that this is not entirely correct. We may
42
put away c***dish words and games, but our earliest sexuality
is the foundation on which our sexual maturity grows. These
women recognize this. Maybe you can learn from them. 
Ivy
I've just finished reading My Secret Garden. For me, it was
one of many approaches I am currently taking to work through
numerous sexual hang-ups. Mostly it helps by confirming my
ther****t's statements that my fantasies and sexual desires are
normal, shared by many others.
I am thirty-one, married nine years, two c***dren, returned to
graduate school a year ago. Both my husband and I are in therapy;
hopefully this counseling, plus attending a clinic for sexual
disfunctions will enable us to remain married. But if not, I
think we will both be at the point that we can survive divorce,
and come through the whole experience with some positive
gains.
Fantasy 1: My ther****t (who is female) has arranged for
me to be sexually counseled by a male friend, also a ther****t. I
meet regularly with him, once a week, in his apartment. He is
very perceptive and sensitive; in the beginning, we only talk.
He is very slow to introduce sexual activities. The second time
I am there, he merely has me lie fully clothed next to him. It's
as though he always sensed at what point the fears I have regarding
sex negate the excitement, and always takes me on one
step beyond where I think it's okay, but one step short of what
would scare me away. This is my sweetest, gentlest fantasy,
and I haven't yet gotten us to the point of actually making love,
and orgasm (which I am only able to achieve while masturbating
in real life).
Fantasy 2: (This is wild.) The beginning part of this borrows
and adapts part of a science-fiction novel I once read.
There is some group of people who have instituted a colony of
“superpeople” … beautiful, strong, intelligent, etc. (Naturally,
they want me. Such egotism.) Anyway, they get their population
by k**napping desirable persons.
43
I'm k**napped, and awaken in a sparsely furnished bedroom.
For the next two weeks, someone comes each day and
takes me for different types of tests – a thorough physical
which I really enjoy, especially the rectal examination for cancer
(I never had this, but someone once described it to me), I.Q.
tests, physical stamina tests, tests for pain threshold, sexual
desire thresholds (i.e., they studied my physiological responses
to sexual stimulus à la Masters and Johnson). What is turning
me on, aside from the discreet experiences of pain, sexual
stimuli, etc., is the feeling of someone or something knowing
all of me in such intimate detail.
In the meantime, they are also carrying on at this place social-
psychology-type experiments. After a few days of testing, I
return to the room and see d****s parted so that I can see a
man in a similarly furnished adjacent room – apparently he
can't see me. Later (on a different day), we see one another and
try to talk through the glass; all we are able to communicate is
that neither of us understand where we are or what's going on.
Finally, usually the day I endure the pain threshold experiments,
I return quite shaken to the room, and see that now
there is a doorway in the wall, and I cross over to his room,
where he comforts me and holds me. Sometimes we screw,
sometimes not, but it is always a gentle act.
Sometime later, he returns from a similar experience, and I
comfort him. The sexual turn-on for me lies in the various tests
performed, but this man is still an essential part of the fantasy;
it occurs to me that maybe he is the safe place I can return to
when sexual feelings have become too strong and, therefore,
frightening to me (it is the loss of control I fear).
I have a couple of other remarks:
1: I think for me it's true that certain fantasies stem from
c***dhood. I can remember having feelings reading the parts of
Tom Sawyer where the schoolmaster switched c***dren. I was
raised a very strict Catholic and would never allow my “sexual”
thoughts in my head. But thoughts of spankings and pain,
which turned me on, didn't fall into that category, because I
was too young to recognize those pleasurable feelings as sexual,
or at least sensual. Likewise, a movie scene in which a
44
group of rough men were ordering a woman in a bar to undress
of they'd kill her male friend (knife at his throat) turned me on
at almost age twelve, and my ****-type fantasies have this
theme. The f***e is never raw strength, but psychological
domination, threat of what they might do to someone else who
is there (a male friend of mine) if I don't go along.
2: I would like to believe that the domination desire stems
from the freedom from guilt which that situation provides. I
very much identified with the woman in your book who said
that the domination thing grew as her involvement in women's
lib grew … the same thing happened to me, and it seemed like
such a contradiction: the more liberated I felt in my day-to-day
life, the more I fell back on and needed my domination fantasies
during sex. Perhaps women's lib helped me to believe in
my right to sexual feelings and experiences, but it's too difficult
to forget all that guilt at once … so domination lets me have
the pleasure without the guilt.
3: I liked the distinction you suggested between pain for
pain's sake and pain as an instrument of domination. As you
noted of other people, real pain turns me off; in fact, torture
scenes in movies, etc., have made me upset to the point of nausea.
I can't stand to hear people screaming, etc. But the thought
of my bare ass being spanked as a preliminary to sex really
turns me on, especially as the means by which a male f***es
me to suck him (which I have ambivalent feelings about, but
am really turned off at the thought of doing it till he comes …
something I've never done).
4: I found that fantasies of faceless people and unknown environments
never made me feel guilty. But thinking of someone
else I know while screwing with my husband still does,
possibly because our marriage is not all that secure right now.
However, I don't feel as cheap and shitty as I used to, having
read in your book how many women do think of other men.
Thanks. I don't have the nerve to sign this with my real
name. If any of the comments are helpful to you, let them be
my way of contributing something in return for what I gained
reading My Secret Garden.
45
Bonnie
Thank you for the first book. I couldn't believe how turned
on I could get. by reading, and ever since, I use your book to
arouse myself before masturbating. Sure, I've got fantasies, lots
of them! I'm twenty-one, lost my virginity at nineteen to someone
who fell in love with me, have had sex with maybe seven
or eight guys, no serious relationships, and over one hundred
forty “dates” and casual affairs. I discuss sex and fantasies
with my Mom and turned her on to your book (as well as
EVERY woman I know). I love sex, anytime, anywhere, and
am in the beginning of a beautiful relationship with an incredible
guy who is a fabulous lover and who is very open about
everything.
The one fantasy which started when I was about ten, has become
a well-developed, detailed, and (excruciatingly) arousing
little plot that I embellish whenever I want to. However, the
theme is always domination, and I always get spanked. One
important detail is that the guy is smoking cigarettes – I guess
this adds to his macho appearance. I only go out with very
sensitive men who are in the creative field, but they've all been
fairly dominating (but in a gentle, considerate way). I won't
take shit from any guy and refuse to be told what to do. However,
enough autobiography, here it is:
I am reading a book in his bed, wearing a fly-front skirt,
button-down shirt, and only underpants. He comes in wearing
jeans, a denim shirt, open very low down, and with a fitted
leather jacket (collar up, of course). He comes over to the bed,
sits down next to me, and tells me to put the book away. I refuse.
He puts out his cigarette and takes the book out of my
hand. Everything is done slowly, especially the stamping out of
his many cigarettes, which elongates the fantasy and arouses
me even more. I play innocent and do nothing except yawn or
consistently refuse. He lights up another cigarette and makes a
telephone call to his agent (he's an illustrator), and while on the
phone unbuttons my shirt and takes it off. He rolls me over on
my stomach and very slowly lifts up my skirt and pulls down
my underpants and leaves me like that while he leaves the
46
room to get a number for his agent. (As he puts the phone
down, he whispers, “If you move, I feel sorry for you, and you
can forget about sitting down for tonight.”) When he comes
back, I have sat up, pulled up my underwear, and pulled down
my skirt. He hangs up and makes me stand in front of him
while he sits at the edge of the bed and takes off my skirt. As I
stand in front of him in just my underpants, he makes another
phone call. While on the phone, he grabs me and puts me over
his knee (by this time I probably have come about twenty
times) and slowly pulls down my underpants. After the call, he
spanks me very hard, but I refuse to cry. Then he fingers me
while he makes another call, which lasts for maybe twenty
minutes. After that one, he spanks me again, always in between
each slap saying what a spoiled brat I am and how I've
had this coming to me for a long time He continues until I cry.
Then he tells me to lay down and wait for him. He goes into
the kitchen and comes back with rope and ties me up. He takes
off his leather jacket, and rolls up his sleeves (this turns me on
even more) and teases me for a long time (I love to be teased),
then he unties me, and we make love all night, but he NEVER
apologizes.
My thighs are locked together as I write this, and I'm trying
to figure out how to get my boyfriend to do it He has spanked
me, but not long enough and not slowly; he also said he would
act out my fantasies.
Hope this has helped, although I don't see how it could, it's
too typical! Thanks again.
P.S. I'm an art student.
Sophie
Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book,
My Secret Garden. I am twenty-five, single, and have had numerous
lovers, all male. I have a master's degree in French and
am a teacher by profession.
I have been fantasizing sexually since I was about five or
six, when I began to masturbate. I was always ashamed of my
fantasies – they were my private secret – up until about two or
47
three years ago, when I underwent therapy with a psychiatrist.
He practically had to drag these fantasies out of me – I didn't
feel comfortable enough to tell him about them until I had been
in therapy for close to two years. When I finally did tell him, I
felt great relief that he accepted them and didn't recoil in horror
and disgust when he heard them. Since that time, I have become
much more relaxed about masturbating itself, enjoying it
much more than before (now I can honestly admit that it is
pleasurable), and I now also realize that sexual fantasies aren't
dirty and disgusting, that indeed practically all women have
them. I still masturbate regularly and enjoy that sort of
“naughty” or even “dirty” feeling that used to repulse me. I
also like to feel naughty and dirty when I'm screwing.
I realize that if I had not undergone therapy, I might never
have discovered how pleasant and natural such fantasies can
be, and that guilt feelings are not a necessary psychological
“payment” for such pleasurable, but forbidden, thoughts. I
hope that by reading your book, other women will draw the
same conclusions about their fantasies, without the aid of a
psychiatrist.
Thank you for your outstanding contribution to the liberation
of the female sexual psyche.
I think I may attach some of my own fantasies to this letter.
You may use them as you wish.
P.S. I read your book while at work (I'm doing temporary
secretarial work during the summer) and beat off three times
yesterday during the day, right at my desk!! Once I almost got
caught, and it was ever so exciting!!
Fantasy 1: This one's an oldtimer – I used to use it exclusively,
but now I usually use variations on the same theme, two
of which also follow.
I am walking in the woods, enjoying the green scenery (I'll
bet the shrink would say this is like walking through pubic
hair), when all of a sudden I fall through a hole in the ground
into a sort of laboratory. Inside the laboratory are lots of men in
white coats (I guess they're doctors or something). I am undressed,
weighed, and then put on some sort of cart which
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wheels me around to the various departments in the laboratory.
First, I am examined and proclaimed healthy (internally, that
is), and then the doctors determine that I am orgasmic and
suitable for experimentation. The last stop is a big room with a
kind of observation balcony. There are lots of men up there
watching me, all extremely interested in so lovely a specimen
as myself. The head doctor, or whatever he is, comes on the
loudspeaker and announces that the gentlemen will soon witness
a female orgasm. Then a large man comes in – he's usually
very strong-looking, and although he's not physically dirty,
he is perspiring and has a gleam in his eye that tells me he's
going to do a job on me. This man has been trained by the lab,
so that he knows precisely how to drive a woman into crazed
ecstasy. I am strapped onto a table, my legs wide apart. The
big man approaches me, explores me with his finger, smiles
wickedly, nods in approval to the head doctor and the men
observing the scene, then comes down on me, flicking my clit
with his tongue. The whole time this is going on, the doctor is
giving a blow-by-blow account of how I'm feeling and how
turned on I'm getting over the loudspeaker. He tells the men
that I'm getting very close to coming. Finally, the big man
sucking my cunt can't stand it anymore himself, and so he
drops his trousers, revealing a large, erect dick, and he fucks
me for all he's worth, while at the same time flicking my clit
with his finger, until I come, come, come, all over the fucking
table.
Fantasy 2: This one has the same setting (sometimes I skip
the beginning part and just find myself in the large room I described
above). Now the men who were observing before are
taking turns trying to turn me on, all this happening under the
head doctor's watchful and approving eye. Each man tries his
own special technique for exciting me, and the all-knowing
doctor can tell who does the best job on me. The men try hard,
because they know what the prize of doing the best job is – me
(who else?). At some point, the doctor tells one of the men he
has won me. This man then wheels the table I'm strapped to
into another room, where he uses his technique to bring me to
explosive orgasm by sucking, feeling, and fucking me.
49
Fantasy 3: Again the same background, except that now I've
been at this laboratory for some time and know what to expect.
I have come to enjoy this experimentation so much that, this
time, the doctor announces over the loudspeaker, I have begged
him to let someone work me over again. Same scene, same
ending, except that this time I asked for it.
I just want to add that these are all fantasies that I use while
masturbating. I don't normally fantasize too much while fucking,
except that if someone's eating me out, I'll usually use one
of these old standbys. I love to be fucked from behind while
having my clit manipulated, either by me or my partner, and
lots of times I can't come unless someone's playing with my
clit. At any rate, I have my best orgasms when someone's fucking
me and playing with my clit at the same time.
Dr. John Harrison
As you can see by the letterhead above (which I must ask
you not to reprint, for obvious reasons), I am a psychoanalyst.
This letter is to tell you that your book, My Secret Garden, is
already having highly beneficial spinoffs in my the****utic
practice. For example, a young mother says, “I can't reveal my
sexual fantasies to you directly, but if you will look on page xx
in Nancy Friday's book, you will read one that is something
like mine!” As you might guess, by the conclusion of therapy, I
hope she will be able to talk to me directly about all her sexual
fantasies in complete detail. That would denote selfacceptance,
maturity, responsibility, and a giant step toward a
more fulfilling life.
Your book provides a most welcome generalizing example
that encourages people to come to terms with themselves and
perhaps seek some of the excitement of which they dream. It is
known, for example, that people with true psychosomatic illnesses,
such as ulcers, hypertension, etc., are sadly lacking in
the capacity to fantasize. If they can learn to fantasize, their
nervous stress, strain, anxiety, and frustration may be given an
outlet in that manner, and not have to be expressed as destructive
f***es within their own poor bodies.
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One other comment: many neurotics are entirely u*********s
of their most important sexual fantasies. Psychoanalysis
helps them make these conscious and acceptable. Most people
are genuinely unaware of what really excites them, but from
your “catalog” (if I may use such a shorthand term), they can
find one very similar to their own previously unrecognized
fantasies. In psychoanalysis, we find again and again that this
basic fantasy had once been known and treasured, but then
repressed out of shame, etc. I would compare your book to a
jukebox with old, forgotten favorite tunes which, when played,
bring back all the feelings of yesteryear.
Please continue with your good work. I know it must be
pleasurable; I hope it is profitable. Now that you know that in
the experience of at least one psychoanalyst, it is the****utic as
well, you must feel you have found the best of all occupations.
Your photo on the dust jacket does invite me to tell you a
sexual fantasy of my own. You have an intimate, sexual, and
candid look about you. Perhaps your appearance invites people
to be candid with you in return. To tell such a fantasy is a mild
sexual experience in itself – but you asked for it.
It is this: On any given day in my office, when a woman
comes in with a brief miniskirt and no panties, she is rewarded
with a gentle, moist, caressing of her cunt with my tongue. It
would be important for her to sense that this would happen
only if she gave a sign of acquiescence by the way she dressed
and sat.
Freud talked about the sexual fantasies that patients had
about their doctors, and went on to posit and discuss the counter-
transference this developed in their ther****ts. Which is a
stuffy, polysyllabic word for what amounts to a little cuntlicking
in my case.
I am sure you understand why I request that while you let
the fact that I am a psychoanalyst stand, I ask that you assign
me a fictitious name.
51
Deedee
I'm writing this because I think I may be a lesbian – I'm not
sure. I think it all started when I was six or seven years old. My
playmate and I used to take off all our clothes. Then I would
climb on top of her (I'm very aggressive), open her pussy lips,
and grind the hell out of her. Then I met her older s****r, Tish.
One day, Tish was alone in the house, and asked me to come
over. She had on a nightgown, but with nothing underneath.
She raised the gown and told me to rub her pussy. I did it, and
in my fantasies even today, I am often still seven years old. I
like to remember how I opened her lips and tickled her clitoris.
Even as I write this, I can imagine how she looked when she
reached climax. The reason I think I may be a lesbian is that
she didn't tell me to open her pussy lips and tickle her. I did
this all on my own.
When I became eight years old, I gave up my playmate for a
boyfriend named Teddy. Teddy and I used to go down into the
basement and take off all our clothes and fuck all day. (I know
that isn't the way it could have been, but that's how it seems in
my memories.) But he soon told his pals, and they joined us.
One day, seven boys pulled a train on me. I didn't tell my mom
or dad, because I enjoyed it so much. But I think that incident
is what made me dislike boys and want to go back to women.
When I say “Go back to women,” I mean, thinking about
them, fantasizing about them. I often find myself wanting to
have an affair with a woman rather than a man. As I've said
earlier, I am very aggressive. When I go out with a nice man, I
find myself being bossy. I like to make up fantasies about girls
with blonde hair and blue eyes. (I am black.) In my fantasies, I
always see myself going up to them on the street and propositioning
them. But in real life, I never do. I also want to **** my
best friend. I think I'm waiting for the right moment. She doesn't
know the real me. I've never told her how I feel about her,
and the part she plays in my fantasies. Perhaps I will grow out
of this phase. Maybe I don't know very much about life since
I'm only s*******n, and want to shock my parents. Am I really
mixed up, or is this a super, superfantasy?
52
P.S. To show you what thinking can do, even though I have
not described my fantasies in any complete way, I have been
thinking about them while writing this, and my cunt is dripping
wet!
Loretta
The idea of “innocence” being initiated into sexual pleasure
and orgasm is something I love to use in fantasies, my favorite
having to do with a “religious” experience. (Oddly enough, I
had no religious upbringing, and no religious experiences of
any kind.)
In the fantasy, I am a young girl who has been raised without
any sexual knowledge. My f****y are churchgoers; I am
meant to be pure and virginal. When I reach the right age (late
puberty), my parents take me to church for some special religious
instruction from the “priest.” He takes me alone into the
room for initiates. There are candles burning around a cushioned
table that is covered with purple velvet. The priest wears
long robes. He is a man in his thirties or forties, with a quality
of masculine virility, despite presumed celibacy. He has a deep
voice. He explains that I am now to undergo a very holy condition
– the supreme ecstasy of God's greatest power. I will experience
extraordinary sensations, quite beyond anything I've
ever known, but I must freely open my will, and my body, to
the Holy Spirit. I must allow myself to react without fear to
whatever frenzied state the Holy Spirit ordains when it takes
possession of me. And I must be in the pure state of complete
nudity. “Don't be embarrassed now; this is a holy thing that is
about to happen to you….” He helps me remove my clothing
and instructs me to lie down on the cushioned table so that he
may prepare both my soul and body. While I lie naked on the
table, he anoints my breasts, belly, thighs, with perfumed oil,
and intones prayers and chants. “Let this young woman be
filled with the Holy Spirit. Enter her body and soul and encompass
her in the greatest ecstasy. Fulfill her in joyous holiness….”
His touch is pleasant, strangely provocative, and mysterious.
His voice is hypnotic. I lie in an entranced stupor. He
53
waves a scepter over me. It is made of gold, with a rounded,
bulblike tip. “Let the holy scepter find the entrance to her soul
through her body…” he murmurs. He lays the round gold top
on my throat, my shoulders…. Every place he touches produces
a magic tingling – probing my breasts, nipples, stroking my
belly. It moves toward my loins. Cool metal stroking between
my labia. The sensation produces a soft moan from me, an
uncontrolled lift of my torso. “Ah,” says the priest. “This must
be where we will find the magic orifice … the pathway of the
Holy Spirit.” He opens my body with the metal scepter. It
slides into me, filling an orifice of my body that I never knew I
had until now…. “Yes, it is here!” he cries. “Do you feel it …
the beginnings of your experience of ecstasy? Is the Holy Spirit
beginning to work in you?”
“Yes … yes. I think so…’
“You must give in to it, my dear. You must give in completely
to whatever feelings the holy spirit creates as it takes
possession of you…. You will give in?”
I nod, and groan. The scepter slides in and out; as it slides
in, it fills me with unexplainable excitement. My body moves
in reaction, out of my control.
“Do you think it is coming? Do you feel the Holy Spirit,
coming to you?”
“Yes … yes!”
“Let it come … however it wishes….”
The priest is doing something unexpected, but I am too
overcome to be concerned at the moment. The table has a drop
leaf at the end, which he lowers so that he can move himself up
closer to me, between my legs. With a quick movement, he
opens the lower front of his robes, and brings out another scepter.
As the metal scepter pulls out of me, he pushes the other
one in, leaning over me, his face contorted with ecstasy, too, it
would seem. Perhaps we are both meant to be fulfilled with the
Holy Spirit together. He presses his other magic scepter deep
inside me. It feels smooth and warm, and extraordinarily tantalizing.
“Is it coming?” he cries.
“Yes … something is happening to me!”
“Let it come! Do what it wants you to do!”
54
It is making my body writhe and undulate. My orifice swallows
and squeezes his scepter with a sensation that is driving
me into a wild, delicious frenzy. Never have I felt anything like
this…. The Holy Spirit is about to overcome me. I can feel it!
He acknowledges my groans and thrashings with, “Yes … yes!
That is it! Here it comes! It is here!”
(Amen and hallelujah! You bet your sweet scepter, your holiness
… you have made it come, and it has come to you, too,
you devil you…. )
I return to the priest and the room of initiation time and
time again. I receive more instruction and more experience in
the ways of being entered and fulfilled by the Holy Spirit. I am
a devout young woman…. With the candles burning and the
scepter sliding into me, I experience, time and time again, the
greatest of all religious ecstasies. The priest and my parents
rejoice in my religious gifts. Sometimes the priest shows me
paintings of the saints having religious experiences – naked
bodies in the midst of ecstasy – arched backs, contorted faces. I
may wonder how these physical experiences can actually relate
to the soul. Secretly, I begin to doubt the authenticity of the
priest and the validity of this “church.” I think he is a bit of a
fraud. Even the most innocent have some concept of sexuality.
But I never let on; never mention my suspicions. I am having
far too much fun to give it up; and everyone (except perhaps
the priest himself) believes me a thoroughly pure, devout, innocent,
and religious young woman…. We pretend, and fool
each other, and continue to have glorious orgasms on the purple
table.
Sharon
Having read your book, I decided to write to you and tell you
my fantasies.
First, let me tell you a little about myself. I am a thirty-fiveyear-
old virgin (also Virgo!) and relatively happy under the
circumstances.
My divorced mother and twice-divorced grandmother live
with me – my mother is sixty-four (today!); and my grand55
mother, who cannot walk, is eighty-six. Both are in poor
health, and I don't expect them to live long.
My mother hates sex, and her attitude caused her twentyyear
marriage to come to an end when I was ten years old. I
was “word blind,” but overcame this and finally graduated
from the University of Ohio.
Presently, I work in a library where through reading have
“liberated” my own attitude toward sex. Actually, I realized
how sick my mother's attitude was long ago.
As a c***d, I enjoyed sex-play with several boys who lived
close by me, and recovered from my guilt while studying Freud
in high school.
I am a Methodist and a Republican, and I do believe more
and more in the new morality.
I attend church for social reasons, but disregard the Pauline
letters and believe in the occult sciences (I love to cast horoscopes!).
Starting with my present fantasies – I found in my student
teaching that I was VERY attracted to young boys. One of
them, a bisexual, used to come to my house (before my grandmother's
illness) while my mother worked. We spent the day in
bed “necking.” I gave him photos of nude people from Playboy
on which I glued male sex organs – aimed at the females. I got
these pictures from Sexology magazine.
We would look at the photos – he was s*******n and I was
twenty-eight – and become aroused. We would kiss and
breathe. Then he would masturbate under the covers or go to
the bathroom. Finally, he would leave – go to the bus station
and “make it” with a boy. We played this game day after day.
Our pleasure was to hold out. He wouldn't even bring a rubber
so I would be afraid to “let him” in case he would get me pregnant.
He and I both loved to know how much we wanted each
other – but neither would give over to the passion.
Many times when I was breathing hard, he would lie on me
and watch me struggle to not give in. Sometimes, I was on him
watching his face while he tried to get his hands to his penis in
order to jerk off.
56
Finally, we both got tired of our game and just drifted apart
with No hard feelings.
I believe we BOTH enjoyed being wanted by another and
JUST leaving it that way.
My fantasies stem from this experience.
Fantasy 1: We do live together, as my “f****y” have all
died. He discovers I need more sex, and I want it from boys in
their early teens and inexperienced. He loves money so he
gathers heterosexual boys once a week to come to “our” house
(they pay him).
I am now completely nude with my legs wide and far apart –
there are about six boys partly dressed (pants on) standing
around the bed.
George (my lover and former student) helps a boy about
twelve “mount” me.
I can feel his young penis move into me – then he starts to
move faster and faster. The room is silent.
One at a time, these boys “learn to be men” using my body.
But only until George enters me do I have a climax.
Fantasy 2: A short fantasy – I set up a movie camera, and
we have home movies of ourselves having intercourse.
Fantasy 3: I bathe George in the tub and then rub him down
with powder and oils. We then have intercourse.
Fantasy 4: George has a date with a young girl – she won't
let him sl**p with her – he comes home to my front door – it is
dark and his penis (very large) is out of his pants – we make
love on the sofa in the living room. He never leaves me again.
Fantasy 5: We decide to have a c***d, so I hire a real good
prostitute to live with us to take care of his sex drive. After he
has had intercourse with her, he comes to bed with me, and I
examine him to see if he is relaxed and soft. Then we go to
sl**p.
Fantasy 6: Sometimes he has to have a boy for sexual release,
so I give him money to go to the bus station to get what
he wants.
Fantasy 7: Most of my fantasies are just having relations
with him.
57
Fantasy 8: Sometimes I think it would be fun to go to the
basement of the library and have oral sex with him – while
everyone is having a coffee break in the next room.
Fantasy 9: Sometimes I dream (awake) of having oral sex (I
don't care for it performed on myself) with him lying on his
back. I watch his face as he feels great pleasure.
Whenever I am interested in someone or date them, I have
fantasies about them – I do NOT masturbate with my fantasies
– (much) maybe twice a year! I always wonder about the size
of a man's penis – almost EVERY man I meet. Yet I have
NEVER seen a man's penis except in photos (to me they are
beautiful!).
My fantasies take place normally in the morning!
Sometimes at night (I usually go right to sl**p!) and many
times at the library.
My sex drive is stronger a day or so before my period. Just
being around young men (in their twenties) will “turn me on.”
I almost always respond to my fantasies and photos of nude
men by getting very wet.
If I am around “George” – a few days before my period,
have been looking at photos (nudes), the wetness goes down
my legs, and I pull and tug.
People would be surprised to know that while I speak to
them on the street – I am “opening up” and ready to have relations.
As a young teenager, I dreamed of having relations with
black men and a****ls. Just recently have tired of the thought
of having relations with monkeys.
I have tried fantasies with women, but it seems too silly to
continue.
Ms. Friday, I don't believe in marriage – I think it is rotten
for all concerned. I plan to live with men, whom I really want,
at the death of both mother and grandmother.
I get along very well with men and am popular!! So don't let
Helen Gurley Brown tell you that virgins are not attractive nor
popular. Nuts.
I allow men to discuss sex with me. But I refuse to be insulted
with dirty jokes.
58
Because I really like men AS PEOPLE and accept their sex
drive – I am a popular virgin.
Many of the non-virgins have made fun of me at work (I
never say I am a virgin to anyone, but they seem to know it)
only to have the new men and boys employed at the library go
AFTER me. It serves them right! Ha.
Also, I accept my own sexual drive – enjoy it – BUT I refuse
to let it destroy my life.
I am enclosing my photo so you can SEE a thirty-five yearold
virgin! And a FAIRLY happy one at that.
Good luck with your research – because of people like you –
I know I am not alone with my “dreams.”
 In Brenda's fantasy, which follows, she uses words in a
very special way: to heighten her erotic moments. While the
sexual act is going on, Brenda verbally describes it to herself,
making a running commentary on events that one would think
are so vivid they would leave nothing to be described at all.
This internal monologue is, I feel, another layer of sexuality:
while her lover is exciting her body, Brenda's verbal description
to herself becomes a fantasy that excites her mind, making
sex itself more real to her … one more example of the idea that
the mind is the most powerful sexual organ of all. 
Brenda
I am twenty-one, a musician, and gay.
I loved your book, My Secret Garden, and congratulate you
on your bravery.
The first sexual fantasy I can remember is vague, but it had
something to do with bugs (the little black pill bugs that roll up
when you poke them) crawling on my clit. (I was only about
two or three). When I was sixteen, and was in love, I used to
dream of sucking his cock all day at school! And I would suck
it every chance I got in reality. After about a year, he was gone,
and I began to fantasize about my best girl friend who was
twenty-two and was a “bad girl.” (She had a couple illegit ba59
bies, abortions, etc.) When I slept with her, I couldn't sl**p at
all, thinking of how beautiful she was, and how any guy would
love to be in bed there next to her. (My real sex life was limited
to hetero.)
We went our separate ways, and when I was nineteen, my
new best girl friend would come to see me, and we'd talk about
sex and get ourselves all worked up, and then we'd have a hard
time sl**ping. I would think of how I'd like to run the tips of
my fingers lightly over her vagina walls and clit! And touch her
clit lightly again and again with my finger.
Eventually, we acted out our fantasies, and she swears it
was the best orgasms she ever had; however, she is now back
with men (for social reasons, strict upbringing, etc.).
I have had five affairs with women (from fifteen to twentythree)
that have lasted longer than my heterosexual affairs
lasted. (I have had about thirty men before discovering my
preference.)
I found my hetero experiences sexually unsatisfying. While
my girl friends get me off every time. Though once when this
girl I dug was going down on me, I had to envision the one girl
I wanted more eating me before I could come.
I like young girls (not really young, about sixteen), and
when they go down on me, I think “That beautiful long hair,
and lovely graceful body; she's sucking me. Now she's inserting
her fingers in and out of me, and it feels better than the
biggest cock.” When I am the aggressor, I think of what will
make her feel good; what I like, or if she'll tell me and show
me what she likes, I concentrate on this.
Gena
I wish first to compliment you on My Secret Garden. It is
truly what I believe to be the first book to take the giant step
toward really understanding female sexuality. It deals candidly,
openly, and honestly with women.
I should acquaint you with myself before I make my own
contribution to your next book. I am nineteen, married twoand-
a-half years, and soon to be a mother for the second time. I
60
consider myself oversexed – if there is such a thing! – and bisexual.
I hope I have gained a wider-than-average acquaintance
over the past few years with life, love, sex, and the selfimprovement
arts.
I can remember that my fantasies began at an early age; five
or six. At this age, I would often think how very nice it would
feel to have someone older do these “naughty, but oh so nice,”
things to me … as I lay in my bed, night after night, riding a
tightly stretched piece of sheet with my tiny “cunny.” In particular,
I hoped it would happen with a s*******n-year-old boy
who was a neighbor. I also couldn't wait to know what a boy's
“thingy” looked and felt like. Then one day, in the spring following
my seventh birthday, all my fantasies were answered.
Terry (I remember him well) asked me to join him in “listening
to some music.” The stereo was in his room, which was actually
a bunkhouse well away from his parent's house and the
rest of their farm. When we began talking, I soon felt we had
become close, and so I thought it would be “proper” for me to
ask him some pretty personal questions. He seemed to get a
strange gleam in his eyes and said, “Shoot!” I remember the
first and only question I had a chance to ask that day was,
“What do boys look like down there?” He made me promise
not to tell a soul, and then asked if I really would like to see for
myself – that would be easier than trying to explain, he said. I
very anxiously said yes. He took down his clothes and stood
before me. I remember staring at his penis and wanting so
badly to touch it. He sensed it. “You want to touch me, don't
you?” he said. “Take off your jeans, and I'll show you how nice
we can feel.” Again, I anxiously did so. He then “felt me up”
until I almost died because it only kept feeling better and better.
Then he showed me how to “bring him off.” How delightful
that first experience was, and I doubt it will ever be forgotten.
Through age ten, I continued having more and more sexual
adventures, but about that age, I began to have fantasies about
what it would be like to hold and be held by another of my own
sex. At age eleven, I found out.
My parents were good friends with another local dairy f****y,
and the c***dren of both families got on well.
61
In fact, they were the favorite playmates of my b*****r, s****r,
and myself, and we would often spend entire weekends
together. They were our ages exactly. Marie and myself were
the eldest at eleven, R. (my b*****r) and Ted were nine, and C.
(my s****r) and Rosalie were eight.
Both Marie and I felt funny in the world of c***dren by then,
as we were both wearing size 34B bras, and each had a healthy
bush. We had often told one another about out sexual encounters
and curiosities on the subject. So one evening when we
were in bed in her room (during one of our stays), I initiated
our mutual “female body” curiosities. But I did it only after I
thought she was asl**p. I reached around to her breasts (she
was lying with her backside to my tummy) and began touching
them ever so gently so as not to awaken her. But soon she was
breathing heavily and moaning softly. I froze, knowing these as
a sign of sexual excitement. Softly, I called out her name. She
answered with “What?” in the same soft voice. All I could say
were what turned out to be the two most beautiful words I
would say for years to come: “Touch me!”
She did it, and we then proceeded and spent the rest of the
night caressing one another's bodies with both hands and
mouths, although we did not know about cunnilingus; that was
the only act we did not perform on one another.
I grew to puberty with fantasies of lesbian affairs, but also
what it would feel like to have a man. Then in 1969, I met the
men who is now my husband. We lost our virginity to one another.
When I got married, my fantasies stopped until September
or October of 1972, after six months of marriage and the birth
of our daughter. Our marriage began to fall apart, and we separated
a year later. He left me with our daughter and went back
to Washington State where he was born, and where we had
made our first home. I remained in Arizona, which had been
our second home.
The fantasy that I began having in October of 1972 would
be to think of meeting one of two types of fellows. One was
Indian, easy-going, very considerate. He would be willing to
learn and experiment in sex. Above all, he would have great
62
control, so our sex could go on for hours. We would have no
problems, no jealousy or embarrassments.
The other fellow would also be an Indian, but very rich,
huge in structure, and very carefree in a kind of crazy way. I
would be satisfied with him sexually because of his willingness
to give wholly of himself, and his size; also because he
would introduce me to sexual trios.
As fantastic as it may sound, in the two months that my husband
and I were separated, I did meet these two types. I formed
a very loving relationship with them both; yet it was definitely
not the kind of love I had for my husband.
When my husband and I reunited after our separation, I felt
better, because I had lived out my fantasies, fulfilling them. I
had my shit together, and we both felt our relationship would
be better than it had ever been. We have become much more
open and honest with one another and are now expecting the
result – our second c***d.
I now see my husband in a new light sexually, physically,
and mentally. I bring myself to a mind-blowing climax in masturbating
or sex with him by thinking about his beautiful body
and how good he is to me. I can honestly say that with him life
couldn't be better!
Although I am satisfied with him as I've just said, honesty
does make me admit that I often fantasize still about other
women (and truly wish it would happen on a more adult basis).
I have a friend who might share these wishes for a sexual encounter,
and I often wish she would, but I never talked to her
about it at any length. I think of giving her as much pleasure as
I possibly could with both my hands and mouth. The idea of
going down on her excites me tremendously! Then after I have
fulfilled her completely, she would in turn give me the same
beautiful pleasures. It would be so good for both her and me,
because who could possibly please a woman better than another?
Who knows better what it feels like? I would definitely
do it if the opportunity arose.
Much good luck to you on your second book.
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Joyce
I've just completed reading your book, My Secret Garden.
When I saw your address in the back of the book and the request
for comments, I felt compelled to write. I'm now a college
grad, age twenty-two, and was first turned on to the wonder
of having sex only one year ago. My first and still current
lover is a sexual dynamo. He can keep it up and going strong
for as long as one hour, in which I have so many orgasms that I
lose count. I don't fantasize while we're fucking, because I have
such a tremendous time enjoying the good fuck. Basically, I
read your book for more ideas to vary my sex life, and to bring
more enjoyment to my lover and myself. Whatever I think of, I
make a point of putting into reality, but tonight, my lover is out
of town on business, so I must resort to fantasizing in memory
that we are doing some of the things together we have done in
the past.
These are the fantasies I had tonight. My middle name to my
boyfriend is Linda Lovelace. Needless to say, I am now considered
a pro at this technique, and I imagined that I am eating
his whole cock by getting it down my whole throat as far as I
can to overcome the gagging reflex. I have a beautiful mouthful
of saliva which I use to further wet his lovely cock, balls, and
inner thighs. I also thought of a scene in which he was fucking
me from behind. While in this doggy position I bend my head
so as to watch him fuck me. He is doing various things too,
like, “Look, ma – no hands.” He is also fondling my breasts as
I massage his massive balls, and I can see and touch his beautiful
cock as it moves in and out of my cunt.
My boyfriend is also the greatest lover for me (I have had
three other men, by the way). For example, he will lick and
kiss my cunt and suck my clitoris. Then he sticks his tongue up
my wet, juicy cunt (that's what he calls it, “juicy”) and makes
like he's fucking me with his tongue. I just love this.
Writing all this down has resulted in my cunt becoming
soaking wet and ready for action. But alas, I must hold tight
until I'm with my lover again, and we can make up for lost
time.
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So to all of you out there – Get Fucked (and have a Ball doing
it!).
P.S. I think that what makes all my sexual activity so enjoyable
to me is that my parents were so strict with me when I
was growing up. I was the last virgin in my crowd of friends,
and was always very fearful of what people would say if they
“found out.” So you can imagine what great pleasure I felt
when I came to sex, late as I did, and found it was so marvelous,
instead of being the frightening thing my parents wanted
me to feel.
65
CHAPTER TWO
ADOLESCENCE
 With the advent of menstruation, c***dhood ends, adolescence
begins. We are suddenly thrown into a larger world than
we feel prepared for, given more choices than c***dhood ever
offered. Much as we longed to be thought mature and adult,
now that it has begun at last, we suffer role and identity confusions.
“What are you going to be when you grow up?” – the
question throws us into despair. We wanted to do one thing
yesterday, but that's no longer true today, and we suspect we
will change our minds again tomorrow. Above all, we want to
say, “I don't know. I'm too young to make up my mind.” But
that's not allowed. Only k**s can say that. Instead, we lapse
into sulky silence or give top-of-the-head answers. The pressures
of f****y and society, the mandates of an educational
system that rushes us on express rails into the future seem to
give us no pause to rest and think about who we are.
It is at this age that we begin to fall in love – over and over
again. While this is obviously an expression of our growing
sexual maturation, it is also an expression of our search for
identity: one of the great wonders of first love is how each new
man seems to help us find a new person within ourselves.
For this reason, I think it is unfortunate that contemporary
mores demand that love be certified by sex. It may not really be
what the young girl wants yet. Sex itself can become one more
f***e pushing her ahead too far, too fast, in a direction she is
not yet sure she wants to take. “I love you,” she wants to say to
him, but is afraid: it may be the final signal he needs to open
the door to the bedroom. Put up or shut up. She may or may
not want sex right now, but what, she does want, desperately,
is for him to speak. She wants him to say he loves her too so
that she can ask him to describe this woman he loves. Who is
she? What is so wonderful about her? Is she really me? She has
a sense of unreality about herself; she needs to find herself
reflected in someone else's affectionate eye, shaped and formed
66
there into an image of herself she can see and understand. She
has been looking into mirrors too long. “Tell me the kind of
girls you like,” we ask the young men we know. Tell me how
to be. A little shiver runs through me every time I hear that
request in a young woman's voice, no matter what the actual
words are. It is the ontological question, a search for a base
upon which to build our being. We look to each other for clues,
but it is a question we all must answer in our own time, in our
own way. What makes “plastic people” not ring true is that
they have not listened within for an answer; they have built
their conforming, counterfeit selves out of the meretricious junk
that society has handed them. Dr. R. D. Laing (The Divided
Self) finds this question at the very heart of schizophrenia – or
perhaps, the lack of an answer to it. The job of creating our
authentic identity is one of the great tasks of adolescence.
It is why teenagers spend so much of their emotional energy
and time in talk: it is all work toward definition. In their endless
speculations about eternity, truth, beauty, good, and evil –
just as in their giggly bits of gossip – they are uncovering layers
of personality, assaying for the gold of their true selves.
One of the most hopeful developments of our time, I feel, is
that young women no longer listen only to young men for clues
of who they are. We ask that question today of other women
too, each one of us strengthening every other in our determination
to define our sex for ourselves – and not merely in terms of
what it is supposed men want. The Great Male Buyer's Market
is over; we will no longer sell ourselves out.
Fantasies that arise out of the crises of adolescence are characterized
by trying on different personalities, testing various
likes and dislikes, rehearsing our sexuality for events that are
yet to come. s*s proudly tells us in her letter that she is an Astudent
in school. But immediately she feels she must fight the
goody-goody definition this seems to bestow upon her by telling
us she has “a very strong sex drive and wants to make
love.” Does she? Or is this merely one of the okay things girls
of her age feel they must say? (Just as their mothers, a generation
earlier, felt they had to say the opposite.) When the opportunity
for sex is actually presented to s*s by a boy she knows
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well and who promises to be “very gentle” with her, she literally
jumps up in alarm and cries, “I won't!”
I am very sympathetic to young women like s*s. Despite all
their brave talk, something deep within them knows they aren't
ready for sex. s*s doesn't know why this is true. She is not reinf***ed
by her peers – everyone around her seems to take sex for
granted. She is alone with only her feelings to guide her – but
they are enough. She doesn't have to know why she is not yet
ready for sex; she only has to be in touch with her feelings: her
body informs her mind, and her answer is no. I applaud her for
going along with her gut reaction, particularly so because it is a
self-determined response at odds with what seem to be the
accepted slogans and ideas of her friends. Our lifelong struggle
is to teach our reason and emotions to move in tandem on the
same tides. Just as I believe every woman has the right to say
yes if she feels like it – and is willing to take the responsibility
for her actions – so has she the perfect right to refuse, if the
mysterious ebb and flow of desire is not yet upon her.
In the fantasies that s*s sends us, we see that she is getting
ready for the truly sexual time she knows lies ahead. But that
time is not yet.
For Beth Anne, too, fantasies are exciting strategies for getting
used to an idea about which she is still ambivalent. She
tells us she is a virgin, and too shy to buy My Secret Garden at
the bookshop where she works, even though she could get it
there at a discount. In her fantasies, we see her other side: she
is a woman who would like to have sex with “a customer, a
stranger in the street, someone I don't know too well.” And
then she adds a sentence that reminds us how much she is like
s*s. “Boy,” writes Beth Anne, “when it does happen, I'll be
really ready after all these rehearsals in my head.”
Penelope's letter shows us another exploration of sexual
identity through fantasy. The c***d of intelligent, permissive
parents, she felt free enough with her mother to ask to be
taught how to masturbate, after reading Masters and Johnson
brought the idea to mind. In her letter, we see that she has
grown into the kind of young woman we would expect from
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such a f****y: she is sexually knowing, sophisticated, one who
feels free and secure enough to ask men out herself “occasionally,”
instead of always waiting passively to be asked. But in
her fantasies, she explores a totally opposite identity, “the
woman I can't let myself be (dumb, naive, unaware of my
sexuality) … .”
Even if we had parents like Penelope's, something in us still
wants to establish ourselves as people in our own right by rebelling
against them. But when the parents are decent, reasonable,
and intelligent people, rebellion itself becomes unreasonable;
their very permissiveness is frustrating, giving us no firm
base to push off against. But our negative emotions want to be
expressed anyway. In fantasies like Penelope's, the problem is
solved. She is the woman she “can't let myself be.” That is, she
is the dumb broad that her parents' training has made it impossible
for her to be. She has circumvented them in her imagination:
rebellion at last. 
s*s
I am young (fifteen) and a virgin. I have met many boys I
like, but have never had sexual relations with any as far as
making out. I think the reason for this is I am very shy, and I
worry that boys are going to tell my friends what we do. I am
an A-student in school and popular, and I don't want to spoil
that, but I have a very strong drive and want to make love.
The latest turn down I made was while visiting some friends
that live a long distance from my house (we have known them
since they were small). One of their b*****rs' friends was my
age and came over to see us. The b*****r's friend has a swimming
pool, and they go there often. He invited us to go swimming
that afternoon. So we did. When we were fixing to leave,
they said they left a towel at the pool and for me to run and get
it. The boy my age was there and no one else, while getting the
towel. He said he liked me and to ask my friends that I was
staying with to let me stay awhile to swim some more. They
said yes. We swam awhile, and then we got out to get some69
thing to eat. His mother was on a trip, and he was staying by
himself.
As we walked through the door, he put his arms around me
from behind and began kissing my neck; I turned and kissed
him and we made out on the sofa about fifteen minutes, but he
was not satisfied. He e****ted me upstairs to his bedroom and
pulled off his swimming trunks while I was laying on the bed.
I jumped and said, “I won't,” and he said that he knew how I
felt and would be very gentle with me. He said that all he
wanted to do was show how much he liked me and only
wanted to explore my body with his fingers and mouth and for
me to do the same to him, that he didn't want to fuck unless I
wanted to. I ran out of the room and called my friends to come
and get me.
I often fantasize what would have happened if I hadn't run
out. Here is the best one:
After long persuasion, I would not let him touch me. He
says, “What if we go to the pool, get in up to our neck, then
you take off your swimming suit, and I feel you, that way I
won't be able to see you … .” I say okay.
We get in up to our neck, and he unfastens my top and slips
it off, the same with the bottoms. He kisses me once and then
slips his hand between my legs. He watches the expression on
my face as he does. He clutches one of my breasts. He then
separates the lips of my pussy and rubs his finger back and
forth over my clitoris, stimulating me out of control. Then he
takes his cock and slips it in between the lips rubbing it
quickly as with his finger. I can't stand it any longer and beg
him to suck me; still in the water, he lifts me up onto a raft
with my legs hanging over in the water and my pussy at the
edge, he sucks me vigorously and then slides his tongue as far
as possible in my vagina. I then change places with him, this
time he is on the raft. I take his cock in my mouth and suck
hard. THE END.
When I was little, my cousin, a male, lived beside me. One
day, he said he would check me himself so I wouldn't have to
go to the doctor. I agreed because I hated to go to the doctor.
He took off my clothes and did everything possible he could.
He opened the lips of my pussy and felt, sucked, and licked
70
them, then he made me do the same to him. He put an ice cube
between my pussy, which drove me crazy. Then I told him I
had to use the bathroom, so he stood me up, placed his mouth
over my pussy, and I used the bathroom in his mouth. This
delighted me more than ever. We did this many times up until I
was eight. The first time he did it, I was four and he was seven.
Now the way I meet my sexual urges is to vibrate myself. I
lay on the bed, pants off, vibrator between my legs for two to
three minutes, and I stimulate myself to orgasm. It's a wonderful
feeling; I think when I get up the courage to let a man do it,
I will love it.
Beth Anne
Hello. I was already in bed (alone) and almost asl**p when I
got this urge to write to you!
I have just finished My Secret Garden, and I would like you
to know that the book was one of the most informative and
interesting ones I've ever read, and believe me, I read a lot.
I work in a bookstore here in Philadelphia. Your book arrived
last week. Our manager, who was very staunchly and
religiously brought up, was on vacation, so we all took turns
leafing through the book. Our assistant manager (who incidentally
is homosexual) told me the book was filthy. I'm s*******n;
he's thirty-three. I picked the book up occasionally, halfway
on the sly for a few, days, and then last week, I bought it
from a “rival” store, because I was too embarrassed to ask if it
could be “stripped,” or to write up the sale in the employee
discount tablet.
What follows now is a conversation that took place between
myself and the other salesperson, Tina, who is twenty-three,
married, no k**dies. It took place when we were sort of slow
and didn't have anything better to do than stand around and
B.S.
Tina: Have we sold any M.S.G. yet?
Me: Yeah, a few, considering we just put them out.
Tina: Hmmm….
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Me: I bought a copy today downtown, 'cause I was a little
nervous about buying it here.
Tina: Really? I'd love to read it when you're through. I said
it was filthy because Jim [Asst. Mgr.] was there; and I figured
he might get upset if I showed an interest…. I was also afraid
Mary [Mgr.] might walk in, and I'd REALLY be embarrassed.
So you see, it's something that just about every woman is interested
in, although it's probably considered more socially
acceptable not to be.
The sexual fantasies I have now occur usually at night when
it's quiet, and I have time to elaborate without being interrupted.
I'm still a virgin, although I'm not so sure I want to be
one that much longer. Just reading your book and thinking
about the guy I'm in love with have made me think twice about
resisting his advances. He's twenty-five, and really supernice,
although I'm not sure if he'll be around much longer, and I'd
kind of like my first sexual encounter to be with someone I
truly love.
The funny thing is, when I'm dating someone I really care
for, I never fantasize about them. It seems rather unfair to fantasize
about them when I don't even know if they could live up
to my fantasies in real life. I think I’d like to be surprised.
Usually, my thoughts center around a man I find fantastically
attractive and very nice, i.e., a customer, a stranger on the
street, someone I don't know too well. I can imagine him doing
all sorts of things to me, all the things I've ever read about.
And I can respond to him wholeheartedly, because there's no
problem about what will happen afterward (he'll probably go
away and just leave me totally satisfied). But, of course, what I
really want is that these fantasies happen with a man I love.
Boy, when it does happen, I'll be really ready after all these
rehearsals in my head! When I meet that man, I can be d***k,
stoned, angry, or happy, and so can he but as long as we love
each other it will be all right. I suppose this is all because I am
a basically insecure person and need to be assured of my attractiveness
frequently.
All luck in your next book. We need it! Take care. Peace.
72
Penelope
At the end of your book, My Secret Garden, you ask for
suggestions, comments, or more fantasies. I'd like to share
some of my garden with you.
My earliest memory is when I was probably ten, or eleven.
A friend and I had somehow discovered that her f****y's electric
toothbrush when placed on a certain area, caused mysterious
sensations. I didn't know what I was feeling, but I remember
always taking the device off me when the extreme tenseness
began. I never continued to what I know now as an orgasm.
Aside from the few weeks my friend and I escaped into the
bathroom, I remember nothing sexual until I was fifteen. I was
attempting to read Masters and Johnson's Human Sexual Response
and asked my mother how to masturbate. She told me,
and ever since then, I've enjoyed myself almost every night.
That was seven years ago.
My early fantasies often started with me dancing around the
bedroom, performing for a hidden audience of aroused men.
Once in a while, a few were allowed to participate, and I'd rub
my breasts against the cold mirror and manipulate my clitoris
and eventually get back to the bed to come and collapse. Sometimes,
especially when I first began masturbating, I'd time the
“session” and see how quickly I could come.
Up until just a few months ago, I always stimulated my
clitoris only. I never enjoyed simulating intercourse, because
until recently, I never enjoyed it in reality. Even now my clitoris
is the focus of my masturbating.
My present fantasies are very varied. (My Secret Garden
helped me expand my nightly choices!) Sometimes the woman
is aggressive, but mostly she is what I refer to as “the dumb
broad.” She is busty and naive. She wears low-cut tops, but is
unaware of the lustful glances she gets. Usually, she is conned
into drinking more than she should or smoking some powerful
pot. She bends over and more boob comes out or a strap slips
down, and the man continues to move in, slyly. Eventually,
things get too hot for her to want to stop him. I never see my
73
face in these fantasies. I either make up unknown people or use
scenes from movies and the stars from those scenes. When the
fantasy begins, the woman is not thinking SEX. The man is.
And what first begins me getting high, my climb toward orgasm,
is seeing the woman's chest; I am the man at this point
in the fantasy. During the man's approach, I am both feeling
the sensations of the woman's body and, also getting excited as
the man because of the progress toward and anticipation of
getting this woman. When the actual fucking is about to begin,
I and solely the woman, raising my hips, desperately anxious
for that cock to enter and satisfy me.
You spoke often in your book of how fantasies are often expressions
of what one would like to experience in reality. In
analyzing my fantasies, I found it really interesting that the
woman I can't let myself be (dumb, naive, unaware of my
sexuality) is exactly the woman who dominates my daydreams.
In reality, I am never passive. I ask men out occasionally. make
love when I want to (if the opportunity is present), and present
myself as a whole person rather than a game-playing female. In
some ways, I hate the fact that I get most excited when fantasizing
the “dumb broad” role. I'm hoping someday to be close
enough with a man to feel free and act out some of these fantasies.
I'd like to see if they get me more excited, quicker than I
actually get in reality. I'm usually too conscious and aware to
let go and enjoy myself. Actually, in three years of fucking (not
regularly all that time), I have come a few times from oral sex
and once during intercourse, only when my clitoris was stimulated
at the same time. I've rarely fantasized when with a man.
(I plan to start though.) I always come when I masturbate.
I'd also just like to support your comments regarding the
sharing of fantasies. Because of my f****y's openness, I never
felt strange or bad or guilty about my fantasies or masturbating,
But I've talked to many friends who had never shared their
experiences of masturbation or fantasies. And what a great
experience to be talking to a friend about fantasies and find
that we use the exact same scene from a book!
I thank you for your first book and hope your next is successful.
Please feel free to use any of what I've written. I've
enjoyed sharing it with you, and if there's anything else I might
74
be able to write about to give you more material, please send
me a note, and I'll get something to you. I enjoy thinking about
sex and talking about myself.
Good luck.
 During the turmoil of our adolescent years, we try to find
our own identity and often over-identify with pop heroes or
movie stars. We become rabid Mick Jagger fans, we collect
photos of David Bowie, we join fan clubs for this or that television
idol. This is a particularly feminine attempt at the solution
of the problem of identity: young boys do not have our capacity
for loving identification, and so there are no female equivalents
to – let's say – David Cassidy. This was true of our mothers
too: there never was a female Frank Sinatra. Collecting photographs,
concert programs, and LP records, we lose ourselves in
being in love with someone whom everyone else loves too. For
the moment, we find our identity by losing it; if nobody else
screamed at a Sly concert, we would not scream ourselves. We
do not want to be uniquely in love with him; it is our joy to
submerge ourselves and our flickering sense of identity in that
powerful mass that adores him, but whose sheer numbers give
us power over him: he must please us.
In our fantasies, we go one step farther: the beloved idol,
whose fate and fortune are made of enormous numbers, sees
only one: us. Errol Flynn picks out
Katherine to dance with, among all the other beauties at the
ball. Elvis “picks me out of the whole crowd to come to his
hotel room,” writes eighteen-year-old Jenny (who is a virgin),
“and I end up going off to live with him … .” The star picks us
out to love; he seats us beside him at his table, takes only us to
his bed. Not only must we exist, but we must be beautiful,
exciting, lovable over all other women. In these fantasies, the
star gives us part of his magic and charisma. He shares the
plentitude of love he gets from his fans with us. We grow rich
on other women's envy; we are excited in ourselves by his
fame. He is the sun, and we are the moon, shining beautifully
in his reflected light.
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All of which is enough – plenty – when we are in our teens.
When we are women, these fantasies come to an end. We want
to be seen in our own light. 
Jenny
I enjoyed your book, My Secret Garden. It's for, by, and
about the female sex, and we need more books like that. I must
admit that I was shocked at first by some of the fantasies –
mine are never that explicit or far out. But perhaps they will
become more so as I grow older. They've given me some great
ideas, and I must admit that the pieces on a****ls fascinated
me.
I am eighteen years old, and a virgin. Perhaps this is why
my fantasies are so “mild” compared to the ones told in your
first book. I fantasize going to a Hollywood party, and there
meeting someone like Roddy McDowall or Gene Kelly (older
men really turn me on). They immediately fall for me, and end
up marrying me, or living together.
Sometimes I fantasize that I am at an Elvis concert, and he
picks me out of the whole crowd to come up to his hotel room,
and I end up going off to live with him at his home in Graceland.
Another fantasy I have concerns Mr. Spock from “Star
Trek.” He is very unemotional and calm, but I could be the one
to arouse him, and we'd end up making love, in a very dignified
manner, however.
I also have the “classic” fantasies – being a k**napped
maiden, tied up in scanty rags, and just as the evil henchmen
are about to attack me, the hero comes and whisks me off, but I
assist him in fighting off the bad guys, with karate, etc …. No
“weak damsel” for me!
I never plan on marrying, that's not the life for me – I want
to be someone, go places, and see things. But I am also a
Catholic, and that puts pressure on my moral beliefs. I would
like to feel free to go to bed with anyone I like, but my religion
forbids this. I don't want to be forever damned, but I don't wish
to become a hermit, either. It's a bad scene.
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Once again, thank you for the work you are doing. I hope it
serves to show women that they're not alone in their dreams,
and to encourage them to fantasize more. I truly believe that no
man can ever have as great fantasies as we women have!
Veevee
I have read and reread your book, My Secret Garden, about
a hundred times now, and I would like to make a contribution.
Before I start, I want to tell you, that book is the greatest. What
a relief when I learned that other girls fantasize too.
Now, about me. My name is Veevee. I am eighteen, I want
to be a rock singer-costume designer, and I am very horny. I
lost my virginity only last year to my boyfriend, who I am still
dating. We have sex regularly, every weekend, even during my
period. It's kind of messy, but he likes it, because he doesn't
have to use a safe.
The men in my fantasies are neither black nor white, but
Oriental. I find them extremely sexy, and I simply cannot warm
up to any other kind of man (I'm not Oriental, though, myself).
I detest hairy chests and faces … pale hair, eyes, and skin are
too milky to be erotic. I adore slim bodies, smooth golden skin,
and cute asses, and Orientals have it all. Japanese are my favorites,
and my boyfriend is a Japanese. I have also slept with
a delicious Korean boy whom I met in another city recently. I
haven't had a chance to lay out a Chinese yet, but I'm working
on it.
The star of my fantasies is in fact a star, a Japanese rock
singer superstar. He is incredibly gorgeous, with a mane of
dark hair, great big black eyes, a complexion that a girl would
envy, and a sensuous mouth just right for long deep kisses.
And, wow, what a body! Not skinny at all, but smooth and
well-muscled. I have some pictures of him wearing only shorts
and track shoes, and I don't know how many times I have masturbated
while looking at these photos. Anyway, I can fantasize
him onstage, wearing a white leather outfit, with high boots
and gloves, all studded with rhinestones. The pants and vest
are really tight, and the vest is low cut. He is sleeveless, and
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his golden skin is gleaming with sweat under the lights. His
hair is wild, and his eyes are flashing as he writhes and gyrates
to the heavy throb of the music. Thousands of girls are screaming
around him, but I watch him triumphantly, knowing that I
am the woman who will possess that beautiful body, straining
against the leather. Of all the women in the audience, only I
can close my eyes acid remember the exact shape of his cock –
something no one else in the audience has ever seen, except
tantalizingly when the excitement of his singing makes his
erection show to the audience of screaming women through his
tight trousers. Now he is taking his final bows, and I move off,
out of the crowd, to grab a taxi to his apartment. As I walk
through the crowd, nobody turns to look at me. They are all
straining for a glimpse of him, but I have the secret power of
knowing that if only they knew where I was going, and who I
was soon going to be with, they would be clutching after me
too.
Once in his apartment, I relax on his huge double bed.
It has satin sheets and a canopy with embroidered quilts. I
sip a drink, until I hear the door open. He strides in and regards
me for a moment through narrowed eyes. I can see that all that
heavy music and dancing has had its effect, and I quiver with
anticipation. I can feel the moisture begin between my legs.
Without bothering to take anything off, he seizes me in his
arms and kisses me firmly and urgently, meanwhile stripping
off my clothes. My panties get snagged, and there is a satisfying
sound of tearing, as he rips the cloth off my hips.
Now he removes his gloves and begins to caress my body,
his golden hands moving from my breasts down to my belly, to
my cunt (which I keep clean-shaven). He stands right in front
of me, one arm around my neck, pulling me closer to him, the
other hand down between my legs, his middle finger inside me,
stirring up the juices as his tongue inside my mouth licks mine.
I can hear myself sigh as I take a step with one foot to open my
legs wider for him to put in two fingers.
His kisses become more insistent as they now begin to fall
on my naked flesh lower and lower down, down, down, and his
tongue in my hot cunt is just too much, and I heave and writhe
in the most wonderful climax I have ever had – the cunt juices
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just flowing out of me and making a river down the crack of
my ass.
This drives him wild, and he leaps on me and drives his
long hard cock in so deep I moan with ecstasy. He is still wearing
the leather vest, and I can see him thrusting and my legs
wrapped around his ass in a mirror. He sees that I like looking
at us in the mirror, and with a strong lunge of his cock, while
he is still inside me, he pushes my ass around so that now we
are parallel to the mirror, and I can actually see his long cock
sliding in and out. I put my hand around it, as if to make my
cunt longer and more firmly gripping. It excites him even more
to be held by my hand and my cunt at the same time, and just
as I slip my hand between his legs and shove a finger in his
asshole, he shrieks as if he's being murdered, and he comes!
He is thoroughly exhausted by now, and I roll him on his
back and gently undress him. I go to the washroom and clean
myself up and fetch a cool towel to wipe him off with. I rub
him with the towel on his back and chest, while he lies there
watching me through half-closed eyes and smiling. Then I
massage his legs and back, and he sighs contentedly. I crawl
back into bed with him, and we snuggle together and go to
sl**p in each other's arms.
This is one fantasy which I hope to make come true, but I
don't know …. I intend to go to Japan this year. We'll see then.
I get a real thrill out of pampering a guy and being pampered
by him too. I like to be dominated somewhat. Because I am a
big girl, I do most of the dominating in real life, but I'd like to
take the passive role – in sex, anyway,
It was also great to find out other girls like to look at guys
too. I enjoy supertight hiphugging pants with button flies on a
guy with a pert, round ass and tapered thighs. I also like the
curve between the shoulder and hip to be well-defined, and
shirts to be unbuttoned at the neck. Tight high-waisted pants
are great. I find boots very sexy, while shoes for some reason
really make me cream my jeans. When my boyfriend wears his
white shoes, it takes all my willpower not to take him then and
there. White boots are superdynamite! I met a Chinese singer
in a rock group who wore them, along with a tight jumpsuit
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unzipped almost to his navel. Zowie! I would have given my
eyeteeth for just one round between the sheets with him.
Well, enough of what makes me horny. I hope you can use
my fantasy. I know it is nothing fantastic, but when I am feeling
low or nonsexy, all I have to do is imagine it, and I feel full
of zip again. It is especially good to imagine it on nights when
I am with my real boyfriend – it brings me to orgasm in ten
seconds flat.
Katherine
My fantasies are nearly always about public figures – movie
stars, baseball players, etc. I am twenty-two, pretty, single, in
love twice, both times disasters, now cautious about men.
I have one fantasy wherein I am a fifteen-year-old girl
named Marjorie, and Christopher Lee (the English actor) is my
godfather. He is visiting my parents, and I somehow spirit him
into the wooded area of our estate. I tell him I have a surprise
for him, and he should turn his back to me. Soon I tell him to
turn around, and he sees I am standing nude, smiling mischievously
at him. He tries to think of a gentle let-down, but I
throw myself at him, and he takes me there, in the middle of
the woods.
Another fantasy is one where I seduce Basil Rathbone as
Sherlock Holmes at 22B Baker St. In it, I am his twenty-yearold
niece. Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) is amazed his aloof pal
Holmes finally fell for someone.
I have another fantasy in which I am dancing at a ball; all
the women are in flowing gowns and everyone is waltzing. My
gown is so low-cut that my partner can look down and see my
rosy nipples. Since it is Victorian times, I am a real virginal
prude. My partner (let's call him Errol Flynn) takes me to a
dark stairway outside the ballroom and pulls the top of my
dress down. I object feebly as he massages my breasts. I get so
aroused I can't fight it, and he lifts my long dress up and puts
his fingers into me. The fear of being seen by the other guests
adds to the excitement.
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I have fantasies wherein a man fingers me under the tablecloth
in a crowded restaurant.
Another one is that I am really d***k, too d***k to know
what's going on, and I'm parked in a car with, oh, let's say
Robert Taylor. He lays me across the front seat, lifts my dress,
and pulls my panties down. Then he puts an empty wine bottle,
thin neck first, of course, into me and moves it in and out really
fast. I writhe in d***ken ecstasy!
Well, those are a few of my most popular ones. I just LOVE
those public figures! I often wonder how I'd react if I ever met
one in the flesh; oh, I know some are already dead, but Christopher
Lee, David Carradine (“Kung Fu”), Leonard Nimoy and
William Shatner (“Star Trek”), and many of the N.Y. Mets,
Nets, Jets, and Sets are still around. Sigh! I wonder what their
wives fantasize about – or if they have to fantasize at all!
Muffie
I know the will sound stupid, 'cause I'm not a silly teenage
groupie, but rock singer Cat Stevens turns me on something
fierce. I once stayed up until 3 A.M. watching a concert of his
on television and masturbating myself senseless.
I fantasize that he and I are on a deserted beach laughing
and running, naked. I trip and fall, and he rushes over to see if
I'm all right. His hand on my naked back makes me burn, and
with a moan, I roll over and pull him onto me, holding him
gently, kissing his face and his eyes, his lips, and then burying
my head in the soft hollow of his shoulder.
His caresses are gentle, like a thought, and his eyes are loving.
Then without speaking, my legs open, and he enters me,
pushing his cock against me easily, as if asking permission.
Then we are fucking, and it seems like we are one with the
sand, the sea, and the moon. When we finally come, it's graceful,
unhurried. We fall asl**p still entwined; when I awaken at
dawn, he's gone, and I find a beautiful seashell in my hand,
and it seems to be smiling at me.
I have really enjoyed being able to put the private me into
words, so thank you. I am trying to get my friends to write you,
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but most are wrapped up in their garden clubs and dinners.
Telling a fantasy to me and writing to you are worlds apart.
Maybe one day they can be really free.
God bless you, Nancy. I'm glad someone cares enough to
undertake understanding the whole woman.
Carina
I read your book and enjoyed it very much. Thank you for
bringing out into the open that women think about sex more
than some people realize. Here is a fantasy of mine for your
new book.
First off, my name is Carina. I'm eighteen and live with my
mother and two young b*****rs. My fantasy always takes place
in the shower when I stand in a certain was so that the water
hits me in the right spot of desire. In the fantasy, I'm washing
in the shower and don't hear the doorbell ring. James Caan, the
movie star, is at the door, and he walks right in (because he
finds the door is accidentally unlocked). He's there because he's
met a friend of mine who told him all about me. Well, he
comes (I mean he pokes his head through the shower curtain)
right into the shower, shedding his clothes and says: “Your
friend was right. You are as marvelous as she said you were!”
We make love while the water trickles over, around, and under
our bodies. By this time, I have an orgasm and the fantasy
ends.
I hope it is one that you can use.
 Though June is nineteen and married, she fantasizes
about a girl friend she has known since she was thirteen. “In
real life, as far as we got was to hold and kiss each other,” she
writes in lament about the c***dren's sexual games they used to
play in early adolescence. It seemed so easy then, so comforting
to our loneliness, to see our friends as our other selves. We
clung to each other for reassurance in young fear and bewilderment
of our burgeoning sexuality. In exploring our friend's
body, we explored our own.
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This element of narcissistic identification seems clear in
June's fantasy: she does not see her friend as a rival in the triangle
she wants to set up with her own husband; she is not
“the other woman” – she is an accomplice. Her fantasy reminds
us of those days when doing anything was much more
fun when we shared it with a girl friend … those early days
when the true excitement of a date was not so much when we
were with him but when we could describe it afterward to our
friends.
One important point remains to be made about fantasies like
June's: it is as common for women to have sexual fantasies
about other women as it is rare for men to have fantasies about
other men. The bugaboo of homosexual fear does not haunt our
sex the way it does the other, but this does not mean that every
woman who has a sexual fantasy about another woman is a
lesbian. (The phrase “latent lesbian” has no meaning. We are
all “latent” – it is imaginable for any human being to do something
sexual with any other human being in the right time and
circumstances.)
Some women who have fantasies about other women describe
themselves as lesbians. Many women who have similar
fantasies do not. You know yourself better than I do. Having a
fantasy in your mind is a very far cry from meaning you have
done something in actuality … or that you “really” want to do
it. June has sexual fantasies about other women, but does not
for one moment mention the idea that she might be a homosexual.
Tina writes about her attraction to Barbara in terms that
may well mean that in time she will enter a homosexual relationship.
s**ttered throughout this book are fantasies by other
women who have erotic reveries about sex with other females
… some letters are from women who have put this idea into
practice. None of these sexual paths is better than any other,
none is right or wrong. All that matters is how your sex life
makes you feel. If you feel whole and happy, released and vital,
it is nobody's business how you reach that goal. Some of the
women concerned call themselves lesbians, others do not.
What you call yourself is your business too.
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In general, it can be said that sexual fantasies of other
women can usually be traced back to feelings and emotions of
babyhood, when our mother was our first love object. In time,
as we grew up, we made the crossover to men – starting with
father, who we took to be our first model for all men. But some
leftover emotion about mother, some u*********s image of
how she smelled, touched us, and gave us our first idea of love,
is often still buried somewhere within us, just as there is a little
bit of the c***d left over in every adult. 
June
I have just finished reading your book. I have really enjoyed
it, and am glad someone has finally written about women's
fantasies.
I have a few, but this is my favorite. This fantasy is always
about a girl friend I've known since I was thirteen years old.
I've always wanted to make it with her. In real life, as far as
we got was to hold and kiss each other. I have had women
make love to me, but it's always turned me off. I know that (I'll
call her Sue) Sue would be the only one that could turn me on.
I am nineteen years old and am married. I have told my husband
before about my fantasy, but after I read your book, I got
really excited and decided to really describe to him my fantasy
and how I'd like him to be making it with the both of us. It
really turned him on. We had the best time in bed than we've
had in a long time.
We both hope someday our fantasy will come true. I think
then I would be the happiest. We live far from her now, but
plan on moving back soon.
Well, thank you for the book you've written. I'm looking forward
to your next book. I hope this can help you in some way.
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Tina
I am thirty-seven years old and have been with my husband
for fifteen years, the last ten of which I have known Barbara.
My husband is sexually okay, but not passionate – his value as
a husband is based on other qualities. My strongest emotional
need has been to be able to be open, to share all my thoughts
and feelings (including sexual fantasies). I have done this not
with my husband but with Barbara. She has also shared more
deeply with me than with anyone else until recently, when
someone new entered her life.
I have had sexual fantasies about her and other women for
as long as I can remember having sexual feelings at all. The
reason I am writing to you now is because of “the change” in
me – none of the fantasies in your book seem to cover that part
of me.
As time has gone by, the outward sexuality between Barb
and me has grown from no touching at all to spontaneous
kisses and embraces and back rubs that take me close to orgasm.
(I think the next time I will ask if she minds for me to
masturbate in her presence. I will have to think about this for a
while since we live in separate cities, and our direct contact is
only once or twice a year.)
Until last year, Barbara said that she wasn't sexually attracted
to women. Now she is living in a lesbian relationship.
You can imagine the mixture of joy for her and pain I felt for
myself when that happened. Until the beginning of that relationship,
my fantasies about women had always been about
Barbara. I would imagine her saying “Yes, I do have sexual
feelings for you,” and going down on me, hugging, kissing,
etc. Once I imagined Barb walking in while I was masturbating
and sitting down beside me and holding my left hand. Last
winter, I visited with her and her lover and had the deepest
back rub yet. The whole time she was much more open and
affectionate than ever before, but still clear that I wasn't to be
her bedmate. The next night, we three women did pot together
(my first time). Eventually, they went to the bedroom, and I lay
down on the couch. I felt like I was with them, part of their sex.
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And then suddenly switching from explicit masturbatory images,
I was talking to Barb, sharing with her words of love and
deep feelings, some of it even admissions of jealousy. But even
though what I was telling her was not all positive feelings, I
could sense Barb's understanding and love. Her nonsexual but
deep love for me wanting me to feel good and enhancing my
sexual intensity. Since then I have often incorporated this sense
of feeling close with a woman, feeling her love with my masturbation.
I told Barbara the next day, and she felt it was a
beautiful thing. I shared all the feelings too that I had verbalized
in the fantasy when I had imagined the two of them making
love in the other room, and she understood all of that too. I
suppose you might not call this a sexual fantasy, but it turns
me on deepest of all when I masturbate to imagine how deeply
a woman (Barb) understands me, accepts and loves me. Sometimes
I try to incorporate this feeling into my time with my
husband (but I do feel guilty thinking of someone else when I
am with him). I have since last winter slept with three women.
One of them touched my deepest feelings along with my body.
I fantasize about her both ways at once – the feelings that we
share, plus the memories of our sex. Love and sex together can
be a very powerful stimulant.
I see myself as bisexual, by the way, and have been working
within my religious denomination to spread understanding of
homosexuality and bisexuality. I initiated a consideration of
these issues in Barb's state last summer, before it was an active
concern to her. This summer, she stood where I had stood with
the others and carried it through, while I stayed in my own
territory. I am more than pleased by the feelings of togetherness
and s****rhood I get from these activities.
I told one of my lovers about this kind of fantasy, and she
tried it and really liked it. I hope I have explained it well
enough so that you understand. It's the strength of emotional
intensity and general closeness that heightens sexual feelings.
Also, one of my explicit fantasies wasn't mentioned until now.
I'll say it quickly before I lose my nerve. I am drinking breast
milk and eventually floating in it, and as I approach climax, I
feel myself drowning.
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 Toby's first fantasy, like most in this chapter, stems from
a time in her life when she was not yet ready for sex. She was
fifteen, she writes, when she began to fantasize about the man
who lived next door. He was “about forty-five, with sexy gray
hair (sophisticated-looking).”
Ah, these sophisticated-looking, gray-haired older devils!
How often they populate the erotic reveries of women young
enough to be their daughters. The ambiguous mystery they
bring with them, of having slept in many beds, surrounds them
with an almost mystic, golden haze of romance. Sexual but
fatherly at the same time, the older man promises to guide us
safely into our sexual life, initiating us with his great skill,
forgiving us in his wisdom by joining us in the forbidden act.

Toby
I'm eighteen, white, single, and reasonably sexually liberated,
surrounded by people who frown upon sex. Right now,
I'm having an affair with a guy called Lou, who is twenty-six.
His divorce comes through in about one month. He's really
fantastic!
My first fantasy was of a man who lived next door to us. At
our summer cottage. I was fifteen at the time. He's about fortyfive,
with sexy gray hair (sophisticated-looking).
My parents have one cottage while I have my own.
At about one in the morning, a knock would come at the
door and V., the man next door, who had k**s older than I,
would come in and immediately we'd be locked in a mad embrace.
He was the best married man around.
Whispering gentle words, we'd fall on the bed and make
love. He's gentle and I get horny thinking about him. We'll
screw and talk until five A.M., when he returns home and
leaves me with memories.
Another fantasy I have is having a huge dog (German shepherd)
make love to me (doggie-style, of course). I would be
held down, and the dog would be f***ed to sniff between my
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legs and lick me out. Then he'd put his hard, moist penis inside
me, and we'd rock on to heaven.
Just the thought of his big nose probing between my legs
excites me.
Nothing really excites me as the thought of making love to
two men. Both of whom are familiar to me.
One to perform cunnilingus on me while the other (after the
first) can screw me.
While on a train, Lou and I made love on the seats of our
car. It was dark, at night, so no one really saw us (I hope). The
seats across from me were vacant, but there were people ahead
and behind me. We played with each other until that crucial
moment came. He pulled down his pants and put a blanket
over him. I had on a dress with no pants, so I just hopped on
his knee, and when he put his huge prick inside me, along with
the movement of the train, it was heaven. It was good! I experienced
my first real orgasm with him.
We fucked for about two hours, all the way to Boston, where
we had an engagement to play the next day.
I'll often fantasize that again he's home, and I can screw
him again and again and again.
Everytime I see a guy in tight pants … look out! I could just
grab him and wow!!
You seem like a fantastic lady, and I hope we could meet
sometime.
Penny
When I first became aware of my sexual fantasies, I was in
my early teens. They used to threaten me sometimes, particularly
the ones involving other women. I have not gotten to the
point even today where I can, or want to discuss them with my
husband, even though my best friend and I swap fantasies. Our
latest mutual fantasy is telling our men that we're going to
Memphis for a weekend shopping spree, but actually going
there to get fucked. As you can see, I have come a long way
with my fantasies, and can now enjoy them. In fact, I don't like
to read My Secret Garden while I'm at work, because it gets
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me too turned on, and that's not a state I want to be in at the
office.
One of my favorite fantasies when I was a k** was walking
along the superhighway near the school I went to. The people
weren't in cars – I would imagine them moving together in
small clumps or groups, but walking. As I moved into the left
lane to pass a slow-moving f****y, I had to turn sideways. I
passed close by a man with a hard-on. I smiled and said mmmm-
mm … as in mm-mm-good. He took my arm and tried to
get me to go with him. I smiled sheepishly and answered that I
really couldn't, because I was too young and inexperienced. He
tried to convince me again, and I said, why not. We got out at
the next exit. I had no pants on. We were sitting near the
school. Someone (I think the hard-on man) was twiddling my
clit. It felt good. Then I was in a room. I decided I had to get
out. So I sheepishly asked him if I could please have my pants
back. He gave them to me, and I hurriedly left the room. There
was snow on the ground; then the man was after me. All of a
sudden, I saw a train arriving. I yelled out, “Thank God for the
Southern Pacific!”
That was the end of that particular one. One of the first fantasies
I can remember in my whole life was a man lying down.
I opened his zipper – I thrust my hand inside his pants, but into
pitch blackness. At that time, I had never seen a cock.
A couple of years ago, when I went through the phase I described
of having fantasies about' other women, my sexual
images were very exotic. I would imagine myself grabbing
Miss America's tit, watching a pregnant lady undress. Many
times, I have had dreams about being bare-chested in public, in
which I usually tried to cover myself. Recently, I had celebrity
week. One night, I was part of the M.A.S.H. unit, and Alan
Alda was after me. The next night, Frank Langella (Diary of a
Mad Housewife, Twelve Chairs) was fucking me and said,
“The only problem is that I have a small dick. So you will have
to flex your muscle.” I remember in my dream feeling my vagina
tighten and loosen, tighten and loosen.
If you like, I can ask the friend I swap fantasies with to send
you hers. I hope I have been of some help.
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Cecillia
I love you, I love you, I love you!!!!
Your book was sensational and quite a turn on at times – a
turn off at others, but always devilishly good fun. I'd love very
much to submit a fantasy or two of my own. I'm s*******n, and
have fantasized (in one form or another) as long as I can remember.
My favorite (current favorite, that is) concerns this boy I
went out with several times (but unfortunately never slept
with). This was while I was still a virgin – but should I run
into him again, am sure I could get things to happen!! The fantasy
starts that we're in his bedroom, alone together, and I walk
over to him and just start to kiss him quite passionately while I
unzip his fly. I take his huge throbbing cock into my hands and
start caressing, fondling it, etc. He slips his trembling hands up
my sweater and starts to massage my breasts. He has to unzip
my fly and slips his hand right on my dripping pussy and sticks
a few fingers up my cunt.
We both undress each other (I stop while pulling off his
pants to fellate him). He lays me on his bed, props my legs up
and open, and his full red lips unite with my red cunt and
Zowie! I pull his head into me, and that tongue of his licks the
hell out of me. We have intercourse and both end up quite satisfied.
My next one concerns a girl friend of mine. I decide to sl**p
over her house, so we smoke some grass and are feeling rather
free with one another. We decide to take a shower together,
and that's when the fun begins. We offer to wash one another's
backs and naturally that's not all we wash of one another. We
get into her bedroom and first I towel her off, then she does me;
she has me sit on the edge of her bed so that she can dry my
feet and legs. She starts feeling my thighs and starts to kiss and
lick them. She opens my legs wide and starts to lick, suck, and
kiss my cunt. She works her way all over me, and we end up
69ing it all night.
I've told my lover these, and he enjoys them also.
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I too am an avid crotch- and fanny-watcher. I always enjoy
visually undressing men and imagining screwing with them.
Can't wait for your next book. Much love to you.
Isabel
I just finished reading your book called My Secret Garden,
and I liked it very much. I especially liked it because it made
me feel better about myself. I think about sex a lot, and I fantasize
about sex so much that I was beginning to think that I was
perverted. It makes me feel better to know that other women
fantasize about sex just as I do. I am going to be a sophomore
in college this next school year, but I am home for the summer
right now. I want to tell you about my fantasies, but I must
keep this letter anonymous, because I live in a very small town,
and I do not want anyone here to find out about me. As I said, I
have a lot of sexual fantasies, and I would like to tell you about
some of them. Although I have sexual fantasies almost anytime,
I have my most developed sexual fantasies when I masturbate.
I think I masturbate more than most girls. Almost
every night before I go to sl**p, I masturbate, and I often masturbate
at other times during the day when I am aroused and
can be alone for a while. Masturbation is the only kind of sexual
activity I have ever had. Although people say I have a
pretty face, I am overweight. Being overweight makes it difficult
for me to get dates with boys, so I have had only a few
dates with boys in my whole life. To be honest, I am a little
afraid of boys. I am afraid I might be frigid if I ever did have
sex with a boy. That's enough about me though. I had better
tell you about my fantasies.
I think I am the female equivalent of a “peeping Tom.” In
my sexual fantasies, I almost always imagine myself secretly
watching other persons engaged in sexual activities. One of my
favorites is to imagine an attractive boy undressing while I am
secretly watching him. I have never seen a boy undressed, so I
am not sure if what I imagine is completely accurate. I am
aroused by the thought of seeing a boy's sexual organs, but the
thought of actually touching them kind of scares me. They kind
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of attract and repulse me at the same time. When I have this
fantasy, I also like to imagine this boy masturbating himself
after he undresses. I am not sure how boys really do masturbate
themselves, but in my fantasies they do it several ways. My
favorite right now is to imagine a boy lying facedown on ,his
bed and moving his hips up and down so that his penis rubs
against the sheets. I like to imagine that when he ejaculates he
calls out my name as though he has been fantasizing about me.
Another of my fantasies is to imagine a couple having sex
while I secretly watch. The couples are usually persons I know
personally; when one of my girl friends gets married, I like to
lie in my bed on her wedding night and try to imagine what she
and her new husband may be doing. I imagine that I am there
secretly watching when she sees her husband undress for the
first time and when she undresses while her husband watches.
The thought of undressing in front of a boy scares me, but it
arouses me too. After fantasizing about one of my girl friends
and her new husband undressing, I imagine that I am secretly
watching them when they have sex for the first time. Unless I
know otherwise for sure, I imagine that she is a virgin. Her
husband's penis is very large, and she cries out with pain when
he pushes it into her for the first time. It hurts so much that she
starts crying, but in a few minutes, it starts to feel good to her.
This, too, is a part of sex that scares me, but also arouses me.
Besides newlyweds, I fantasize about other couples I know
too, both married and unmarried. I think about what they
probably do when they have sex. I like to try and imagine all
the things they might do when they are having sex together. In
my mind, I try to picture them having sex. One of my favorite
things is to imagine them having oral sex. Mostly, I try to picture
whatever girl I am fantasizing about sucking on her partner's
penis. The idea of doing that to a boy repulses me, and yet
it fascinates me too. I sometimes imagine that he ejaculates in
her mouth and that she swallows it. Thinking about that
arouses me very much, but I do not think that I would ever
really do that myself. I also like to picture in my mind couples
masturbating each other, and I get very aroused when I try to
picture the boy sucking on the girl's nipples.
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Most of my sexual fantasies are of the types I have already
described, but I do have a few other kinds of sexual fantasies
sometimes. Almost everytime I see a good-looking boy, I try to
imagine what he looks like with his clothes off. When I do this,
I kind of play a game.
I try to guess the size and shape of his sexual organs, although
having never seen a boy with his clothes off, I am not
too sure what his sexual organs ought to look like. Once I saw
a boy whose pants were bulging as though his penis were
erect, and it arouses me when I think about how he looked. I
really wish that there were a magazine for women that showed
photographs of good-looking men with all their clothes off.
Another fantasy that I have had a few times concerns two girls
I know at college. They have an apartment together, and I
found out from some of my friends that they are lesbians.
Sometimes when I masturbate, I try to imagine that I am secretly
watching when these two girls are having sex together. It
worries me, but I do get very aroused when I think about them
having sex. Sometimes I get, aroused thinking about some very
feminine and slim girl with all her clothes off, and occasionally
I fantasize about secretly watching a girl like that undress and
then masturbate. Sometimes I think that I would be less afraid
of having sex with another girl than I would of having sex with
a boy.
In almost all my sexual fantasies, I am just a secret' observer
of other persons' sexual activities, but in a very' small number
of fantasies, I do play other parts. Most of these fantasies have
a similar format. I imagine that I am trapped and am f***ed to
have sex with a good-looking boy. I will give you an example
of one of these fantasies. I imagine that I and a good-looking
boy, who otherwise would pay no attention to me, are snowbound
alone together in a mountain cabin together or some
other place like that. We have food and logs for the fire in the
fireplace, so we are comfortable. When night comes, we prepare
to sl**p in separate rooms, but when I begin' undressing,
he bursts into my room. He already has all his clothes off, and
he forcibly removes the rest of my clothing. When he sees me
with my clothes off, he gets even more excited, and his penis
becomes erect. It is very firm and very large, and I am scared
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by the sight of it. He f***es me down on my back on the bed
and gets on top of me. Right away he starts trying to push his
penis into me. It hurts so much that I start crying, but he just
keeps pushing his penis into me. After several minutes of that,
it begins to feel good. He keeps moving his penis in and out of
me for about ten or fifteen minutes, and then he ejaculates.
While he is ejaculating, he tells me how good it feels to have
sex with me. Afterward, we lie in bed together, and he is very
affectionate to me. In fantasies like this one, I imagine that
having sex feels very good, but I do not have an orgasm in
them. I do not have this kind of fantasy very often though. I
probably only have it about once or twice a month. I have to be
in just the right mood for this kind or else they make me feel
bad instead of good.
The first specifically sexual fantasy that I ever had occurred
when I was thirteen, and my oldest s****r got married (I only
have s****rs and no b*****rs). At that time, I asked my mother
about marriage and having babies, and she told me about sex.
Soon after that, I began to masturbate, and when I did, I would
fantasize about being able to secretly watch while my s****r
and her new husband were having sex together. Maybe because
it was the first kind of sexual fantasy I had, this kind of
fantasy is just about my favorite of all. I get extremely aroused
when I try to picture what a newly married couple I know are
doing on their wedding night or on their honeymoon. Second to
this kind of fantasy are those in which I imagine that I am secretly
watching while a good-looking boy takes off all his
clothes and then masturbates. I would MUCH RATHER imagine
watching this than to actually have sex with a boy.
I hope that what I have told you about my sexual fantasies
will help your continuing research. I can hardly wait to read the
results of this additional research. I lent my copy of your book
to a friend of mine, and she, too, likes it very much. Maybe she
will write to you too. I might even write to you again if I think
of more to tell you about.
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CHAPTER THREE
LOOKING
 Until very recently, it was a cliché even in the medical
profession that women were not turned on by reading pornography.
When I began researching My Secret Garden, one doctor
after another told me that women are unable to become
aroused through the same kind of visual stimuli that moved
men. “A woman does not look at sex as a kind of simple,
physical proposition the way men can,” went the usual explanation.
“Pornographic books or photos leave all emotion out of
sex, but unless a woman can see sex in an emotional context,
she just isn't interested.”
This may have sounded reasonable enough; on the whole, it
is fairly true of the way women lead their lives. The only problem
with the explanation is that it does not account for, or even
acknowledge, female lust.
It did not help explain to me why I would always find my
eyes riveted to attention when I passed a man on the street who
had a noticeable bulge in his trousers … why, when I went to
see The Changing Room, a play in which at least a dozen naked
men come on stage at one time, it was all I could do to
keep my head from swiveling from side to side. I had never
seen so many naked cocks presented for my inspection at one
time, and although I felt no emotion for any of the actors involved,
it was one of the most exciting evenings I had ever
spent in a theater.
Was I some kind of freak? I wondered. I had nothing to
compare myself to, no role-models whose footsteps I could
safely walk in. I had no cultural okay to give sanction to my
prurient interest, the way men have for theirs. If a man likes to
go to burlesque shows and pins photos of naked women on his
wall, it shows he is one hell of a lusty guy. There is even a
society based in San Diego – made up of young studs who
proudly label themselves “International Girl Watchers.” But
we are only supposed to collect photos of couples walking
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hand in hand in the moonlight. The whole business seemed
unfair to me – worse, it offended my sense of logic and symmetry.
There must be a reverse to the coin, even if I had never
heard it discussed, even if no doctor would agree with me. I
remember talking to a friend's young daughter not too long ago
about her experiences at the beach. “Men have these funny
bulges in the front of their bathing suits,” the girl said, “but
you're not supposed to notice them. How do you do that?”
How indeed? I get furious when I hear men and women
alike say that the naked male isn't as interesting or beautiful as
the naked female. Why? Why should tits be any more beautiful
than a man's buttocks or cock? I believe it is men themselves
who've set up the idea that their naked bodies are ugly – or at
least, too trivial or unimportant to look at, unless they have an
erection! If I am right, then it is also men themselves who will
have to help both sexes get over this absurd prejudice. Men are
going to have to accept their own naked bodies as aesthetically
satisfying, and not merely sexually useful; they will have to
learn to lie back and enjoy allowing a woman to look at them.
Once men can get away from the idea that they are not worth
looking at if they don't have a giant, erect cock, they will be
liberated from an enormous amount of their castration anxieties.
They will be freed from the notion that they are either a
giant penis or they are “nothing.” They can be men, instead of
perpetual fucking machines.
To see a naked man from the rear is a sight that takes my
breath away the awesome shape of power as the shoulders drop
away into narrow hips, the hard, muscle-bunched look of an
athlete's ass…. There are lines in the male body that have never
been mentioned, aesthetics of masculine anatomy women will
soon be writing poetry about … if we can give ourselves permission
to look.
Unlike men, women have been trained from birth to be exhibitionists.
Fashion is busily revealing one aspect of our anatomy
this year, hiding it the next. Who more than a woman
feels more deeply in her bones the erotic power of what the eye
can see? It is obvious to me that both sexes must be equally
stimulated by reading and seeing sexual sights, but that women
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– “ladies” – have been culturally conditioned to deny it, even to
themselves. Both sexes respond to natural things like sunshine,
furry a****ls, the feeling of speed, the sound of music – why
should there be this great divide in what turns on the individual
sexes? If both women and men like sex, both must like it in all
its manifestations, even the most fleeting. After I had written in
My Secret Garden that I was “an inveterate crotch-watcher,”
woman after woman has taken me aside to tell me, with a relieved
laugh, that she was too. (You will also find mention of
the pleasures of fantasizing what goes on under a man's tightfitting
pants in many of the letters in this book.)
Roxanne too sends evidence that I'm not alone in getting an
erotic charge out of things I see. Her letter contains eleven different
fantasies, all of which involve looking and being looked
at.
But her letter ends on a sad note, I feel – one that does much
to explain why women are so afraid to confess their excitement
at seeing something sexual. “… I must stop now,” Roxanne
concludes, “as my husband is coming home. He's great but
rather traditional, so I don't want him to see all this.” Instead of
seeing women's sexual response to things they see or read as
one more erotic avenue to explore together, too many men see
it as a threat, a sign of raging sexuality that they are afraid they
may not be able to satisfy. “My ex-husband would rather think
of me as frigid,” a friend recently said to me, “than think
maybe I wasn't getting enough.” 
Roxanne
I have a number of favorite fantasies – I say favorite because
if I described all of my fantasies I'd be able to write a book
myself. So anyway, as my vaginal juices start proliferating,
here goes:
Fantasy 1: There is a pornographic book and magazine store
fairly near where I live. The magazines are especially great,
with all types of pictures and advice, including how guys can
best fuck guys, and so forth. Anyway, I see myself going in
there with some type of revealing clothing on and definitely No
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underwear of any kind. Whatever the top material is, my nipples
will be clearly visible, and the bottom part will be some
sort of skirt-dress. I go in and start paging through some magazines
when I accidentally on purpose drop one. I bend over to
pick it up, thus revealing my ass and cunt in all their glory. The
young male proprietor naturally is watching me all along, and
he has all he can do to contain himself. Sometimes he'll rush
over and before I even get a chance to get up, he sticks his
enormous prick in me – in my asshole, in my cunt – no matter
– and pumps to our hearts' delight.
Sometimes he won't approach me, so I'll take a few magazines
to him to purchase and say, “Boy, I'll bet you get horny
working in a place like this,” or “You should have a back room
where horny females like me can get some fucking when they
need it – like right now.” He looks at me with lust and tells me
they do have such a room! He directs me and in I go with my
throbbing body. What should be in there but three gorgeous
guys, and I direct the show. Wow – have you ever had all three
holes fucked simultaneously?
Another great feeling is to be held by two guys and raised
up and down on a third guy's prick – first slowly and then with
progressive speed.
After all this, I still want more variety. I take one guy into
the adjoining shower with me and ask him to pee on me – yes
– pee on my boobs and tummy and cunt. That's exciting! After
that, I bend over on all fours and tell him to “stick it up my
ass,” which he obligingly does.
This particular fantasy usually ends about here. This very
morning, I went to the bookstore to act this out (at least in the
initial stages) only to find out they had gone out of business.
Would you believe that? And I was ready! All I had on was a
white peasant blouse off-the-shoulders and a short peasant type
skirt – no undies! If I had bent over or if a good wind had come
along, I either would've been arrested or ****d – maybe both. I
sure was disappointed and frustrated! I went home and masturbated
with an artificial banana, which, believe me, was no
substitute for a cock (or cocks).
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Fantasy 2: I have tremendous exhibitionist urges – like the
bending over previously described. I get a lot of these ideas
from looking at magazine photos. I'd LOVE to perform a strip
act which culminated in fucking the whole damn male audience.
I'd like to masturbate manually or with cucumbers or
whatever on stage and drive men to distraction.
Fantasy 3: I'd like to be casually dressed in some public
place as a department store with my button-down-the-front
blouse open just far enough to let a boob show from the side
for the benefit of male passersby. Occasionally, someone grabs
it and starts tearing my clothes off from lust.
Fantasy 4: Here's something I actually did a few weeks ago.
I again had on no underwear, and I parked my car in a parking
lot next to a tall building where construction was being carried
out. There were workmen a few floors above me, so I decided
to give them a treat…. I pulled my skirt up (in the car) and
began to masturbate with my finger. After a few minutes, I had
quite an appreciative audience. I would've liked screwing one
or more of them, but time pressures didn't allow. Alas!
Fantasy 5: I'd love to be seeing a porno film in a theater – I
can feel and see myself getting hot and wet because the film is
really turning me on. All of a sudden, I feel a strange hand on
my thigh slowly heading for my black tiny bikini panties. The
hand reaches its mark and finds me wet and ready. To avoid
creating too much of a disturbance, I remove the panties, and
he opens his fly. I move over and sit on his lap thereby causing
his twelve-inch-long sex tool to go easily and smoothly into my
burning sex hole-up and down I go till we exhaust ourselves in
climax. Then we part and he moves to a different location in
the darkened theater. I've never seen his face – it wasn't necessary.
I just now stuck my finger up my twat as I'm writing this –
my god – I don't even feel human – just one whole sex machine.
Fantasy 6: At other times, I see myself as a teacher of middle-
to-late teen years boys. They don't especially turn me on,
but I'd like to sit on the desk with my legs apart and turn
THEM on by letting them see my sex organs “accidentally.”
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Sometimes, a cooperative fellow teacher (male) comes into the
room, and we demonstrate to them “proper” oral lovemaking.
He undresses me slowly and completely, and I again sit on the
desk – now completely naked. He asks me to sit with my legs
apart so the whole class can see my cunt and asshole. He
spreads my labia part and describes my female anatomy to the
class. While he's touching and describing, I'm going crazy and
am moving my body about in wild abandon. The boys at their
desks are one-by-one opening their flies to let their cocks escape.
Here and there, I see a fountain of semen exploding. My
fellow teacher now goes down on me by titillating my clitoris
with his tongue. He goes down slowly until his tongue slips
into my vagina, and his finger is up my ass. I'm still on the
desk. By now, boys are fucking boys and several are clawing at
me – sucking my nipples and trying to move the teacher out of
the way so they can get at me. This goes on and on….
Fantasy 7: I really get turned on by looking at naked men in
Playgirl. While looking, I sometimes imagine myself at home
with minimal revealing clothing on – maybe a see-through
shortie nightgown. I've been looking at myself in the fulllength
mirror in the bedroom and admiring my body. In front of
the mirror, I've been executing some bumps and grinds in various
stages of partial disrobing. I've also been watching myself
masturbate, but this never really satisfies me, so I'm in one hell
of a bad way when there's a knock on the front door. I go to the
living room, peek through the blinds, and see a deliveryman
with a package for me. By this time, he's really banging on the
door, so I figure, “Oh, shit, if he's in such a hurry, I'll just open
up.” And open up I do – both the door and myself. When I
open the door, he asks me to sign for the package; as I am
signing, he is looking. When I finish signing, it is my turn to
look at his crotch. Needless to say, it is really bulging! He is
standing slightly inside the door, so as I reach to close it behind
him, my nipples brush his bare arm. That's all he needs.
He grabs me, lifts me up, and carries me over to a living room
chair, where he places me on the chair with one of my legs over
each arm of the chair, thus leaving me slightly suspended and
with my genitals completely exposed. He pulls up my night100
gown over my head and leaves me with nothing on. I am so
excited I can feel the juices coming out of me. He whips out of
his pocket an artificial cock and sticks it in me – up and down
it goes till I come and come and come. Then he picks me up
and puts me on the floor and fucks me till I'm delirious. While
this is going on, my dog enters the living room and starts sniffing
and whining, and his prick starts popping out. He doesn't
have a chance, though, because my deliveryman is delivering
too good for me to pay any attention to my dog … maybe some
other time.
Fantasy 8: I'd also like to find a guy who would like to lie
down in the bathtub with me straddling him and let me pee all
over him.
Fantasy 9: I occasionally visualize myself walking into a
college fraternity and announcing my availability for ANYONE
who's there and ready.
Fantasy 10: I'm a patron in a strip-bar. The girl on stage is
doing her thing and has nothing on but a G-string. I'm there
alone, and the room is filled with men who are all excited from
watching the stripper. Strippers excite me too – but I want a
MAN to satisfy me. One approaches me, sits next to me, and
puts his hand under my skirt. In a very short time, he's got four
fingers in my hole, and I don't give a damn who's watching.
Pretty soon, all eyes are on us. I'm laid out in the booth, and
he's undressing. He gets on top of me, and then me on him;
when I'm on top of him, my boobs are bouncing like crazy, and
pretty soon I feel another prick going up my ass. We're all
keeping time to the music. The stripper is still dancing, and she
takes her G-string off and starts masturbating herself with a
candle from one of the tables. People are applauding, yelling,
and cussing, and the music gets louder and louder. It feels so
good – it just never ends.
Fantasy 11: I love to pose for porno pictures in real life …
not professionally – just for my lovers. God, that's exciting. I'll
pose in ANY way regardless. You name it – I'll do it. I love to
later look at the pictures and get excited all over again. Once, a
guy and myself took a picture in a mirror of me sucking his
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cock – to look at that later was absolutely fascinating and
thrilling.
I walk around most of the time in a horny condition. Sometimes
I can't even concentrate, and that's bad because I'm a
college-educated professional person…. I won't say what profession,
because I can't risk identification in any way.
Well, there are more, but I must stop now as my husband is
coming home. He's great but rather traditional, so I don't want
him to see all this.
I'm anxious to read your second book – hope you can use
some of this in it.
 A few years ago, I used to write frequently for Cosmopolitan
magazine. I remember talking one day to Helen Gurley
Brown. She was thinking of doing something very daring: she
wanted to run a nude male centerfold. She wanted my help in
finding the right man. I happily fell to thinking of who this Mr.
Right could be, summoning up at least a dozen from my own
fantasies. Helen was very anxious about the project: she was
worried that it might turn off many women unless it was done
in good taste. She had cause for her concern: it had never been
done before in any woman's magazine published in America.
What Helen didn't realize was that the women in her audience
were more than ready for her experiment.
I had earlier discovered in my own research for My Secret
Garden that the best way to relax women's anxiety about talking
honestly about their erotic ideas was to tell them about my
own behavior first. This gave them a role-model, someone they
could identify with, and the feeling they were not alone in discussing
any sexual area. Therefore, in the hundreds of questionnaires
I circulated for Garden, I described myself as an
“avid crotch-watcher,” and asked if the reader was one too.
That question never failed to get a response. Most women
wrote that they were crotch-watchers too, others said they loved
seeing “men's bottoms,” “examining their pants to see which
leg it hung down in,” or just plain “looking.” Sharon says, “I
find myself many times looking at the crotches of men's pants,
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just as I sometimes find men gazing at my breasts!” “I've always
been an inveterate crotch-watcher,” Molly writes. “I love
it when I see some guy with a partial erection. I am delighted
to find I'm not alone.”
The response I was getting (in a small way) to my questionnaire
was multiplied a thousand times by the reaction to that
first photo of the naked Burt Reynolds in Cosmo. If, for her
own reasons, Helen Brown decided not to continue nude male
photos as a regular feature, she nevertheless did found an entire
industry. There are now several women's magazines that feature
pages of naked men with ever-increasing variety and size
of genitalia for the leisurely inspection of the women of America
– many of whom had never before seen these mysterious
parts of male anatomy up close and in living color.
If much of this photographic effort is still in bad taste – or
more to the point, not to your taste – here are several reasons to
explain it. One is that I don't think that these new magazines
have figured out how to photograph the naked male in the way
women would like to see a man. Perhaps the big clue to this is
that the magazines in question are owned and published by
men, or have male art directors. Therefore, the naked men are
depicted in the way these men feel women would respond: the
naked football player, hairy actor, or model is shown in all his
muscular beauty alongside a stallion with flaring nostrils and a
sexual organ rivaled only by the size of the model's … or else
there is the inevitable Maserati or Ferrari vroom-vrooming
alongside. The art director could not believe those poor women
out there would “get it” unless the photo were power-packed
with male phallic symbols. The man alone wasn't enough …
these other men thought.
These new magazines have been grinding out male pinups
now for a couple of years. Because I am all in favor of it, and
only regret that they don't do it better, I am pleased to see that
they are learning to drop the horses, cars, and other barbedwire
masculinity props. They must have begun to listen to the
women “out there” instead of to the anxious noises in their
own heads: a woman does not need any symbols to help her
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recognize that the naked penis she is looking at belongs to a
man.
Another and still on-going misconception about what
women enjoy in looking at naked men is the belief that if the
penis isn't a foot long, no woman could be bothered. Once
again, the question must be asked: Are the men who hold these
fixed ideas getting them from their audience, or is it a response
to their own, inner anxiety?
The idea that size is everything is the very turning point in
the new Mel Brooks film, The Young Frankenstein. In this
movie, the frigid, manipulative young woman has no qualms
about brushing off her curly-haired lover, but is brought to
orgasm and “womanhood” by the immensity of the monster's
monstrous cock. At the point in the film where her eyes rivet
on the gigantic tool approaching her maidenhead, her face registers
fear and horror, but in the ensuing moment of penetration
her voice reaches a relieved, resounding high C of song and
exuberance. The audience breaks up with laughter; everybody
gets the joke. But it's no joke in real life.
One of men's greatest sexual hang-ups concerns the size of
their cock. They really believe that size is everything; psychiatrists
do a lot of business treating patients with terrible complexes
about the sexual inadequacy of their penis size. (“It's
only seven inches, Doctor.”) What hasn't come across to the
people who create these films and centerfolds is that while
women in this book, or in jokes among themselves, may go on
about this or that “huge,” “gigantic,” or “monster” cock, the
entire idea must be taken as a metaphor for the pleasure they
desire … size is the purely symbolic measure of their exuberant
approach to the joys of sex. What woman wants to be ripped
open in real life by an enormous penis, jammed and made sore
by some tremendous cock?
Women's insistence on size in their conversation or fantasies
is merely the “handle” on which to hang their dreams. It is
their cry for more sexual pleasure, for a larger, more intense
experience not a larger tool. I have heard very few women deplore
the small size of their lover. As any doctor or experienced
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woman can tell you, it's not the quantity but the quality of the
cock, the expertise of the lover.
This male preoccupation with, and fear about, his own inadequacy
has so far bred (for me) a disappointing overindulgence
in centerfold photos of men with penises so big and
swollen there is no room for imagination. While Jackie writes
that she is turned on by the intensely masochistic, but very
well-written novel, The Story of O, and by other things she
reads and sees, she finds no stimulation in “dirty movies,”
because they are “unimaginative and tasteless.” To any man
who says, “But what woman wants to see a limp cock?” I can
only answer – “Who better than a woman knows what can be
made of a limp cock?”
Give us something real to work with. I am all for photos of
naked men being made available to us in women's magazines.
I wish I'd had them when I was growing up. Why should men's
genitalia be a mystery? But these magazines' success in the
long run, is going to depend upon the development of an audience
of women who have learned how to respond to the sight
of naked men in films, photos, and all media. When women
relax enough, and allow their own genuine emotions and reactions
to enter their consciousness … when they feel free
enough to play with the emotions aroused within themselves at
the sight of these beautiful naked men … when they have
learned “to look” and be honestly receptive … the message
will get back to the industry, and the industry will learn sophistication
from its audience: women enjoying looking; this
is what they like to look at.
Any new industry takes time for supply and demand to get
together, especially in an area so sensitive and taboo as women
unashamedly looking and enjoying the sight of naked men. I
hope we get enough time, that the art of photographing male
nudes progresses so that it can command a genuine mass audience,
month after month, year after year. I hope the opportunity
for women to see and enjoy the male nude is not just a passing
fad. It answers a very real sexual need among women … and
anything that does can only reflect beneficially on men.
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I believe it will happen. If nothing else, we are a tyrannically
commercial country. Industry has long known it could use
feminine sex appeal to sell men anything from convertibles to
mutual funds. Once it becomes clear that male sex appeal can
work the same salesmanship wonders with women, the state of
the art will move ahead with the speed of a cash register ringing
up a dollar sign. I am not applauding mindless materialism.
I am merely saying that one of the serendipitous byproducts
of the inevitable growth in the use of male sex appeal
by the advertising industry is that it will at last give women
social sanction to enjoy being the looker – at last – and not
always and only the looked-at. 
Sharon
I have just finished reading your book, My Secret Garden. I
would like to say thanks for writing such a book. I felt I should
write and tell you my fantasies (sexual). But first, I think it is
necessary for you to know a little about me. I am a single, nineteen-
year-old sophomore in college. I attend a small junior
college here in my hometown. Because the town is so small,
everybody, especially the young people, know practically everyone
else. My parents are pretty uptight about sex. My mother
only told me the basics about menstruation and all that, which
I already knew when she finally told me. My father never told
me anything! I have two b*****rs whom I have helped bathe,
and I used to baby-sit for four boys a lot, so I've known for a
long time what a penis looked like. The penis has always intrigued
me, so when I became able to read such advanced material,
I did just that. Reading books and magazines is the way
I've learned about sex and the male and female bodies. I masturbate
occasionally, when I have the privacy, but I've never
been able to have an orgasm. I have had intercourse with only
two guys. One is my b*****r who is s*******n years old. The
other is a friend of my b*****r's who is eighteen years old. But
I've never been able to have an orgasm with either of them.
There is a guy that I date sometimes whom I feel I could have
an orgasm with if I could get him to go all the way with me! I
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come very close to having an orgasm when I fantasize about
him. I'll call him D. In my fantasies, D. and I start out doing
stuff like eating at a nice restaurant or something. Then we go
to one of our houses and start drinking. We usually drink rum
and coke. After about the third drink, D. starts kissing me and
playing with my breasts and stuff like that. This is where the
fantasy begins, because in reality, that's where we leave off.
We're lying on the sofa, and I become very horny and so does
he. We undress and go into a bedroom where we make love,
usually with at least the bedside lamp on. I dream that I have at
least three orgasms and that we make love again the next
morning.
Then I have a fantasy in which a total stranger comes to my
door and I seduce him. Although I have adequate breasts
(36C), in my fantasies I usually have very large, round breasts.
My hair is usually very long and has lots of body.
I have one fantasy in which I am a stripteaser in a burlesque
show. In my fantasy, I come out on the stage in a long red lowcut
dress with a slit up the side to the base of my hip. My hair
is jet black and nearly to my hips. I start doing a very seductive
dance, all the men begin to whistle and applaud, and there are
a few in the front row that have erections! I begin by taking off
my long red gloves, next I take off my large loop earrings.
Then I take off my shoes. I then open the slit to reveal the end
of a garter and the top of my hose. (The garter belt is red also.)
I open the slit just wide enough for the men to see that I have
on NO panties. Then I close the slit, do a few more seductive
moves; then I undo one strap, which really gets the men going.
I undo the other strap, and then I begin to unzip the dress (it
zips on the side of the slit). I very slowly unzip it. But even
then I'm not nude. I have on the garter, stockings, and red strapless
bra! I slowly continue to undress, teasing the men a lot!
Finally, when I am nude, a man from the audience (front row)
can no longer control himself. He runs up and throws me down
on the stage and begins fucking me! All the other men in the
audience masturbate themselves or each other. There are variations
to this and all my other fantasies.
Another one that I have is one in which I'm ****d! I've never
fantasized about strangers or dogs though. Most of the time,
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the men in my fantasies are men I happen to be attracted to at
that time! I find myself many times looking at the crotches of
men's pants, just as I find men gazing at my breasts!
I feel that I have certain lesbian tendencies, because my first
fantasies were of other girls, and sometimes I'll still have a
fantasy of a girl or woman. I also find that I get excited when I
see pictures of nude women! If I ever had the opportunity for a
lesbian experience, I doubt that I would pass it up. But I could
never be totally lesbian.
Right now, I'm looking for a nice, somewhat older man who
will teach me all I need to know about sex, for I am very inexperienced
and dumb. If you know anyone like this, send him
my way!
I've always had sexual fantasies, and for a long time, I
thought they were abnormal and weird, and I tried to suppress
them. But I don't anymore.
I hope I have helped your research just a little bit. I am looking
forward to your next book. Thanks again for My Secret
Garden.
Molly
I love you! Having just read My Secret Garden, I feel compelled
to write to you.
I just this moment finished the book, and I have so many
jumbled thoughts that I'll try to relate my feelings to you in
some orderly fashion.
First, I'm still turned on. Your book had an enormous erotic
effect on me. Need I say that I had to stop numerous times to
masturbate? But, oddly enough, my OWN erotic fantasies are
still much more exciting to me than simply reading others.
I have never felt guilty about fantasizing during masturbation
– I always considered that quite natural and have been
doing so ever since I started masturbating regularly at age five.
But I got the greatest relief in reading that other women regularly
fantasize while fucking. I always felt terribly guilty about
fucking one man and thinking about another. Now I realize it's
not abnormal or unfair or a put-down of the guy I'm with – it
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just makes everything more enjoyable. What a great discovery
and a great release. Thank you!
The other delightful result is that I feel closer to other
women. Wouldn't it be great if we could all discuss these
things with each other, rather than reading it in a book? Maybe
now I will. It really allows me to feel more open to other
women.
Two other minor points. I've always been an inveterate
crotch-watcher, and I love it when I see some guy with a partial
erection. I am delighted to find that I'm not alone. Also,
sometimes I fantasize fondling and sucking another woman's
breasts, and I always look at breasts. I'm glad this is also
common, as I always feared I was harboring some deeply hidden
lesbian tendencies. Now I know this isn't so and that my
fantasy is quite common and natural.
I have only one objection. On the back of the paperback edition
there is a quote from Dr. Leonard Cammer saying that
fantasy “allows a needed escape from unfulfilled reality.” Bullshit!
He completely missed the whole point of your book – it
ENHANCES reality and is NOT an escape. Typical sexist
comment from a male who really does not understand women.
Thank you, Nancy, for allowing me to feel better about myself.
Everyone should read your book.
P.S. I am college-educated, thirty, single.
Jackie
I've just finished My Secret Garden. Thank you very much
for collecting these fantasies. Reading the book has made me
feel much more at ease about the normalcy of my own fantasies.
(Incidentally, I am twenty-six years old, white, middle-class
background, with three and a half years of college, and in training
as a medical assistant at the moment.)
Although I am an imaginative person, I often take my fantasies
whole from other sources, such as movies (not dirty movies,
curiously enough, because I find them unimaginative and
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tasteless), novels (The Story of O, etc.), and other popular media.
But much more commonly, I make them up from experiences
that I have had, embellished and elaborated to fantasy
proportions. One of my favorites, incidentally, is about prostitution,
an empty room in My Secret Garden.
Some years ago, I met a man who, I discovered shortly, was
a bounding cad, but he was so egotistical, with very little reason
for being so, incidentally, that I was fascinated by his conceit
and was intimate with him for some months before my
fascination turned to boredom at his boorish predictability, and
I subsequently dropped him.
My prostitution fantasy about this man, whom I'll call
Roger, goes more or less like this: I'm in the city on some important
errand when I see Roger and, worse, he sees me. From
his smile as he approaches, I know he means no good. Rather
then create a scene, I allow him to take me into a sleazylooking
cafe. There he tells me he has discovered some awful
thing about me, something that could ruin my personal and
professional life, as well as those of my f****y. I think, in my
fantasy, that he wants to blackmail me for money, but discover
instead he intends to prostitute me for his own profit. I am
helpless and must obey.
He has apparently had all this planned out, because when I
follow him to his apartment, he gives me a see-through blouse,
micro-miniskirt, black net stockings, and a black garter belt to
exchange for my street clothes. But before I do this, he makes
me shave my entire body, including pubic hair.
When I'm ready and dressed, we walk through downtown
on our way to a party, where he has sold my services. We stop
before a store with a facade that reads Novelties, but I can see
by the equipment in the window that it's really a sex shop, one
that sells pornographic books, and has the trappings of fetishoriented
sex. We go inside. Behind the counter is a handsome
young Oriental (in real life several of my lovers have been Orientals,
and I admit a preference for them over Caucasian men).
He smiles at us and can tell at once by my costume and
makeup what I am.
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Roger ignores me and begins talking to the storekeeper
about various of his goods, while I wander about and look at
all the stuff hanging on the walls, such as leather harnesses,
dildos, chains, whips, vibrators, etc., which makes me very hot
and excited, as well as a big selection of dirty books. (This
excitement, incidentally, is very odd, because I've tried some of
the equipment mentioned above and was totally turned off by
it, but in my fantasy, I'm so excited I bite my lips to keep from
caressing myself while both men watch me.) Roger sees this
and calls me over. There's a bunch of equipment on the counter
that Roger wants to buy, but he doesn't have enough money.
He suggests to the storekeeper that he can use me as he likes in
exchange for the equipment. The storekeeper smiles again and
pulls the shades to the store windows.
Roger lifts my skirt and opens my blouse, playing with me
and showing me off to the storekeeper, who suggests we go
upstairs. In a room upstairs, we find an enormous Newfoundland
dog, and both men lay me back on the table and let the
dog lick my naked mound, burrowing his big nose in as deep
as he can. While the dog is doing this, Roger begins to dildo
me anally. The mixture of pleasure and pain is so great I cry
out noisily, which excites Roger even more and makes him go
at it even more fiercely.
Quite suddenly, the Oriental pushes both the dog and Roger
away from me and, taking his clothes off quickly, begins to
make love to me. Roger becomes very angry and would interfere,
but the storekeeper speaks in Chinese to the dog, who
turns to Roger and keeps him at bay. Roger becomes furious as
he helplessly watches me responding to the shopkeeper with
my whole being, and not grudgingly as I did to him. I take
great joy in fellating this gentle man and let him have anal
intercourse, which in this case doesn't hurt as it usually does. I
am aching with desire by the time he switches to plain, straight
intercourse. During all this, my lover turns to Roger and says
that if he (Roger) bothers or threatens me anymore, he'll suffer
for it. Roger, coward that he is, believes it and slinks from the
room with the growling dog at his heels. And it is this man's
lovemaking and not Roger's cold-hearted fucking that swiftly
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brings me to one intolerably delicious orgasm on the heels of
another.
And there's the basic form of one of my favorite fantasies,
with true lust triumphant and the villain foiled again.
Again, with gratitude and wishes of success.
 I believe sex is all pervasive in the human mind and body.
While we are buying groceries, we notice how handsome the
clerk in the supermarket may be; women write to me of sexual
fantasies they have had about their dentist while he was drilling
their teeth. But we need a focus, a concrete symbol, picture,
or book to make us aware and comfortable about our freeflowing
sexuality. “Since I read your book, and also while
reading it,” writes Sally, “I began to think about my own fantasies.
I always had these thoughts, since I was around twelve,
but never told anyone…. “
Marylou tells us that she herself denied ever having sexual
fantasies until she read Garden. “No,” she told her friends
when the subject came up; she never had fantasies. “I just
think about my lover.” But little flashbacks were registering in
her head, she says, even while she denied that erotic images
danced in her imagination. “When I read [My Secret Garden],
it dawned on me just like it did on Paula in the book – oh, `a
fantasy is something that makes you feel good.' In fact, most
every scene in the book has run through my fantasies but with
a different script.”
Marylou is an illustration of the fact that we all know more
than we consciously want to know. A great deal of sexual imagery,
daydreaming, reveries, and fantasy are suspended
somewhere in the back of our mind. It is all like some data
bank, where specific bits of information can be quickly brought
forward into consciousness when the right lever is pushed, and
then so quickly wheeled back after use that it is difficult to
remember the thought was ever there to begin with. In this
way, we live with our mental fires banked, our sexuality turned
down low. Perhaps this is necessary to get through the ordinary
business of the ordinary day, a necessary sacrifice of our erotic
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selves on the altar of an industrial society. Still – aren't these
days half-unlived? I believe any stimulation is a positive good;
anything that makes us feel more alive is an absolute benefit. If
an occasional glance at a photo in a magazine, an image on the
television screen or a page in a book makes us feel more intensely,
isn't that life itself? 
Sally
At a suggestion from my s****r, I have just finished reading
your book. I truly thought it was fantastic. I just couldn't put it
down.
First, let me tell you about myself. I am nineteen, just married
last December, and I love sex. My husband is twenty-four
and very healthy.
Since I read your book, and also while I was reading it, I
began to think about my own fantasies. I always had these
thoughts, since I was around twelve, but never told anyone or
acted them out. I guess I never really thought about them until
I read that other women had the same sort of thoughts.
My husband says the kind of sex we have now is fine for
him, and he won't discuss his fantasies. I would like to discuss
mine and several of the others I read about in your book – just
talk about them, that's all – but he doesn't seem to get into it.
I don't masturbate, but often think about it. Perhaps if I read
a really good book on masturbation, or someone discussed it
openly with me, I would try it. When I think of another woman
fingering me and eating me, it excites me intensely. It has
never happened, but it sure sounds good. I also think about big
masculine men, like the kind you see in Playgirl and Viva; I
like to think of them stepping right out of the pages, f***efully
tearing my clothes off and tying me, spread-eagle, arms apart,
to the bedposts. As I look at those photos, I imagine him teasing
me, fingering me to get me going, and then teasing me
with just the head of his cock. I don't know where I get these
ideas, as these are not things my husband does to me – I mean,
teasing me with his cock. I am sure I have read about it somewhere.
In my fantasy, this man from the pages of Playgirl then
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licks my tits and belly button until I plead with him to fuck me,
and at last he does. I don't think of these things when my husband
and I are making love, or doing sixty-nine, but when I am
alone reading porno books. Then it really turns me on. I can
really throw myself into the pages of a good book. It sets my
imagination going and allows me to imagine myself involved
in a sexual world I am sure I will never know. All the men and
women in my fantasies are faceless. They are always strangers.
And even I am not recognizable; the things I allow myself to
do are so unlike me. But how I would love to enjoy the thrills
of the things I have read and seen on the printed page!
It's great to read how other women think, and it's stupid of
me to think we aren't entitled to all the sexual excitement we
can feel in our imaginations.' The men that think we aren't capable
of this kind of excitement must know some pretty dumb
chicks.
Thanks so much.
Marylou
I just finished your book, and I wanted to tell you that I enjoyed
it, and it helped me out.
My girl friend brought the book to me at a picnic. The
women who were there – average mid-twenties, early thirties,
public schoolteachers like myself – denied having fantasies. I
denied it too – “No, I just think about my lover – I've never had
fantasies,” but little flashbacks were registering in my head
that I just couldn't put my finger on. When I read My Secret
Garden, it dawned on me just like it did on Paula in the book –
oh, “a fantasy is something that makes you feel good.” In fact,
most every scene in the book has run through my fantasies but
with a different script. It amused me to even read in the
Quickie section that two different women get their kicks from
Tarzan. He was my earliest fantasy man. Every time I read
Tarzan comics, I'd get a tingle; then I'd make up my own stories
before I fell asl**p at night. I guess I was about twelve. I
later changed to some fantasy boys – Spin and Marty. I suppose
because I could then be included in the story. I day114
dreamed a lot at school too, but I can't remember if they were
sexual types of things. I would imagine, because this pattern
continued – nighttime stories and daydreaming – until I got
married. I remember riding the bus to work, in my early twenties,
fantasizing. My scripts were not very spicy, I don't believe.
They were repressed, and I was sexually frustrated. I had engaged
in every form of foreplay with boyfriends since I was
fifteen, but didn't actually have intercourse till I was twentythree.
It all made me feel guilty, but the fantasies didn't.
I thought my fantasies stopped when I got married seven
years ago, until I read your book. But I have them more than
ever. For almost three years, I've had a real lover, and he is my
fantasy husband. When I go to parties at his house, I always
feel and act as the hostess. And when I go home with my real
husband, I go to bed with my fantasy husband. When he
dances with his wife at these parties, we look at each other in
the mirror over the bar, and we are really in each other's arms.
He is a great fantasizer himself. On our once-a-week sessions
in bed together, my lover and I sometimes fantasize together.
Sometimes our motel room has two double beds in it, and we
talk about the other couple making love in the other bed. Sometimes
we pretend we're making a porno film. I really don't
know why I said I don't have sexual fantasies.
When I masturbate, I sometimes dress in sexy clothes and
watch myself in the mirror. Sometimes I use different garden
vegetables. I go outside and pick a nicely proportioned zucchini
squash.
I'm going to make more use of my fantasies now, instead of
repressing them. It seems to me that without fantasies sex is
mechanical and less fun. My husband and I rarely make love
since I've started my affair. I don't want to leave him. We have
a lot in common, but we can't talk like my lover and I do. I
think it's unrealistic to expect one man to be Mr. Right. It takes
many people to fulfill one person's needs. That sounds so exploitive.
I like to think of myself as fulfilling my own needs,
but I need love, someone to understand, and I need money so I
can have my beautiful house in the country and my stable of
horses. I'd have to live in an apartment on my teaching salary.
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Best wishes on writing your new book. I'm sorry I couldn't
write specific details of fantasies. They are too repressed at this
point, and besides I am an artist. Words have never been my
thing.
My lover should be calling soon. We have a great adventure
ahead with my new viewpoint on fantasies.
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CHAPTER FOUR
FRUSTRATION
 When I began writing My Secret Garden, I said, “Let's
get frustration out of the way first.” It is one of the great misconceptions
many people have that sexual fantasies are the
lonely dreamings of withered-prune old maids. This is just not
true.
While the women in this section are here because in one
form or another they all feel frustration in their lives, only
Laura can be called a virgin – but from her description of her
activities, it is clear that she remains one only technically, only
by centimeters. Biba too comes close to the conventional idea
of frustration. She is very close to term in her third pregnancy
and writes that when fucking becomes uncomfortable, she uses
masturbation and fantasy to take its place.
More often, however, it is my feeling that it is not so much
the lack of sex that leads to the frustration of the women who
write me as it is that the quality of their sexual experience is
not all it might be. Until recently, this unhappiness was unspoken.
In our culture, it was silently agreed that any woman
lucky enough to have a man had no right to complain.
Contrary to popular belief, I think that as women gain more
sexual freedom, we will find greater sexual frustration. Until
recently, young women were so preoccupied with hanging onto
their virginity that their consequent frustration was practically
a badge of virtue. If you turned and tossed in your little single
bed at night, at least you had the dream of keeping that symbolic
rosebud that mother assured you would make you all the
more cherished “when the right man comes along.”
Frustration was something a “good girl” suffered silently
with a Doris Day smile. Nice women just didn't talk about or,
until recently, didn't even admit to themselves the genuine
emotional loneliness and physical pain that can be felt by a
woman who is ready and eager for sex, but is deprived of it.
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(Even before she has had it, she already knows she misses it.
Her fantasies have told her so.)
The pill hasn't changed “everything.” Throughout this book,
you will find letters from women in their twenties who tell me
they are still virgins. So were their mothers. But what is different
today is that an enormous amount of information on the
pleasures of sex is not only available to women but is practically
inescapable: films and television do not let us forget that
others are in sexual ecstasy.
Another little-discussed aspect of liberation that leads to the
sexual frustration of many young women is, ironically enough,
our greater freedom of selection. The most enterprising of the
new generation of women no longer feel pushed or rushed into
marriage. Perhaps they want a career; perhaps they simply
don't want to settle for the first man who comes along. Women
value themselves more, and as we do so, we are becoming
more selective about men. A job you like, work you find satisfying
– something to do that you feel is important – is, I believe,
essential to a good life. Not only is it fulfilling in its own
right but it also helps you resist the demands of our culture to
marry just because you're approaching twenty-five or thirty.
But becoming your own woman, becoming highly educated
and choosy in your sexual tastes, leaves you vulnerable to loneliness.
You can be a virgin and be sexually frustrated. But
every experienced woman knows that to have had sex, good
sex, and then to have to do without it, leaves even more room
for real pain.
In our culture, the pain a woman suffers from sexual deprivation
isn't considered seriously. Not so with men.
The myth says, “Men are different.” Men must have sex. His
wife is frigid, or away in the country – almost any excuse suffices
to “drive” a man to this or that sexual peccadillo. Society
condones a frustrated man getting sex any way he can. Prostitution
was created for him.
But a woman? The idea of a woman being driven to adultery,
homosexuality, male prostitution (if she can find it) –
these notions make us shudder. It is thought demeaning of a
woman to express such strong sexual desires. “She needs it
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bad” is not a sexual compliment; it is a put-down. And yet why
should it be thought that women suffer any less than men from
going without sex? We may not wake up in the morning with
an erection or out of a wet dream, but we dream, and we fantasize
out of lack of sex. We suffer as much from it as any man.
As for married women and sexual frustration, I think we are
just beginning to comprehend the toll that sexless, or sexually
unimaginative, marriages have taken on women. Women like
Lyle are just beginning to cry out against the unfairness or sexual
immaturity of a husband who prefers masturbation to her.
She is contemporary enough to say she doesn't have anything
against him jerking off, except in the way that it cheats her. But
her acceptance of her husband's habits does her no good. She is
left with very imaginative, but lonely, fantasies. 
Laura
First I ought to explain that I'm a s*******n-year-old virgin.
I masturbate almost every day, frequently go out petting with
guys, and love to suck guys off.
Some of my sexual fantasies are of specific things that lave
happened. I lay there and try to recreate in my imagination
some of the sensations I have felt. I love to think of slipping my
hand down a guy's unzipped pants and feeling his hair, reaching
the obstacle of the top of his cock, and feeling his cock
grow. I remember the feeling of his skin sliding as I move my
hand up and down. I like the familiar feeling of a guy rolling
over on top of me (both of us nude), his erect cock pressed
against my stomach – it's probably the temptation (so near, yet
so far) that makes it so exciting. I remember individual gestures,
bedroom jokes, and the smells I enjoyed – wine or pot on
his breath, slight sweatiness, and aftershaves. Each of these
thoughts is a small glimpse rather than a total experience.
My masturbatory fantasies are pi