This is a short fragment for review the book. The full version can be purchased in the store.
DANCER OF GOR (Volume twenty-two in the Chronicles of Counter-Earth) by John Norman
1 A Bit of Silk
I knew that I did not conform to the cultural stereotypes prescribed to me. I had known this for a long time. The dark secrets which lay hidden within me. I had been forced to conceal for several years. I do not know from whence the secrets arose. They were directly contrary to everything that had been taught to me. Their origins, it seemed, were deep within me, and, I feared, as I lay awake at night afraid, sweating and distraught, native to my very nature. But such a nature, I wept, could not be, and if it were, so subtle, so insistent, so persistent, so unrelenting, so tenacious, it must never be admitted, never, never! Yes, I fought them, these secrets, these covert knowledges, these anticipations, these dreams. Yes, I struggled, in accord with the demands of my culture, my training and education, these things telling me how I must be, how I must be as I was told to be, to drive them from me. I repudiated them, again and again, but to no avail. They returned, ever again, mercilessly, horrifying me, taunting and mocking me, stripping me in the darkness of my bed of my pretenses and lies. I squirmed and thrashed in my bed, twisting and weeping, pounding it with my fists, crying out, "No! No!". Then I would put my head fearfully on my pillow, dampened with meaningless, rebellious tears. Could I be so weak and terrible? Could I be truly so different from others? Surely there could be no one in the world so degraded, so shameful and terrible as myself. Then one night I rose from bed and went to the vanity and lit the small candle there. I had bought this candle weeks before, probably because deep within me, within my deepest self, in my anguished mind, in my tortured breast and heart, I knew this night would come. I lit the small candle. I stood there in the flickering light, for some minutes, looking at myself. I wore a white nightgown, ankle length. I had dark hair and eyes. At that time my hair was cut at shoulder length. Then, not looking back to the mirror, I crept in the candlelight and shadows to the dresser and there, from beneath several layers of garments, where I had concealed it, I drew forth a small bit of scarlet cloth, tiny and silken, with shoulder straps, a garment I had myself sewn weeks ago, one in which, save for fittings, often done by feel, with my eyes closed, I never even dared to look upon myself. This, in a sense, was the third such garment I had attempted. The material for the first, not yet even touched by need and thread, or scissors, I had suddenly discarded in terror, months ago. I had actually begun work on the second garment, some two months ago, but, in touching it to my body, for it was the sort of garment which touches the body directly, with no intervening investiture, I had suddenly, comprehending its meaning and nature, begun to shake with terror and, scarcely knowing what I was doing, I feverishly cut and tore it to pieces, and threw it away! But even as I had destroyed it I knew, weeping and distraught, terrified, I would make another. I took the third garment from the drawer. Suddenly I thrust it back in the drawer, again under the other garments, thrusting shut the drawer. Then, after a moment, breathing heavily, trembling, I opened the drawer again, and removed it, once more, from its place. I went back to the vanity not looking in the mirror. I dropped the bit of scarlet silk near my feet on the rug. I was trembling. It seemed I could scarcely get my breath. I lifted my eyes then again to the figure in the mirror. She was not large, but I thought she might be pretty. But it is hard to be objective about such things. I supposed there could be criteria, of one sort or another, in some place or another, of a somewhat ascertainable, quantitative sort, perhaps what men might be willing to pay for you, but even then they would probably be paying for a spectrum of desirabilities, of which prettiness, per se, might be only one, and perhaps not even the most important. I did not know. I suppose even more important would be what a woman looked like to a given man and what he thought he could do with her, or, seeing her, knew he could do with her. I looked at the figure in the mirror. Her nightgown, ankle length, was of white cotton. It seemed rather demure, or timid, I supposed, but there was little doubt that there was a female, and perhaps a rather attractive one, though, to be sure, that would be a judgment for men to more properly make, within it. There were the stains of tears on the cheeks of the girl facing me in the mirror, I noted. She trembled. Her lips moved. Why was she afraid? At what she saw in the mirror? It was herself, surely. Why should she fear that? I saw she wore a nightgown. I liked that. I did not like pajamas. To be sure, she was perhaps too feminine for a woman in these times, but then there are such women, in spite of all. They are real, and their needs are real. I looked at her. Yes, I thought, she was objectively pretty. There was no doubt about it. To be sure, she might not seem so to a crocodile or a tree but she should seem such to a male of her species, and that was what counted. Yes, that was what counted, objectively. To be sure, he would doubtless wish to see if the rest of her matched her face. Men were like that. They were like traders of horses and breeders of dogs, interested in the whole female. I again regarded the girl in the mirror. Yes, I thought, she was too feminine, at least for these times. This was not the sort of woman wanted in our times. She was like something beautiful stranded on a foreign beach. Surely she belonged in another time or place. She seemed in her hormones and beauty, in her needs, like a stranger flung out of time. There she stood in a world alien to her deepest nature, not a man, and not wanting to be one, a victim of time and heredity, of her genetic depths, of biology and history. How lonely and unbefriended, how frustrated, unfulfilled and doleful she was. How tragic is she indeed, I thought, whom the lies of one" s time fail to nourish. I looked again at the girl in the mirror. Surely she might better have cooked meat in the light of a cave fire, the thongs on her left wrist perhaps marking whose woman she was, or with sistrum and hymns, under the orders of priests, welcomed the grand, redemptive, sluggish flows of the Nile; better she had run barefoot on a lonely Aegean beach, her himation gathered to her knees, a fillet of white wool in her hair, watching for oared ships; better she had spun wool in Crete or cast nets, her robes tied to her waist, off the coast of Asia Minor; better she had broken her dolls and put them in the temple of Vesta; better she had been a silken girl breathless behind the wooden screens of the seraglio or a ragged slut on her knees desperately licking and kissing for coins in the sunlit, dusty streets below; better she had been bartered for a thousand horses in Scythia or led to Jerusalem tied by the hair to a Crusader" s stirrup; better to have been a high-born Spanish lady forced to beg to be the bride of a pirate; better to have been an Irish prostitute, her face slashed by Puritans for following the troops of Charles; better to have been a delicate lady of the Regency carried into Turkish slavery; better to have been a Colonial dame spinning in Ohio, looking up to see her first red master. I put down my head, and shook it. Such thoughts must be put from my mind, I told myself. But the girl stood there, still stood there, in the mirror. She had not left, or fled. How bold she was, or how deep were her needs! I shuddered. How many times I had awakened from sleep, moving against the coarse, narrow cords which had held me down, above and below my breasts and crossed between them, leaving their cruel marks on my body! How many times had I awakened, seeming still to feel the tight bite of cruel shackles on my wrists and ankles. How many times had I, bound at their mercy, looked up at them? How many times had I recoiled from the blows of their whips, only to crawl then to their feet, piteous and contrite, begging to please them? I was a female. Not looking in the mirror I drew off the nightgown and held it clenched in my hand. I then crouched down and put it gently on the rug, beside the bit of silk. I hesitated. Then I picked up the bit of silk and, standing, not looking in the mirror, I drew it on. It was on me! I closed my eyes. I felt on my skin its silken presence, almost nothing, little more than a whisper or a mockery. I drew it at the hem down more against my body, perhaps defensively, that I might feel it on me the more, that I might assure myself, I told myself, the more of its presence, that I was truly garmented, but this, too, of course, merely confirmed upon me not uncertainly the insidious disturbing subtlety of its slightness, the so undeniable, so insistent, scandalous feel of its slightness, its shameful, mocking silken caress, and, too, as I drew it down, it clung more closely about me, it seemed that it would then, almost as though scornfully, imperiously, in amusement, given its nature, respond to my efforts at modesty only by producing a further and yet greater revelation and betrayal of my beauty. I stood there, the garment on. I turned then to the mirror, and opened my eyes. Suddenly I gasped and was giddy. For a moment it seemed blackness swam about me, and I fought for breath. My knees almost buckled. I struggled to retain consciousness. I looked in the mirror. Never had I seen myself thusly. I was terrified. In the mirror there was a different woman than the world knew of me, one they had never seen, one they had never suspected. What was that thing she wore? What sort of garment could that be, so delicious and brief, so excruciatingly and uncompromisingly feminine? Surely no real woman, hostile, unloving, demanding, shrill and frustrated, zealous in her conformance to stereotypes, attempting desperately to find satisfaction in such things, would wear such a garment. It was too female, too feminine. How could she be identical to a male in such a garment? It would show her simply that she was not. How could she keep her dignity and respect in such a garment? It would show her simply that she was beautifully, and utterly different from a man. It was the sort of garment a man might throw to a woman to wear, amused to see her in it. What sort of woman, of her own free will, would put on such a garment? Surely no real woman. It was too feminine. Surely only a terrible woman, a low woman, a shameful, wicked, worthless woman, a reproach to her entire sex, one with depths and needs antedating her century, one with needs, not indexed to political orthodoxies, one with needs older and deeper, and more real and profound, more ancient and marvelous than those dictated to her by intellectual aberrations antithetical to biology, truth, history and time. I put my hand before my mouth, frightened. I stood there, regarding myself, then, shamed, and humbled and thrilled. I knew then it was I in the mirror, and none other. Perhaps what I saw was not a real woman in some invented, artificial, contemptible, grotesque modern sense, but I thought she was a woman nonetheless and one in some even suddenly significant force, that that there were two sexes, and that they were quite different. I regarded myself in the mirror, and trembled, wondering what this might mean, fully. I feared to consider the matter. What did it mean, that we were not the same as men, that we were so different? Was this really totally meaningless, a unique accident in the history of a world, a random paragraph written in the oceans, in the records of steaming swamps, in the journals of primeval forests, in the annals of the grasslands and deserts, of vacillating glaciers and damp, flowering valleys, of the basins of broad rivers and of the treks of nomads, wagons and armies, or were there biological proprieties, destinies and natures to be fulfilled? I did not know. But I knew how I felt. I lowered my hand and turned, slowly, before the mirror. I considered myself, and was, truly, not displeased. I was not a man, and did not want to be one. I was a female. I choked back a sob. I wondered what it might mean, that men, until we had managed to turn them against themselves, until we had managed to tie and cripple them, were so much stronger, so much more powerful, than we. There was no nether closure, by intent, in the tiny garment I had fashioned. It was open at the bottom. This had seemed to me necessary, somehow, when I had made it. That had seemed to me interesting at the time, but I thought that now I might more fully understand its meaning. It was the garment, particularly in its brevity, of a woman who, whether she willed it or not, was to be kept open to the touch of a man. It was, in its way, a convenience for the male, indeed, even an invitation to his predation; too, similarly, it was, to her, her vulnerability, and nature, reminding her of what she was, and her meaning. I wondered if anywhere there might be true men, men capable of answering the scream of need in a woman, capable of taking us in hand and treating us, and handling us, as what we were, females. Alas, I did not think so. Before the mirror I sobbed. Then I thought that somewhere, surely, there must be such men! Surely somewhere in nature there must be an accounting for them, as there was an accounting for the dances of bees and the fragrances of flowers, for the fleetness of the antelope and the teeth of the tiger, for the migrations of fish and birds, for the swarming of insects, for the turning of turtles to the sea. Somehow there must be a reason for the way I felt, something beyond all denials, denunciations and rationalizations. Such needs bespoke something deep within me, but I dared not consider what it might be. I was lonely and miserable! I wondered if somewhere in nature there might lie not only an explanation for these needs, so seemingly mysterious and inexplicable, given my environment, my education, my training, my conditioning, so different from them, but also some dark complement to them, some response to them, or answer to them. Did they not belong in some organic whole, in some natural relationship, selected for throughout time and history? The bee" s dances betokened the direction and distance of nectar; the fragrance of the flower, seemingly such a meaningless thing of beauty, called forth, luring the bee to its pollen; the swiftness of the antelope paid tribute to the ferocity and agility of the carnivore, the fangs of the carnivore to the elusiveness of his quarry; at the ends of migrations lay the spawning waters and nesting grounds of species; swarmings brought sexes into proximity; and meaning was given to the trek of the turtle, as it led at last to the sea. I considered what might be the answer, the response, in nature, to the needs I felt, if there was one, what might be the nature of the startling organic whole, if it existed, the natural relationship, if there should be such, in which they figured. I wondered what might possibly be the complement in nature to these overwhelming, undeniable, persistent things within me, which had so distressed and troubled me, which now so obsessed me, which caused me such anguish, these irresistible calls and cries within me, the agonizing needs I felt, and I shuddered. I looked in the mirror. How brazen she was to see herself in such a garment! I wondered how she might look, so clad, or perhaps in less, to a man. Suddenly she seemed small, and beautiful, and so vulnerable, and inutterably desirable. I sensed then what might be the nature of the complement in nature to my needs, what might be their flower, their sea, their carnivore, and I stood there terrified, sensing the imperiousness of that complement, its power, its uncompromising ferocity, what it might be to be its object, and knowing that if it existed it would have its way and be absolutely served.
How pleased I was, then, that surely no such complement could exist, that I was safe. I had nothing to fear.
I continued to look at the girl in the mirror. She was exquisite, I thought. She is beautiful, I thought, standing there in the brief silk, in the candlelight, so softly revealed. I had not realized she was so beautiful. I had never seen her before, it seemed, thusly, I had not guessed how marvelous she might be. Yes, it is fortunate that men such as those in my dreams do not exist. I thought, for what then, beauty, would be your fate at their hands? I considered what I might look like, with a chain on my neck. Such men, I thought, would take few chances of losing you, Doreen. Doubtless you would be kept in superb custody, if even the least sort of escape were remotely conceivable. I wonder if you would learn quickly to serve them well, according to their tiniest caprices. Yes, I thought, I would learn quickly and well. It would not be pleasant to feel their whips. I wept then, again, wondering if perhaps I had not been born elsewhere, perhaps time and time again, in other times, if I had not lived in Egypt or Sumer, or Chaldea, in rocky Hellas, or verdant Sybaris or bustling Miletus, if I had not been kept in the great palace in Persepolis, if I might not have seen Alexander, kneeling to him as a Persian slave, if I might not, a barbarian girl, have entered Rome in chains, herded before the chariot of a general, gracing with others his triumph, if I might not, as a Moslem girl, have served Crusaders in some remote fortress, or, as a Christian slave, found myself shamelessly exhibited and sold in an Arab market, thence to be taught to dance for masters.
Then I put such thoughts from my head. I did not think the explanation for my needs, the mysterious things within me, which were so different from what I had been taught, could be so complex, or simple, as racial memories, or the memories of individuals whom I might have been in other places and times. They were rather, I suspected, though I could not know, a simple heritage of my sex, but there was this to be said, had I lived in another place or time I might perhaps have found female fulfillments which, categorically, it seemed, were to be denied to me in my present world, the neuteristic, anonymous world, so inimical to individuality and love, in which I found myself a prisoner of time and circumstance.
I looked into the mirror, and smiled. To be sure, I thought, perhaps you were once an Irish girl tied between the benches of a Viking ship, bound for Iceland, or a pale, prim English lady carried to Barbary, in 1802, who will be taught to feel, and serve dark masters in helpless ecstasy, but perhaps, too, you were not. That was she, and not really you. But who are you? Is there a ship somewhere that will come for you? Are the chains forged that will bind your limbs? Is there an iron, somewhere, waiting to be heated, which will mark your body? Is there a collar, somewhere, unknown to you, that you will someday know well, because it had been locked on your neck? I wonder. You are beautiful. I do not think men would be patient with you. They would want superb service, with no hesitation or compromise. You are that beautiful. Be pleased that men do not exist such as in your dreams, Doreen, for in their power, and in their arms, you would be raped, humiliated and unspeakable degraded. You do not know, responding helplessly to them, what they might make you, what you might become, I laughed, scornfully. What you might become? How pretentious you are! Do you think I do not know you, who you are, and what you are? Perhaps what you are is hidden from all the world, but it is not hidden from me! I know you, and what you are! Speak honestly or be beaten! What you might become, indeed! What you might become, I retorted, you already know in your heart, and know it fully well, you petty, lovely hypocrite, you already are!
The girl in the mirror looked startled, and then pouting, and angry.
"Is it not true?" I challenged her.
"Yes!" she sobbed. "It is true!"
"Are you not rather burdensomely garbed?" I asked.
She drew off the tiny bit of silk. I watched her in the mirror. "You may dance," I told her.
She looked at me, defiantly.
"You want to dance," I told her. "Dance."
I then, startled, saw her, myself, in the mirror. "Who are you?" I asked, "Who taught you to move like that? Where did you come from? Can you be truly Doreen? You are not Doreen as I have seen her before. Are you I? Are we the same? Surely that cannot be I! No one showed you such a dance! Has there been such a dance lurking in you all this time? Can we be the same? Surely that cannot be! Surely I must stop! You are the Doreen I must conceal, the Doreen whom I must, whatever be the cost or anguish, never permit to be seen, or even suspected! You are the Doreen I must deny. You are the Doreen I must hide! Yet you are my true self. I know that! It is my true self then that I must deny, and hide!"
I watched her.
"You bitch!" I chided her. "You brazen bitch! You meaningless, brazen little bitch!"
I watched. How shameless, how meaningless, how terrible, how worthless she was, that girl in the mirror, that writhing, astounding, uncontrollably sensuous little bitch!
She continued to dance.
I saw that she was worthless indeed, worth less than the dirt beneath the feet of gods, but that, too, in her way, she possessed incredible riches and power, in her beauty and femaleness, and in her dance. In the sense in which a free person was priceless, she was worthless, but, too, in her way, I could see that she would have value, value as a pair of boots might have value or a dog. She was the sort of person who would have a finite, measurable value. She was the sort of woman on whom a fair price could be put.
I collapsed to the rug, naked. I felt its coarse nap on my thigh and side. I clutched my arms about myself. I drew my legs up. I was terrified. I wept. I could not understand what I had done, and seen. The girl in the mirror was now gone. We were now one. I trembled.
I lay there for better than an hour, I think, in the flickering shadows, naked, on the rug. I listened to the sounds from outside, mostly those of traffic. Eventually the tiny candle burned out.
2 The Dictionary
The book is her," I said, "on the bottom shelf."
"Get it," he said.
Never again, of course, had I dared to don the tiny silken garment. I would have been too terrified to have done so. It brought out things too deep and marvelous, too shameful and terrible, too precious and beautiful in me. But it remained with my things, in the dresser. Nonetheless my life had changed, somehow, in perspective or understanding, if not greatly in overt deed or obvious fact, that night when I had seem myself as I was, or might be, in the mirror, when I had come to incontrovertibly learn my true nature, a nature which must be forever denied, thwarted and frustrated, a nature that had no place in my world.
"Yes?" I had asked, looking up from behind the reference desk. My heart had almost stopped beating. He was large, and supple. His hands and arms, long arms, seemed powerful. He was dressed in a dark business suit, with a tie. There seemed, however, something subtly awry with this vesture. He did not seem at ease somehow in this garment. There seemed something alien about him, something foreign. What startled me most about him at first, I think, was his eyes, and how they looked at me. I was not certain I could fathom such a look, but it had terrified me. It was almost, I had inexplicably felt, as though his eyes could see through my clothing. Perhaps, I thought, such a man has looked on many women, and would have difficulty in conjecturing the general nature of my most intimate lineaments. In that instant I had felt, in effect, naked before him. and then he had lifted his head and was glancing about the room, as thought he might understand my apprehension at being beneath a gaze such as him. "Yes?" I repeated, as pleasantly as I could, catching my breath. He looked back at me, swiftly, fiercely. He was not interested in my pretenses, my games. I quickly lowered my head, unable, somehow, to meet that gaze. It is difficult to explain this, but if you meet such a man, you will know it. Before such a man a female can suddenly feel herself nothing. Then I sensed him turning again to one side. Mercifully I knew he had freed me of his gaze. I lifted my eyes a little, but not so much as to risk, should he turn, encountering his.
"Have you Harper" s Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities?" he asked.
"Of course," I said, in relief. Suddenly our relationship became explicable and modular. "Its number is in the card catalog," I said.
I sensed him looking at me.
"You can fine the number for it in the card catalog," I told him.
He did not move toward the card catalog.
"Can you recognize it?" I asked.
He was silent. I sensed he might be becoming angry. Did he think I was going to wait on him?
"If you can recognize it," I said, "I can tell you where it is. It is down that aisle, and on the left, toward the end, on the bottom shelf."
"Show me," he said.
"I" m busy," I said.
"No, you are not," he said. To be sure, he was right. I was not really busy. Perhaps he had determined that before he had come to the desk. I had a distinct, uneasy sense, then, that he might be remembering, and keeping an account in some way, of my petty delays.
I rose from behind the desk. He stood back. I would precede him. That was appropriate, of course, as it was I who knew where the book was. To be sure, it made me uneasy to walk before him. No one, or hardly anyone, as far as I knew, incidentally, ever used that book or showed any interest in it. We learn of it, of course, in library science. It is a standard reference work in its area. I knew where it was, from shelf reading. Too, of course, I knew the general range of numbers within which it fell. Indeed, I had had to memorize such things for examinations. I preceded the fellow to the aisle, and down it. It seemed, somehow, now, that the shelves were close on both sides. The space between them seemed somehow narrower, and more wall-like, than usual. The library is well lit. I was very conscious of him behind me. I did not think he was a classics scholar. "Perhaps you want to look up something for a crossword puzzle." I said, lightly. Then I was afraid, again, doubtless foolishly, that he might be keeping an account of such things as my remark. Perhaps it had not pleased him. But what did it matter whether he was pleased or not?
"You are wearing a skirt," he said.
I stopped, frightened. I turned and looked at him, briefly. He was a quite large man anyway, but here, in this enclosed space, the shelves on each side, he seemed gigantic. I felt tiny before him. His bulk, somehow seemingly ungainly in that suit and tie, seemed to fill the space between the shelves. "Is the book here?" he asked. "No," I said. But I felt suddenly, and the thought frightened me, that he knew where the book was, that he knew very well where the book was. I then turned and continued down the aisle. In a moment I had reached its vicinity. I could see it there now, on the bottom shelf.
"It" s there," I said, "on the bottom shelf, that large book. You can see the title."
"Are you a female intellectual?" he asked.
"No," I said, hastily.
"But you are a librarian," he said.
"I am only a simple librarian," I said.
"You have probably read a great deal," he said.
"I have read a little," I said, uncertainly, uneasily.
"Perhaps you are the sort of woman who has read more than she has lived," he said.
"The book is on the bottom shelf," I said.
"But soon perhaps," he said, "books will be behind you."
"It is down there," I said, "on the shelf, on the bottom."
"Are you a modern woman?" he asked.
"Of course," I said. I did not know what else to say. In one sense, of course, I supposed this was terribly false.
"Yes," he said. "I can see that it is true. You are tight, and prissy." I made as though to leave, but his eyes held me where I was, immobile. It was almost as though I was held in place, standing there, before him, by a fixed collar, mounted on a horizontal rod, extending from a wall.
"Are you one of the modern women who are intent upon destroying me?" he asked. I regarded him, startled.
"Are you guilty of such crimes?" he asked.
"I do not know what you are talking about," I said, frightened.
He smiled. "Are you familiar with the book on the bottom shelf?" he asked.
"Not really," I said. It was a standard reference source, but in a limited area. I had never used it.
"There are several such books," he said, "but it is surely one of the finest." "I am sure it is a valuable, excellent reference work," I said.
"it tells of a world, very different from that in which you live," he said, "a world very much simpler, and more basic, a world more fundamental, and less hypocritical, and far fresher and cleaner, in its way, and more alive and wild than yours."
"Than mine?" I said. His voice, now that he spoke at length, seemed to have some trace of an accent. But I could not begin to place it.
"It is a world in which men and women stood closer to the fires of life," he said. "It was a world of tides and gods, of spears and Caesars, of games, and wreathes of laurel, of the clash, detectable for miles, of phalanxes, of the marchings of legions, in measured stride, of the long roads and the fortified camps, of the coming and going of the oared ships, of the pourings of offerings, wine and salt, and oil, into the sea."
I said nothing.
"And in such a world women such as you were bought and sold as slaves," he said. "That world is gone," I said.
"There is another, not unlike it, which exists," he said.
"That is absurd," I said.
"I have seen it," he said.
"The book is here," I said, "on the bottom shelf." I was trembling. I was terribly, frightened.
"Get it," he said.
I lowered myself to my knees. I drew out the book. I looked up at him. I was on my knees before him.
"Open it," he said.
I did so. Within it was a sheet of folded paper.
I opened the sheet of folded paper. On it was writing.
"Read it," he said.
"I am a slave," I read. Then I looked up. He had left. I leaned over, on my knees, bending far over, clutching the paper. I was giddy and faint. Then I looked up once more after him. The aisle was empty. I wondered if he would come back for me. Then I felt suddenly frightened, and ill, and hurried to the ladies" room.
3 The Library
I put the bells about my ankle.
It was dark now in the library, and it was past ten thirty. We had closed more than an hour ago.
The incident in the reference section, that in connection with Harper" s Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities, that in which I had been so frightened, had occurred more than three months ago. In that incident it seemed that I had found myself at the feet of a man. To be sure, it was merely that I was kneeling to draw forth a book. I was a librarian. I was only being helpful, surely. Too, it had seemed that I had, before him, aloud, confessed that I was a slave. But that was an absurd interpretation, surely, of what had occurred. I was only reading the paper I had found in the book. That was all. I had taken the paper home. The next day, after a troubled, restless night, and after hours of anxiety, misery and hesitation, I had suddenly, feverishly, burned it. Thus I had hoped to put it from me, but I knew the thing had happened, that the words had been said, and had had their meaning, that which they had had at the time, and not necessarily that which I might now fervently desire to ascribe to them, and to such a man. That the paper might be burned could not undo what was now transcribed in the reality of the world. The incident, as you might well imagine, had much disturbed me. For days it dominated my consciousness, obsessing me. Then, later, mercifully, when I gradually began to understand how foolish my fears were, I was able to return my attention to the important routines of my life, my duties in the library, my reading, my shopping, and so on. Once in a while, of course, the terrors and alarms of that incident, suddenly, unexpectedly, would rise up, flooding back upon me, but on the whole, I had, it seemed, forgotten about it. I rationally dismissed it, which was the healthy thing to do. The whole thing had been silly. Sometime I wondered if it had even happened. I would recall sometimes the eyes of the man. The thing that had perhaps most impressed me about him, aside from his size, his seeming vigor and formidableness, was his eyes. They had not seemed like the eyes of the men I knew. In them there had seemed an incredible intelligence, a savagery, an uncompromising ferocity. In those eyes, in that fierce gaze, I had been unable to detect reservations, inhibitions, hesitancies or guilt. He seemed to be the sort of man, and the only one of this sort I had ever met, who would do much what he pleased, and take what he wanted. He seemed to carry with him the right of power and lions. I had no doubt that he was totally my superior. There had been, however, I think, one explicit consequence, or residue, of that incident. I think it served, somehow, in some way, to trigger a resolve on my part to do something which for me, if not for other women, required great courage. It brought me to my lessons. For months before, I had toyed with the idea, or the fancy, or fantasy, the idea first having emerged after I had seen myself in the mirror on that incredible night in my room, of taking lessons in dance. I had almost died on the phone, making inquiries about these things, and more than once, suddenly blushing crimson, or, from the feel of it, I suppose so, had hung up the phone without identifying myself. I was not interested, of course, in such forms of dance as ballet or tap. I was interested in a form of dancing which was more basic, more fundamental, more female. The form of dance I was interested in, of course, and this doubtless accounted for my timidity, my hesitation and fear, was ethnic dance, or, if you prefer, to speak perhaps more straightforwardly, "belly dancing." Happily it was always women who answered the phone. I do not think I could have dared to speak to a man of this sort of thing. Like most modern women I was concerned to conceal my sexual needs. To reveal them would have been just too excruciatingly embarrassing. What woman would dare to reveal to a man that she wants to move, would dare to move, before those of his sex in so beautiful and exciting a manner, in a way that will drive them mad with the wanting of her, in a way that shows them that she, too, has powerful sexualneeds, and in her dance, as she presents and displays herself, striving to please them, that she wants them satisfied? Surely no virtuous woman. Surely only a despicable, sensuous slut, the helpless prisoner of her undignified and unworthy passions. In the end I called up the first woman, again, on whom I had, some days ago, hung up. "Have you done belly dancing before?" she asked. "Not really," I said. "You are a beginner?" she asked. "Yes," I said. I had not really thought much about it before, but it seemed there must then be various levels of this form of dance. I found that intriguing. "I understand it is good exercise," I said. "Yes," she said. "New classes begin Monday, in the afternoon and evening. Are you interested?" "Yes," I said. I had said, "Yes." That affirmation I think, did me a great deal of good. I had publicly admitted my interest in this sort of thing. Somehow that made things seem much simpler, much easier. If I had lost status in this admission, it had now been lost, and it was now no longer to be worried about. But the woman did not seem surprised, or offended or scandalized. "What is your name?" she asked. I gave her my name. I was committed. I had taken these lessons now for almost three months, and in more than one course of instruction. I kept my new form of exercise, or my new hobby, if you like, secret from those at the library, and those I knew. It would not do at all for them to know that I was studying ethnic dance. Let them think of me merely as Doreen, their co-worker or friend, the quiet reference librarian. It was not necessary for them to know that sometimes, when we utilized costumes, other than our leotards and scarves, that that quiet Doreen, barefoot, in anklets and bracelets, with whirling necklaces, with her midriff bared, sometimes with her thighs stripped, swirled in fringed halter and shimmering skirt, with tantalizing veils, to barbaric music. I think I was the best in my classes. My teacher, she also with whom I had spoken on the phone, proved to be an incredibly lovely woman. She seemed incredibly pleased with my progress. Often she would give me extra instruction. I was her star pupil. Often, too, she would call to my attention offers or engagements, at parties and clubs, and such. It was natural that she would e contacted with regard to such matters. I always refused to go, of course. "But you would be beautiful, and marvelous," she would encourage me. "No," I would laugh. "No! No! I would be terrible!" One or another of the other girls, then, would be contacted, and they would go. Several, I thought, were wonderful. Women are so beautiful, thusly. Never would I, however, have had the courage to dance publicly. Too, suppose someone had seem me, like that. To be sure my dance, whatever might have been its motivations, conscious or subconscious, did have various lovely accompanying effects. I found myself slimmer and trimmer than before, and more vital than before. Too, I think the dance served some purpose within me, thought I am not sure what it was. Perhaps it helped me get more in touch with my womanhood. To be sure, sometimes it made me sad, as if in some way it seemed incomplete, as though it were only part of a whole, a lovely part of a whole that was not fully available to me. "It would help, of course," my teacher said to me, "if you would perform. It is meant to be seen. You do not know what it is truly like until you have performed." "I would be afraid to perform," I said. "Why?" she asked. I put down my head, not wanting to speak. "Because there are men there?" she asked. I looked up. "Yes," I said. "Do you think these dances are for women?" she said. "That is their purpose." "Please," I protested. "And there would not be one man here, one real man," she said, "who, seeing you half naked in your jewelry and veils, would not want to put a chain on you, and own you." I looked at her, startled. "I see that such thoughts are not new to you," she smiled. "I thought not." How could she have known that I had had such thoughts? Could it be that she,too, had them, as she was a woman? I will recount one further anecdote from my lessons. It occurred yesterday evening. We were in class. We were dancing, twenty of us, in leotards, and shawls or scarves, to the music on the tape recorder. Then suddenly she said to us, scornfully. "What is wrong? You are dancing tonight like free women. You must improve that. You must dance like slaves."
"Like slaves," I said.
"Yes," she said. "Keep dancing, all of you!" In a moment, she said, "That" s better. That" s much better." She walked about, among us. Then she was before me. I was in the front row. "Keep dancing, Doreen," she said, warningly. I was then, for the moment, afraid of her. I kept dancing. "Imagine now," she said to me, "what it would be to do that before a man, Doreen. Suppose, now, there is a man present. He is a strong man. You are before him. Dance! Ah! Good! Good!" I gather I must have danced well. "Good," she said. "Very good. That is very good. Now you are dancing like a slave."
"I am not a slave," I protested.
"We are all slaves," she said, and walked away.
I smiled, hooking the scarlet halter before my belly and then turning it and putting my arms through the straps, pulling it up, adjusting it snugly into place. I am, like most women, amply, but medium-breasted. I ran my thumbs about the interior of my belt, adjusting the drape of the skirt. I have a narrow waist with, I think, sweetly wide hips. My legs were short but shapely, excellent I think for a dancer, or at least a dancer of the sort I was, an ethnic dancer. I put on armlets, bracelets and, opposite the bells on my left ankle, a goldenlike anklet on my right ankle. I put my necklaces about my neck, the five of them. With such an abundance of splendor I thought might strong men bedeck their women. I examined myself in the mirror in the ladies" room at the library. How amusing, and absurd, I thought that my teacher had said that we were slaves. I was ready.
I turned off the light in the ladies" room and emerged into the hall-like way between the interior wall, that enclosing the washrooms and part of the children" s section, and the openings between the shelves on the western side of the library. One of the doors to the children" s section was on the left. The information desk was on the right. I sometimes worked there. I stood for a moment in the hall-like way. It was dark in the library, quite dark. Then I went right, making my way along the hall-like way toward the open, central section of the library, where the information desk was, and there went left, toward the reference section. On my right were the card catalogs and then, later, the xerox machines. On one of the tables in the reference section I had left my small tape recorder. With it were some tapes which I had purchased. There were tapes of a sort suitable for ethnic dancing. I used them often for my private practice. Also, from time to time, I sometimes told myself it was because of the smallness of my apartment, I was in the habit of coming to the library, after hours, of course, to dance. I would let myself in through the staff entrance. This was on the lower level, near the parking lot. I enjoyed dancing here. I do not think, really, that this was all simply a matter of space. Perhaps it amused me to dance her, where I worked, I do not know. Perhaps I enjoyed the contrast, known only to me, between quiet Doreen, the librarian, and Doreen, the secret Doreen of my heart, the dancer, or far worse. Too, there seemed something meaningful, something rich and almost symbolic, perhaps even defiant, about dancing here, in this place where I worked, with its whispers, its sedateness, its cerebral pretensions, to dance here, in this place, as a woman. No, I do not think it was really all a matter of space. How startled my co-workers would have been if they could have seen me, Doreen, barefoot, half naked, belled and bangled, dancing, and such dancing, dancing almost as though she might be a slave! And so it was here, in this private, perfect place, that I presented, in effect, my secret performances, performances which I had, of course, determined to keep wholly to myself, performances which I would never permit anyone to see, here where no one would ever know, where no one would even suspect, here where I was absolutely alone, where I was perfectly secure and safe.
I moved, warming up, preparing my muscles. I was intent, and careful. A dancer, of course, does not simply begin to dance. That can be dangerous. She warms up. It is like an athlete warming up, I suppose. As I warmed up, I could hear the jewelry on me, the tiny sounds of the skirt. Bells, too, marked these movements. I was belled. These I had fastened, in three lines, they fastened on a single thong, about my left ankle. Men, I sensed, somehow, would relish an ornamented woman, perhaps even one who was shamefully belled.
I went to the table where rested the small recorder. I was excited, as I always was, somehow, before I danced. I picked up one tape, put it aside, and selected another. It was to that that I should dance.
Men had always, it seemed, at least since puberty, been more disturbing, and interesting and attractive to me than they should have been to a modern woman, or a real woman. They had always seemed far more important to me than they were really supposed to be. They were only men, I had been taught. But even so, they were men, even if that were all they were. I could never bring myself to think of them, really, as persons. To me they always seemed more meaningful, and virile, than that, even the men I knew. To me, in spite of their cowardice and weakness, they still seemed, in a way, men, or at least the promise of men. Beyond this, after that night, long ago, in my bedroom, that night in which I had admitted to myself my real nature, though I had denied it often enough since, my interest in me had been considerably deepened. After my confession to myself, kneeling before my vanity in the darkness of my room, they had suddenly become a thousand times more real and frightening to me. And this interest in them, and my sensitivity to them, and my awareness of them, had been deepened further, I think, in my experience with dance. I do not think this was simply a matter of a modest reduction in my weight and, connected with this, and the exercise, a noticeable improvement in my figure, helping me to a more felicitous and reassuring self-image, that of a female in clear, lovely contrast to a male, or the dance" s prosaic improvement of such things as my circulation, my body tone, and general health, though, to be sure, it is difficult for a woman to be healthy, truly healthy, and not be interested in men, but what was really important, rather, or especially important, I think, was the nature of the dance itself, the kind of dance it was. In this form of dance a woman becomes aware of the marvelous, profound complementaries of sexuality, that she, clearly, is the female, beautiful and desirable, and that they, watching her, being pleased, their eyes alit, strong and mighty, are different from her, that they are men, and that, in the order of nature, she, the female of their species, belongs to them. It is thus impossible for her, in this form of dance, not to become alertly, deeply, keenly aware of the opposite sex.
Do we truly belong to me, I asked myself. No, I laughed. No, of course not! How silly that is!
I inserted the tape in the recorder.
My finger hesitated over the button. But perhaps it is true, really, I thought. I shrugged. It seemed that men did not want us, or that men of the sort I knew did not want us. If they did want us why did they not take us, and make us theirs? I wondered, then, if there were a different sort of men, somewhere, the sort of men who might want us, truly, and take us, and make us theirs. Surely not. Men did not do what they wanted with women, never. Surely not! Nowhere! Nowhere! But I knew, of course, that men had, and commonly had, in thousands of places, for thousands of years, treated us, or some women, at least, perhaps luckless, unfortunate ones, exactly as they had pleased, holding them and keeping them, as no more than dogs and chattels. How horrifying, I thought. But surely men such as that no longer existed, and my recurrent longing for them, a needful, desperate longing, as I sometimes admitted to myself, must be no more than some pathetic, vestigial residue of a foregone era. Perhaps it was an odd, anachronistic inherited trait, a genetic relic, tragically perhaps, in my case, no longer congruent with its creature" s environment. I wondered if I had been born out of my time. Surely a woman such as I, I thought, might better have thrived in Thebes, or Rome, or Damascus. But I was real, and was as I was, in this time. Did this not suggest then that somewhere, somehow, there might be something answering to my yearnings, my hungers and cries? How was it that I should cry out in the darkness, if, truly, there were no one, anywhere, to hear? Be pleased there isn" t, little fool, I snapped to myself. Of course there wasn" t. I reassured myself. How terrifying it would be if there were. I decided I would now dance. I recalled that the man in the aisle, he in the incident which had taken place some three months ago, that in connection with Harper" s Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities, had spoken of a world like one long past, a world in which, as he had said, women such as myself were bought and sold as slaves. I dismissed the thought immediately from my mind. But I knew there was another reason I had come to the library to dance, one I had seldom admitted to myself. It was here, in this place, over there to my left, where I had found myself kneeling before a man, where I had found myself saying aloud, "I am a slave." I would now dance. I decided, as a pleasant fancy, that I would pretend something naughty, as I occasionally did, that I was truly a slave, on such a world, and that I was dancing before masters. Oh, I would dance well! The masters, as I dreamed of them, of course, and as they figured in my fancies, were not the men of Earth, or, at least, not men like most of those of Earth. No, they would be different. They would be quite different. They would be quite different. They would be such as before whom a girl could quite properly, and, indeed, perhaps even in fear of her life, realistically dance, and dance desperately, hoping to be found pleasing, or acceptable. They would be true men. They would be her masters.
I pressed the button on the tape recorder and there, in the darkness, in the library, my bare feet feeling the coarse piling of the thin, stained carpet, to the soft sounds of bells, those tied on my ankle, I danced. I danced for some time, lost in my delights, and I danced, or tried to, as would have, as I had planned, a mere slave, needful and fearful, before those who held over her the power of life and death, before her masters.
I cried out, suddenly, startled. I stopped, with a jangle of bells, and a swirl of skirt. I shrank back, my hand flung before my mouth. "Who are you?" I cried, to the figure standing in the shadows, some feet away, but I knew. I backed away, my hand at my breast. I was suddenly conscious, terribly, of my bare feet, of the bells on one ankle, the anklets on the other, of the nakedness of my legs with the swirling, veil-like skirt, of the bareness of my midriff, of my bared arms and shoulders, of the jewelry upon me. My breasts heaved, as I struggled for breath, within the scarlet halter which confined them. I put my hand out, as though to fend him away, backing yet further away. "Who are you!" I cried. "Do you think to play games with me?" he inquired.
"What are you doing here!" I cried.
"Can you not guess?" he asked.
"You have no business here," I said. "Go away!""My business brings me here," he said.
I looked wildly about me, and was going to turn, and flee, when I cried out, again. To my right there was another man. I spun about. Behind me, a few feet, and to my left, there was another!
The man who was to my right turned off the tape recorder.
I stood there, in swirling skirt and bells. Then suddenly I fled between the man before me and he on my right, running between the tables and toward the shelves. The fellow on the right, I think, came after me. I fled, with a jangle of bells, down the stairs, to the lower level. I yanked wildly on the heavy door there. I was terrified. I would run out into the night, even as I was. It did not budge. The handle seemed warm. The bolt area, too, was warm. I gasped. It was rippled. It had apparently been exposed to great heat, in a small area, and it had melted there, and then hardened. The door would not open. In effect, somehow it seemed welded shut. Hearing the men, or one of them behind me, I then fled to the others stairs, and thence upward again, to the main level of the library. I hurried toward the front entrance. The fellow whom I had first seen was now standing there, before the door. He looked at me. He slipped a small object into his pocket. That door, too, I thought wildly, is now sealed! Thusly they could close a door. Similarly, doubtless, with heat, they could as easily open one! There was a technology here which frightened me. I turned and fled back, again, toward the area where I had originally been surprised. The return desk was on my left, the information desk ahead and to my right. I turned suddenly to the left and fled down the hall-like way between the shelves and the washrooms. At the end of this I saw another man. I think he who had originally followed me. I turned to the left, to lock myself in the ladies" room, but the door hung awry on one hinge. I had not heard breakage. It must have done, again, with heat. The door was useless! I could not hide there! I cried out in misery. But then, too, I realized, suddenly, if I had hidden there I would have been trapped. They could open that door, surely, as easily as they opened and closed others. Why then had they set the door awry? With a sinking feeling I realized perhaps it had amused them, that it must have been merely to inform me that there was no place, really, to hide! Too, there seemed something symbolic in this. In my culture men could not enter the ladies" room. Its precincts were not permitted to them. It was a place where women could go, and be safe. But now, it seemed, that I had not even this symbolic security, this pathetic figment of a convention, to protect me. There was no place to hide! There was no place to be safe! These men, I feared, came from a place where perhaps no woman, or no woman of certain sorts, was fully safe. They came, I feared, from a place where they might follow a woman, or such a woman, anywhere, where they might pursue her anywhere, where they might go after her anywhere. I fled back down the hall-like way toward the information desk, stopping suddenly, with a jangle of bells, near the end of the hall-like way. I looked wildly about. I was fearful of precipitously flinging myself into the arms of a man. I threw a wild look over my shoulder. The fellow was approaching. I turned wildly right, toward the main doors again. Perhaps the first man, he I had first seen, he whom I knew, no longer blocked them! But he was still there! I cried out in misery and darted across the open space, past the information desk and the office, past the periodicals and into the reading area, toward the main-level porch, overlooking the lake. That door, too, was sealed. I tried to pick up one of the small armchairs, to smash through, and perhaps squeeze through, one of the high, narrow windows, but it was too heavy for me, and the man was now close behind me. Even if I could have lifted the chair he would have been upon me before I could have reached the glass. I darted back again toward the main section of the library. They were in no hurry, it seemed, to close in on me. They were letting me run, letting me learn perhaps, learn as a female, what it was to run. I fleetly crossed the open space of the central section of the library and ran up to the iron, iron-and-wood-banistered stairs to the upper level, where we keepbiographies and fiction. My bare feet sounded strange to me, striking on the surface of the stairs. I wondered if anyone had ever ascended them barefoot before, here, in this place. I suspected not. The corrugated surface of the stairs, too, felt strange on my feet. My soles stung at the top. Then I was again on carpeting. I fled down the aisle. I heard a man coming up, behind me, slowly. I hid between two of the shelves perpendicular to the main aisle. My ankle moved, slightly. There was the tiny sound of bells. They would know where I was! Again I must run! I leapt up, crying out, and fled again, irrationally, terrified, wildly, miserably, weeping, my every step again betrayed by bells, this time about the far end of the tiny side aisle between the shelves, away from the main aisle, away from where I thought the man would be. Then I hid again, between two shelves, and fumbled, feverishly in the darkness with the tie on my bells. I could do nothing with it in the darkness. I had belled myself well, I thought bitterly. I had belled myself as might have a slave, who knows that her bells must be on her tightly, firstly for psychological reasons, that she knows herself belled, and is conscious of all the erotic and humiliating richness of this, she, a belled animal, and secondly and thirdly, of course, for mechanical reasons, that they be responsive to her slightest movements, as in the slowest, subtlest portions of her dance, and will not slip, or come loose, in the more rapid portions of her dance, despite her swiftest gyrations. I wept. I could not free the bells. Even as I tried they would make their tiny sounds. I tried to remain absolutely still. I held them with both hands, trying to keep my ankle absolutely still. But I was breathing heavily. I could not help myself. Tears ran down my cheeks. Surely my breathing, if nothing else, would betray me. Too, in the tiny movements of my body, even in breathing, the bells would sometimes make a tiny sound. I looked up. there, at the opening to my side aisle, in the main aisle, tall in the darkness, looking down at me, loomed a man, one of the three whom I had seen, he, I think, who had followed me about so quietly and tenaciously, originally to the lower level, up again by the other stairs, down the hall-like way, across the open space, toward the porch area, back again across the open space, and now up the stairs. I leaped up and fled away from him, utilizing the narrow space at the edge of the porchlike upper level, between the safety bannister and the shelves, to the second stairs, on the east side of the upper level, leading down to the main floor. No one was there. I hurried down the stairs. I darted between tables, toward the first-floor shelves on the east side of the building, where we keep most of our reference materials. I heard him coming down the iron stairs behind me. I hurried into one of the aisles, between the reference shelves. I crouched down there, at the far end. I looked behind me. He had entered the aisle. With a cry of misery I leapt up and fled about the end of the shelving area turning wildly with a swirl of skirt and a jangle of bells into the adjacent aisle and was caught! He had apparently been waiting in this place. His hands were on my upper arms. I was held as helplessly as a child, I had literally, running, unable to stop, stumbling, with a cry of misery, struck against him. I had flung myself, it seemed, into his arms. He had thrust me back a bit, and now held me, helplessly, by the upper arms, his hands like iron on my arms, but inches from him. It was he whom I had encountered some three months ago in the library, he, of course, of the incident in the aisle, this very aisle, even, and in this very place in this aisle, that puzzling, frightening incident involving Harper" s Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities. Minutes ago, in terror, before running, I had recognized him. I had recognized him even before he had spoken. I had known him unmistakably in my woman" s heart, even in the darkness. I feared him terribly. Now Iwas in his grasp. He lifted me up a little, easily before him, so easily that I might have been a child. I squirmed, helpless. Only my toes, their very tips, could touch the carpet. He looked at me, peering into my eyes, his hands so tight on my arms. I began to tremble, and could not look at him, and was terrified and weak. He let me down, so that I might stand, but I could not do so. It was only his hands which kept me on my feet. The other man was now behind me. He then released my arms and I, weak and frightened, unable to help myself, sank to my knees before him.
"Look up," he said.
I did so.
"You know where you are, of course," he said.
"Yes," I said. I looked to my right. There, in the darkness, where I could reach out and touch it, on the bottom shelf, in its place, was Harper" s Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities. Probably it had not been moved since it had been replaces, months ago. I then looked up at him, again. I was in the same place where, months before, I had, in a very different reality, found myself on my knees before this man. Then, of course, I had been a helpful librarian, obedient, dutifully, to the instructions of an imperious patron. It had been a bright afternoon. I had been fully and modestly, clothed. I had worn simple, quiet, unostentatious, dignified garments. I had worn a long-sleeved blouse, a dark sweater, a plain skirt, dark stockings and low-heeled shoes. Indeed, in the dress code of the library, it was posted in the employees" room, where our lockers lined one wall, such garments were prescribed for us. But things were now much different. It was no longer a bright afternoon. It was now late at night. Others were not about. We were now alone, absolutely and frighteningly alone. I did not now kneel before him in a blouse, sweater and skirt. I now knelt before him, semi-nude, in jewelry and silk.
"Do you remember Harper" s Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities?" he asked.
"Yes," I said.
"Do you remember the paper that was in the book?" he asked.
"Yes," I said.
"What did it say?" he asked.
"It said," I said, "I am a slave."
"Say the words," he said.
"I am a slave," I said.
He then reached down and took me by one arm, the left arm, and drew me to my feet and then pulled me beside him, down the aisle, toward the open part of the library, the northern part of it, near the reference desk. When we were there, he released me.
"Kneel," he said.
I then knelt there on the carpet. Without really thinking I smoothed the veil-like skirt about me, so that it was in an attractive, circular pattern. He smiled.
I looked down.
The third man was in this area, near one of the tables. On the table he had opened an attachA© case.
"Did you see me dance?" I asked.
"Look up," he said.
I did so.
"Yes," he said.
I looked down, miserable. It had been meant that no one would see me dance, especially as I had danced this night!
"But you stopped, and before the end of your dance, and without permission," he said. "Thus, you shall dance again."
I looked up at him, again, startled.
"And," he said, "this will be the first time you will dance knowingly before men."
"How could you know that I have never danced before men?" I asked.
"Do you think you have not been under surveillance," he asked, "that we do not know a great deal about you?"
"I cannot dance before men," I said.
"I will not!" I said.
"Get to you feet," he said.
I rose to my feet. The man near the table ran the tape back on the tape recorder.
"You will begin at the beginning," he said. "You will perform the entire dance, from beginning to end, for us."
"Please, no," I said. I could not stand the thought, the terrifying thought, of putting myself, in the beauty of the dance, before men such as these. I could not even dream of letting such men see me dance. It was utterly unthinkable. I had not even dared to show myself thusly to common men, to banal, safe, inoffensive, trivial, conquered men, men of the sort with whom I associated, men of the sort I knew. Who knew what they might think, how they might be tempted to act, what they might be prompted to do?
The man pushed the button on the tape recorder, and I danced.
The tape played for eleven minutes and seventeen seconds, its playing time. The piece was excellent, in its melodic lines, its moods, and shifts. It was one of my favorites. But never before had I danced to it in terror. Never before had I danced to it before men. Then it finished in a swirl and I spun and sank to my knees before them, my head down, my hands on my thighs, in a common ending position for such a dance. Never before, however, I think, had I been so suddenly and deeply struck with the meaning of this ending position, it following the beauty of the dance, its presentation of the dancer in a posture of submission.
"You were frightened," he said.
"Yes," I said.
He drew forth from his pocket a tiny, soft piece of cloth. He threw it to me, and I picked it up.
"Do you recognize it?" he asked.
"Yes," I said, in fear. It was a tiny garment which I had made for myself long ago, that which I had dared to wear only once, in the candlelit secrecy of my bedroom.
"Take off your clothes, and put it on," he said. "Leave the bells on your ankles. They help us keep track of you."
I looked at him, in protest.
"You may, of course, avail yourself of the privacy of your washroom," he said. I then walked between two men, the second and third man, to the ladies" room, and brushed aside the loose door. They waited outside, almost as though they might have some respect for my privacy. I turned on the light. I removed the jewelry, the ankles and necklaces, and such, I had worn. Then I reached behind my back and unhooked the scarlet halter, and slipped it from me. I looked at my breasts. In the tiny bit of scarlet silk they had given me to wear, their form, and loveliness, if they were lovely, would be in little doubt. I then slipped from the tights and skirt. I was naked, save for a leather thong on my left ankle, and bells. I felt strange, standing there in the ladies" room in the library, naked. Then I drew the small bit of silk over my head. They had obviously searched my room, perhaps ransacking it, and found it. They seemed to know a great deal about me. Perhaps they had thought it their business to learn about me. Perhaps there was little about me that they did not know. They knew even about that bit of silk, now on my body, one of my most closely guarded secrets.
I then turned off the light in the ladies" room and, to the small sound of bells on my ankle, returned to the central area.
"Stand there," said the man. I did. "Now, turn slowly before us," he said. I obeyed.
"Good," he said.
I looked at him.
"Kneel," he said.
"In your dance," he said, "you were frightened."
"Yes," I said.
"Still," he said, "it is clear that you are not without talent, indeed, perhaps even considerable talent."
I was silent.
"But it is also clear that you were holding back, that as a typical female of Earth, you would cheat men, that you would not give them all that you had to give. That sort of thing is now no longer permitted to you."
"a€”of Earth?" I said.
"Women look well in garments such as that you are wearing," he said. "They are appropriate for them."
Again I was silent. It was dark in the library, but not absolutely dark, of course. It was mostly a matter of shadows, and lighter places, of darker and lighter areas. Here where we were light came through the high, narrow windows to my left, from the moon, and from a street lamp, about a hundred feet away. It was near the western edge of the parking lot, by the sidewalk, fixed there, mainly, I suppose, to illuminate the street running at the side of the library. The front entrance is reached by a drive. It was spring. At that time I did not realize the significance of the time. The building was warm.
"Are you a "modern woman"?" he asked.
"Yes," I said. Again I did not know what else to say. He had asked me that question long ago, months ago, in the aisle, in our first encounter. I supposed it was true, in some sense.
"It is easy enough to take that from a woman," he said.
I looked at him, puzzled.
"Are you a female intellectual?" he asked.
"No," I said, as I had responded before, when he had asked the question long ago, in our first encounter.
"Yet in your personal library, that in your quarters, there are such books as Rosovtzeff" s History of the Ancient World and Mommsen" s History of Rome," he said. "Have you read them?"
"Yes," I said.
"They are now both out of print," he said.
"I brought them in a secondhand bookstore," I said. He had spoken of my "quarters," and not, say, of my "Rooms," or my "apartment." To me that seemed odd. Too, as he spoke now, at greater length, his accent, as it had once been before, was detectable. Still, however, I could not place it. I was sure his native tongue was not English. I did not know what his background might be. I had never encountered a man like him. I had not known they existed.
"Women such as you," he said, "use such books as cosmetics and ornaments, as mere intellectual adornments. They mean no more to you than your lipstick and eye shadow, than the baubles in your jewelry boxes. I despise women such as you."
I regarded him, frightened. I did not understand his hostility. He seemed to bear me some hatred, or some kind of woman he though I was, some hatred. I was afraid he did not wish to understand me. He seemed unwilling to recognize that there might be some delicacy and authenticity in my interest in these things, for their own value and beauty. To be sure, perhaps a bit of my motivation in their acquisition had been from vanity, but, yet, I was sure that there had been something genuine there, too. There must have been!
"Did you lean anything from the books?" he asked.
"I think so," I said.
"Did you learn the worlds of which they speak?" he asked.
"A little about them," I said.
"Perhaps it will do you some good," he mused.
"I do not understand," I said.
"But such books," he said, "are now behind you."
"I do not understand," I said.
"You will no longer need them where you are going," he said.
"I do not understand," I said.
"Such things will no longer be a part of your life," he said. "Your life is not going to be quite different."
"I do not understand," I said, frightened. "What are you talking about?" "You are doubtless the sort of female who has intellectual pretensions," he said.
I was silent.
"Do you think you are intelligent?" he asked.
"Yes," I said.
"You are not," he said.
I was silent.
"But you do, doubtless, have some form of intelligence," he said, "in your small, nasty way."
I looked up at him, angrily.
"And you will need every bit of it, I assure you," he said, "just to stay alive."
I looked at him, frightened.
"Hateful slut," he said.
I squirmed under his epithet. I was conscious of the light silk on my body. The bells on my ankle, jangled.
"Yes," he said, regarding me, "you are a modern woman, one with intellectual pretensions. I see it now, certainly, one of those modern women who desire to destroy men."
"I don" t know what you" re talking about," I said.
"But there are ways of treating, and handling, women such as you," he said, "ways of rendering them not only absolutely harmless, but, better still, exquisitely useful and delicious."
"I don" t know what you" re talking about!" I protested.
"Do not lie to me," he snarled.
I put down my head, miserable. The bells on my ankle moved.
"Your garment is an interesting one," he said. "It well reveals you." I looked up at him, frightened.
"To be sure," he said, "it is a bit more ample than is necessary, not as snug as it might be, not cut as high at the thighs as it might be, not cut as deeply at the neck as it might be, and, surely, as I determined earlier, it is insufficiently diaphanous."
I looked up at him.
"Take it off," he said.
Numbly I pulled the tiny garment over my head and put it beside me on the carpet.
"It may be a long time," he said, "before you are again permitted a garment." I trembled, naked.
The third man went to the table, that on which rested the attachA© case. He removed an object from the case. I gasped in terror. He handed it to the man in front of me. It was a whip. It had a single, stout, coiled lash.
"What do you think your name was?" he asked.
"Doreen," I said. "Doreen Williamson!" That had seemed a strange way to inquire my name, surely. Too, they knew so much about me. They must have known my name. What did he mean then, "What did I think my name was?"
"Well, Doreen," he said, "do you still remember Harper" s Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities?"
"Yes," I said. The way he had said my name somehow alarmed me. It was almost as though that name might not be mine, really. It was almost as though he had simply, perhaps, primarily as a convenience for himself, decided to call me that, if only for the time.
"Fetch it," he said.
I looked at the whip. I leap to my feet, in a jangle of bells, and hurried to the place where the book was. In a moment I had it and had returned, and, holding the book, knelt again before him.
"Kiss it," he said.
I did so.
"Put it down," he said, "to the side."
I did so.
He then held the whip before me. "Kiss the whip," he said.
I did so.
"Kiss my feet," he said. I put my head down, frightened, the palms of my hands on the carpet, and kissed his feet. I then straightened up, and knelt back on my heels.
"Put your hands, palms down, on your thighs," he said.
"Apparently you do have some intelligence," he said. "Now put your knees apart." "Please, no!" I said.
"Perhaps I was wrong," he mused.
Swiftly I put my knees apart.
"Perhaps you will survive," he mused.
He then nodded to the fellow on his left. To my horror the fellow went again to the attachA© case and this time brought out coils of chain. I could not see well in the half darkness what it was. Then he was behind me. To my horror I felt a metal collar locked about my neck. It was a very sturdy metal collar. It had, apparently, an attachment, or ring, of some sort, I supposed, in the back, and to this attachment, or ring, the long chain was attached. The fellow behind me must have held it mostly coiled in his hand. The collar encircled my neck closely. I touched it, frightened. I put my finger inside the rim of the implacable encirclement. There was only a half inch or so between its metal and my throat. I felt its weight on the attachment, or ring. I was leashed. I wore a chain leash. I was terrified. Perhaps no one can conjecture my feelings, truly, who has not been, too, the helpless prisoner of such a device.
"Slut," he said.
"Yes," I said.
"Are you a virgin?" he asked.
"I see," I said. "I am to be raped."
"Perhaps," he said.
"Your question is personal," I said. Then I felt the metal chain at the back of the collar jerk upward, savagely. The collar cut at the back of my neck, and was tight under my chin. I held my head as far down against the collar as I could, in spite of the additional tightening this effected under my chin, that I might relieve the pressure of its lower rim against my throat. This also forced me to lower my head, submissively. I was half choked. I was unable to speak. I was terrified. I no longer knelt on my heels. I had not been jerked up, off them. Then the collar was suddenly, angrily, turned on my throat, relieving the pressure on my carotid artery, and jerked downward. My head and neck followed it. The long chain was then thrown back between my legs and I felt my ankles crossed and a proximate part of the chain wrapped about them. I was thus held, bent over, my head low, my neck in the collar, kneeling. I strained to look up, lifting my eyes. To my terror I saw the man before me uncoil the whip. "I am a virgin," I whispered. "I am a virgin!" He made a sign and the chain was unwrapped from my ankles and the collar turned again on my neck. I was then jerked backward, half choked, but with the pressure substantially high on my neck, under the chin, doubtless by intent, and then lay before them on the low-piled coarse carpet, so muchly trodden by our library patrons.
"Split your legs," he said.
I did so, obediently.
In spite of my terror, I felt incredibly alive doing this, obeying him. He crouched near me. He put the whip on the rug.
"You are a virgin?" he asked.
"Yes!" I said.
"Are you lying?" he asked.
"No!" I said.
"If you are lying," he said, "you will be whipped."
I looked at him, from my back. I could not begin to understand a man who was so strong. How absurd it seemed! Did he not know that women could do anything with impunity, that no matter what we did, even if it were to bring about the destruction of a man" s manhood and the ruination of his life, we were never punished? And yet this man seemed ready to punish me for so little as a lie, or perhaps for something as insignificant as simply not being fully pleasing to him! What sort of man was this? It was almost as though he were not a man of Earth! How had he managed to escape his weakening? Has he, somehow, not been suitably trained and conditioned? How different he seemed from a man of Earth! Was he one of the rare men of Earth, I wondered, who had seen through the debilitating and demeaning hoaxes of his society, who had cast forth from him, like poisons from his body, the unnatural and pathological conditioning programs to which he had been subjected?
"Do you understand?" he asked.
"Yes," I said.
"I wonder if you really do," he said.
My lip trembled.
"You might perhaps think of lying now to a man," he said, "but I assure you, my dear, the time will come when you would be terrified to even think of lying to a man."
I was silent.
"Hold still," he said.
"This will only take a moment," he said. "I will be extremely gentle." I pulled back a bit.
But he was gently, extremely gentle.
"Is she a virgin?" asked one of the men standing nearby, the third man, he near the table on which rested the attachA© case.
"Yes," said the man beside me.
I blushed, hotly.
The fellow near the attachA© case then turned to it, and seemed to sort through some objects within it. Then he found one and placed it on the table. I do not know if I could have told what it was, in the shadows, had I been standing. Lying as I was, of course, I probably could not, from my position, have seen what it was even had the room been as light as it had been long ago, some three months ago, on that bright afternoon when I had for the first time to my knowledge found myself under the eyes of my current captor. Whatever it was, it did not seem large. It made a metal sound when placed on the table.
"Are you going to rape me now?" I whispered.
"No," he said.
"No?" I asked.
"No," he said.
"Why not?" I asked.
"You are a virgin," he said.
"I don" t understand," I said.
"But if you are not going to rape me," I said, "what is this about?" "Get on your knees," he said, standing up.
I rose again to my knees, with a small sound of bells, the chain leash on my neck.
He seemed a bit angry. The other two men, too, he near the attachA© case, and he who held my leash, his fist now close to the back of my neck, seemed somewhat angry. I gather they had not been particularly pleased to learn that I was a virgin. Had it not been for that I gathered they would have seem to it that I pleased them muchly.
"If I am not to be raped," I said, "I do not understand what is going on. What is this all about?"
"Have no fear," said the man, "eventually, in your new life, you will be well and frequently raped. Indeed, your life, in effect, will be one of rape." "My new life?" I said. "I do not understand what is going on."
"She is stupid," said the man behind me, he controlling my leash, allowing me so little tether on it.
"No," said the man before me. "She has her tiny spark of intelligence, nasty, petty and small though it might be, which, hopefully, may perhaps facilitate her survival. It is just that these things, now, are beyond her ken."
"I do not understand," I said.
"Can you not guess, cuddly beauty?" he asked.
"No," I said.
"Remember, long ago," he said, "when we first met, and we spoke of an ancient, beautiful world?"
"Yes," I said.
"A world in which women such as you," he said, "were bought and sold as slaves?" "Yes," I said, uneasily.
"Perhaps you remember saying that that world was gone," he said.
"Yes," I said.
"And perhaps, too," he said, "you may remember me remarking that there was another, not unlike it, which exists."
"Yes," I said.
"You said that that was absurd, as I recall," he said.
"Yes," I said. "And it is absurd!"
I felt the man" s hand tighten a little in the chain. This made me more conscious of the collar on my neck.
"Do you recall what I said then?" he asked.
"Yes," I said. I shuddered.
"What?" he asked.
"That you had seen it," I said.
"It is true," he said.
"You are mad!" I said.
"And you, too, will see it, my dear," he said.
"That is absurd!" I said. "You are mad! You are mad!"
He reached down and picked up the whip.
"You must learn deference to males," he said, "absolute deference to males." I shrank back. But he was coiling the whip. Then with a butt clip and a blade clip, he put it on his belt. I almost fainted.
"There is no such place!" I said.
"I was born there," he said, "as were my fellows."
"There is no such place on Earth!" I said.
"That is true," he said.
"What are you saying?" I gasped. "Who are you?"
"I am Teibar," he said. "My colleagues are Hercon, to your right, and Taurog, behind you, who holds your chain."
"I do not understand such names," I said. They did not even sound like the names of men of Earth!
"I suppose they are unfamiliar to you," he said. "They are not found here, or at least, I suppose, not frequently."
"Here?" I asked.
"Yes," he said, "on Earth."
"I don" t understand," I said.
"I speak of a world which is not Earth," he said.
"Another world?" I asked.
"Yes," he said.
"Another planet?" I asked.
"Yes," he said.
"But you are human, surely," I said, "some sort of human, though perhaps of a different sort from those to whom I am accustomed."
"You fear that I am an alien?" he asked.
"Yes," I whispered.
"In one sense it is true that I, from your point of view, am an alien," he said, "the sense in which I have come from a different world. In another senses, however, I am not an alien, as I am identically a member of your own species." I looked at him.
"My ancestors came from Earth," he said, "rather as yours came from Europe. Have no fear. I am every bit as human as you."
"I see," I said.
"And that is why I am so dangerous to you," he said, "because I am a member of your own species, because I understand you, because I know how you think, because I am familiar with your nasty little mine and emotions, your slyness, your pettinesses, your selfishness, your stupid little tricks, everything about you, and what you are."
"And this world of which you speak," I whispered, "supposing it exists, it is like, in some ways, the other world, the vanished world, of which we spoke?" "Yes," he said.
"Is it like it in one way in particular," I asked.
"It is like it in many ways," he said, seemingly amused. "Do you have anything particular in mind?"
"It is a worlda€”" I asked.
"Yes?" he said.
"Is it a world in which women such as I," I asked, "are bought and sold as slaves?"
"Yes," he said.
"What are you going to do with me?" I asked.
"Can you not guess?" he asked.
I leaped upward but, cruelly, instantly, with an expert turn and throw of the leash, I was thrown twisting, gasping and choking, to my belly on the rug. I was startled with how excellently, how easily, how smoothly, and with such little thought this had apparently been done. I had been utterly helpless, like something of no account in Taurog" s control. I felt his heel on my back. it pressed me cruelly down on the rug. The collar was on my abraded neck. Some links of its chain lay beside my throat. I lifted my head as I could.
The fellow before me made a sign and Taurog removed his heel from my back. I could still feel its print there. I was frightened. I could feel the rough, flattened coarseness of the carpet beneath me. I noted the difference between the feel of it, from lying upon it on my back, before, and as I did now, on my stomach. It had seemed plain, hard and scratchy to my back, a suitable surface, I supposed, on which a girl" s virginity might be tested, but as I lay on my stomach, to my softness, to my breasts and belly, to my thighs, it seemed oddly different. I was now much more conscious of it, the irregularities of its surface, the tiny, abrupt roughnesses, where a shoe might have moved the pile. I had walked upon that carpet thousands of times. Never before, however, had I lain on it, on my stomach, naked.
"Kneel," said my captor.
I struggled to my knees. My body was still sensitive to the feel of the rug. Taurog had not been gentle with me. I could still feel the print of his heel on my back. I gathered that I was not the sort of thing to which gentleness need be shown.
I looked at my captor.
"It might interest you to know that you have been on our list for some time," he said.
"List?" I said.
"Yes," he said, "lists, actually. You have been on our scouting list for a year, on our consideration list for six months, and on our active list for some three months."
"I am not a slave!" I cried.
Slowly the man approached me and I shrank back. Then he took me by the upper arms and pulled me up, from my knees, before him, until I was half standing. "On the contrary," he said, "my hateful little charmer, you are. I assure you of it. There is not the least doubt about the matter. We know our work. To a practiced eye, a discerning eye, one which is trained to look for, and recognize, such things, you are obviously a slave. The suitable condition for a woman such as you is perfectly clear, deny it and squirm though you might."
"No, no," I whimpered, turning my head away from him.
"Do you think I cannot recognize slaves?" he asked. "It is my business." I moaned.
He shook me, and my head snapped back, and I cried out with misery.
"Look at me," he said.
I did so, terrified.
"I, like many others," he said, "can recognize slaves, and, have no fear, I have recognized you as one."
"No, I whimpered, not wanting to look at him.
"Look at me," he said.
Again I looked at him, terrified.
"It is in your eyes," he said.
"No," I wept.
"Even months ago," he said, "when I looked into your eyes, when you sat in those silly garments, behind that foolish desk, I saw that you, beneath all that cotton and wool, were a naked slave."
"No," I wept.
"And I look into them now," he said, "and see that it is true." "No, no, no!" I wept, turning my head away. I dared not meet those fierce eyes which so frightened me, which seemed somehow to look through me, burning through me like fire, bringing unwelcome, frightening torches to my secret darkness, penetrating to my deepest and most closely guarded secrets, to what lay in the most secret belly and heart of me.
"Shall I have you dance again, before men?" he asked.
"No," I said. "No!"
"Do not fear," he said, "you will dance again before them, and dance as you have never dreamed a woman could dance before men!"
"No!" I wept. "No, no!"
He released me, and I subsided weakly to my knees before him. It seems that one could do little but kneel before such a man. Then, angrily, he thrust silk in my mouth, my own, that which he had made me take off earlier. I was silenced. "On all fours," he said.
I went to all fours before him. A loop of the chain leash hung down by my neck, to the right, a foot or so, and then lopped up to its attachment. I could feel its weight. It turned the collar a little to the right.
The men then spoke for a few moments among themselves. I could not understand the language. It seemed expressive, and highly inflected.
The leader turned to me. I saw him remove the whip from his belt. I put my head down. I bit into the silk, holding it in my mouth. I knew I could not remove it without their permission. He had put it in there. I saw the blade of the whip shake free. I began to tremble. I whimpered, the silk in my mouth. I whimpered that I not be beaten.
"You understand the whip, don" t you slut?" he asked.
I whimpered, plaintively, pleadingly.
"That is one of the few things a little animal like you clearly understands," he mused.
"Look at her," said Teibar, my captor, to his man, Taurog, he holding my leash, "she has never felt it, but she senses what it might be like to feel it, what it could do to her."
"Yes," said Taurog.
"But then," said Teibar, "I suppose that all females understand the whip, or if they are stupid, and do not, they may be brought swiftly enough to its proper understanding."
"Yes," said Taurog.
I then felt the blade of the whip move lightly upon my back. I shuddered. I wanted to scream, but I could only whimper, plaintively. The whip, it seemed to me, strangely enough, somehow, was not a stranger to me. I seemed to know it. I wondered, wildly, if I had felt it in former lives. Something about it seemed almost a terrifying memory. Could I be remembering it, I wondered, from a sunlit shelf in Memphis, from a patio in Athens, from a post in Rome or a ring, cords on my wrists, in a women" s quarters in Bokara, Basra, Samarkand or Bagdad? Had I felt it before, somewhere, or in many places, and never, even through a succession of lives, forgotten it? No, I told myself, that would be quite unlikely. On the other hand, I had little doubt that many women in the past, in such places, and in thousands of others, had had their behavior corrected with perfection by just such instruments and their kin, such as the switch, the strap, the bastinado. There was something in me, however, which seemed to know the whip, and terribly feared it. I suppose that this might have been an effect only of the startling alarms of my imagination, they informing me with some vividness as to what it might be to feel its stroke, but I suspect, really, that there was more involved. I suspect that there was a kinship of sorts between myself and the whip, that we were perhaps, in some sense, made for one another, that even if I never felt it I recognized it as having something authoritative, and intimate and important, to do with me, and what, in my heart, I secretly was.
I felt the lash brushing my back, twice more. It seemed to do so thoughtfully, meditatively. I whimpered, biting on the wet silk. Tears fell from my eyes to the carpet. I whimpered, tiny, begging sounds, pleading for mercy. It did not matter to him. I was sure, that I was a modern woman in the Twentieth Century. I might as well have been, as far as he cared, only a curvaceous, beautiful barbarian servant in Epidaurus, or, in the keeping of Crusaders, or in the tents of Mongols, a Persian dancing girl. He was literally considering beating me. What we all had in common was that we were women. Similarly I had not the least doubt that if he wished to beat me, he would do so. He was fully capable, I sensed, of doing whatever he might wish to me, and with perfection.
"No, little slut," he said, removing the whip and replacing it on his belt, "it will be better later."
I shook with relief. I sobbed with relief. I was not to be beaten! I was not to be beaten! Then suddenly I shuddered. I wondered what he might possibly have meant, "that it would be better later."
I looked up at him.
"You delicious, meaningless, sly, viscous, hateful thing," he snarled. I could not understand his animosity, his seeming hatred of me.
"Take her out of my sight," he said to Taurog, "lest I be tempted to kill her."
"Come, little slut," said Taurog. He moved beside me, and then ahead of me, and I felt the pressure of the interior of the collar at the back of my neck, on the left, and the tug of the chain. The collar had now, in response to his movements, shifted on my neck. It was apparently not a ring where the chain was attached but, it now seemed, some sort of fixed-position, heavy, welded-in metal staple. This device, to which the chain was attached, where it now exerted its force, was now under my jaw, to my right. I followed Taurog now, on all fours, the silk stuffed in my mouth. He pulled me back behind the xerox machines, where the sight of me would not offend Teibar. There, with his foot, first against my arms and hands, then against my knees and thighs, brushing them outward, toward the extremities in both cases, he let me know his will with respect to my limbs. I went first to my elbows, and then to my belly. I do not think Taurog spoke much English. He had, however, conveyed his intent to me. I realized, lying there on the cool surface, it is a composition surface in that area, on my belly, naked, among the machines, that it is not always necessary to understand a man" s language to obey him, or for him to command you. I heard Teibar speaking to Hercon, and then Hercon left for somewhere, as I later found out to gather up my things from the ladies" room. Teibar himself whim I thought of as my personal, and most meaningful, captor, stayed in the vicinity of the table, that on which the attachA© case rested. I thought I heard him moving some things about there.
In a short while Hercon returned to the vicinity of the table. A moment later, Teibar said something, apparently to Taurog.
Taurog jerked the chain upward, twice, gently. It was little more than a sound of links, and only the slightest pressures, twice, on the attachment. It was a signal to me.
Taurog made a sound of approval as I rose immediately to all fours. He then led me back tot he table on which the attachA© case rested, where Teibar, whom I feared mostly, my chief captor, waited.
I saw a pile of my things there on the carpet, the dancer" s costume, my purse, my clothes, those I had worn to the library, and such, near the table. That had been I supposed a result of Hercon" s brief absence. He was now back. Taurog said something to Teibar.
"Taurog," said Teibar, looking down at me, "is pleased with you. He thinks you may have an instinctive understanding of chain signals."
I could not speak, the wet silk in my mouth. I could only look up at him. "It is possible," he said, "You are a woman."
I looked up at him, angrily.
He then removed a small object from his pocket. I think I had seen it before, near the front doors of the library, when I had seen him there, and had fled back, away from him. He pointed it at the pile of clothing, and diverse articles. A line of light, causing me to pull back, crying out, half blinded, burned forth from the object. When I could see, I saw that the rug was gone there, and that, about, there were only ashes.
"There is this other thing," said Hercon, lifting the tape recorder. Doubtless the tapes were near it.
"Leave it, and its musics," said Teibar. "Let those who come upon it ponder its meaning."
Hercon replaced the recorder on its table.
I was trembling. I had seen what had become of the clothing, and such, on the floor. I was not familiar with the technology these men had at their disposal. It seemed, however, powerful, and sophisticated. Oddly enough, it did not seem congenial to the type of world of which he had spoken. Could it be that on that world such devices were not permitted? I saw the small object pointed at me. I shook my head, wildly, whimpering, biting on the silk, tears in my eyes. I knew its burning line, that intense beam or blade, could divide me, fluids hissing, boiling, in an instant. "You understand what we could do, if we wished, don" t you?" he asked. I nodded vigorously, affirmatively, tears in my eyes. Then he returned it to his pocket. I collapsed to the rug, unable to bear my own weight. "Put her on the table," he said.
Taurog reached down and picked me up, lightly, and put me on my back, on the table, near the attachA© case. The men pushed chairs back, so that they might stand about the table.
I looked up at Teibar, terrified. He drew the silk from my mouth.
"Please," I wept.
"Were you given permission to speak?" he asked.
"No," I whispered.
"Perhaps I do not wish to hear you speak," he said. He was opening, and then smoothing out, and folding the bit of wet silk I had had thrust in my mouth. It was then in a soft, damp, layered, folded form some six or seven inches square. He put it beside me, beside my left hip.
"May I speak?" I asked. I then realized that no gag was needed to silence me. It could be done to me as simply and effectively by the will, or mere whim, of men such as there. By such men I could be silenced by a mere word, or a gesture or glance.
"Remove her bells," he said to Hercon. "Anklet her. The virgin anklet." "Please," I said.
"Very well," he said.
"What is this all about?" I begged. "What are you going to do with me, really?" I felt Hercon" s strong fingers working the thong on my left ankle. I heard the rustle of bells.
"Who are you?" I demanded.
"Teibar," he said.
I moved my head in frustration. The collar, so close, and heavy, and confining, was on my neck. I heard the movement of the chain, behind me, where it dangled over the edge of the table.
"But what are you?" I begged.
"Human," he said, "as are you, in your petty, nasty way."
"Why do you hate me?" I asked.
"Because of what you are, and what you would do to men," he said.
"What?" I asked.
"Destroy them," he said.
"I am not going to destroy men," I said.
"I know," he said, "now."
"I don" t understand!" I wept.
Then I felt the bells removed from my ankle. Hercon handed them to Teibar, who placed them, on their thong, on the soft, damp silk beside me.
"Why are you doing this?" I asked. "What are you, really!"
"I am a businessman," he said.
"What is your business?" I asked, plaintively.
"I am an exporter," he said.
I then felt a sturdy metal anklet closed about my left ankle, where the bells had been. It snapped shut. I had no doubt it locked. I gathered there might be different sorts of such anklets. This one, I had gathered, was a "virgin anklet."
"What do you export?" I asked.
"Women," he said.
I reared up on the table, but, by the hair, with a rattle of the chain on my collar, was pulled back onto it, on my back.
"Lie still," he said.
I saw Hercon lift up, and shake out, a large, folded leather sack. It was heavy, dark, long, and narrow. It had straps, and a lock, at one end.
"I have prepared the mask, and solution," he said to Hercon.
I strained to see the sack. Hercon was now folding it three times, and placing it on the table.
"You will be placed in that, head first, gagged, and bound, hand and foot," said Teibar, "but, even if you were not bound, it would be very difficult for you, because of the tightness and narrowness of the sack, to do more than wiggle a little."
I tried to rise up but a conical, stiff, rubberized mask was thrust over my nose and mouth, and, by means of it, I was pushed back on the table. Taurog held my wrists, pinning me back on the table" s surface. Hercon held my ankles. I struggled. My eyes must have been wild over the mask. Teibar poured some fluid from a small bottle into an opening, or through a porous mesh, at the apex of the mask. He held it firmly over my nose and mouth.
"Steady, steady, little slut," said Teibar, soothingly. "There is no use to struggle. Your struggles will avail you not in the least."
I tried to fight the mask but I could not. I was held. I was held, helplessly. My strength, that of a woman, was nothing to theirs, that of men. I wondered what might be the meaning of that, in a natural world.
"Breathe deeply," said Teibar.
I tried to move my head, but, because of the tightness of the mask, over my nose and mouth, and how he held it on me, pressing it down upon me, I could not. I tried to hold my breath. I felt a drop of liquid, and then a trickle of liquid, run on the bridge of my nose, and then its way down my right cheek.
"Breathe deeply," said Teibar, soothingly.
I fought to hold my breath.
Hercon said something.
"Come now," said Teibar, to me, "you are disappointing Hercon." I looked up at him, wildly.
"Breathe deeply," he said. "You do not wish to disappoint Hercon. Taurog too, was so proud of you. You would not wish to disappoint him, too, would you? Not after you did so well, in the matter of the chain. The time will come, I assure you, when you will be extremely concerned that you not disappoint men in any way, in the least."
I sudden coughed, half choking, in the mask. I gasped in air, plaintively, eagerly, desperately, in those tiny, hot confines. There was a closeness, an oppressiveness within them.
"Good," said Teibar. "Now, breathe slowly, regularly, deeply."
I looked up at him over the tight rubber rim of the mask.
"Surely you understand that resistance is useless," he said.
I sobbed. My eyes were bright with tears. I breathed in, deeply.
"Good," said Teibar. "Good."
It seemed there was a kind of heaviness inside the mask. It was not a strangling sensation and then, with my first gasp for air, an obliteration of consciousness, almost like a blow. This was quite different. It was patient, slow and gentle. I breathed in and out, deeply, slowly, regularly, in misery. Too, of course, it would be relentless and implacable.
"Good," said Teibar.
Hercon released my ankles. I sluggishly, groggily, moved my feet. I felt the anklet with my right foot, and tried weakly to push it from my ankle, but, of course, it was useless. It only hurt the side of my right foot a little, and the inside of my left ankle. it was on me. I could not remove it. It was there, on me, until someone else, not me, might want it off. I was "ankleted," whatever that meant.
"Breathe deeply," said Teibar. "Good. Good."
Taurog released my wrists. He put my hands at my sides. I could not lift them. "Deeply, deeply," said Teibar, soothingly.
I felt a key thrust into the lock on the collar I wore. It was then removed from me. I was dimly conscious of Taurog coiling the chain and replacing it in the attachA© case.
"Struggle now, if you wish," said Teibar, "slut."
But I could scarcely move. I could not raise my arms. I could not even bring my hands to the mask, and had I been able to do so, I would have been too weak to push it away. About the peripheries of my vision it seemed dark. It was hot under the tight mask. I felt another drop of liquid within the mask.
"You are ours now, "modern woman,"" said Teibar.
But I scarcely heard him, or understood him. I supposed, in some sense, I was a "modern woman." I remembered, vaguely, that Teibar had said, earlier, that that could be taken away from me. I did not doubt it. Then I lost consciousness.
4 The Whip
I screamed suddenly under it awakening under it startled not believing it not expecting it the suddenness it was like lightning the cracking sound like the sky breaking the snap like fire my body wrenching I pulling upwards the chain on my neck I fell to my side I pulled at the chain then the snap again no no please no so sharp so loud the fire the pain I screamed I was naked the chain cut my neck "Kneel," he snarled, "head to the floor," I sobbing obeyed. "So," said he, "the modern woman under the whip."
I trembled, kneeling, my head down, the palms of my hands on the floor. "Now, slut," said he, "your power is gone, all of it, that mistakenly given to you by foolish men."
I moaned, bent over, small before him, in a position of obeisance to his manhood, in pain.
"Look up," he said. "Kneel, kneel straightly. Put your hands on your thighs. Head up. Split your knees. More widely, slut!"
I was then kneeling before him, straightly, my head up, my hands on my thighs, my knees widely spread, the chain from my collar dangling down before me, between my breasts, I could feel it on my body, and going back, between my knees, to a ring. I was terrified. I thought I must be mad. My body was in pain. There seemed something different here. The air was different, a thousand times, it seemed, cleaner and fresher. I had never known such air existed to be breathed. It made me feel somehow charged and alive. The whip seemed still, hot and terrible, to burn on my body. And something else was different, too, something subtle, something I supposed I might quickly become accustomed to, but that now frightened me, terribly, in its implications. Literally the world had a different feel. Its gravity preposterously enough, seemed less than that with which I was familiar. I dismissed this from my mind as some sort of confusion, or illusion. But I knew that I was in pain, sharp, miserable pain, fiery, burning pain, put on me by a man, and that that was real. Too, I knew I knelt before a man. That, too, was real. I was an educated, civilized woman, a modern woman, I supposed, in some sense, but I found myself kneeling before a man! Too, this startling me, this strangely affecting me, it seemed that this was somehow appropriate for me, that it was rightful for me, that it was where I belonged. I felt incredibly alive, and rightful there. Too, he had whipped me awake. What did that mean? What must be my nature here, then, I wondered, or my condition or status, in this place, that I could be so awakened? Though I was an educated, refined, civilized woman, a contemporary woman, a modern woman, I supposed, in some sense, I had been awakened by a whip! I had felt the lash!
"Where am I?" I begged.
"On my world," he said, simply.
"Please do not lie to me," I begged.
"Interesting," he said. "Are you accusing a man of lying to you?" He shook out the whip" s coil.
"No," I said. "No!" I understood then that sexuality was important in this place, wherever it was, and that we were not of the same sex.
"Ah, I see," he said. "Of course. You are merely still simple, and naA?ve. Yes, I suppose it would be hard for you to believe, particularly with your banal, sly, limited, intelligence, my delicious, nasty, little animal." To my relief he recoiled the whip.
"Your world?" I said.
"Your life is going to be different now," he said, "quite different, dramatically different in a number of ways."
"Your world?" I begged.
"Yes," he said.
"Another planet?" I asked.
"Yes," he said.
"You do not seriously ask me to believe that, do you?" I asked.
"Really!" I said.
"Can you not detect a difference in the atmosphere?" he asked. "Is it so difficult to detect? Too, can you not, really, at least now, more importantly, sense differences in the gravitational field?"
"I see that you can," he said.
"I am now truly on another planet?" I asked.
"Yes," he said.
I felt faint. For a moment everything seemed to go dark. I wavered. In my heart I knew that what he was saying, incredible though it might seem, despite the startling enormity of it, was true.
"You have many adjustments to make, my pretty little animal," he said. I looked at him.
"And there is no escape for you," he said, "from this world, You are here to stay. It is now your world, as well as mine. You are going to be here, and live on its terms, and exactly so, my modern woman, my hateful little charmer, for the rest of your life."
"Please, no!" I said.
"Put your hands, clasped, behind the back of your head, and put your head back," he said.
I did so.
"Farther back," he said.
I put my head farther back.
"Please," I said. "Please!"
He walked about me. "It is here that sluts such as you belong," he said.I shuddered, feeling the coils of the whip move on my stomach.
"Yes," he said, coming around in front of me again, "I think you will do very nicely."
"Do?" I said.
"You may resume your original position," he said.
I returned then to my former position, with my hands on my thighs.
I knelt before Teibar, who had captured me on Earth, making me his prisoner after hours in the very library where I had worked. He was clad now in a tunic. I did not understand this, but it seemed to fit in well with the plain room in which I was confined. That garment, so simple, so physically freeing, so attractive, I supposed, might be congenial to this world, as it had been to several of the worlds of Earth. I suspected it was not untypical of this world. He had strong arms, and strong legs. I was even uneasy looking at him in such a garment. I knew that I had found him physically disturbing, and deeply and profoundly so, even on Earth, and had felt helpless and weak before him, but now those feelings, now that I saw him as he was on his own world, so splendid and powerful, so uncompromising, so fierce, so vital, so masculine, masculine like no man I had ever seen, or had known could exist, seemed multiplied a thousand times. It was like a lion before me, a lion whose teeth could rend me, whose paw, with a blow, could break my neck. And I was chained within his reach!
He was regarding me. ...
All rights belong to the author: John Norman.
This is a short fragment for review the book. The full version can be purchased in the store.