What follows is the final version of a short story I wrote. I edited it from its published form a bit, no significant changes to the plot or anything, just some clean-up and some re-phrasing here and there... Anyway, here is the final, finished, and not-to-be-fukt-with-anymore version.
Wil was not bisexual, he was either straight or gay. He was quite clear on that point, and would brook no contradiction. The fact that he switched between the two apparrently according to some flavor of the wind was of no significance. He scoffed at any attempt to define his unstable desires. Technically he was correct, but I'd be damned if I'd ever let on I agreed with him. Debating the point was just too much fun. Wil was one of the coolest people I knew in Atlanta, and one of the reasons I was sorry to watch events unfold that led me from that place. But that's another story. We were good friends, part of a rather unique little group. Sociologically speaking, we were our own sub-sub-culture, artisans of suffering and lust. Domination and submission were toys and tools to be used and enjoyed. We trained and decorated the same mental demons that many spend years overcoming. Good times. Good times.
The Chamber, an S&M dance club that employed most of our circle in one capacity or another, was the center of our dark and cozy little world. Most of us had other jobs for money, but The Chamber was what we "did". I was a bouncer, and occasionally produced leather goods, like restraints, whips, garments, and of course, the occasional flogger. Wil was, like most of us, one of the performers. He made ends meet through torture and violence staged for the benefit of the club's patrons, but by no means "faked". Of course, there were theatrics involved. It was, after all, a "show". However, the crock pot was filled with molten paraffin that was unquestionably hot, the crack of Mon Cheri's bullwhip across a bare back could hardly have been faked, and the welts raised thereby precluded the possibility of any trickery of the stage. Flesh hath no advocate.
That's perhaps what made the shows so good and the nights so popular, the performers were not "acting" as such. To them, the common nightmares of suffering and pain held no horror. Violence, lust, and domination were normal parts of their daily lives, practiced and tuned like musical instruments. Those aspects of the mind abhorrent to society held no mystery or fear for us. Forsaking up your ego brought freedom, not shame. Binding and controlling another's body founded trust, not pride. No matter which end of the whip you were on, you knew that a friend was at the other end, and that your positions would be reversed in a matter of days or hours.
I think it the height of irony that they were some of the most sane, stable, and well balanced people I've ever had the pleasure to known. So many of the wounds of the heart and mind so common to modern humanity are based in the fear, repression, and misunderstanding of the very aspects of human nature their livelihood was based upon. So rigorously were the "monsters" of the subconscious used, trained, and exhibited that any damnage or malignancy therein was dissapated inexonerably. For example, if Thirsty had been beaten and abused as a child, any demons born of that would be hard pressed to wreak any havoc upon her when she made her living through staged but very real violence with her friends. The whips, floggers, and straps were quite authentic and were used both by and on her, always with mutual trust and respect, as well as a healthy does of sheer, childish playfulness. What, then, could her demons do against her? They were used and appreciated, trained and cherished as parts of her being which gave her kinds of freedom and strength most never know.
She had not defeated or subdued her demons. Why would she ever wish to "overcome" them? That would be like Pavaratti "overcoming" his voice, or Dali "overcoming" his skill with the brush. She had accepted and mastered them, nurtured and molded them, made them hers to use and enjoy, no different than her taste in music or her skill at poetry. (Well, her poetry wasn't that good, but who am I to talk?)
Although we liked to pretend that we were better than the rest of the world, it was not so. We had our own gripes and troubles. However, those were mainly in dealing with society. Most commonly, we'd forget that our way of life was unusual and sometimes frightening to the "straights". There were several times when innocent horseplay in public got the cops called or got us kicked out of restaurants, bars, and on one memorable occasion, a police station. But that night is a story unto itself, for another time.
Wil was one of the "old men" of our little clique, having been in this scene for better than 4 years. He was in his late 20's, well built and handsome. He was one of the most outgoing people I've ever known, having discovered that there was no fun to be had in dignity. He could usually be counted on to make things interesting at a moment's notice whether you wanted them interesting or not. He was never cruel, but sometimes his enthusiasm got the better of him, resulting in minor wounds and major chaos. I cannot say that he was especially gentle, but he was never malicious.
We were both pretty manic that day, and the air felt right for mischief. We were in my van, attending to some errand or another in Buckhead, an upper-middle class commercial district of Atlanta. Offices by day, over-priced and polished clubs by night, it was a cultural and spiritual vacuum seldom entered by our ilk. Although I don't recall the name of the street we were on, it would be safe to say it was called "Peachtree" something-or-other, as ALL streets in Atlanta are Peachtree.
We were discussing the finer points of a flogger I had finished earlier that day. (one of my better pieces, if I do say so myself) It's handle was made of studded black leather strips woven and knotted around a slim steel eye-bolt. This gave it strength, durability, and weight for balance. The handle ended in a knotted pommel, symmetrical and solid. There was similar knot at the top, concealing the eye, and helping to support and anchor the tassels. It had a full tail of 24 tassels, each 30" long and 3/8" wide, dyed red, fuzzed, and forked at the ends. It was fairly heavy but well-balanced, awkward for a novice, but a thing of beauty in the right hands. I was certain that it would have a long and full life at the Chamber.
Wil was admiring our new toy as we rode along, getting a sense of it's heft, feeling the tassels and inspecting the weave of the handle for any flaws. (he found none, ::grin::) He was pleased with it's construction and appearance, which meant a lot to me as he was very critical of half-assed or poorly made "frou-frou" toys. He appreciated the fact that it was solid and heavy, obviously made to deliver a solid blow. He also liked the forked ends of the tassels, but if you don't know what those are for, my telling you would do no good. He gave himself a few experimental whacks on the thigh, and then inspected the tassels closer. I had used thicker leather than usual for the tassels, and only lightly fuzzed them, making them heavier than they looked. He was impressed with the flogger, and I was unabashedly proud of myself. This latest creation was truly a work of art. I was pleased, Wil was pleased, the future was bright, and life was good. We made a right hand turn, merging with the think afternoon traffic, directly in front a fat delivery truck and behind a tiny BMW driven by a blonde mannequin, recently escaped from Burdines.
Then, like the avatar of some complacent yuppie god, "He" appeared about half a block ahead. A prime example of the upper-middle class we so gleefully despised, well dressed and proper in every respect, he stood on the sidewalk with his back to us, clearly the master of all he surveyed. We were awed by the sudden beauty of the moment, the zen perfection of the idea that revealed itself to us. The plan was conceived, worked out, finalized, and put into action in just under 2 seconds with nary a word passed between us. The focus of this day's mischief, our sacrificial lamb in twill and cotton stood before us, ripe and ready, cell phone held lovingly to his cheek. His back was to us, and his mind was obviously elsewhere, probably at the other end of the invisible phone line, in the office of some weighty and inconsequential corporation with a favorable profit margin. Wil turned to me with that famous precursor to mayhem, his patented "I'm about to do something really stupid!" look. (imagine the face of a hyperactive 7 year old all hopped up on sugar, passing through the gates of the Magic Kingdom in a flat trajectory). I grinned, nodded, and gently let off the gas pedal.
And so it began in earnest. By happy coincidence the sidewalk around him was empty. Good. I've always had a soft spot for innocent bystanders. I'm not too sure about Wil, though. Anyway, I eased the van closer to the curb as approached. Wil rolled his window down, and leaned out a bit with the flogger hanging lazily from his hand. I remember the gentle sound the tassels made as they were flicked against the door by the wind. We were about a foot off the curb, closing the distance, coasting quietly. Our yuppie friend had paused there, looking for all the world like a JC Penny ad, hands on hips, looking boldly into the future, positively glowing with upward mobility and secure in his rightful place atop the food chain. His hair was perfect, his suit fashionable and well fit. All was clearly well with his secure and interesting world. Damnit! We were closing too slowly. The anticipation was too sweet, agonizing and almost unbearable, but haste would spoil the poetry of this moment, so we coasted gently, while he waited for us, content and clueless.
At about 40 feet out, Wil shifted position slightly, and raised his arm behind him against the van's side, bringing it to a level just above subject one's shoulders. In that last second, I swear I could hear his voice, thin and irritated, obviously talking to someone bound by etiquette to be polite at all costs, probably exacting payment from them for a time when he'd had to be nice to a prick. Yuppie karma, I guess. He was facing away from us and his head was slightly turned to the right, cocked into his phone. We drew even with him, and suddenly the anticipation was at an end. The sun shone. A gentle wind swayed the captive trees in the median. Somewhere a horn honked, and Wil had swung.
His arm twisted and flicked out from the side of the van, with a mass of eager red tassels at it's end. He didn't put too much force into the strike, we didn't want to actually damnage reason's martyr. Wil's arm swung, and the flogger danced away in a truncated arc, blurring outward towards the well groomed and irritated fellow. He suspected nothing until impact. There was no warning, no hint of what was coming, no inkling of the impending crisis until it was well underway. Until the tassels engulfed his entire perception in stinging crimson chaos, he had utter faith in his knowledge of the location and dimension of the well lit divider 'twixt reality and nightmare. For the first fleeting instants, as the narrowing arc of red closed around his face, I wonder, what did he think? Did he think? As the solid mass of tentacles engulfed his head, cutting off all sight and hearing and reducing the city around him to merest trivia, what thought was foremost? Was he afraid? Did he feel angry? Shocked? Naked? What? As his day, his plans for the evening, and any other focus his mind may have held was rendered to vapor, did he call to some god, reach for some anchor? I'll never know.
Wil struck, and we did not slow in the least. His strike was the acme of speed and grace. It was simply beautiful. The flogger reached out, grabbed the irate consumer by the head, and was then pulled away as rapidly as it had been sent. In passing behind his head, the leather wrapped eyebolt pulled the tassels along after, as it was meant to do. The tassels in turn, held for the briefest moment to the head they were pressed against, spinning it like a poorly balanced top, as they were meant to do. The head remained attached to the body, as it was meant to do, imparting it's spin thereto. The end result was that the yuppie was turned about as we passed behind him, so that when his turn stopped, he was facing the direction from whence we had come and we were, as before, behind him and unseen. As his turn was stopping, the flogger was disappearing back into the van, to rest once again in Wil's lap. Even if his eyes had been open, he could not have turned fast enough to catch sight of the flogger, or anything out of the ordinary about the white mini van moving away with the flow of traffic. But his eyes were closed.
As we were pulling away from him, he began to mount his defense against whatever the hell that had been. His left arm came up to cover his head, the gold on his wrist glittering prettily in the afternoon sun, but there was nothing there to defend against. His right hand clutched the phone and flailed about him at random, but there was nothing there to hit. His battle was short and one sided, although I doubt it could be called a victory. Then he seemed to realize that the attack was not being pressed, and opened his eyes. By this time, the truck was almost past him, and we were too far from him to matter. He tried to look in all directions at once, and did not too shabby a job of it, from what I saw in the mirror. He was crazed, terrified, panicked even, but uninjured. As we moved away, his frenzy faded as he satisfied himself that there was nothing in the immediate vicinity to threaten him. (As if that had mattered seconds before) The last I saw of him, he was looking at his little phone like he had no idea what it was, and no-one had stopped.
What happened to him afterwards, I'll never know. How he dealt with the experience depends on how tightly he holds to "reality". Paradoxically, the more sane and rational he is, the harder it will be for him. He will not forget that something happened. But what? All he knows is that: out of the blue, something happened. It was red, it was fast, it stung, it spun him around on a sidewalk in downtown Atlanta. It came from nowhere, and returned hence before he knew what was happening. He saw nothing but a glimpse too brief and close to focus, then his eyes were shut until it was gone. An orphaned moment of pain and chaos is all he'll take from this.
There will be no answer.
There will be no reason.
There will be no fucking closure.
Reality is now to him like a lover found unfaithful in his bed. He'll never be able to forget. His trust will never be as it was; there will ever be a doubt. Unlike a lover, Sanity will offer no amends. She never did need him. Reality made him no fucking promises. Logic is starving, and reason is missing. If he holds these things precious, if he built his life or himself on them, what now? Now that this foundation has been cracked? What now?
What would you do?
Are you sure?