(I had a reader contact me wondering if this was a new story I’m starting in this post so I just want to clarify the situation if anyone else is wondering the same thing: This is a continuation of the same story in the other Fiction Friday posts, only some years further along in the timeline. I wanted to write it this way so that I could back-tell the story of the missing years throughout the rest of the story. Sorry for any confusion.)
The horns blared at the behest of impatient, frustrated drivers.
Sirens shrilled, anxious, all around the city.
People rushing, always late for something more important than right now; this moment.
Some days the sun blazed. Some days the rain gushed and the thunder roared. But always the neon lights were glowing – enticing men of illicit persuasions to a smorgasbord of made-to-order human delicacies, both foreign and domestic.
Today? Today the entire city was blanketed with a thick, dense covering of fog. The dampness of the gray shroud came to life, swirling and writhing, as the cold breeze darted hither and yon. The cold of March joined forces with the moist fog and and the darting draft to bore through the layers of thin jacket and pallid skin that were holding the girl’s rattling bones together.
Blonde, long strands of oily hair were tangled from satisfying the last customer. She’d have to make sure to brush it out before the next round – The Choices must always, always, look clean, healthy and well kept. It was just good business; customers shopped with their eyes first.
Tucking a strand of hair behind her left ear, the girl reached into her black back-pack – the one where she kept everything she owned – and drew out a small glass bottle of amber liquid. It was a gift from a customer.
The liquid touched her tongue as she turned her face up to receive the numbing gift. It burned its way down her throat and settled in her stomach and created a warm glow that radiated through the rest of her body. Slowly but surely the warmth spread as she continued swallowing.
Her body ceased shaking. Her hands held the bottle steady. She was grateful to the black-bearded man who had first introduced her to this pain-numbing liquid. And to the customers that kept her supplied with it now.
She felt her mind trying to go there, back, to memories, to before. Back to when she used to be a person, a girl; not a thing – property sold to the highest bidder over and over again. Or was that a dream? She could no longer tell.
Probably nobody ever really knew what was actual reality – they just thought they knew. They slept, ate, worked, drank, partied, paid for the use of bodily property like herself and it altogether mattered nothing because it was impossible to determine whether any of it was real. She was just a temporary consciousness trapped in a body advertised on that poster in the lobby as luscious, divine, and fully woman. That was really all there was to her existence. To anyone’s existence. Therefore, nothing mattered.
Except this beautiful warm comfort in her bottle. One more sip – there – and she was strengthened enough to rise from her hunched up repose against the cement wall.
She opened the heavy steel door and entered the warmth beyond, making her way to the communal living quarters she shared with the other Choices. That’s what the label above their posters in the muted, darkened lobby called them in big, black letters. The Choices.
She really was filthy; a shower was in order, she decided. Taking her thin jacket off and draping it over the post of the bed she slept in she padded bare foot to the communal shower room.
Hot showers and strong drink were the only two pleasures in the world, she thought as she let the hot water rain down on her. One could almost imagine, well, anything when under the influence of the two. Feeling the danger of lurking memories nearing again, she quickly shut the shower down and toweled off.
“Diamond!” bellowed the voice of Dartmouth, his fist simultaneously pounding at the door. “Woman, you do not keep the customers waiting! I’ve told you and told you! Now get out there and do your job!” Among a chain of expletives Dartmouth, the small man with the giant temper who ran the underground brothel, stomped away never doubting his orders would be explicitly obeyed. The expletives faded into silence as Dartmouth’s quick, angry steps drew him to other matters of business.
Diamond hurriedly toweled off and donned a black transparent number that did little to cover anything about her but rather served to heighten the sensual – just a tool of the trade.
No time for blow drying all that hair. Diamond used a towel to dry it as much as possible and then plaited it into a braid down her back. She applied make-up with practiced precision and then slipped her small feet into a pair of red, impossibly high stiletto heels. Red because “you’re a pale ice-goddess and red is fire – fire and ice – Diamond,” Dartmouth chortled from time to time as though it was rather a brilliant insight into something worthwhile.
Diamond planted herself in front of the mirrored wall, appraising the effect, inspecting the merchandise. Big eyes, blue, curtained above and below with thick, dark lashes. Two shapely eyebrows, softly brown. High cheekbones and clear, ivory skin. Flaxen hair all shiny, soft and thick. Her lips a red-painted bow that parted to reveal straight, white teeth at every practiced smile.
Before leaving she made sure she was in that place Cleo had told her about. That place where she was totally shut down and locked up and any man could do anything at all and she would hardly even notice because she wouldn’t really be there; just a toy on auto-pilot. There, now she was ready.
Diamond was just making her way down the lushly carpeted hallway toward her work room when Cleo stumbled out of hers and toward the communal living quarters. Cleo was walking strangely, a bit hunched over and fumbling along. Dartmouth would throw a fit if he saw her now – “walk upright and like you’re worth the money!” he regularly reminded.
Cleo saw Diamond and caught in a moment with her guard down spat out, “I wish to god there was a god! One who would rain brimstone on every last one of these filthy pigs. And I wish to god you were still Bella, back wherever you came from before you ended up here in this hellhole.”
And now the memories were grabbing, reaching, trying to overpower the mental fortress Diamond had built against them. She wouldn’t – couldn’t – go there. It wasn’t even real.
Cleo was inside the shared quarters now and slammed the door shut, a hard and loud exclamation point at the end of her angry pronouncement.
Dartmouth turned the corner just then and directed his usual gaze of condescension at Diamond, using his left index finger to shove his ever slipping eyeglasses up his hawk-like nose.
Having collected herself and locked herself all down once more Diamond met his gaze with cool detachment and turned her back on him as she entered her work room with practiced seduction.
It was just another day, another customer. It was just life. She was a temporary consciousness trapped in a body worth a lot of money. Soon enough that would be gone and then so would she.
Until then there were pigs, as Cleo had termed them. Pigs with money.