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Most of the time, new submissives saw the same roster of longtime clients who rotated through every new hire. Those clients would make appointments, and we would be counseled on their particular proclivities before they arrived. So it was unusual that my second session was a random walk-in, a thirty-something, fairly attractive guy who wanted to meet all the girls working that day.
To my surprise, he picked me.
The client, Jason, chose toys from the wall behind the front desk and handed them to me to carry. Leather paddles, floggers, a long, slender riding crop. I could sense it even before we made it to the room: the quiet authority with which he handled the toys, the way he ran a finger along one strand of the flogger, examining it in the same deliberate manner he might brush a hand across my flesh. I knew this session would be different from my first, and again, my pulse beat as if it were trying to escape the confines of my veins, my muscles, my bones.
But did I really want to escape?
We sessioned in the other upstairs room this time, the Athena room with its less medieval and more exotic decorating scheme, leopard prints and tiger stripes on all the blankets and pillows and even the carpet. To my immense relief, I remembered the location of the intercom; I pressed it and heard Mistress Amber’s soon-to-become-familiar response of “Thank you.” Then I stood and waited, silent, with my arms clasped behind me. I did my best to appear calm, yet my heart still shuddered like some strange caged creature inside me.
Jason told me to get on the spanking bench, which looked very different from the low, squatting behemoth in the Venus room. I approached it slowly, carefully, in the hopes I would look like I knew what I was doing. Days earlier I hadn’t realized spanking benches existed, and now I was discovering they had nuances. The one in the other room felt masculine, thick and solid, while this one was feminine and almost delicate, curved like the arch of a back. From the center of the bench, two leather-padded armrests extended like wings, and behind them and slightly lower were similar pads for calves and knees. Once I’d climbed up on the bench – fumbling despite myself as I did so – I was hovering three feet off the ground with my ass protruding, ready to be smacked.
Jason didn’t smack my ass right away, though. He circled the bench, and I observed what I could of him while keeping my eyes cast downward: a slightly stocky frame, a purposeful stride, the dark, close-cropped shadow of a beard when he inclined his head toward me. I barely registered his facial features; in fact, my first year at the dungeon, I’m not sure I ever looked a client in the eye. I knew them by their smell, or the way they walked, or the cadence of their voice.
Jason wasn’t giving off much of a smell, or maybe my breath was too shallow to pick up on it, my unease still so great that taking in oxygen was only a secondary concern. But his movements, his voice, the way he touched me – every action emitted a confidence that tugged a response from deep inside me. It was as though some coiled, knotted ribbon of desire buried in the pit of my stomach was beginning to unwind. Or as if that tiny flame that had smoldered within me for so long, the one ignited by Story of O and Belle de Jour, was being stoked back to life.
Jason trailed his fingers up the side of my thigh, flipping up my skirt so my ass was exposed. He continued moving past my ribs to my chest, where he pulled one breast free of my little tie-front top. He acted as if my body belonged to him – no asking permission, not even ordering me to take my clothes off myself, just grabbing what he wanted as though I were an object made for his amusement.
That ribbon of desire inside me unraveled a little further.
And then he spanked me for the first time.
I had received a few swats on the bottom from hookups over the years, and a few more during my interview at Medusa’s. I’d even tried to spank myself a couple of times, attempting to see if it really hurt the way the books and movies and websites portrayed it. But I’d never experienced a hard, purposeful spanking from someone who really knew what he was doing.
It was just a slap against my bare butt. Just the hand of a man I didn’t know, and would never see again, connecting with my skin.
So why did it feel like such an immense relief? This wasn’t pain, but the release of pain, the jolting free of everything that was tight and heavy trapped within my flesh. The swats kept coming, harder and harder, and the blood rushed through me and my heart beat yes, yes, this is where you belong, and the ribbon of desire inside me unfurled and caught on fire, it smoked and burned away so that my desire became Jason’s desire, became my dominant’s desire, and I lost track of what was mine and what was not, of what I wanted and what I did not.
Smoke is hard to hold on to. It changes its shape, it adapts to fit its surroundings. Smoke can be submissive.
That fire inside me turned to smoke. It filled my lungs and I breathed it out and it settled around me, clouding my senses, warping my vision and altering the way it felt to touch, to be touched. But it was so subtle – odorless, colorless, tasteless – that I didn’t even realize it was there.
Jason kept on spanking me. He used the paddle with its impact that reverberated across my backside, the riding crop that stung with a small sharp pain radiating outward. He stopped and rubbed my ass and asked me how hard it hurt, on a scale of one to ten. It was a seven or eight, but I said five. I wanted to seem tough. I wanted him to hit me harder.
“Five?” he said, and the intonation, the rise in his voice at the end, made me hope he was impressed. But perhaps it was all in my head.
The session went on, so many fantasies fulfilled for the first time that I couldn’t absorb them, they passed over me like waves, I floated along with them and let them take me where Jason wanted to go. He pulled my hair and slapped my face, twisted my nipples and hit my ass again, as hard as I’d hoped he would. Then after the spanking, he ordered me to crawl on all fours to the back corner of the room, where a little leather couch was set in an alcove. Somehow, I knew not to tuck my breast back inside my shirt before I made the trip.
He sat on the couch and I waited on all fours before him, my left side facing him, my gaze still instinctively downward. “You’re a true submissive, aren’t you?” Jason said quietly, stroking my hair and then giving a tug. “This is what you dream of. This” – he jerked my hair harder – “is where you belong.”
They were words I’d hear dozens if not hundreds of times over the next few years, words that, eventually, I’d consider worthy of nothing more than an eye roll; but at that moment, Jason’s words sang through me like truth.
When I try to picture this scene as it happened, I see Jason only as a shadow. I remember the sensation of his eyes on me, a weight and expectation that lit fire upon my skin. I remember that strange tangle of need and desire and hope and fear within me all at once. So much emotion, how could it do anything else but combust? But I keep coming back to the one thing he lacked: a smell. I would learn the smells of so many men, in the weeks and months to come. Sweat and cologne, Speed Stick deodorant, musty clothes; and arousal, always arousal. But with Jason, there was nothing, and Jason never returned to the dungeon, as far as I know.
Was he real? Could he have been some phantom, conjured from my mind to keep me here, in this strange space where fear and pleasure, distasteful intimacy and the possible answer to all my dreams, combined to form a trap I wasn’t sure whether to welcome or escape? I know he was real, but I like the idea of him as apparition, animus, minor deity, walking briefly into my life to ensure I continued on my new path.
Jason tugged on my breast again – that was real, that I remember – tugged it like he owned it, and then he said, “I’m milking you like a cow, aren’t I?”
A small portion of my brain, one that hadn’t been clouded by smoke, registered how ridiculous the statement was. But the rest of me whispered, “Yes.”
“I’m milking you like a cow.” He pulled harder, and everything inside me snapped taut. “So moo.”
“You’re awfully quiet.” Another tug. “Moo.”
This wasn’t a part of my fantasy, not like the hair pulling or face slapping or crawling along the floor. But that didn’t matter anymore. “Moo,” I whispered.
“What?” he said.
“Moo?” I tried again.
“Pathetic.” His hand clamped down on my breast, spreading a kind of warm, constant pain through me, different from the sting of a slap that was there and then gone.
“Moo,” I attempted once more. He squeezed harder.
“Moo. Moo. Moo!”
In my mind I was crying out, yelling, moaning, but in reality my voice was probably still quiet. I was a quiet girl, that first year at Medusa’s. But it seemed to be enough to satisfy Jason. He released my breast, caressed it so softly I might almost have imagined his touch. Then he reached up to stroke my hair. “Good girl,” he said, and if I hadn’t already caught on fire over that past hour, the words would have been enough to make me melt.
Soon after that, the session ended. Jason left quickly – many of the men would do that, I’d come to learn, slipping out the moment I turned up the lights and began cleaning the room. For them as for me, Medusa’s was a place of fairy tales, a glamoured version of reality where anything could be possible, and beautiful, for an hour. They had to hurry out before the illusion faded, before the dust in the corners of the room started to show and thoughts of their own work and families intruded. Reality had no place in the dungeon.
Jason left without tipping, too, and after Thomas, that should have been a disappointment. But I couldn’t bring myself to care. I didn’t have any more sessions that day, and I spent the rest of my shift in a daze, drinking cup after cup of the terrible Maxwell House coffee we brewed in the dungeon’s kitchen area, trying to keep my mind from going blank. Yet no matter how much caffeine I ingested, I couldn’t seem to wrest myself from the big leather chair in the break room, where I sat with my legs tucked under me, staring at the wall as the hours passed like minutes and the minutes passed like hours. Even when I took off my collar and schoolgirl outfit, put on my ordinary dress and sweater and found a seat on the bus home, I couldn’t free my mind. I lacked the energy to pull the book I was reading from my purse, much less to look at the words and translate them into meaning. Instead I gazed out the window at the concrete twilight, the world turned blurry and unreal. I wasn’t reliving what had happened with Jason, not exactly, but simply sinking into a peculiar peaceful longing, peaceful because even as I was desiring, waiting, I knew that more would come.
Somehow, I made it home and walked my dog and showered and fell asleep, and by the next morning I was in possession of my mind again. Later I would learn this strange other-state was subspace, an altered mentality that often followed an experience of submission. This was the kind, gentle subspace, the one that screened you from the world as though you stood behind a swirl of smoke, where nothing was sharp or sudden and your breathing turned soft and slow.
There was a cruel subspace too, a place that was like an empty, endless gulf. A place you could lose yourself for good.
But I had a ways to travel before I would encounter that darker part.