Our Own Mistress, A Novel
Introduction: Audio Recording
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ADVISORY: The recording contains adult themes and language, and may not be suitable for everyone. Audio may not be of the highest quality.
After a lifetime of being held, after the drawn-out anticipation of defilement so unpleasant I couldn’t possibly describe it accurately, they were gone. I curled my body and wrapped my arms around my knees, drawing myself in so no one could ever touch me again. I breathed in and my breath rasped in its effort to get to my lungs. I heard someone skid to a stop next to me, and I sensed that someone leaning over me. I felt a hand on my still-nude hip and I instinctively reacted by screaming and batting at the hand, simultaneously pushing myself away and crawling sideways to the nearest wall.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Easy, darling. It’s over. No one’s going to hurt you.”
I looked desperately at the end of the alley leading to the street, otherwise known as freedom. I would have jumped up and run, possibly until my legs couldn’t carry me anymore, but I was still painfully aware of being mostly naked, and a breeze reminded me to pull my shirt as far around me as it would go. I felt for buttons, but they were missing. I curled against the wall, covering my face with my shaking hands, hoping the world would disappear.
I refused to look up when dirt crunched, the sound neared, and something brushed my ankle.
“There are your trousers. Take your time. I’ll turn my back if you like.”
I peeked through two fingers first. My jeans were there next to me, folded neatly. I glanced in the voice’s direction, and a tall, somewhat broad-shouldered male figure stood facing away from me, stiff and uncomfortable, glancing in the direction my captors had fled. I snatched up the denim and pulled it on as fast as I possibly could. As I did, I stepped on something sharp and gave a whimper. He turned around. I backed up against the wall again and watched him wide-eyed.
He was very tall, and very concerned. It was expressed clearly on his face with furrowed brows. He had a sharp, masculine jaw and similarly sharp, high cheekbones. His mouth was somewhat small and his eyes were bright. They darted back and forth, searching the ground.
“Ah, here, your shoes.”
He took less than two long strides and picked them up, and kept his distance as he handed them out to me, stretching his arm to do it. As I took them gingerly from his fingers, I continued to observe him. It was comforting, being able to see clearly enough to make out details. I felt myself regain the ability to breathe normally as I took in the physical signs of his strength, his discomfort, his worry. He was lean, strong, clean-cut, and very male. He wore a light blue button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up and the tail tucked into belt-buckled greyish pants. His gender should have disconcerted me, but I felt a warm sense of safety.
Though, I still didn’t want him near me.
“Um, you want help with—?” He took a half-step toward me as he indicated an innocent desire to help with open, upward palms. I slid along the wall away from him.
“Right, right. Sorry. Just, take your time.”
I finally managed to get my shoes on, and when I stood, still leaning against the wall, I saw two more figures appear at the alley entrance. I could only see that one was a man, the other a woman, and they were staring and waiting.
“They’ve called the authorities. They’re only waiting to be sure you’re alright.”
He was attentive, to be sure. He had to be observing my expressions, watching for signs of fear.
“I have your bag here. Would you like it now?”
I turned to him. He held out my ugly leather satchel, still far enough away to need to stretch it out to me. He wanted to be helpful, but he was obviously uncomfortable. Why couldn’t I speak? I couldn’t bring myself to thank him, or even say, “yes.” I considered these words, but it took effort to swallow, and I was still aware of every breath. He must have felt so awkward standing there, with me trying to find the will and energy to reach out and take my bag from him. He remained there, though, patiently waiting for me to move. I managed to push away from the wall with a hand. I stepped a little closer to his arm. I took the satchel from him and clutched it to my chest. I looked at him, directly in his blue eyes, for a brief moment. He must have understood that one look as a good sign, because he let out an audible sigh of relief. The whole circumstance must have made him nervous; he was trying desperately to help without frightening me further, or provoking an outburst of panic. I couldn’t hold his eyes long, and I looked down and away. I glanced back and forth between him and the ground. I managed another glimpse up at him, and saw blondish curls.
“Is she alright?” A woman’s voice called. I flinched.
He turned his head to respond, but kept his eyes on me. “She’s shaken. She needs a bit more time.”
I heard her quick, light footfalls as she came toward us. I threw a short look in her direction; she was dressed professionally in a black midi-length skirt, Mary Jane heels, and a white blouse. I didn’t see any other part of her appearance because now I felt surrounded. More and more people were going to want to help. They were going to ask questions, want to touch me, and I wanted never to be with people again, much less touched. Sure enough, I felt her hand on my right shoulder. The touch was light, but it was enough for me to close my eyes and recoil.
“Steady on, Mary, I don’t think she wants to be touched,” the Tall Man spoke for me.
“I’m sorry, love,” she spoke slowly and removed her hand. “We’ve called the police. They’re on their way. We’ll wait here with you.”
I still couldn’t bring myself to look another person in the face. I squeezed my bag tightly, and nodded, eyes closed. I stared at the ground as they spoke to one another.
“Did you see them?”
“No. Not clearly, anyway. There were several of them, though.”
“Were they…did they…?”
I assumed her pauses were directed at me. When I still said nothing, he responded, “They were certainly going to. I don’t know if they…well…exactly how far they got.”
There was awkward silence for some time before sirens approached. They reached their peak, voices sounded, and the third person, whom I had yet to meet, waved them down the alley to us. I was then surrounded by men in uniform.
We sat in silence. I was tightly pressed to my side of the car, squeezing my satchel to myself, drawn in as far as I could go. I stared out the window at nothing. Blurred reflections of passing buildings, trees, and people moved in my vision like floaters. Will lived closer to where we had been than I did, and though we reached his apartment relatively soon, the ride felt awkward, drawn out, and endless.
The cab pulled to a gentle stop. I looked over at him. He was sitting back in the seat, his knees spread wide because the car wouldn’t accommodate those long legs. His hands were intertwined in his lap, and his head was bowed. I could see enough of his expression to know he was thinking hard of what to say. I shifted my gaze down at the space between us. I had nothing to say that would make it less uncomfortable.
“I, um…” He stopped and looked out his window toward a building, presumably his apartment. I looked in the same direction. It was a nice looking place. In fact, the whole neighborhood looked very pleasant.
I suddenly dreaded going back to my place, my hole. The sensation almost knocked the wind out of me. He would get out of the cab, and I would be alone with the strange cab driver. I would be at the mercy of everyone out there. I felt a sense of desperate anxiety; I wanted to ask, no, beg him to stay, to let me stay, anything. But, goddamnit, I couldn’t say a fucking thing. I fought to breathe again.
He lifted his backside up from the seat. He reached back into his pocket as he did, pulling out an old brown wallet. He slid his butt back into place, opened the wallet, and pulled out a white card. Dropping the wallet between his legs, he reached forward and tapped the driver, asking for a pen. The driver handed him one, and Will scribbled with the pen on the back of the card, using his right knee as a hard surface. He gave the pen a closing click, and slid the card with two fingers across to me.
“If you need anything.”
I stared at it as he paid the driver and gave back the pen. He paused one more time before opening the door to get out, I assume to give me another chance to say something. I didn’t look, I didn’t speak.
But, then, just as he stepped the first foot to the ground, my head inadvertently snapped up and my breath drew in to speak. I felt it happen, but no thought entered my head as I did it. He heard it, and stopped so suddenly to turn back to me that he had to catch himself on the door. He leaned into the car, half in, half out, and looked at me with such hope and surprise.
His eyes were searching mine. He looked so expectant, so encouraged, like he was begging me to speak with his expression alone.
I met his eyes and felt tears roll down my cheeks. I wanted so much to fall to pieces. I wanted to weep and crawl across the seat. I wanted him to be as comforting as he seemed to want to be. I wanted him, anyone, to wrap me up warmly and let me die that way. It was all there, boiling in my chest, with hot tears as the only outward signs.
But, I sat there, open-mouthed, staring at him with wet, glassy, tired eyes.
His face steadily lost that look of eager suspense, and he seemed so disappointed, and then just troubled again. He sighed and turned to get out. When he stood he paused, holding the top of the door in one hand, with the other on the hood of the car. He bent down then, peering back in at me one last time. I leaned back into my corner.
“Please,” he whispered. “Call.”
The door closed with a sound that seemed to resonate in my ears.
“Miss?” The driver had been trying to get my attention.
“I’m sorry,” I said hoarsely.
I gave him the address. As I rode, I felt myself withdraw again. The overwhelming emotions faded, I stopped crying, and I drifted into a state of nothingness.
Perhaps, I thought, being alone is the key to survival.
The Treaty, a Novel
It was on a night, standing naked and physically degraded by battle and vagrancy, on that shore which stretched and lay as a view of the yet unknown expanse of the world, that he was approached. As he submerged a toe of the nine remaining on his savage feet into the gently sucking sand, and the waves periodically lapped against his shins, a cool hand, lighter than the foam of that awaiting sea, touched his broad shoulder gently. This being whispered promises in his ear of renewed strength and purpose. It told him of a new nation of individuals in need of one such as him, whose sole function was to combat the enemy, and take part in the campaign for survival, for existence. It swore power and vigor which could not be vanquished by any man, and which fell upon its victims with an unmatched swiftness and dexterity.
This desperate man was awakened from his suffering stupor with new optimism and anticipation. But, this was not a bargain to be made without great consideration. The stranger offered these features as a single opportunity, one which, if it was not grasped, would result in swift death. But the disintegrating man promised the visitor it would not, indeed, be swift. He would not forfeit his life lightly to one who approached an unarmed and dying man from behind at night. What greatness could one so cowardly possibly offer? He posed this question as he snatched the stranger’s cold hand from his shoulder and twisted it to such an extent as to cause pain and threaten its removal.
The stranger merely smiled.
The power promised was demonstrated effectively as the man lay beaten and bleeding in the sand. He lay there some moments, finding it difficult to breathe, gazing into the heavens and contemplating his existence as an unknown and unloved individual. The generous stranger knelt beside him with a bellyful of the man’s blood, reminding him of imminent death should he refuse the offer. What could possibly lie beyond this life, it remarked to the man, which would be more enjoyable, more meaningful, than an eternity leading a superior race of beings by performing those very duties to which one was born? Where were the gods when the battle ceased and death seemed imminent? Where was humanity when the purpose to one’s life was stripped away and all that was left were the possibilities provided by others? Where was love, hope, kindness and a place in the world? Mankind did not offer these things as it promised. Once beaten, a man was forgotten and left to die by his family, fellow soldiers, and country.
But with this new life, this eternity on earth, a man could not be forgotten, because he could not die. His purpose was eternal, because his people were eternal. Their strength could not be defeated by the mere mortal’s use of weaponry and tactics created by a leader so fattened on food and drink he dare not enter the battle himself.
No. This was life at its most tangible, most genuine. The feeble existence of man would be a memory only as long as the newborn adjusted and grew. Then one day that memory would become a flicker in the carrier’s mind, a thought that perhaps he once knew another way of life, but it was a knowledge not worth retaining.
The man listened to the stranger’s speech as he became weighted by death, and sank within himself to drift into that oblivion which only humans come to understand. He accepted the offer as his sight failed him, and his final breath sighed its way from his breast.
Average Men, a Novel
It was officially fall in Davis; the weather was perfect for a long walk, or bike as people were wont to do in the little city. Unfortunately, he did not have time to take in the picturesque glow of varying shades of orange leaves in the setting sun’s rays, nor appreciate the comfort of the 79 degree weather. He hadn’t bothered to ride a bike in years, or stroll in the attractive downtown area and listen to the weekend bands playing on the street and in the restaurant courtyards. He wondered why. Would his marriage have been better if he had done these things with his wife? Would he be able to enjoy them now that he was alone? He decided to park in the little lot across from the movie theater and walk the blocks to Isleman’s house. It would make him late, but he didn’t want to come across as actually caring about this “event” anyway.
The streets were alive for a Thursday night, he thought. But, then this was such a popular place. Students gathered in the cafés, yogurt places, and restaurants on a nightly basis, and out-of-towners from nearby cities, some from as far as San Francisco, came to enjoy the friendly, casual area, or walk the Arboretum near the university. The congenial nature of the place, the serene good humor, was almost tangible; everywhere were smiles and nods to strangers, and the only signs of traffic were the pings of bike bells and horns kindly making pedestrians aware of the approaching cyclist. All in all, it was a pleasant place. Its mellowness managed even to penetrate his miserable mood, and while he would not call himself happy, he felt a bit more relaxed. The world slowed, and for a moment he thought, perhaps, he still had some time left to live after all.
It wasn’t until he noticed the couples that his mood shifted again. From teenagers to the elderly, men and women, some with the opposite gender, and some with the same, held hands and strolled down the sidewalks. They looked at one another, smiled, laughed, acted shy or coy, and occasionally paused for a moment of PDA. The evening breeze was suddenly a chill, and he put on his wrinkled blazer, rubbed his arms against the cold, and walked a little faster; he considered where the cold was really coming from.
About a half an hour later he was standing on the sidewalk in front of Isleman’s house. It was a pretty typical little home; five small concrete steps with a thin, black railing led up to its slim front. All the houses in the neighborhood were placed closely, so the size of the house was in its length, hidden by its proximity to the houses next door. At any other time it would have been a boring, white, modest little home, but it was alive at the moment. The two front windows glowed yellow with bright light, and the occasional shadow moved over the thin curtains. He heard the gentle hum and thump of music, the buzz of discussion, and some laughter.
He didn’t realize he had been just standing there, staring, until light burst forth as the front door opened. Isleman held a beer bottle in one hand, his other arm was outstretched in greeting.
Copyright © 2016 by Erin Dunbar
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