The room is draped in red and shadows. A fire blazes in the black, ornate fireplace just beyond the foot of the bed. The heat makes me sweat, creating a slick layer between the skin of my back and the satin sheets. My every comfort has been attended to. I hold a tumbler of bourbon in one hand, a cigarette in the other. Two female forms in black robes dance in front of the blazing orange light for my amusement. I don’t know their names, and only identify them by hair color, the blonde and the brunette. The blonde bats her eyelashes as the robe slides down her arm, and full, pert tit pops out. She slides coy fingers down her midsection, to between her legs, which is hidden by the folds of the robe, and sighs in mock ecstasy.
She’s faking it. It does nothing for me, except remind me of the crushing boredom that’s plagued me, for how long, I don’t remember. This emptiness has robbed me of the highs I used to experience during my favorite past times. Beautiful naked women don’t give me that gut twisting sensation of eagerness. Violence doesn’t pump hot blood through my veins. This absence of feeling is worse than any negative emotion- rage, hatred, despair. I’d kill, literally, to experience any of those three. It’s infected every part of my life. I’m sleepwalking.
The brunette bends to the blonde’s chest, and flicks her tongue over the exposed nipple. The blonde throws her head back and moans. Disgust creeps up my spine. There’s no way the inexperienced flicking of the brunette’s tongue could give her that much pleasure.
“Just take the robes off,” I bark, my voice bitter. “This isn’t an amateur porn shoot.”
If they’re offended, it doesn’t register on their faces. They both smile and say, “Yes, Sir,” in unison, and drop the robes to their feet. I scan their perfect curves, waiting to feel something, anything, but all I feel is annoyance. Even the bourbon doesn’t help, though it tastes exquisite. It’s almost too perfect. It does not feel real. Nothing does. A long column of ash descends from the end of my cigarette. I contemplate letting it fall on my bare stomach. Maybe pain would spark me back into existence.
But I’m not a masochist. I’m quite the opposite. I jerk my head towards the medieval looking rack to the left of the fireplace.
“Get her into the restraints,” I say.
“Which one of us, Sir?” the blonde purrs.
“I don’t care,” I snap.
They both nod submissively. It’s the brunette who lies on the wooden slab, and stretches her arms and legs out so the blonde can apply the restraints. The captive woman is splayed in front of me, her back arched over the hard surface, her tits heaving with breath and her nipples hard. Her legs are spread, so I can see every pink, glistening fold. But it’s nothing I haven’t seen a thousand times before. The blonde turns to me, gesturing to the instruments of torture displayed on the wall.
“What do you prefer, Sir?” she asks, bowing slightly.
“Clamp her nipples,” I say between my teeth.
The blonde obeys my order. She takes two shiny metal clamps, and attaches them to the dark, pinched nipples of our captive. The brunette howls in a mixture of pleasure and pain, which is of course, horridly unbelievable. The clamps are connected by a delicate silver chain. The blonde takes the chain between her teeth and pulls. The brunette howls louder.
I tighten my grip around the tumbler of bourbon, trying to conjure something inside of me. But my mind is still and black, refusing to be aroused.
“The whip,” I demand.
The blonde bows, then fetches the black leather whip from the wall. She circles around the table, slapping it against her palm, before raising it dramatically into the air, and bringing it down across the tops of the brunette’s thighs. The brunette’s face contorts in grotesque pain, though she was barely lashed.
“Again,” I order. “Harder.”
The blonde raises her arm again, playing the part of a lion tamer in a low rent circus. She gives a bigger flourish while swinging the whip. The brunette writhes furiously on the table, trying her best to deliver an award winning performance in pain. She’s probably an aspiring actress. They all are. This underground sex club is just a stepping stone to Meryl Streep worthy movie roles, or so their delusions would have them believe.
“No,” I growl, and descend from the bed. I snatch the whip from the blonde’s hand, and wield it, standing over the brunette. She trembles beneath me, nervous about going off script. I dangle the leather ends over her stomach, letting it lick over her sensitive skin. Looking in her eyes, I make a promise. “This is going to hurt.”
There’s a brief, delicious glimmer of fear in her pretty eyes. I feel the blonde’s energy shift, deliberating whether or not she should stay in character and let me flog her friend. I glare down at my captive, stretching the leather between my fists, and drawing out the anticipation. But numbness covers every inch of my me, oppressive and crushing. It occurs to me that I might have to draw this innocent woman’s blood to wake myself from this walking sleep.
The moment is interrupted by a dainty knock at the door, and the soft voice of Madame Cherie announcing herself. I’m vaguely relieved to be interrupted from exploring the boundaries of my depravity.
“I’m sorry to disturb you, Mr. Mariano. There’s a man here to see you. He’s quite insistent.”
Madame Cherie stands before me in a deep blue corset, fishnet stockings, and ridiculously tall heels. She’s blonde and curvy, and a highly effective saleswoman. Her pink lips glitter with a smile. She reaches out, stroking the panels of my robe with neatly manicured hands.
“He calls himself Snake. Said you would know him. Shall I have Joe throw him out?”
Snake. Now that name sparks something. The utter hatred boils my blood. I sneer, thinking of tasting his. I whip my head towards the naked women.
“Get out,” I tell them, then instruct Madame Cherie to send in my guest.
“At once, Sir,” she says, leaving with a bowed head. The two women slip past me, clutching their robes, in a hurry to leave. The brunette glances warily at me, worried that I’ll grab her before she can escape. But I’m done with them.
I sit in the armchair by the fire, savoring the last finger of my bourbon. When Snake walks in, I don’t look at him. The floor creaks beneath him as he carefully approaches me.
“Sal,” he says, his voice forceful, but constrained.
I turn my face slowly from the fire. “Snake,” I say, his name sliding between my lips.
My brain lights up, flooded by dopamine when I look at him. Snake, my friend, the feral orphan I took in off the streets, and my father’s killer. He holds my gaze, determined not to cower away from me.
“I’m going to make this quick,” he says, stroking back his hair and losing the pretense.
“Quick? I’m disappointed. It’s been such a long time. Sit. Have a drink.” An idea turns over lazily in my head. I could smash the glass tumbler against the fireplace, and plunge a shard into his jugular vein. But Snake doesn’t even consider my offer of a friendly drink.
“You need to get out of town,” he says, then glances around impatiently.
I laugh. “And why is that?”
“You’re on Franco’s radar. He’s been talking about what to do about you.”
“That’s why you’re here? I’m hurt, Snake. I thought this was a friendly visit, but it’s just marching orders.”
“Franco doesn’t know I’m here.” Snake glances with annoyance at the blazing fire, then loosens his tie. His forehead is glistening with sweat. “This is my only warning. If Franco gives the order, I won’t have any choice. Skip town. Now.”
My mouth spreads into a smile. Now this is the action I’ve been craving. Snake sees the delight on my face, and takes a step back.
“Don’t turn this into a pissing contest,” Snake warns. “You’re one man against Franco’s army. You can’t beat him.”
I can’t beat him? I chuckle to myself. So, all this time, Snake has had no idea who he’s fucking with. I take a sip of bourbon. It suddenly tastes even more delicious.
“If you’re not going to have a drink with me, get the fuck out,” I say.
Snake hardens his gaze. “I warned you. Don’t forget that.”
“I don’t forget anything,” I say, raising an eyebrow. “Ever.”
I turn back to the fire, dismissing him with my hand. Snake hesitates for a few moments before quietly leaving. I watch the dancing flames, so close, the heat tinges my cheeks. A smile tugs at the corners my lips. I can feel it.
I’m waking up.