Marra ran her gaze around the unfamiliar room. The walls were covered in black. It was dark, as was expected. However, the darkness was kept at bay by a dull sheen reflecting off the surface of the wall, from the hundreds of tastefully placed dim lamps that were nowhere to be seen. The red muted lights of the lamps whispered the place to be one steeped in sin. A huge bed, the color of ebony, dominated the center of the room, perfectly matching the walls. The headboard was marred with scratches and other marks which were clear even in the muted light. Red velvet handcuffs, ropes, manacles of all sizes and shapes, and various other instruments lay to one side, the most noticeable among them being a staunch whip. Marra licked her lips at the sight of the whip. She hoped she got to use it today. With a vengeance.
A cupboard stood to one side with a mirrored surface. The full-length mirror was surrounded by bulbs all around, casting a halo of light on the mirror itself, making it the largest source of illumination in the room. Marra moved to the front of the mirror and looked at herself, glowing in the reflected light like some avenging angel from the old testament. She smiled, without humour, the smile failing to reach her eyes.
She opened the cupboard. A multitude of costumes and dresses lay neatly folded on the racks and some hanging from a rod, with the help of hangars. Some seemed innocent enough like Victorian ladies’ dresses or the long slinky shimmery dress from some other period in the past. Some catered to particular fetishes with more than a few maids’ and nurses’ uniforms. Some of them were downright kinky. She shuddered.
Was she too made to wear something like this?
Marra clamped down on the thought. The path was fraught with dangers. She wouldn’t go down that path. Instead, she rummaged through the dresses, looking to see if some were available in her size or if the size would even matter for whatever she had to put on!
Before she could complete her exploration, a tinkle sounded. The bulb above the door glowed and the screen next to the door came alive. A man was clearly visible there, his uniform announcing his Exalted status and the way he held himself, subtly indicating that he was someone used to wielding power and commanding others.
She held her breath. She wondered if that was what anxiety felt like, a heavyweight settled on her heart and the inability to breathe. She forced herself to relax and took some deep breaths… one… two… three…
He was actually here!
Her fingers ran over the keypad to let him in. This was it. This was the day of reckoning.
He advanced into the room boldly and it was as if the room immediately shrunk in his presence. He stood tall, shoulders broad, a smile of anticipation on his face. His glance ran over her assaying her leisurely. She stood there, unmoving, like a statue. Once he finished appreciating what he had, he sat on the bed and crooked a finger towards her. If he had found her wanting, he had given no indication of it.
Marra slowly walked towards the bed where he sat. Once she faced him, she stood there quietly waiting for what was to come further. He nodded in satisfaction.
“You’re a quiet one. That’s good. I don’t like girls who keep giggling or talking too much. It distracts me from what’s at hand,” he said. Marra recoiled at the voice. Not the deep sonorous timbre that she had expected. But high pitched, like nails scraping over metal.
Had she talked? She loved to giggle. Had she? Or had she been too scared to react much?
Marra strangled this fresh wave of thought before it could raise its head and make her lose her focus. Instead, she nodded, without a smile. She was not going to ingratiate herself before him.
“Strip. I want to look properly at you.”
He commanded and she obeyed. Swift movements, unmarred by any self-consciousness, almost militaristic in their precision of movement and absence of emotion. He kept looking at her all the while, thoughtful. Maybe he hadn’t seen anyone like her before and was a little disconcerted.
“Yes, you’re definitely not like the others. I think I will enjoy my time with you,” he murmured and she was reminded of a snake she had once seen on TV in the mother farm, enjoying his prey.
“Stretch marks? So you’ve been a mother? Do you have it still or was it taken by the state? Don’t answer that! If you had your child with you, you wouldn’t be here. You would be home, looking after your litter.”
Marra listened to him and thought that someone else would have gotten angry at the slur, but not her. Words didn’t have the power to hurt her. Actions too, for that matter.
To the Exalted, the Interred were nothing less than beasts of burden, only there to make sure that their lives ran smoothly. The environment controlled domes that acted as the living quarters of the Exalted needed energy and the energy was supplied by the brute force of the Interred, the section of the society that lived underground, literally buried all day either in their beds or on the cycles, pedaling away their lives so that the Exalted could live.
The revolution a few years earlier hadn’t changed things much. It was still the Exalted who gave the commands and the Interred who followed them. Everyone was kept in their places, subdued by the army of the not so genial Uncles and Aunties, the names only a mask to hide their brutality.
However, the Exalted had learned one thing from the revolution. As long as the Interred were kept happy, the energy supply was assured. The happier the Interred, the more he could pedal and the more energy he would generate. The Exalted were literally taxing happiness. And to that end, at least they were trying to make the Interred stay happy by ensuring of better food, a few hours for socializing, and even monetary benefits when someone was chronically unhappy and falling down on the production quota for energy generation.
The mother farms were no longer as full as they were earlier in the time Marra was born. The Interred could even live under the delusion of family life until their kids were thirteen. This was when the state stepped in and took the little boys and girls, to be assigned to the various tasks that the Interred were to do to make sure the convoluted world ran without any hitch. However, the world was still broken enough that the number of infants born each year had increased only marginally in the thirty years of Marra’s life.
Marra remembered the little infant when she had first set eyes on her, a little thing mewling with all her might. She had never felt anything but somehow she knew she would do anything for this little girl, who held her little finger in her fist while screaming with all that she possessed on her tiny body. Maybe this was what love was and something inside her had ached to feel, for this one instance.
“Get on the bed, instead of daydreaming. I have a host of things I want to try,” the abrasive voice brought her back to the room. She quietly got on the bed with nothing but her skin on and lay there passive, her perfectly coiffed hair on the pillow. He took her hands and had them in the velvet handcuffs in a matter of seconds. Then he bound them to the headboard in clamps provided for the specific purpose. He picked up a whip from the assorted equipment and stood over her brandishing it, exulting in the control that he had.
“You like to inflict pain, don’t you? Especially to those you think are weak, like women and little girls?” Marra couldn’t control herself, witnessing his naked joy, convinced he was in charge.
“Oh! It makes me feel invincible. The things cowering beneath me, and me with the power to inflict pain and death, as I want. Like God! Don’t be surprised. Sometimes accidents happen.”
And he brought the whip down on Marra’s bare thighs.
Marra saw the whip kiss her skin and leave behind a red welt as if her skin was angry at leaving the whip’s embrace. She watched him with equanimity as he once again brought the whip down on her body, over her shins, and then her arms.
He stopped after his fifth hit.
“Why aren’t you screaming? You should be screaming by now. It’s no fun without the screams. And your struggles. I need you to cry, fat dirty tears streaming down your face in spite of yourself. I need you to turn and twist to escape from the inevitable whiplash. Why aren’t you doing all this? Why?”
He racked his brains, bewildered at the turn of events. Then he smiled once more, like a kid who had solved some particularly confounding mystery.
“I know. You have a higher pain threshold. This is gonna get interesting. Let me unbind you and then we’ll see if you won’t run from my whip.”
Soon Marra’s hands were unbound from the headboard and she lay there once again with her hands under her head. The whip once more descended on her body. She lay there, without moving or speaking. Her silence only seemed to aggravate the man.
“Scream! Why don’t you scream? Beg… beg me for your life… I will kill you if you don’t. No one will ask me anything. You all are scum and nobody’s bothered about one less scum off the face of the earth.” He shouted as he brought down the whip with vehemence on her breasts.
“Like the little girls, you leave behind in your wake, bruised and broken?” She sneered at him and he was caught off guard giving her time to turn, like a sleek dolphin cutting through the water. In a moment she had the keys of the handcuffs, secreted earlier in her hair, in her hands. She was out of the cuffs and on her toes before him, covered in welts and bruises, skin torn, bleeding from various places, still with a smile on her face.
“Nobody ever thinks of the hair.” She mentioned it, totally serious.
“I’m not screaming because I can’t feel anything. Not the pain that you inflict upon me with your violent actions nor the insult you heap upon me with your words. I was born a freak of nature. Now it’s time to see if you can take the pain you like to dish out so much.” Marra moved, and with a few deft movements, had him flat on the floor. She put on manacles on his hands and bound him to the headboard with ropes, making sure the knots were tight enough to cut into his soft skin, never having seen a day’s hard work in its life.
He moved and as the knots cut into his flesh, he whimpered.
“Who are you? Why are you doing this?”
Marra made sure he was bound tightly. Then she picked up the whip, the one that had been kissing her bare skin some time back with abandon, and brought it down on him. Then she did it again. Again and again. The screams rent the air in the little room but could find no escape from that sound-proof cubicle.
The man squirmed trying to avoid the blows but found that any movement only increased his discomfort as the ropes acquainted themselves better with his body. As Marra continued raining blows on him, he started blabbering, begging her to stop.
“Stop. I am a highly placed official. I will give you anything you want. I can have you taken from here, placed somewhere where you don’t have to work even a day in your life. Whatever you want I can promise to have it delivered. Just tell me what you want!”
“I want my daughter. She turned thirteen six months ago. The state decided since she was such a beauty, she would be in the business of pleasure. I saw her body, battered and bruised, red from all the beatings and blue from the lack of oxygen which was undoubtedly the result of some perverted game. I don’t even know what you all did with her body.
Can you bring her back?” Marra finally screamed, her pain finding release once, as she brought down the whip on him like a fan waving the barbecue flames, fast and furious.
He sputtered. Some drops of blood trickled down his mouth along with the spittle. The screams turned into moans. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“Not as sorry as I am,” Marra lashed out. You like games, don’t you? Well, we are still playing.”
She picked up a spiked collar and pulled it over his neck. And then she tightened it till he was struggling for air.
“Didn’t you tell me you couldn’t feel anything? How come all this rage?” He asked in a feeble voice.
“I said I couldn’t feel. I never said she couldn’t. I have been out of my mind trying to imagine her terror, her pain, and her helplessness for the past six months. Now it’s time for you to show me.” Marra said and tightened the collar around his neck till his eyes bulged and body relaxed with the last breath exhaled.
She picked up her clothes and put them on. A tinkle again sounded at the door. Two uniformed men stood outside. She pinged them in. They didn’t say anything to her but picked up the body and left. Another man, clearly someone in charge, walked in.
“Thank you, Marra. He was getting to be an embarrassment with his penchant for sexual depravity. You have completed this assignment too without any hitch. Now return to your other job and carry on as usual. When we want your services, you will be contacted in the usual manner.” He paused from delivering the instructions she could repeat by memory.
“You look a little ruffled. Everything ok?”
“Everything’s fine. You know I can’t feel anything. Isn’t that why I am the state’s most preferred assassin?” She countered in reply.
“You’re an asset.” He assured her, glad she was leaving and he wouldn’t have to see those dead eyes anymore.
For a better understanding of the world mentioned in this story, please refer this story.
Pic credit: mentatdgt at pexel.com
Wow! You are the undisputed queen of dystopian fiction, Sheerin.
Thank you so much, Dear Chandra. Glad you enjoyed the world buildup.