Friday, February 18, 2011
You know all these men by sight and by name. But you never really speak to them. You nodded silently at them as you walked in, and you too joined the chorus of curt nods as later arrivals walked in and found a place. But you don’t speak. Later on, it’s not allowed but no one has ever said you can’t speak to them at this stage. But why would you? There’s nothing to say. You know nothing of what they do.
Except that like you, they do this.
You know all their names because you hear the receptionist call them out when she’s checking attendance. And later you hear them called one by one by a different voice, from behind the heavy wooden door. The door is thick and muffles the sound. But you listen with exceptional care, because the name might be yours. Eventually, it will be yours, there can be no doubting or escaping that. You long to get it over with. But you dread it too, and breathe again as another man rises heavily to his feet, and reluctantly passes into the other room.
There is a large clock, which ticks and tocks heavily into the silence, from the corner. You wonder whether it was placed there deliberately to add to the tension. ‘Tension’ is barely the word, because to be truthful, what you feel is fear, plain and simple. Fear building since the start of this week, as the day approached. Fear that struck like an icicle in the pit of your stomach this morning, when you woke up knowing this was the day. Fear that now seems ready to bubble over into panic, sending you hysterically fleeing from this place. But somehow you never do.
Now there are some sounds to be heard from behind the door, at the limit of hearing. You can’t make out words but you can hear her voice, level and measured as always. She never raises her voice and she never shouts. She talks about her expectations for the men under her tutelage, and she identifies specific areas in which they have fallen short. She asks precise, pointed questions and she listens carefully to the answers.
You can hear the man’s voice, answering her questions. His voice is quiet too, but there is an urgency and a rush to it, as if he is trying to suppress the panic that might cause him to shout. It is worth putting your point of view. Perhaps it would be easier if she were more implacable, if nothing you said could make a difference. But she listens, and will change her mind if the explanations are reasonable. And so you explain, and you excuse and you apologise…and as in panic you see her unmoved by those carefully prepared explanations, you can find yourself gabbling.
This is what you hear now. The man’s voice has become more shrill in tone, and urgent. He is no longer discussing his behaviour, he is simply pleading. And this does no good. She will not tolerate it for long, and the whining tones cease abruptly, no doubt at a curt word from her.
After a pause, her own voice can be heard again. Now, she is giving her decision, and the reasons for it. Now there is no pleading to be heard, because at this stage there is no point. The voice – as measured and calm as ever – ceases and there is silence.
Total, empty silence, which the tick-tocking of the clock seems to swell to fill.
Inside the room, positions are being assumed. Clothing is perhaps being adjusted. Implements are being selected, laid out ready. Restraints are almost certainly being applied: most men need them. All is done in silence, and the men outside find themselves holding their breath.
It is always longer than expected. Surely it must start now, you think? But perhaps something is not yet quite right. She will not begin until everything is ready, and she never hurries.
And then the silence is violently broken, by the sharp CRACK of an implement. Wooden or leather? A paddle or a cane? On the bare flesh or (less commonly, except for the very harshest implements) across the clothing? The sound of just one impact answers all of these questions. You know precisely what is being done. You have experienced it. This is a heavy leather strap, applied across a bare bottom. And although there is a feeling of relief that this time it is him and not you, you know too that it will be you. Maybe not this implement, not this way, this time around. But eventually, you will experience everything, and all of the combinations. But just for now, just at this precise time, you are out here and it is someone else in there who is having that done to him. And that is something for which you can only give thanks.
You don’t know how many. And so you count. You would prefer not to, you would prefer to think of something else. But you count, of course you count. All around the room, no matter where their gaze lies or what they seem to be thinking, all are counting. There is no point in counting someone else’s strokes, as it will never affect your own later. But you have to count, how can you not?
With each impact, you wonder whether that was the last. As they build up, at regular intervals, milestones are reached. At five, or at seven there is little doubt that another will follow after a pause. But at six or at ten, exactly the same pause seems to stretch out until you wonder whether that is that… until CRACK tells you that there is more still to come. She likes sixes, and the pauses at 12, 18 and 24 hang particularly heavily in the room. During a particularly hard beating, it is essential not to meet anyone else’s eye, as what expression could you possibly share when the 25th, or the 37th or even the 61st impact rings out across the room? So eyes stay firmly fixed on the floor.
Mingled in with the sounds of this steady beating, the sounds of its results begin to be heard. Grunts and heavy breathing barely make it through the thick wooden door, but after a while little cries and gasps start to emerge. One or two men can remain silent almost throughout, and one new arrival is still helplessly noisy almost from the start when it is his turn. But most find themselves involuntarily commenting on the discipline as it builds up, beginning to cry out as if in surprise at the fresh pain from each stroke.
You never ‘get used’ to it, either from one session to the next or from one stroke to the next. Each impact outrages the nerve endings, which have evolved to report pain so it can be avoided. Yet here it cannot be avoided, and so the nerves shout ever more angrily, ever more urgently. Someone is hitting you, is calmly adding bruise onto bruise, is raising welts on ever more damaged tissue! Pain receptors urgently report the assault, commanding an immediate response. Run away! Hide! Fight back!
But you cannot do any of those things. So what do you do? You cry out. You yell and shriek instinctively, to alert people around that you are in pain and need relief. But there is only her, and she will not be providing any relief from this. So you yell, and you cry and you shriek and…you beg.
Yes. You beg. You offer frantic apologies and promises and bargains. You plead for mercy, knowing all the time that nothing will do the slightest good, that nothing you say can possibly dissuade her from her set course of action. Your hopeless begging will not result in one fewer stroke or the most marginal diminution in the force with which any are applied. Every time you tell yourself you will not beg, that you are a rational being and you will not be reduced to a piteous, mewling coward for no reason. But you will beg for mercy, you know you will. You always do.
The pause after 24 is long. After a while, you stop waiting for the sound of 25. For some reason, tension around the room relaxes slightly. Shoulders shift almost imperceptibly forwards. Why the sound of someone else being beaten is so nerve-racking is hard to explain. After all, when someone esle is being beaten, you are not. It is now, after their beating, that the door might fly open and a disshevvilled figure stagger into the room, to pass into the corridor where he will stand quietly facing the wall (fidgeting but not daring to explore his damaged flesh under the watchful eye of the receptionist), until all of the sessions are complete. And if that happens, then it will be someone else’s turn. And that someone might be you.
There are four other men in the room. So there is a one in five chance that it will be you next time. Eventually, of course, it must be you. The probability rises until it reaches one, when the second-last is receiving his treatment and there is no one left in the room to wait with you. You hate being last, like that.
But there is another possibility. All the room’s occupants start visibly as the sound of another impact is heard. This is quieter, more of a SNICK! than a slapping, cracking sound. But it is nothing gentle. You know it is the cane.
And even if you had not instantly recognised that soft, deadly, evil sound, the shriek that follows provides a further clue. The previous session is not yet done, but has merely reached another stage. You didn’t know that, as the sounds of the first beating built up. But the recipient in there almost certainly did, having had his punishment explained to him before it began. He knew, all the way to 24 strokes, that this was merely the overture, that no amount endured from the strap in any way lessened the number of strokes of the cane yet to come. Perhaps it would have been easier for him not to know. But she did not give him that choice, because that is not the way she does it.
Somehow you find it hard to breathe when someone is being caned. But you have to breathe, because the pace is slower, with long pauses between the strokes. The pauses are not silent, because the recipient is now crying uncontrollably, having long lost the ability to form coherent words. Yet the strokes punctuate and regulate the rhythm of the sobs, implacably. The screams tell of agony and fear. You already know that, because you have had the cane too. And you screamed in just the same way.
Other men don’t do this. It is the middle of a Friday evening, and other men are drinking with their friends, or dining with their dates. Some might be having a quiet evening at home. You have prepared lies in case any work colleagues ask what you were doing on Friday. Because you are hardly going to tell them that you were bent over, being beaten on your bottom by a lady whose real name you don’t even know. And thanked her afterward for the privilege. And left swearing never to return, to recapture your life. And knowing full well that next month you would be back here, waiting your turn, wishing things were otherwise.
Even if you could bear the embarrassment of telling someone…what could you possibly say, when they ask “Why?”?
The caning has finished, and the sobs die away. There is a brief conversation. She likes to end with a few brief comments and reminders of the key areas on which she expects improvement. But no time is allowed for recovery: shorts are jerked back up, the door is flung open and the recipient must emerge still flushed in the face, sometimes still crying but in any event still tear-stained and dishevelled.
He staggers through the room and out into the corridor, where he will quietly await the others.
Again, there is no sound in the room but the tick-tocking of the clock. It shows she is running a little behind schedule. Probably, that means you will finish quite late, as she does not hurry and catch up the time. She takes whatever time is needed.
Tick tock, tick tock.
There is silence from behind the heavy wooden door. But soon it will be broken, when she calls the next name.
Will it be yours? You’d like to get it over with. The sooner it is your name the better. You know that. Get it over with.
But oh please oh please, let it be someone else, just this time. Not you. Not yet. You’re not ready just yet. Please.
But that is not for you to decide. She is reading through a report in there right now, and there is a name on top of it. That is the name that will be called next, whatever you might want. If it is your name, she is thinking about you right now. If not, your name is waiting in the pile of reports before her.
You’ll find out soon.
You just have to wait.
The photo of course is from the formidable Cassie Hunter, the Hunteress. A lady whose style and approach so closely matches my deepest fantasies of inexorable school-style beatings, and whose beauty so perfectly complements that role, that I can hardly bear even to observe her from afar. And because my fantasies are so much 'heavier' than my real willingness to take punishment, I am too scared ever to visit her. But she visits me, in my dreams.