|Vast: A Novel
Ch. II: A Basement
by Nicolas Travers ©
Colin head straights for the nearest newsagent once he reaches street level, consigning all thoughts of buns to a back burner, and Twister and Wendy to fornicating hell - he knows enough of desire to be certain that neither will miss him, and suspects that he may even end up keeping Twister's cash in his pocket unchallenged.
The newsagent has a promising noticeboard covered with small white cards alongside a rack filled with Middle Eastern newspapers. Colin balances himself nervously on the balls of his feet as he adjusts his spectacles for closer inspection, ready to fly in the event of some fellow Bat employee passing him by. A male figure stops at his side and Colin twitches momentarily, shooting a quick sideways glance at the newcomer. But the man is a stranger, perhaps the same sort of age as Colin, probably another overworked, underpaid and frustrated company man, decorously shabby in a dark suit that has patently seen better days, seemingly intent on a similar mission, and the two edge apart, divided by embarrassed and embarrassing expectations.
Most of the cards on the board are brief to the point of banality - female names and telephone numbers, with sometimes a word or two of description and enticement, offering models with generous attributes, mistresses of discipline, advertisers seeking to teach French, Swedish or Swiss. But one particular card, a small oblong of white pasteboard bearing three lines written in a bold rounded feminine hand, rivets Colin's attention, and his hand dives for his inner pocket, snatching at his little black book with a miniature pencil tucked into its lining.
Moments later he is fumbling with small change in a telephone booth, flustered with pent-in lust, his palms sweating, his fingers all thumbs. The booth is unpleasantly stuffy in the warmth of the late summer afternoon, stale smells of tobacco and sweat compounding with a decayed sweetness that might once have been the scent of beer and a retching understench of stale urine, territorial marker of some anonymous and long-forgotten drunkard overtaken by incontinence and driven to piss in a corner.
Colin dials the number he has copied from the card, his free hand clutching a coin, and pushes the coin home as the tone in the receiver pressed against his ear changes from a steady dialing call to the urgent bleeps of a connection. A woman's voice answers, lazy and clouded as though with sleep, and he swallows hard.
"I saw your advertisement." His voice is hoarse, uncertain, and he tenses with the timidity of a wild animal coming to a pool for water, ready to flee at a first scent of danger.
"Mmm." The voice in his ear makes an encouraging, soothing sound. "Mmm, I'm not far away, would you like some details?"
The softness offers an invitation, an opening move in a ritual exchange, and the voice barely pauses for Colin to gulp a small gasp of affirmation before continuing with a smooth and well-practised summary of name and bodily statistics, together with a rapid list of services, starting from a massage - that politest of euphemisms for masturbation - for £15, and topless massage for £25, through to a full personal service - more commonly known as sexual intercourse - for £50, coupled with the provision of more complex services by negotiation.
Colin listens, transfixed, totally hooked, in this quasi-physical encounter. But he also waits. The voice quickly completes its small catalogue and for a moment the telephone line only carries a faint crackle of static. Then the softness returns.
"Don't you want to come?"
Now the woman's voice is luring, enticing, and a whole world away from Colin's experience of most prostitutes, normally intent on converting every casual caller into hard cash with minimum effort and at maximum speed.
He swallows again. "Er, you mentioned er, rainwear on your card." He stumbles as he exposes himself, and only just manages to carry his sentence through, his voice breaking momentarily in his shyness of speaking his secret.
It is a hard thing for him to say, to reveal to any stranger, even to a stranger with commercial cause to sympathise: for this sexual fantasy is a thing hidden deep inside his mind, a nursery sublimation buried deep beneath thick layers of control, set rock-hard by the stern contempt of his wife, who, once tempted by concupiscent curiosity into discussing his desires after buying a dark blue rubberised cotton trenchcoat in a sale at a time when the style had been fading gently from department store racks, had recoiled violently when he had sought to progress her new raincoat into their shared bed as a substitute nightdress.
"Ah." The voice in his ear murmurs the sound lingeringly, redolent with complicity. "So you're into rubber, and latex, and those sort of things, are you?" Now the woman speaks with a deep purr, a throaty cat-sound of expectation and encouragement.
"You'll enjoy coming to see me, I promise you. I've got a really tempting wardrobe, and some really rustly latex sheets as well." Her voice hisses a little as she draws out her syllables, Eve sibilantly proffering a golden apple of temptation. "I can do lots of things to please you, you'll really enjoy yourself."
Now Colin is salivating, and a trickle of dribble edges down from the corner of his mouth to connect droplets of sweat beading his chin. But a small alarm bell also sounds in his head, triggered by her encouragement, and he bites his lip in sudden concern. He hesitates.
"I've only got fifty pounds."
The line is silent for a moment, and he chews his lower lip anxiously, pinioned tight between lust and budgetary constraints.
Then the woman dismisses his intervention.
"Don't worry, we'll still have fun." Her purr deepens, ever more enticing now that she has hooked her punter. "We'll play with each other."
Colin is hooked, caught, landed, and totally beached. He begins to sweat openly, little rivulets of perspiration trickling down the side of his face, as he jots down an address and hurries away from the telephone booth, now quite frenzied with desire.
His destination, a small house in a quiet back street, is only a few hundred metres away, perhaps five minutes' walk from the Bat Group offices. He slows as he counts the house numbers, drawing nearer and nearer, and then stops, timid again, glancing around him quickly, fear momentarily suppressing ambition.
But the street sleeps, lulled by a double row of pale green plane trees cooling the rows of iron railings and pavements stretching away silently into the distance, and the house is anonymously white, hiding itself behind net-curtained windows, a picture of respectability.
The woman's voice has directed him to the basement, and he peers down doubtfully at a curtained window, hand resting uncertainly on the small iron gate barring his way. The gate is unlocked, and he pushes it open to descend awkwardly, nearly losing his balance for one moment as he negotiates a sharp turn, snatching at the stair railing to right himself. A basement window curtain twitches momentarily as he lurches, and is still again.
The basement door matches the house, glinting with a gloss broken only by a small peephole set at eye level, and an electric bell button nailed to the doorframe equally bereft of identity. Colin presses the button with his thumb, and hears a distant buzz. For a moment the basement is as silent as the street above, and then the door opens a fraction, chinking against a barricading chain, and it is obvious that he is being silently scrutinised.
"I rang you, from a call box, about two minutes ago." He speaks in a clatter of short, nervous spurts, fearful that the door will close again in rejection and ridicule, shutting him out forever from what is now grown in his mind to become a wholly absorbing obsession.
The fractional gap widens a little, an unseen inspector maintaining and perhaps intensifying scrutiny for a long fragment of time. Then the gap narrows again, and Colin hears the sound of a chain being unfastened.
The door opens on a shadowy figure, strangely bulky in the half light of the interior, and Colin's nostrils quiver and flare, catching at a sweetish scent of rubber or latex, the scent of fairground balloons. He takes a nervous step forward, and hesitates.
"Come in." A voice speaks to him from the gloom, softly, temptingly, the voice of his telephone encounter, filled with the same purring enticement. Colin edges on into the hallway, making out the form of a woman gathered into a hooded cloak made of latex or rubberised fabric as his eyes adjust, and he feels his self-control ebbing away, all free will and power of decision melting in the heat of a quickening urgency, a need to submerge and sublimate himself in a desire that he barely knows how to express and conjugate and complete.
The bulky figure leads him on, rustling softly towards an open door, and gestures for him to pass, so that he brushes against the cloak and its cool smoothness, now lost and quite bewildered in an all-enveloping supremacy of sensation, fetish made real.
He pauses, savouring his excitement, his throat dry, the front of his trousers swelling ambitiously, but an unseen hand pushes him gently forward.
"Keep going, straight on, into the bedroom." The woman's rustling is behind him as he moves along a dimly lit passage into a small room wholly occupied by a large bed covered with a white sheet that shines at him dully, and his fetish scent is now almost overpowering.
The bedroom door closes, and now the woman is standing next to him, pushing back the hood of her cloak from shoulder-length dark hair. She turns to face him, allowing the cloak to part, and Colin sees that she is naked, possibly in her mid-thirties, with large eyes accentuated by theatrically curving lines of mascara above high cheekbones, inspecting him carefully, appraising him.
Then she moves again, as though shaking herself, and her cloak parts further, revealing large, full breasts and the swell of a rounding belly. For a moment he stares at her, frozen in a compounding of awe and desire, and the woman smiles slightly, in a gesture of reassurance.
"I thought for a moment you were drunk, when you staggered coming down my stairs." She speaks easily, conversationally, for all the world as though she might be a hospital nurse reassuring a new patient. "That's why I was doubtful about opening the door."
She moves closer to Colin, and raises one hand to touch his cheek lightly, running her forefinger up past his ear so that the material of her cloak brushes against his jaw, and he is unable to move, his mind swept away in an all-consuming fantasy of taking her and burying himself with her in the cloak, reveling with her in his fetish made flesh.
But he is also tense with a kind of terror, fear that he may now become putty in this stranger's hands, subject to her slightest whim, defenceless outside an elaborate wall of protection that has taken him many, many years to erect.
He tries to speak, to say something that will redress the balance between them, to reassert his masculinity. But he fluffs his thoughts, and has to settle for something much less ambitious.
"I slipped." His voice is a mumble.
The woman smiles at him compassionately. "I know, I realised." Her voice is consoling, the voice of a victor, as she stands close to him, waiting.
Colin realises that he is lost. Suddenly he wants only to please her, to submerge himself in weakness and total servility.
He fumbles for his wallet, slowly leafing out five ten pound notes of hard squirreled savings to count them into the woman's outstretched hand, waiting dumbly as she leaves the room for a moment, doubtless to hide the money somewhere safe - wondering for the same quick moment whether she will return, or whether he faces being ripped off in some unsuspected trick.
But the woman is back, smiling her same faint smile, and stands in front of him again.
For a moment they stare at each other, and then he stretches out a tentative hand to touch her cloak. The woman takes his hand and they close on each other, her mouth pressing and opening against his, sucking him in, and her hands move at the same time to unfasten the buckle on his belt, pressing on the swell of his penis inside his trousers.
Colin raises his hands to cup them under her breasts, but she pushes him away as she continues to knead him.
However their closeness is now an encumbrance, hampering movement, and they separate again, connected only by her hand still pressing against him. She pauses, caressing him as though taking stock. "Umm." Her voice is an appreciative purr. "You're coming on nicely." She squeezes Colin's genitals gently. "Take off your clothes."
Colin steps back reluctantly, struggling to free himself first from his jacket, to drop it blindly behind him on the bedroom carpet, then tugs his tie free and unbuttons his shirt to toss both aside in his same rushing hurry, freeing his trousers to fall around his ankles as he bends to unlace his shoes.
The woman is motionless, standing close to him as he comes upright again, and then presses herself against him in a quick deft movement, gathering her cloak around their paired bodies so that her hood comes down on his head and he is nearly suffocated in this hot, airless, oppressively scented enclosure.
"Is this what you want from me?" She forces him back against the bed, and pushes against him so that he falls backwards onto its covering of latex smoothness.
Colin clings to her, his body starting to bead with sweat created by the heat of their nakedness pressed tightly together and the imperviousness of the sheet beneath him. The woman is lying on top of him, enveloping them both in her cloak, moving her body against him like some great hot sinuous snake, and his lust drives him to lay a trail of wet open-mouthed suckings and nuzzlings down the side of her face and along her shoulder, forcing him suffocatingly into the slippery inner surface of her cloak and on to a breast tipped with a hard round nipple, and he sucks, knowing that he has a driving need, but unsure what he seeks, or the motive for his seeking, unsure whether he is caught up in some strange distorting vision of heaven, or whether this innermost urgency burning him is driving him ever faster along some hidden pathway bound for damnation.
Then the cloak flips up as the woman's body rolls away from him momentarily, and he can feel her hands surrounding his genitals, slipping a contraceptive deftly over him, and a hot softness swallows up his distended penis as she takes him into her mouth to pump up and down on him, and Colin forces himself back into the suffocating claustrophobia of her cloak, and nuzzles at a mat of black hair between the woman's legs, as he seeks to replicate his lust in her.
Now he is now quivering and jerking in a marionette dance of welling frenzy, rising in gathering, inexorable, inescapable urgency towards a culmination that he fears as much as he desires, trying with his utmost will to restrain and hold himself back as the wave inside him mounts and curls and unfurls itself into a tremendous, shattering, crashing breaker, and suddenly he is spent, and limp, and flaccid, and wasted.
Colin's climax is both culmination and defeat. For several minutes he lies silent, motionless and completely drained, sweating numbly on the latex sheet covering the bed. Every shred of passion has vanished, leaving him a husk, an empty shell, a fool to have traded fifty pounds for something less than genuine coition, however brief, deftly fleeced and bereft of both satisfaction and self-esteem, nursing nothing but a bitter emptiness of disappointment and despair.
He also feels discomfort, and moves a little, to realise that his sweating on the latex bed sheet has brought with it an unpleasant, scratching heat.
He moves, instinctively seeking a new and more comfortable position, and brushes against the woman. She is now sitting cross-legged on the bed, looking down at him, and her eyes gleam with a victory that matches his defeat.
She stares down at him at him wordlessly for a moment, and then her lips press together. "You were very quick." It is a judgement, a condemnation.
Colin feels guilt, tinged with irritation, flow in him. "I came too fast." He mumbles the words, he no longer has any pride.
She shrugs slightly. "These things happen."
He is silent for a moment, and then the woman's passive condemnation of his inadequacy, her secret unspoken domination over him, challenges him, and suddenly he wants to come back to life and start afresh and impose his own domination. A new wavelet of desire starts to well in him, attempting to rebuild his tumescence, and he rolls over again on the latex bed sheet to be closer to her, edging himself up against her body.
But the woman retreats, swinging herself off the bed to stand looking down at him, her face expressionless in the half-light.
Colin looks up at her hopefully.
"No, dear." The woman speaks the two words softly, but her tone is flat, and hard, and very defined. "You've had your lot for today."
Colin fills his eyes with pleading, though he knows very well that he is wasting his time. "Can't we just have a little try?"
"No, dear." Now the woman's voice is tinged with a shadow of irritation. "You must come back some other time if you want to try again."
So Colin rolls off the bed and begins to gather his clothes together, dressing slowly, as though his slowness might succeed in winning him back some fragment of time just gone, while the woman stands watching him dispassively, and they stand as two divorced figures in the same space, with nothing to connect them any more, and the clammy sheen of the latex bed sheet and the overpowering smell of latex become repulsive to him, and he only wants to escape.
But he still pauses from time to time as he dresses, eyeing the woman with a lingering sidelong look, as he threads his belt into his beltbuckle, as he ties his tie, and as he smoothes his hair with the flat, still sweating, palms of his hands, hoping against hope that she will relent.
But the woman's eyes deny him. He has paid his money, he has been dealt the hand for which he asked, and now the game is over - her dull, bored look makes it plain that their transaction has completely run its course.
Soon Colin is fully dressed, and retraces his steps to the basement door. The woman follows him, enfolded in her rubber cloak again, and watches dispassionately as he fumbles with the catch.
He turns back to look at her, and she half smiles. "Next time it will be better." Her voice is soft once more, now that he is going. She plainly counts on hooking him again, to guarantee another equally easy future payment.
Colin tries to return her smile, but he is too completely vanquished, and he feels like crying. He steps blindly out into the basement sunlight, and barely hears the sound of the woman's telephone ringing behind him, and her door closing.
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