Authors: John; Norman
“I would not have done so,” I said.
“No,” she said, “you would have done so. It would be too juicy a tidbit of gossip to let languish. You could not have resisted the temptation, sooner or later, to shine before the others, to be the center of attention, as you so often were, they hanging on your words.”
“No,” I said, angrily.
“But,” she said, “I think your small revelation might have proved less appealing to others than you had anticipated. It is not unusual for a woman to long for a master. It is a very common wish. Thus, in their tepid, or embarrassed, or hostile, responses, or lack of responses, you might have learned something about other women, and, if you were to permit yourself to look into your own heart, you might have learned something about yourself, as well.”
“Do not speak foolishness,” I said.
“Have you never dreamed of yourself naked, in chains, at a man's feet?” she asked.
“One cannot help such thoughts,” I said, angrily.
“Nor should one,” she said.
“I see,” I said, angrily.
“In any event,” she said, “that is why I laughed. It seems you will never reveal my little secret, a common secret amongst women, to the others. Poor Phyllis! Soon you will be on your own chain.”
“I hate you!” I cried, and lunged toward her, and slapped her, viciously, across her left cheek.
She looked at me, startled, drawing back, and put her right hand to her reddened, doubtless stinging cheek.
I looked away, angrily.
“I like you, Phyllis,” she said. “I am your friend.”
“I am not yours,” I said, not looking at her.
When I had slapped Paula, the others in the cell, startled, had turned to regard us.
“If you were a free woman,” said Paula, “I must be pleased to endure your abuse uncomplainingly, but you are not a free woman, Phyllis. You are only kajira, only another kajira.”
“So?” I said.
“I care for you, I am your friend,” said Paula, softly, “but I need not accept abuse from you.”
“You always have,” I said. “You will take it, and like it.”
“I am sorry,” she said. “Please forgive me, but you must be taught a lesson.”
“What?” I asked, puzzled, turning, just in time to glimpse her hands reaching for me. “Stop!” I cried. “Stop! Stop! Let me go! Release me!”
My head seemed to burst with fire. Paula's two hands, fistlike, behind me, were knotted in my hair, and then, to excruciating pain, I felt my head forced down to the floor of the cell. I could not, reaching back, dislodge her hands, and they twisted yet more fiercely in my hair, twisting it. I could not rise. What was there to do but feel the pain? It was like a thousand tiny, burning daggers thrust into my scalp. “Please, please, Paula!” I begged. “Stop! Stop!”
“Tear out her hair,” said the woman in the expensive jacket and skirt, she who had run to the elevator.
“No, no!” I wept, trying not to move in the slightest.
“Tear it all out!” said the woman in the torn evening dress.
“Be quiet,” said Paula, “or I will set the others on you.”
The young woman in the evening dress gasped, and stepped back. Apparently she was not used to being so addressed. Surely inferiors would not have been likely to do so.
“I am sorry,” said Paula, “but you, too, are kajira, only that.”
“Please Paula,” I wept, “let me go!”
“I am sorry, Phyllis,” she said. “But you must learn respect for others.”
“You are hurting me, Paula!” I said. “I am your friend. Your dear, loving friend! Let me go. Ai! Ai! Please, stop! Please, stop!”
Paula stopped twisting my hair, but did not release me. I was helpless.
“Clearly there must be order in the cell,” said the woman in the expensive jacket and skirt. “I will be first.” I assumed she arrogated this role to herself in view of her more expensive, more fashionable attire. It was not much different from that which I normally wore to work. It was not my fault that I wore only a nightgown. Did that make me less than she? Surely we were of similar age. I could think of three or four in the cell who would be more plausible leaders than she.
“Why you?” asked the young woman who wore what seemed a maid's uniform.
“Be quiet, menial,” said the woman in the jacket and skirt. Then she looked down at me. “Have you learned your lesson?” she asked.
“Yes! Yes!” I said.
“Truly?” asked Paula.
“Yes, yes!” I said.
Paula then removed her hands from my hair, and I lay still, very still, hurting, trying to understand, through the pain, what had occurred. “I am sorry, Phyllis,” she said, “but it is important for you to learn that you cannot do whatever you wish, without consequences.”
I was now frightened, of Paula, and, even more, of the others in the cell.
“If there is to be order here,” said Paula, “it will be imposed by men. That is the way it is done. They will decide, they will pick, they will choose. They are masters. We are women.”
“No,” said the woman who wore the expensive jacket and skirt.
“My status is highest,” said the woman in the torn evening dress. “I am wealthy.”
“You are no longer wealthy,” said Paula. “You are now a slave. You own nothing. It is you who are owned.”
“I am the leader,” announced the woman in the jacket and skirt.
“You went quickly enough to your knees,” said the woman in the maid's uniform.
The woman in the jacket and skirt leapt at the woman in the maid's uniform, reaching for her hair. In a moment they were rolling about on the floor, screaming, biting, and scratching.
The woman in the muchly torn gown cried out, “No, I am first, I will be first, me, me!” and began to strike at the rolling pair with her small fists. Almost at the same time one of the young women in jeans and a sweatshirt seized the remains of the woman's gown, trying to pull her away from the others, and the woman cried out in dismay, half stripped, left with little but shreds of her garment. “Let them fight!” said the other woman who wore jeans and a sweatshirt, reaching out to impede the other, she who had interfered, who still held a piece of the evening dress in her hand. Then she, the one with a handful of the evening dress, cried out, turning angrily, and then she and the other began to push and shove at one another.
“Stop! Please, stop!” cried Paula.
But Paula's protests were unavailing.
I kept my head down, to the floor of the cell. I trembled. I was reluctant to move. My scalp still flamed, and I sobbed, trying to catch my breath. I now realized what might be done to me. I was at the mercy of others. And what if my hair had been seized not by Paula, with her woman's strength, but in the single hand of a man? Might I not have hastened to be placed anywhere, to be conducted anywhere? Would I not have begged to serve, eagerly and piteously, in any manner I might? I had not realized until then how I might be controlled by means of my hair, controlled as though I might be a slave. And then I realized I was a slave. I was afraid. It was the first time I had known such pain.
“Please, stop!” cried Paula.
But the disorder in the cell, with cries and buffetings, and strugglings, continued, unabated.
“Please!” cried Paula.
At that moment, startling and shocking us, there was a sudden, unexpected ringing of metal on metal, a loud, sharp staccato of sound at the bars, consequent on the dragging of a metal bar back and forth against them. Instantly all activity in the cell ceased.
We all then, unbidden, fearfully, fell to our knees. Later I pondered the alacrity and uniformity that had characterized that response. How unthought-out, and natural, it had been. We had all immediately, fearfully, knelt. How could that be explained? But, of course, we were slaves in the presence of the free. How natural then that we should have assumed that posture of subservience, deference, and submission, the posture of slaves!
Surely we were learning what we were.
The fellow with the metal bar then stepped back, and another man stepped forward, who carried a small bundle of white, folded cloths.
“You are kajirae,” he said, “kajirae are owned. Your clothing, if you are granted clothing, is at the discretion of masters. Most masters, if they permit you clothing, will dress you for their pleasure. You have nothing to say about such things. You are not free women. We have no interest at the moment in examining you carefully, fully, as slaves. You will grow well enough acquainted with that experience later. What I have in my hand are seven tunics, slave tunics, garments designed to be worn by slaves, if they are permitted clothing. Each of you will take one, and don it. It is the only thing you may wear. You will discover that in a slave tunic there is no doubt that you are a woman. You may, at first, find it distressing, to be so briefly, and charmingly, exhibited. Later, however, you will become shamelessly proud of your sex and beauty, fearing only the contempt, wrath, and chastisement of free women, who will loathe, hate, and envy you. Men will be your only protection against them. So strive well to be pleasing, and fully pleasing, to your masters. They might sell you to a woman. I shall shortly take my leave, to return toward supper, to attend to your feeding, your feeding as slaves. You will proceed as follows. You will remove every stitch and thread of your clothing, even to hairpins, barrettes, ribbons, and such, and cast it well beyond the bars, so that you may not reach it, should you be so inclined. Every stitch and thread means every stitch and thread. You will discover that the slave tunic has no nether closure. That helps you keep in mind that you are slaves, and are always to be at the convenience of masters. How simple it is to thrust it up, over your hips, or to remove it from you, altogether. If you are wearing cosmetics, lipstick, eye shadow, or such, wipe it off. Goreans buy women raw, without artifices. Some of you flaunt nail polish or dyed hair. That can be removed later, in your house of training. As suggested, it is the pure, unadorned woman who is put on sale. After your purchase, cosmetics, enhancements, and such, as with clothing, will be at the discretion of the master. I will now leave and you may attend to your delicate and delightful transformations in all modesty.”
He then slipped the small bundle of white, folded cloths through the bars, where it fell to the floor.
We regarded the small bundle.
He paused, before turning away.
“I think none of you are stupid,” he said. “You are all quite intelligent. Indeed, one of the criteria in terms of which you were selected is high intelligence. Obviously highly intelligent, needful women make the best slaves. Goreans do not care for stupid slaves. They want something worthwhile in their collars. But, if, when I return, I should find any slave has failed to comply, perfectly and completely, with my instructions, that slave will be stripped and lashed.”
He then turned away and, followed by the man with the metal bar, who had smote it so alarmingly against the bars, left the large room, disappearing through one of the doors across the way.
Paula cast her sweater through the bars, some feet away, and began to unbutton her blouse.
Shortly thereafter a miscellany of garments was cast from the cell.
Paula handed me a tunic.
“Thank you,” I said.
“It won't take you long to strip,” said the woman in the expensive jacket and skirt.
“Get your own clothes off,” I snapped.
She drew back her hand to strike me, but then her head was drawn back, by the hair. “Oh!” she said, smarting.
“Please do not make a scene,” said Paula. Then she released the woman's hair who, angrily, moved away, and stripped off her jacket.
“Surely they do not mean everything,” said one of the two young women in jeans and a sweatshirt.
“Every stitch and thread,” said Paula, kindly. “Do not be upset. You are very lovely. You will discover, happily, after all, that you are a female, and that it is a desirable, lovely thing to be. Rather than denying your sex, you will rejoice in it, for by means of it you will find and fulfill yourself and please masters.”
“I cannot wear this!” exclaimed a woman, shaking, and holding out, the tiny garment. It was she who had worn the torn evening dress. “It is too short!”
“You have long, lovely legs,” said Paula. “Men will like to see them.”
“They are my legs!” she exclaimed.
“No,” said Paula, softly, slipping from her panties. “They will belong to whoever buys you.”
I pulled on the tunic. I had never worn such a thing before. I wondered if one might not be more naked in such a thing than without it. I cast the blue nightgown out, through the bars. Then I turned to face Paula. “Paula!” I said, tears in my eyes.
“You are so beautiful,” whispered Paula.
I smiled, through my tears. I did think I would sell well. I wondered what I would bring. Surely the bidding would be fierce, fervid. I had no idea what currencies might be involved. Perhaps I would sell for ten thousand gold pieces.
“What of me?” asked Paula, anxiously.
“Very nice,” I said, actually impressed.
Paula may have been one of the many women whose attractiveness seems to vary inversely with the complexity and abundance of her garmenture, or, perhaps better, with the sort of garments worn. Surely she did not seem to have the sort of body for which so many modern fashions appeared to be designed. Her body was too much like that of the average woman, a bit short, nicely hipped, sweetly and richly curved. Modern designs did not flatter such a body, but its beauty would lie nonetheless beneath, of course, even if obscured by an uncongenial garmenture, as if waiting. If it were to be clothed, surely its beauty would be better served by simpler, looser, more natural garments.
“Such a garment, of course,” said Paula, “is designed to flatter a woman, to set her off, not to hide her, but to reveal her.”