“The Dark Room”
by Cecilia Tan
I hate committees. I hate meetings. Much as I love my fellow committee members, we always get sidetracked into debating if the group should boycott Facebook (if only) or whether the endorphin high from relentless edging can lead to hallucinations (an urban myth—and don’t try Tide Pods either). But I must admit sometimes good ideas come out of collective brainstorming.
The “trick or treat” themed play party, though? It started simply enough with party planning for October. Everyone was already thinking Halloween. I mentioned I’d seen Wolfington Manor was available to rent for private functions again. It had been, what, ten years since there’d been kinky events there? Suzan jumped right on it as the perfect venue – assuming the new management didn’t mind nudity and we didn’t mind the rumors the place was haunted. Billy brought up how when he was in Girl Scouts their troop ran a fundraising haunted house every year, with each room set up with some kind of scare, like sticking your hands through a curtain into a bowl full of eyeballs (peeled grapes, he explained). Which led to us brainstorming tricks or treats for every room…
Which led to me being bound to the medical exam table in the Dark Room. (“Why do I have to be blindfolded if it’ll be pitch dark?” “Because when they first step into the room a little light might leak in.” “And they’ll be blindfolded, too? Why?” “Because it’s more fun that way. All in favor say ‘aye.’”)
It had to be me or Lally in the Dark Room, they said, because we’re the only ones so pansexual we could handle all comers. But Lally has that big collection of electrical toys, so the role of Mad Scientist made much more sense. It all sounded so logical at the time. But lying here with nothing but my breath and my heartbeat in my ears, I’m starting to have second thoughts.
I’m starting to think about Micah. We’d been so drunk on New Relationship Energy the last time we were here—dating only, what, two months at the time? He had a wicked imagination and would’ve absolutely loved this party idea. But he never would’ve let me be Dark Room bait, unless maybe he were the one controlling it. Micah turned possessiveness into my safety net, into a set of rules that ensured that nothing and no one ever penetrated me–or even touched me–without his permission. (“This hole is mine,” he used to say—through gritted teeth as he fucked me, or whispered sweetly to make me blush in the supermarket.)
After he died, I didn’t know how to mourn. I didn’t know how to free myself when he’d never uncollared me. Throwing myself into community organizing was the only thing that made me feel as wanted, as needed, as I had when he was alive.
The meeting minutes do note the vote was unanimous. I put myself here. Hands bound to the corners of the table somewhere above my head, ankles to the stirrups that leave my knees half bent and my ass hanging just over the edge of the table.
The heavy drape rustles and for a moment I hear the whisper of someone in the hallway, not loud enough to make out what they say. The point of the Dark Room is to be almost sensory deprivation, all the way down in the windowless wine cellar, far from the music and screeches of delight as tricks are played and treats are given. (Peeled grapes, Billy swears.)
Whoever it is, they’ve probably been told to feel their way. A cool hand finds my ankle, fingertips sliding up my shin, past my knee, and then slowly, slowly up my inner thigh. A low chuckle, then their fingernails begin to rake, pausing only when they coast into my haphazardly trimmed pubic hair.
They scratch over the landscape of my hip, eventually climbing to the peak of my nipple. I clamp my lips together to keep from crying out as one nail flicks back and forth like a pendulum, catching it on every tick, every tock. My nipples have always been like “on” buttons, but as fingers pinch them taut and then rub it’s like a striker being scraped over a matchhead — two matchheads — igniting desire that quickly spreads through my body.
Whoever they were, they don’t stay long, though, patting me as if to apologize for running back to the well-lit and raucous upstairs. (At midnight there will be bobbing for buttplugs. Wouldn’t want to miss that.)
I’m not alone in the dark for long, though. Again the whisper, and I feel the air move against my now-damp skin. I hear the noise of surprise as cool flesh brushes the side of my leg, then the hands, walking across my bare belly, figuring out which direction I’m oriented, and finding my armpits fully exposed.
The tickling begins before I’ve even had a chance to dread it. How could I have forgotten this is some people’s kink? Laughs tear out of my lungs like bats out of the maw of hell, flung forth by the force of nature, my body shaking and squirming like a desperate sea creature on a dock. Oh god, oh god, oh god I can’t breathe! Except I am breathing, great gawping lungfuls in between the peals…. and then they step back, giggling helplessly themselves, and leave me limp. Tickling had never struck me as sexual before, but I am hot as Hades now, and I don’t even believe in Hell.
It dawns on me that a line must have formed outside. Some who enter the Dark Room feel around until they encounter the gloves and lube on the side table, or the vibrator. Others press their mouths to mine, ignoring my yearning body and concentrating every bit of pleasure and connection into just our lips and tongues and breath. Some enter as twosomes or threesomes, overwhelming me with multitasking. One pair unbinds my hands to unlock two-player mode—two joysticks, no waiting.
One of the two comes with a shout, hot seed spurting between my fingers. His partner growls with need but pulls away from my grip. I hear them kissing, the wet hush of mouth against mouth, and then one asks the other, “So you think it’s okay?”
“There wouldn’t be condoms here if it wasn’t,” says the other. I don’t recognize their voices, but they sound nice enough. “Go on. Here, I’ll help.”
The tell-tale tear of the condom packet, the grunt of arousal as one strokes the other to readiness, the click of the lube bottle cap. I’ve never been fucked by a total stranger before, and butterflies bat against my insides.
He lines himself up between my legs, fingers searching, spreading dew up and down right where my pleasure is most intense, until one digit drives in deep. I moan with need, because it’s not enough, not nearly enough, but then my breath catches as I hear a voice whisper in my ear: “This hole is mine.”
“Ow!” The man between my legs jerks back as if stung and says to his partner, “If you didn’t want me to, you could’ve just said.”
“Me? I didn’t do anything,” comes the reply.
“It felt like an electric shock or something!”
“Jeez. Maybe this one’s a trick instead of a treat. Come on. Let’s not be late for buttplug bobbing.” (Told you.)
They leave and for a few moments I think I am alone in my agony, helpless with need, my freed hands reaching out into the dark just because they can.
I feel familiar fingers interlock with my grip.
His scoffing tone is so familiar, too. “Don’t act so surprised. The veil between the living and the dead is thinnest at midnight.”
My heart catches in my throat and I can barely breathe.
“I’ve got time to grant one wish. What do you want, love?”
I say what I’m supposed to say, what I can’t help but say, and what is true all at once: “Fuck me, oh god I want you to fuck me.”
My hands clutch at nothing. Something brushes over my pubic stubble. He sounds… sad. “This was your chance to beg for your freedom, you know. My chance to grant it.”
“I don’t want it,” I gasp, voice rough as razorblades. “Freedom is overrated. So is ‘healing.’”
“You know it.”
He sighs and it sounds like the wind through a screen door blown open by a blustery October night. “The truth is you’ve always belonged to yourself, love. But I suppose I can live with”—he chuckles— “you giving yourself to the community 364 days a year. But on one night, you’re mine again, hm?”
He enters me, then—wholly, fully—and it’s almost beyond what I can bear.
The committee voted unanimously to hold the Wolfington Manor party every Halloween. See you next year, love. See you next year.
Cecilia Tan is the founder of Circlet Press. Her erotic urban fantasy series, The Vanished Chronicles, is forthcoming from Tor Books.