" . . . The Spinetinglers Anthology 2009 is another eclectic mix of all things out of this world. As always, we have got it all. There are tales of gods and devils, angels and demons, saints and sinners, and even the odd goblin or two. We have authors such as Simon Wicks, who illustrates a beautiful command of the language to stimulate his audience, as well as authors such as Dave Paul, who uses good, old-fashioned scare tactics to get a reader excited . . ."
I could tell it was Michael by the tattoo on the top of his arm. A colourful creation depicting a large, red dice, the six face showing, speared by an engorged sperm-spitting penis. The fancy script lettering underneath declared Lucky in Love.
" Not this time," I said to what was left of him.
He was naked and slumped in the corner of the poorly lighted bedroom, his own penis a flaccid imitation of the drawing on his arm. His body was unmarked except that his head had been ripped from his torso. Blood had dried as it had flowed, leaving his chest bathed in a crimson-brown wash. His legs stretched straight out in front of him.
Melissa was nowhere to be seen.
I eagerly awaited her return.
Multi-coloured lights reflect in shimmering rainbows from the rain soaked tarmac that cover the pathways of Calmount Street. This is known as the red light district of my fair city, even though the dark of the night is repressed by a neon frenzy of every light colour imaginable.
I know the street well; I seem to spend most of my time within the confines of this busy, bustling thoroughfare. Often I raise my hand to the girls standing like painted mannequins behind the multitude of large show windows that line the road; their skimpy clothes in stark contrast to the cold, wet weather outside. They acknowledge me with weak, thin smiles, the friendliness in their eyes having been eroded by an endless expenditure of feigned affection towards an endless array of shallow clients.
This part of Calmount Street is where the tourists come, predominately male, predominately young. Some just look and wonder, some, brave or drunk enough, venture inside the establishments, usually feigning courage in front of the rest of the group of males enjoying a lads' night out. The girls perform, the punters pay. That is the life lived here.
Further down the street the lights are not so bright. The clubs and houses become progressively shabbier, their exteriors appear darker, dingy and paint-peeled, almost foreboding with their grubby fašades. This area is not for the casual tourist. It is for the serious sexual adventurers. The prices you pay may be cheaper, but the risks you take become greater. The rooms used are usually unclean, the workers, more often that not, are the same. The clients that come here are more specialised in their fetish desires. Their needs are vastly different from what may be considered the norm and the fulfilment of their sexual hunger requires a more extreme satisfaction.
The girls and boys that work this area wear the mask of the resigned. They have given up on finding a way out of their drug fuelled, sex peddling way of life. Every one of them has a look as though the world holds no more surprises. And perhaps it doesn't; perhaps they have seen (and experienced) it all. Most have been asked to perform tasks that many people could not imagine, and not just once. Some of the workers here have spent nearly all of their lives offering their specialised services to willing, eager customers.
Candy has worked in this area for as long as anyone has. He lives in a small flat above one of the run-down, grimy clubs (live sex on stage!) and he works on the street. Gerald is his real life name, he told once me, but no one has called him that for at least nine years. He is tall and slim and considers himself beautiful when he has spent an hour in front of the mirror applying his make-up. To me, even with the long blonde wig and the colourful, doll-like paint decorating his face, he still looks like a man.
" But that's the whole point, my dear," he explained to me some time ago. " That's what my clients want. Cock in a frock. That's what they like."
Everyone has a fantasy, a fetish, a sexual desire, I suppose. For some it is just more extreme than for others.
And Calmount Street can cater for any taste.
That is why I first started coming here, I suppose. I needed to fulfil my own fantasy. Although, thinking about it now, at first I needed to find out what my fantasy was, what would float my boat as Candy would say.
I tried one or two of the girls at the top of the street first. I window shopped until someone took my fancy, then went inside and paid the fee. Regular sex, no frills, no thrills, as far as I was concerned. I knew I wanted something more, so I made my way further down the street.
I experimented with role-play, bondage, toys, sadomasochism, all sorts of weird and wonderful things, with all sorts of weird and wonderful girls. Although some nights I felt I came close to what I was looking for, ultimately I was left feeling unfulfilled, as though there was something more my desires craved.
Everything changed, however, after I met Candy.
I was making one of my regular trips down Calmount Street when I first saw him. He was lying in the road being kicked and punched by an angry drunk. I watched for a long time while the drunk, shouting obscenities with each blow, did a good number on Candy. Blow after blow pummelled into Candy's body as he lay motionless, curled up in the foetal position, hands and arms covering his head.
I didn't try to help him. For one thing it was none of my business and for another, the mood the drunk was in he would have easily turned his anger on me if I had tried to intervene. I'm no hero.
After the drunk had expended all his anger and energy, and with one last shout of " faggot", he walked away. I went over and helped Candy to his feet. He could hardly walk, so, guided by his muffled directions through cut and swollen lips, I half supported, half carried him to his small flat.
He open a bottle of whisky, poured himself a large glass, gulped half of it down in one go and then offered me some. We talked for most of the night. It seemed to me that Candy was a lonely person despite the clients that regularly visited him. He told me what had happened that night; the drunk coming on to him, thinking Candy was one of the girls working the street. Candy playing a game, leading the punter on. Their kissing, tongues intertwining. Then the drunk fumbling around inside Candy's knickers and the look of shock and surprise at what he found in there.
" Probably didn't realise dicks come in such a big size," Candy slurred through his damaged lips. I smiled, more in pity than humour.
We finished off the whisky bottle and Candy opened another. The night outside the flat was dark and noisy; car engines, shouts, laughter, could all be heard ricocheting from the walls of the closely packed buildings. Inside Candy was telling me his theory on why the drunk had beaten him so badly.
" If he was secure with his own sexuality," Candy philosophised, " he would have laughed the whole thing off." He took another long swig of whisky. " But the bastard was confused. Truth is, part of him wanted to fuck me and that part confused and scared him. So he took the cowards way out and fucked me up instead."
By the end of the night we had finished off the second bottle of whisky as well. I pretty well knew Candy's life story and he pretty well knew mine. I used Candy's bed to sleep on, he was too battered and sore to get out of the armchair he had sunk into, so he slept there.
The next time I ventured down Calmount Street, Candy was there to meet me. His face was plastered with a thicker layer of make-up than normal, hiding the brown and yellow bruises decorating his face.
" I want you to meet someone," he said as he led me down a small, tight alley to the back door of a large brick building.
Inside Candy led me to a door at the far end of a long, urine reeking corridor. He knocked three times; short, sharp raps with his knuckles on the paint-pealed wood. When it opened, a midget stood inside the room.
" Hey Candy. How's it hanging?"
" To the right as always, Lofty."
Lofty smiled and moved back into the room. Candy followed and I trailed behind him.
" Melissa home?" Candy asked.
" Yeah. I'll go get her." Lofty looked me up and down with an expression of disgust. " Who's the straight?" he asked Candy, giving a nod in my direction.
" A friend," replied Candy impatiently. " Just get Melissa."
The midget vanished through a beaded curtain that led to the back of the apartment. I looked around the room wondering why I had been brought there. Candy made himself comfortable in a round, wicker chair that was suspended from the ceiling by a long steel-link chain. I watched him swing around, feet up, eyes closed.
Then Melissa walked through the bead curtain and into the room.
She was naked and toned and tanned and I ached to have her there and then. I wanted to run my hands all over her hard, smooth body, to squeeze her rigid nipples with my fingers, to force myself into her. I wanted to hurt her and to love her at the same time. I had never felt such strong emotions course through my body and I had to restrain myself from acting upon them.
She stood in front of me tall and proud, her long, raven-black hair tumbled over her shoulders, framing her beautiful face. Her gorgeous body was slim without being thin, curvy without being overweight. She was perfect, the woman of my dreams. I longingly stared at her, letting my eyes slowly drift over every inch of her flawless form until eventually our eyes locked.
Fear replaced the excitement that was coursing through me. Her eyes were black windows of pure evil. Echoes of lost souls reverberated from the depths of those dark orbs as the fear surged through me forming a knot of twisted angst in the pit of my stomach. Now all I wanted to do was run. To turn around and flee that place. But my legs would not obey. I could not move and I could not stop myself from staring deep into those foreboding eyes.
Slowly the blackness began to seep away; to ebb back deep down inside Melissa. Her eyes were still deep pools, but now the darkness had been replaced by a beautiful blue that pulled me towards her once again.
" Well?" said Lofty, breaking my hypnotic trance.
" Melissa, this is a friend of mine." Candy rose from the wicker chair and moved towards me. " I think he is just the person you have been looking for."
Melissa smiled and at that moment, I saw nothing else but her beautiful face.
Candy then turned to me, " And I know she is what you have been looking for."
Melissa took my hand and led me through the beaded curtain and into her bedroom.
I cannot explain the pleasure and ecstasy she brought me, or the pain I endured willingly. She took over my body, my thoughts and my emotions. She showed me things about myself I had never known existed. I was so grateful that I wept in front of her without embarrassment.
After what seemed like a lifetime and yet, at the same instant, only a fragment of a second, Melissa rose from the bed and silently left the room.
" You enjoy?" Candy asked as we walked through the alley that let back to Calmount Street. I tried to put into words the way Melissa had made me feel, but was unable.
Using a tissue to dab at the small trickle of blood that flowed down my neck, Candy commented, " You're hers now. You know that, don't you?" He paused for a moment as if contemplating his next words. " But it's a small price to pay for the pleasure she will give you."
I didn't fully understand the significance of Candy's words just then. My mind was still whirling with the experience I had just encountered. A myriad images cavorted through my mind, dreamlike and yet so very real.
I went home and slept like the dead.
Dusk wakes me with a gentle sigh.
My days have turned topsy-turvy since meeting Melissa. I spend my nights in and around Calmount Street and my days in a dead sleep. My whole existence revolves around Melissa. From the moment I awake there is a burning anticipation within me. I long to be with Melissa, I crave the time we spend together in her small bed.
But Candy was right. There is a price to pay.
My nightly routine always commences with a stroll through the bars that surround the red light district.
" Look upon yourself as my cattle-man," Melissa had told me. " I want you to go out into the herd and round up the beefiest looking bull you can find. Then bring him back here."
" Do I not satisfy you?" I naively asked her.
" No man can satisfy me," she replied with a smile.
Making my way through the Cocked Hat bar, I spot tonight's prey. He is tall and wide. His chiselled face is surrounded by long fair hair which he keeps out of his eyes with a cowboy hat tilted back on his head.
" Michael's the name," the stranger beams a drunken smile my way. " Women's the game." He gives me a wink.
I stare at the multi-coloured tattoos that adorn both his arms. There must be a hundred images stained in his skin. I take a swig of whisky and say, " I think it's going to be your lucky night tonight."
We leave the bar together. Another night's work done by me. The anticipation of an experience he will never forget on Michael's mind.
Lofty opens the door. When he sees me, he turns and walks through the beaded curtain without saying a word.
" This way, Michael," I say to the stranger.
" Who's the dwarf?" he asks.
" Just a friend."
I sit Michael down and go through the beaded curtain to Melissa's bedroom. She has her back to me as she sits at her dressing table brushing her long, black hair. I can see her face in the large mirror and her beautiful, full breasts.
" You have chosen well again," she whispers.
I smile, but inside I am envious of the pleasures Michael will savour. I am even envious of the pain he will endure.
" There will be time for you afterwards," Melissa says as though reading my mind.
I leave the room.
Lofty joins me in the sitting room. He sits in the chair suspended from the ceiling. I wonder if the effort of him trying to climb into the swinging seat was worth it.
" Sounds like she's having a good time in there." He has a look on his face that tells me he is enjoying the jealousy that is raging through me. " She must be giving him the works."
I stand up, walk over to the suspended chair and give it a hard shove. The dwarf's face is creased in a mask of fear as he spins around in the wicker seat. His knuckles turn white with the effort of holding on. For a while his screams cover the noises coming from Melissa's bedroom. Slowly the chair stops rotating.
Then I hear a muffled scream and a thud from the direction of the bedroom.
Melissa is feeding.
I wait for what seems like hours, but is only perhaps twenty minutes. I leave Lofty and go through the beaded curtain and into the bedroom.
What remains of Michael is slumped in one corner of the room.