by Carter Fell
Chapter VII: Blue Monday
I was awakened on the Monday morning by the sound of screams. I leapt from my bed, and pulled a pair of trousers on. Running from the lodge and up the path, I came to the circuit, and the source of the screams. A long chain of construction slaves was there; one of their number was on the ground, and a driver was laying into her with a cart whip. She stopped at my approach.
‘Good morning, Member.’
‘Why is that woman on the ground?’
‘I don’t know, Member.’
‘Why are you whipping her?’
‘I don’t know, Member.’
‘Damn you, and damn your stupid cruelty. Help her up.’
The fallen one was hoisted to her feet. Her shocked face and wild eyes made a deep impression on me. It was just the start of a long hot day of hard labour, and already her face and back were cut by the whip. That could be Tina in the future. I shuddered, and returned to my lodge.
Corrie had emerged from the lodge, and was waiting outside the door for me. ‘What’s the matter, Member?’ She was completely naked, wearing only her fabulous smile.
‘I just stopped some stupid driver whipping a slave.’ I answered.
‘Oh, that will be the construction gang. The drivers have their job to do, Member. Their senior beats them if they don’t reach their targets.’
I snapped at her. ‘Don’t argue with me, girl. Put some bloody clothes on, and get me my breakfast.’ I instantly regretted my tone, for Corrie was crestfallen. ‘Yes, Member.’ She said, and scurried away. I finished dressing, and then sat at the breakfast bar in the kitchen.
Corrie had her back to me as worked at the stove. She was singing softly, I recognised the words from New Order’s Blue Monday.
How does it feel?,
To treat me like you do?
When you’ve laid your hands upon me,
And told me who you are.
I thought I was mistaken
I thought I heard your words
Tell me, how do I feel?
Tell me now how do I feel?
‘Bloody hell, Corrie. That song is almost as old as me. Are you trying to give me a message? I’m sorry I snapped at you, I really am.’ And I sang a verse for her.
I still find it so hard,
To say what I mean to say
But I’m quite sure that you will tell me
Just how I should feel today.
I finished my croaking, and Corrie brought my plate over. The irrepressible grin was back in place. ‘Someone will bring your rig soon, Member. Will you be going out?’
I chewed on a slice of eggy bread. ‘I suppose I’ll visit the compound. I’m supposed to be keeping an eye on things.’
‘Can I come with you, Member? I don’t often get away from the lodges.’
‘Sure you can Corrie, why not?’
I was hoping that Tina would bring my rig, but an unknown driver brought it behind the limber. As she was hobbling one of my ponies, I told her to take the rig back, and leave me the limber. She looked worried for a moment, and I had to put on my stern look. ‘I have given you an instruction. Are you going to obey me?’
‘Yes, Member. I will do as you say.’ She left on the rig, but not before I had asked her for the day’s combination.
Corry, who had been with me, was highly amused. ‘There is only one limber, Member. Do you know why they need it? It’s to recover collapsed ponies on.’
Perched together on the limber, Corrie and I went to the compound. She sang most of the way, and I joined in on a few choruses. In the compound, Corrie pointed out the seniors’ office to me, and then she dashed off to visit some old friends. I found Tina and Laura in the office, both with a cup of coffee on their desks, and both smoking.
‘Hello, Ladies.’ I said. ‘Is it a leisure period?’
Tina laughed. ‘No, Member. But we’ve got a really nice resident member this week.’
‘Does it matter if you’ve got a nice resident member?’
‘Yes it does, Member. Ordinary ponies have a driver over them, drivers have seniors over them, seniors have the resident above them.’
‘So could I send you to the frame for smoking at work?’
‘Yes you could, Member. But I hope you’re not going to.’
‘You’ll just have to very obedient.’ I sat on the edge of her desk. ‘Are you going to give me a guided tour, Tina?’
‘I will, Member. Can I finish my schedules first?’
‘You carry on, Tina. Just pretend I’m not here.’
I wondered about the office. The walls were covered with planning charts that were festooned with multi-coloured markings. ‘What are all these charts?’ I asked.
Laura answered me. ‘They are eight-day charts. They show what every pony is scheduled to be doing for today and the next seven days. We have to share the ponies between us to get the various jobs done. Stevie runs maintenance services; that’s everything to do with the fabric of the island. Tina runs the rig teams, and she is also the head senior.’
Laura came over to the chart I was standing under. ‘This chart shows my ponies. I run all the domestic support; that’s the cooking and cleaning and so forth.’ She stabbed a finger at the chart. ‘For instance, this line shows me that Corrie is at the lodges today and all week.’
‘Not today she isn’t.’ I said. ‘I brought her to the compound.’
Laura pulled a face. ‘Well you’re the boss, Member. But we do have an owner coming tomorrow, and Corrie must have his lodge ready.’
‘Tomorrow?’ I was stunned. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes, Member. He’s coming to see his ponies in training. Is that a problem?’
‘You mean he’s coming to fuck them. No, no problem. I’m just surprised.’ This meant that I would have to take Tina away tonight; I could not risk it with another member around.
‘Tina,’ I said. ‘Can we get on with that tour now?’
She looked surprised. ‘Yes, Member. At once.’
As we toured the compound, I found the atmosphere to be surprisingly relaxed. All the ponies were clothed, except the rig ponies in physical training, and there were no chains or other restraints in evidence. I saw the laundry, the bakery, and the kitchens. Everywhere was filled with the chatter of the slaves, there were even radios, mostly tuned to Radio 2. I learned that the rigs were made in a workshop on site, as were the harnesses. Sometimes there was silence at my approach; sometimes there were raucous greetings. ‘Hey, Member! Do you know what to do with a girl? Tina! Lend us your man!’
Leaving one such bawdy location, Tina commented ‘they have women’s appetites, and no outlet. Masturbation is a flogging offence.’
‘How would anyone know?’ I asked.
‘There are always drivers in the stables.’ She answered.
In the laundry we found Corrie, gossiping with some old workmates. ‘Hiya Member! Hiya Tina!’
Tina tried to be stern with her. ‘You really should not be here, Corrie. You’re going to get yourself strapped.’
‘Oh no I’m not!’ Corrie was as cocky as hell. ‘The member said I could come.’ Her infectious grin had spread to Tina and I. As we left the laundry, Tina checked her watch. ‘I’ve got two punishments, Member. Do you want to watch?’
‘What are they for?’
‘One is for insolence, Member. I won’t have ponies give me shit. The other is just a lazy old sow.’
When we got the punishment shed, the two victims were waiting outside. One was a sullen-looking young black woman, the other an older white woman, who looked absolutely terrified. Tina opened the door, and shoved them inside. She dealt with the black girl first. ‘You know how this works, Shelley. Get your kit off.’
The unfortunate Shelley removed her only two garments, and walked to the frame. She put her arms over her head; Tina tied her wrists to the frame, and then kicked her legs apart and tied her ankles. Then she took the strap of the shelf.
‘Now, my lady, I’m giving you twelve again. You can’t go on like this, you’re a slave here, and I will have you treat me with respect. Any more trouble from you, and I will ask the panel for a flogging.’
And she thrashed the girl. She stood well back, so that only about six inches of the strap made contact with skin; the sound was like a rifle shot. Shelley grunted and groaned under the torture, and her body jerked violently after each stroke, but it was soon over, and I was starting to think that maybe strapping was not such a cruel punishment. After Shelley had put her clothes on and left, looking more defiant than she had before being beaten, it was the other woman’s turn.
She was sobbing as she took her clothes off. Her body showed her age, her breasts being little more than sagging flaps of skin. Tina tied her to the frame, and again she picked up the strap. ‘It’s twelve for you as well, Dawn. You are a waste of space, and I am going to tickle your back every week until your work comes up to scratch.’
Dawn’s words before the strap touched her will haunt me for the rest of my days. ‘Oh God Tina, I could be your mother.’
Leather licked skin, a body twisted in agony, and a scream rose to the heavens. ‘Your mother, Tina, your mother.’ There was another crack of leather on skin, and another scream. I ran from the hut, covering my ears against the dreadful shrieks.
I found Corrie, she was still gossiping in the laundry. ‘We’re leaving now, Corrie.’
‘OK, Member.’ We returned to the limber, and set off for my lodge. My reaction to the horrific cruelty I had witnessed was to whip the ponies to a fast trot. Corrie was singing again, unperturbed by my treatment of the ponies, or the screams she had heard as we crossed the compound. When we reached the lodge, Corrie made me some lunch, but I did not touch it. I retreated to my room.
I told myself that Tina was only what she had been trained to be for most of her life, and I was still determined to take her away. Corrie came to me in the afternoon. Afterwards, as she lay with her golden hair on my chest, I thought that I could not leave this sunflower to be brutalised by the island. I imagined her shrieking on the frame, and I knew that I would have to take her with me.
Chapter VIII: Steal Away
Tina drove a rig up to the lodge as Corrie and I were having our tea. ‘Can I speak with you, Member?’
‘That is my greatest pleasure, Tina. Corrie, go and attend to the ponies.’
When Corrie had left, smiling cheerfully, Tina spoke; she was stiff and formal. ‘It’s about those ponies I strapped, Member. I just want to explain to you why I have to do such things.’
‘Tina, I fully understand. You do what you have to do, forget it.’
‘If you are ordering me to forget it, Member, then that is what I will do.’
For a few seconds, we just looked at each other, and then I took the plunge.
‘You must know that I like you a lot.’
‘Thank you, Member.’
‘I’m hoping that you like me.’
Was that a scornful smile that flickered quickly across her lip? I now think it was.
‘Well Tina, I want to take you off this island.’
‘And where would I go, Member? And what would I do?’
‘You could stay with me Tina. Of course, you wouldn’t be a slave anymore, you could do whatever you liked.’
‘No, Member. I will not be a runaway; I will take no such risks. You’ve seen my back, and that’s seven years after they flogged me. Can you imagine what it was like after one day, or one week, or one month? You have no conception of the pain I suffered, and if there was one chance in a thousand of going through that again, I would not take that chance.’
‘But Tina, there is no risk. We just cross over to one of the other islands, and -’
She cut me off. ‘Now you listen to me, Member. What makes you think this is the only pony island? Do you even know how many days there are in a week? And do you think I would give up my position here to live in suburbia with you? Why would I do that? Why? Can you grasp the power I have here?’
Her anger and resentment had pushed her way over the line, I realised that I would see a very different Tina when I no longer had the power of corporal punishment. Colour was rising in her cheeks, her eyes blazed at me as she continued. ‘I am in charge of all those ponies, and I decide what they do, what they eat, when they eat, how long they sleep – everything. I can give them an easy time, or I can work them naked in the rain for twenty hours a day. I can give them beer and smokes, or I can put them on the frame and strap them. That’s who I am, that’s what I am – and I like it. Who are you? What are you? You’re a typical pathetic man, the island will squeeze every last penny out of you, and then you will be here no more. Member.’
There was open contempt on her face now; I had to fire my big gun. ‘Tina, you’re going to be sold in the August auction. I would like to buy you, but I can’t guarantee it. If you don’t come away with me now, you could be back in harness soon.’
Tina plunged her face into her hands. ‘Oh my God. Oh my God. Stevie will have me on the frame.’ Ashen faced, she looked up at me. ‘But I still won’t do it. I’ll not be flogged as a runaway.’
I had not expected any of this, but I could not turn back, my obsession with Tina was too strong. A new plan came to me in a flash; I would become a slave-stealer.
‘Very well then Tina, you’ll not be flogged as a runaway. Take the limber back to the compound now. Get a fresh team on it, the best team you can assemble. I will come and fetch it in about an hour.’
Tina was suddenly looking a lot older. ‘What are you planning now?’
‘You will address me as Member, Tina, or I will punish you for your insolence. You have your instructions.’
‘Yes, Member. I’m very sorry, Member.’ The threat of the strap had instantly restored her obedience. She left the lodge, and I heard her whip the limber team up to speed. I felt drained and exhausted, and I slumped back into my chair. Corrie returned, she made me a fresh cup of tea, and then she went to prepare a lodge for the member who was to arrive the next day. I sat staring out of the window, until I started to doze. Coming to with a start, I was shaking, and I wondered if I should abort my plan. But then I thought of the frame and the strap; sooner or later, Tina and Corrie would be exercising their lungs while a senior swung the strap. No, I would proceed.
I drove my team hard on the short run to the compound, and made the journey in fifteen minutes. As I pulled up outside number two stable, Stevie came up to me. ‘Please, Member, can you explain what is happening? Why is Tina getting another team ready?’ Her face was hostile and wary; it would be unheard of to take a team out shortly before dusk.
‘If I explain anything to you Stevie,’ I snarled at her, ‘it will be with a strap on your back. Now mind your own business, and put this team way.’ I glared at her, if she wanted to challenge me, then I would be happy to visit the frame with her. Leaving my rig to her care, I stormed into the stable. Tina was just finished putting a team in the limber harness. She had chosen well, they were powerful, well-muscled creatures. From the wall I took a coffle chain and two collars. ‘Strip down, Tina.’
‘But Member, I …’
‘Are all you fucking bitches deaf today?’ I was screaming at her now. ‘I said strip down!’
Without another word, Tina stripped. She stood looking at me with big, frightened eyes. I collared her, and then attached her collar to the coffle chain. With the chain fastened to the limber, I drove out of the stable. My previous team was still stood there, as was Stevie; and now Laura had joined her. A small crowd of Laura’s domestics was also stood around. Stevie had summoned up the nerve to challenge me. ‘I must ask you to stop, Member. I need to know where you are taking the limber.’
I could not afford to have them chasing after me, so I bluffed her. ‘Stevie, I told you to put that rig team away. I want you to meet me at the frame in exactly one hour; I am going to strap your disobedient hide. Laura, make sure you have her fastened for me.’
Only Laura spoke. ‘Yes, Member.’
When I reached the gate, I looked back. Laura was watching as two of her ponies dragged Stevie away; how I would have liked to carry out that punishment. I drove at a good clip to my lodge, Tina was gasping when we arrived. I called Corrie; she appeared from a lodge, as always she was smiling. I stripped and collared her, and then I put her on the coffle chain.
Both my captives looked at me as if I was insane, and maybe I was. ‘I’m taking you both to freedom.’ I explained. There was a moment to take a last look across at the compound, and at the lodge that had briefly been my home. Then I climbed onto my seat, and swished the whip through the air. ‘Trot for me ladies! Move it!’
With my fine strong team surging forward, and my stolen property trotting along behind, I headed for Partner’s Point.
Chapter IX: Partner’s Point
I had the best part of four miles to go. With those fresh ponies, I might have made the trip in thirty minutes, but Tina and Corrie were an anchor on my progress, they simply could not trot at the team’s pace for long. I had to switch them to a duty cycle of ten minutes on the limber, followed by ten minutes trotting behind it. When there were three people on the rig, the team was pulling almost its own weight, and I could only drive them at a smart walk. The journey took almost an hour, and it was fully dark when we arrived at the turn-off to Partner’s Point.
I leapt off the rig to unfasten the chain; landing badly, I twisted my ankle, and pitched forward in considerable pain. As I lay on the ground, clutching my ankle, I looked up at the pony team. All of their chests were heaving, and their nostrils flared as they sought oxygen. Between their legs, I could see under the rig to where Tina and Corrie were on their knees, and were also gasping for breath. Tina slumped back onto her haunches, arched her back, and lifted her face to the dark sky. The scudding clouds allowed a strong shaft of moonlight to illuminate her, so that I could see her tangled hair, her pained face, and a rivulet of sweat trickling down between her small breasts. She looked wild, and incredibly beautiful. I had to get her off the island; I just had to.
The pain in my ankle faded rapidly, I had clearly done no serious damage. Struggling to my feet, I felt for the point where the blocking chain hooked onto an eye. The clouds had again shut out the moonlight like heavy curtains; I would have given my right arm for a torch. After throwing the chain aside, I returned to the rig, colliding with a pony on the way; her rank odour filled my nostrils. Finally reaching my seat, I looked back at Tina and Corrie, but could see only vague shapes; I could not even tell if they were standing. ‘On your feet, you two.’ I snapped, just in case, and returned my eyes to the front, trying to see the track. The clouds thinned a little, and the track suddenly stood out against the blackness of the trees. At the same time, I heard shouting from the direction of the bar, and possibly the crack of a whip. I guessed that Stevie had persuaded Laura there was something amiss, and that they were racing along the circuit to my only possible destination.
If Stevie did arrive before we got the launch underway, I did not see that she could do much to interfere. No, she was just covering her arse against the widespread retribution that would surely follow the loss of two ponygirls. But even so, I had a strong feeling that time was fast running away from me. I swung my whip at the team wildly. ‘Trot you smelly bitches, Trot!’ They were still strong, and the rig leapt forward with a jerk that almost unseated me. From behind me, I heard two cries as the coffle chain tightened. The rig was held back briefly, but then rapidly gathered pace as my two on tow started to run.
In a few seconds, we were clear of the trees, and I could see the hall. To my complete and utter horror, there was a light burning at an upper window. I heaved the rig to a halt, and shouted back at Tina.
‘What do you know about that light Tina?’
‘I really don’t know anything about it.’ She sounded desperately weary.
‘Don’t fuck with me Tina, I can still have your hide.’
‘Have my hide? I thought you were setting me free.’
I had no answer to that, so I ignored it. Slowly, so as to make the least noise, I advanced the rig. We reached the path to the landing stage, and I turned onto it. Still the light in the hall burned, but there was no other sign of life. The launch was rocking at the landing stage; I breathed a sigh of relief that the tide was still very high. Lady luck seemed to be on my side, there was still adequate moonlight. After releasing the coffle chain from the limber, I told the pony team to return to the compound, and they charged away; I had hopes that they would blunder into Stevie’s crew.
As I took Tina off the coffle chain, she asked ‘Why are you doing this?’
‘Because I love you Tina, because I love you.’ There, I had finally said it.
‘Love me? I was right this afternoon, when I said you are just a pathetic man. Don’t you know why I was flogged?’ She was rubbing her neck, and looking at me in a very curious way.
‘It doesn’t matter now Tina, it really doesn’t matter.’ An icy hand gripped my stomach; I was getting a terrible feeling about this.
‘I’m a lesbian, my owner caught me with a young pony.’
I was dumbstruck.
‘It was Stevie. I had my head between her ..’
‘Shut up Tina.’
‘I was licking her..’
‘I said shut up.’
‘Why should I shut up? I’m a free woman now, aren’t I? There is nothing you can threaten me with. Now, are you going to get the boat started?’ Now that her fear of a runaway’s flogging was gone, she was totally confident. I was totally devastated, but I had to carry on with my plan. We all trooped aboard; I started the engine, and gave Tina one final order. ‘Cast off the bow line, Tina.’
‘Aye, aye, Skipper.’ She replied, and leapt to the task. More gently, I asked Corrie to cast off the stern line. She stood up on her toes, and kissed my cheek. ‘Never mind, Member. I will always be grateful to you for freeing me.’ I looked fore and aft to check that the mooring lines were clear, and then I pushed the throttle forward. Instantly, the launch shot forward, but then the engine started to die. I looked at the fuel gauge; someone had emptied the tank, the engine had started on carburettor fumes.
The engine cut out altogether, and simultaneously, the tower clock started to chime eleven. All three of us were startled, and whirled around. ‘It’s only the tick-tock.’ Corrie said. At the same time, I saw a figure emerge from the hard shadows at the side of the hall, and start to descend the steep slope, towards the landing stage. Momentarily, a bank of cloud masked the moon, and we were plunged into darkness.
What had Corrie said? Tick-tock. Rhyming slang for clock. The clouds parted; in the moonlight I saw the figure’s hood, and his gun. It had to be Jeff; it was the Canadian’s final betrayal. I had said too much to the sadistic fucker, and now he was protecting his investment. The waves pushed the launch back against the landing stage, the hull banged and banged against a bollard.
Rhyming slang? Despite the desperate fix I was in, something was at last stirring in my brain. Now the figure was close enough for me to recognise the gun, it was a long-recoil Browning, an antique really, but still lethal. He had almost reached the landing stage.
Rhyming slang! Now I knew. Oh birdman, I love you and I hate you. German Bands, hands. Turtle Doves, gloves. I remembered tattooed knuckles, and I remembered white-gloved hands clasped on the panel’s table. I remembered who had invited me to the island, and who knew of my intention to rescue Tina.
The shotgun was levelled at my face. ‘What’s the point of the hood, Paul?’ I asked.
With one hand grasping the gun’s stock, Paul used the other to pull the hood off his head. ‘No point.’ He said. ‘I guess I just like playing the man of mystery.’ Then he laid the gun on the stage planking. ‘I’m sure I don’t need this. But I will need this.’ He picked up the coffle chain I had discarded; jangling it in his hand, he continued. ‘I managed to be the resident partner this week, and that is so, so lucky for you. For what do we have here? We have two ponygirls absent from their posts after dark, and in company with a humble member.’
Corrie looked astonished, she seemed to have no idea what was happening. Tina, who knew exactly what was happening, sat down and wept bitterly.
Paul ignored them both as he went on. ‘There are two possible interpretations of this situation. One interpretation would be that you are slave stealing; that would force a very difficult choice, a very hard choice, onto the panel. The other interpretation would be that you have helped prevent the escape of two runaways; you might even receive a reward. So what is your account of events?’
So, it was my life or their backs; I could only make one decision.
The panel convened the next day; Tina and Corrie were flogged as runaways, they were each given fifty strokes with the cart whip. After three days of delirium, poor sweet Corrie died; the sunflower had been hacked down, and I cried when I heard about it. Tina survived, but although her body is still on the island, her mind seems to have run away. Sometimes I see her, a shambling thing on the construction gang, usually with a thread of spittle hanging from her mouth. She does not appear to recognise me, and I now find it hard to believe that I ever loved her.