Author's Note: For Annabelle. A Settlement story written as a gift for my friend and researcher.
With love, Kirsten Graham
“I think I’ll go for a walk, Sir,” said Mercy, “If that’s OK?”
“Of course,” he said. “We’re done here. You’re free to go where you want, you know that.”
She set off, thinking of his words. It was the way all the men – and most of the other women – spoke, the way they thought, but since her arrival here, two months ago, she was most definitely not free. She was a Settlement girl now, and that meant that as far as she was concerned, she was a prisoner, subject to the stringent and detailed security requirements that the community imposed upon all its female members. At night, she was confined in a barred cage. Night and day, her ankles were fettered, encircled by five centimetre high steel bands, smoothed at the edges, padded with leather, fastened closely and permanently in place and joined together by forty centimetres of bright steel chain. Now, as always when she had finished her work, her hands were similarly confined, held close together behind her back in securely locked cuffs. And her neck was encircled by a locked, steel collar, which was in turn linked, by two metres of chain, to the girl-rails, the ingenious conduit system to which all the women were permanently attached. They, and she, were free to go for walks, their neck chains sliding easily along the rails, but they could only ever go where the conduits were laid. Everywhere else was forever out of reach.
The girl turned up a side-branch of the girl-rails, hoping to find some privacy in a wooded area to the north of the campus. Perhaps she would have another go at escaping. There had to be some way, didn’t there? She followed the conduit as it wound through the trees.
Annabelle knelt on the grass, panting. Her shift in the kitchens over, she had deliberately moved fast up the hill, for she wanted to encourage a helpful perspiration, this being necessary for what she was about to do. She knelt up, stretching her shoulders back, pulling at her handcuffs, feeling the sun on her petite body. Apart from her chains, she was, of course, naked; Settlement women had no access to clothes, since it was regarded by the community as disrespectful to the point of rudeness for a girl to cover her body. Annabelle’s eyes closed. Facing the sun, she felt the moisture on her skin, felt it pricking under her collar, cuffs, anklets, and, most importantly, around her buttocks. She felt the cold metal of her neck chain against her flesh. She thought of the man she fancied. She began to wriggle.
It took a while – ten minutes of concentrated effort, twisting this way and that, chains jangling fiercely, her long brown hair damp with perspiration and plastered against her face. But at last, she felt the final give as, lubricated by her sweat, her shackled wrists finally slid past her bottom. Once again praying a prayer of thanks that she had been blest with such a small, slim, rear, she twisted her legs through her arms and so had her hands in front of her. She looked at them, a smile of triumph on her lips. So far as she knew, she was the only Settlement girl ever to have managed to do this; the community boasted that its cuffs were too close-fitting ever to allow the possibility, and she knew that for most – all – the other girls, who had more rump to contend with, this was so. Once their cuffs were back on after their day’s work, their hands stayed put, behind them, out of the way. Where they could not touch.
Conscious, all of sudden, of the enormity of what she was doing, Annabelle looked around: if she were caught with her hands in front, who knew what would happen, and of course, there was nowhere she could go where there was zero risk of capture, because she remained attached to the girl-rails. But all was quiet. She lay back on the ground, and clinked at the cuffs. They were still, of course, firmly fastened in place, she could not separate her wrists, which was a shame, because what she really wanted to do was place one hand on her pussy and use the other to massage her breasts. That would not happen, so using her left hand, she grabbed her neck chain and manoeuvred it across her breast, so that the links stroked her nipple. She could not help but gasp, twisting her body against the metal. She had just enough freedom to reach down with her right hand, easing apart her slit, feeling … feeling.
Mercy exchanged words here and there with women she met, all of whom were just like her – nude and helplessly chained. They smiled brightly at her, exchanging small talk, seemingly unconscious of how weird it all was. Surely they knew that they were slaves, being exploited by men who, in the collapse of the old world after environmental disaster, had at last found a way to keep women just as they wanted? But the other girls did not seem to care. They seemed so happy, just living as if it was normal to be …to be like this.
Though in truth, thought Mercy, everyone had been very welcoming. There was a definite sense of community, even if it was a community which women had no possibility of ever leaving. And whilst she certainly felt imprisoned and subject, she could not quite say she had been exploited. The men may have looked, but none had so far touched her, apart from to check her chains or lock and unlock her handcuffs, anyway. Sometimes she wished they had… They had included her in various decisions, though, finding out about her previous farming experience and seeking her input on various issues to do with improving the yield of the community’s fields. She had pretty much forgotten she was naked and chained during those discussions.
At last, Mercy came to a small clearing with a bench placed conveniently near the girl-rail she was following. It was a stone structure, with no back, not especially comfortable, but it was a place to rest. She looked around. Nearby the path was smooth earth, hard packed by a decade of barefooted women. Further away – too far away for women to reach – the grass still grew, and in amongst it brightly coloured spring flowers. With no-one around, it was quite idyllic.
The woman, who was perhaps forty years old, of medium height and shapely without being particularly slim, looked down at herself. She could see her breasts – a bit too small, she had always thought, and her thighs – a bit too large. And below them, her fetters, her ever-present neck chain snaking its way to the girl-rail. She felt the cuffs imprisoning her wrists. Surely there had to be a way to escape? Yet in the last two months she had tried pretty well everything she could think of, all to no avail. She had even discussed it with other women, who had mostly replied matter-of-factly and light-heartedly. Escape was impossible, was the story. No woman ever had, and none ever would. Best not to think about it. Obey the rules, be happy here in the community, just like us. But how could she not think about it?
Annabelle was so horny, but somehow the stimulation was not right. She was close, so close, to coming. Partly it was the distraction, the fear of being caught. She had done this too often, lately. Sooner or later she would get found. And it was not as if she could get her hands back where they were supposed to be in an instant – it took just as long to put them behind her as it did getting them to the front in the first place. She desisted from her efforts, sat up and had a look round. It was safe. There was no one, nothing. No sound but the cicadas and occasional birdsong. Again, she lay back, shut her eyes and once more let her illicitly free fingers do some work.
Devoid, for a moment, of any further ideas on what to do about her bondage, Mercy sat and thought some more. How had this community come about? Of course she had heard all the stories; a new world founded in the wake of disaster, a world founded on traditional values of respect and care, a world where women were protected. But she did not believe it: traditional values where women had to be naked, had to address men as ‘Sir’ ? Protection that required them to be in constant bondage? That seemed to her to be a world made by men, for men. How come the women were so accepting of it? How did one live here, with no hope, ever, of getting away? Perhaps that was the answer. One had to accept it, treat it as normal, or one went mad. Still puzzled, she got up and followed the path further into the woods.
With a final gasp of ecstasy, Annabelle withdrew her hands and subsided, flat on her back. A dreamy completeness filled her being, centred on the area between her legs and the pit of her stomach, but extending over her whole body, making her skin tingle with a double dose of life. A smile played on her lips. Her eyes remained closed. Again guilty notions assaulted her brain. Of course what she had done was disrespectful, of course it was forbidden, but really, what was a girl to do? There were so few men to go around, and the one she wanted seemed to have no interest in her. Her eyes still closed, she played a little with her handcuffs, feeling their grip on her wrists, clinking the joining link. Of course they were meant to be behind her back, but it was hardly her fault, was it, if the chain smiths had, in her case, misjudged the security of her bonds? She relaxed, the sun warming her face.
Mercy had never been up this far before; it surprised her, just how far from civilization it was possible to get, whilst attached to a girl-rail, but the community clearly valued the beauty of nature, and provided for its females to enjoy it. The trees thinned out, admitting a cooler breeze; there were fewer flowers here, but there were low bushes, packed quite close in to the path, so that she had to be careful not to scratch herself. A few metres below the path, a little stream gurgled its way merrily between scattered rocks.
She had been moving quite easily; that was another thing, just how well designed her bondage appeared to be, provided you accepted its limitations: certainly it was no problem to pass along the girl-rails. However, all of a sudden she was brought up short by an unexpected obstruction; it was another neck chain, leading off to the side, behind a tallish shrub, and of course blocking her own progress.
She peered round the shrub. “Hello?”
The jangle of female bonds was sudden and violent. Annabelle woke, sat up, shrieked, and yanked helplessly at her cuffs, as if, somehow, she could hide them away. For her part, Mercy stared, at first wondering what was amiss; the fact that the other woman’s hands were chained together in front of her only gradually dawning on her. But when it did, it was unavoidable. Mercy stared.
“I…I…” stuttered Annabelle, standing, not knowing what to say. Of course she had expected this. She knew that one day she would be caught. What was there to say? She finally managed, “It’s 423, isn’t it?” Settlement girls all had numbers, these being their primary means of identification. Names were used only amongst female friends. 423 was quite new, thought Annabelle. Perhaps that would help.
“Your hands!” exclaimed Mercy. "How did you get them to let you have them in front?" Number 423 stared some more, experiencing feelings she could not name. That was another thing about The Settlement – all the women were the same. But this girl was not. She had her hands free, or almost free, and there were no men around. It made Mercy feel all the more enslaved, and at the same time wildly envious. She tugged hard at her own wrist bonds, all the more conscious of the impossibility of ever getting them off.
Annabelle said no more, but sat down and commenced the wriggling required to get her hands back where they should be. Mercy watched, awestruck, speaking only when Annabelle at last managed to get her cuffs back past her rear. “How do you do that?” Mercy asked. “I’ve tried and tried.”
“It’s because I’m so slim,” said Annabelle, “and I’m 175.”
Mercy looked at her, as she now stood…normally. She was indeed a slight girl, small breasted, but pretty: big brown eyes, long brown hair, toned muscles. Younger than herself – mid-twenties, probably. Mercy found herself staring at the luxuriant triangle of hair between the girl’s thighs. “Mother earth!” she exclaimed. “You’ve been playing with yourself!”
It was two days later when Mercy saw Number 175 again. The younger girl slid onto the bench next to her in the Women’s Dining hall. “Hi,” she said. “How’s the food?”
Mercy, looking up from lapping at her food – just another indignity she had had to get used to, since at meal times, her hands remained fastened safely behind her. “It’s fine,” she said. It was certainly a vast improvement on the Spartan fare she had had to manage on these last years. “Not just fine, lovely.” She dived for another mouthful.
“Good,” said Number 175. She smiled: “I cooked it. I’m one of the chefs. It’s nice to get feedback.” There was a brief silence, Mercy being in the middle of chewing.
“Thanks for not telling,” continued Annabelle.
Mercy studied the girl. She had lain awake at night wondering about the whole episode the other day. “How do you know I haven’t?” she asked.
“Because I have not been summoned for discipline, and extra security,” laughed Number 175. “They would hardly leave me be, knowing I could do that, would they?”
Afterwards the two girls walked. “I wish I could do…that, what you did,” said Mercy. She had, naturally, tried a few more times since seeing Annabelle, but it had made no difference. Her cuffs and figure worked perfectly in tandem to utterly prevent the manoeuvre. The only time her hands were coming in front of her body was when a man unlocked her cuffs – and then, of course, he was there to supervise her, leaving no opportunity for tampering with the rest of her bonds, or any other form of disrespect.
“I don’t think anyone can except me,” said 175. “I’ve never heard of it.”
Mercy looked her up and down, noting her smile. “It hasn’t helped you escape, though.”
Annabelle smiled: “you mean get away from the girl-rails or something? Of course not. No way to do that.” The younger woman looked at the older, understanding.
“You will get used to it, you know. Quite soon.”
“Will I? I’m not sure I want to be used to it. Living as a naked slave.”
“Naked, maybe, but not slaves, please,” said Annabelle. “We are not slaves.”
“So why are we kept in chains then?”
“You know why. For our own protection. We are vulnerable, now the world has ended.”
“And you believe that, do you? Is it not just that men like to keep us like this, because it gives them power over us. Their slaves?”
“It’s not men that keeps us this way, it’s the community – all of us, deciding what’s best. And we’re not totally in men’s power. Look, I’m sure they enjoy having us nude and chained – why wouldn’t they? But they can’t make us do anything. We don’t have to come out of our quarters if we don’t want. And apart from our handcuffs, it’s not as if they have any more power to free us than we do ourselves. They can’t just go and get the keys and unlock our neck chains and fetters, can they?”
“I don’t know, can’t they? Where are those keys kept?”
Annabelle giggled: “No idea. Not something we girls ever need to know, is it? But out of our reach anyway. But certainly men don’t carry them. Hey Muttley,” Annabelle said to one of the campus dogs, a hairy grey thing of very mixed ancestry, that just happened to cross their path at that point. It glanced at the two girls, and went on its way.
Mercy watched the dog, considering how it was free to wander around, whilst she ….
“I just don’t know how you all stand it,” she mused. “How long have you been here anyway?” Mercy was aware that many of the women – hundreds of them – had been in the community, shackled to its girl-rails, a very long time.
“I’ve been here four years,” was the answer. “How do I stand it? I like it!”
“You like it?” Mercy stopped in her tracks, staring. “How can you like it?” Then it dawned on her. “O Mother Earth, you get off on it, don’t you?” Mercy had heard of such things, in the old world. There had been a sub-culture, a ‘scene’. Part of her could sort of understand it. At least living like this you had no hard decisions to make. And, out there, before finding this place, there had been plenty of those, every day, just to survive in the broken world.
Annabelle looked ever so slightly sheepish: “It’s a fantasy come true, for me,” she confessed. “I used to dream that a man would keep me how I needed to be – happily locked up. And here I am.”
“Here you are. But in your fantasy, could you, you know, that thing with your hands?”
175 sniggered: “I didn’t need to. My man gave me lots of attention. That’s the main trouble here. Not enough men.”
It was the man’s voice that did it. It was so deep and gravelly. It overcame all Mercy’s shyness, standing their nude and shackled (and fat) in front of him, and went straight to the tingly part of her middle. She found herself instinctively spreading her legs wider, as she had been told to do when addressing a man, and somehow it felt right to do so.
“I’ll be with you in just a minute,” he said, and turned to complete his task. She could see that underneath his leather apron, he wore only shorts. His back and chest were bare. Her eyes traced the toned musculature around his shoulder blades. He hammered away at some metal on the forge on the opposite side of the room.
Mercy looked around. She was appalled, but also interested. It was a room entirely dedicated to the science of keeping women in escape-proof bondage. Smithing tools, furnace, anvil. Stores of steel conduit and chain, completed bonds, not just collars, handcuffs and fetters but other things too, strange devices with steel bars or wider bands, perhaps waist belts, hanging from the walls. It was …weird. Sinister? But somehow here it was so matter of fact, too: why should a community not have a workshop for such a purpose. That was the way the world was, now, it appeared.
“Now,” said the man, who was Martin, the under-chain-smith, a dark, broad-shouldered man, of perhaps fifty years of age, “come through and let us have a look at you.”
He unlocked one of the bolts that isolated sections of girl-rail, keeping women out, or in, unless a man unlocked them, and ushered Mercy through into the workshop. His hand was close to, but not quite touching her shoulders as, with a rattle of fetters, she passed in front of him. She could not see him admiring the turn of her hip.
“Sit yourself there,” Martin said, and she did: it was a stool, quite high, with a cross piece on which she could rest her shackled feet. She felt quite nervous, and realized she was pressing her thighs together again, which was, she had been instructed, disrespectful. She let them drop apart, and again felt better, more relaxed. The man was busy at a nearby workbench, so she looked around, idly wondering if there were keys to women’s chains anywhere near. But there were none to see.
“Now,” said the man, turning back to her. “Thank you for coming in. We like to give our new girls a check after a couple of months, just to make sure everything is OK with your chains. How have you been getting on with them?”
What kind of a question was that? wondered Mercy. How was she supposed to answer it? She must have been staring blankly at him, for he spoke again, his face cracking into a broad smile, his blue eyes shining: “You find the question strange, I’m sure. Lots of new girls do. But try to relax. We’ve been keeping ladies in bondage for nearly twenty years, and it really does suit you all, you know. You’ll wonder how you managed any other way soon. But it has to be comfortable, so we will check for little rubs and bruises and so on.”
After that it was, for Mercy, another bizarre experience. He first knelt and looked at her ankles, checking all round, and then moving her steel anklets gently, checking very carefully, asking her if anything hurt or rubbed. It was like being fitted for clothes in old times, Mercy thought. Just that her clothes now locked on, and didn’t cover her very much. And of course nothing did hurt: her bonds might be secure, but they were well padded and totally comfortable. The product of decades of experience.
The smith did not see the need to unlock her fetters. He stood behind her and began, very gently, to feel at her collar, lifting her hair aside to do so. His fingers were warm, gentle but strong against her neck and shoulders, the back of his hand brushing her cheek. Her handcuffs clashed as she pulled at them, causing him to look down. She looked up at him, smiling shyly. “Is my collar OK, Sir?” she found herself asking. The ‘Sir’ seemed quite natural to her, too.
“All in perfect order. Do you find it OK?”
“Ye..yes, Sir,” she said. What else was there to say? Challenging her bondage seemed suddenly like challenging the sky being blue or trees being green. A pointless questioning of a long established natural order. “Sometimes it’s hot,” she added, lamely.
“Of course,” said the man. “Nothing we can do about that, though, is there? It’s a collar.”
He pulled out the key, which hung from a leather braid around his neck, behind his apron, and unlocked her handcuffs. The same, standard key unlocked most of the women’s wrist restraints. She made to move her arms – her usual reaction to having her cuffs off was to rub her wrists – but now she found them grabbed and examined by the man. He found nothing amiss – apart from the tan line, her skin was unmarked. In an instant her cuffs were back on again. “Stand up,” he commanded, “and move your hands round a bit. I want to see how well you do.”
She did as she was asked, and began to twist at the cuffs, pulling them this way and that. He walked right round her, seeing how far to the side she could get her hands. Just to her hips, he noted, which was just the right amount of freedom for a woman. Scope to manage her life; no scope for disrespect. He let her carry on with the demonstration for a while, enjoying her beauty, enjoying her bondage. “Very good,” he said, at last. “I can see you are getting used to coping like that.” Trees and sky but he liked his job, sometimes. So many women.
“Sir,” Mercy suddenly found herself blurting out, “what if a girl could get her cuffs in front of her?”
He looked her in the eyes – those rich blue eyes of his. She suddenly trembled. What had she said? “How do you mean?” he asked, curious. And more and more conscious of the woman’s effect on him. “A woman’s hands should be behind her, you know that.”
“Yes, Sir, But what if a girl could slide her hands past her bottom, and step through them, and bring them to the front?”
“She couldn’t,” said the man. “Our handcuffs don’t permit it. They are too short. You’ve been here two months, you must know that.” The man saw 423’s expression and smiled again: “It’s OK,” he said. “We know you all try. We don’t mind – it’s good for security actually, because you learn just how efficient your chains really are.”
“I know I can’t do it,” said Mercy, allowing herself to smile in return. Wow, thought Martin. She is beautiful. “But there is a girl that can. I’ve seen her.”
“Then you need to tell me about it,” responded Martin. An idea struck him; “How about over dinner?”
Annabelle was practising self-control. She stayed in the area of the main campus, where there were always others around, made sure she was always close to her supervisor at her work shifts and tried not to think about sex. It was only when she saw – as she inevitably did – the man she fancied going to and from his own work that she really felt uneasy, but still, aware of the risks and consequences, she managed to avoid temptation, staying away from the more distant branches of the girl-rails. And her hands stayed where they were supposed to be, behind her back.
It so happened that she was sitting on one of the benches that surrounded the main campus square just at the time that Number 423 emerged from her chain-check in the Smithy.
“Hi,” said Annabelle, as the older woman passed: “Get on OK?”
“Oh, Hi, Annabelle,” said Mercy, smiling radiantly. “Yes, fine thanks.” Annabelle was struck by how happy the older woman seemed. Happier than Annabelle had ever previously seen her.
Mercy flicked her neck-chain into the loop of girl-rail that gave access to the bench and sat next to Annabelle. “It appears,” she said, rather coyly, “that I have a date!”
“A date? Streams and flowers! Who with?”
When Mercy told her, Annabelle’s heart sank.
It seemed weird. It all seemed weird, but this bit particularly so: here she was on her way out to meet a man, but still naked, still in chains. She waited her turn for the door man to check her bonds. “Nice work there,” he said, conversationally, when the time came. He was referring to the polish that had been achieved. Annabelle had helped her, even though she had seemed unaccountably down, and had refused to ask for her own handcuffs to be unlocked; Mercy however had had her cuffs removed, as was allowed (during the day) in the Women’s Quarters, if there was good reason, and they had used lemon juice and cleaning brushes to make all her bonds shine brightly. Then they had done her make-up. Once her handcuffs were back in place, Mercy had admired the view in the bathroom mirrors; it did, she had to admit, look beautiful. And now, dressed, or rather undressed like this, she was voluntarily going to meet a man, a man whose job was to see that she and all the other women in the community remained securely chained up - and she was looking forward to it.
Had her mind, the thought nagged, become polluted by the ways of this place?
Annabelle watched her go out, at last letting her envy overwhelm her. She had struggled all afternoon, trying to do the right thing, to help the new girl with her preparations – though not trusting herself to have her own hands free - but now that 423 was away, she could give herself over to those feelings. Jerking helplessly at her wrist bonds, she turned away, heading back to her cage.
“Wow,” said Martin, admiring the effect. “You look stunning.”
Smiling at the compliment, Mercy admired as well: he was tall, broad, strong, and he had lost his apron and donned clean shorts and a T-shirt. He grinned charmingly, his eyes shining. And he looked her naked body up and down frankly, without embarrassment, making her colour up.
“It must be nice for you, having us all nude all the time,” she said, remembering how things were.
“Women are too beautiful to cover up,” he said, calmly. “Especially you.”
They walked side-by-side along the girl-rail towards the campus square. “I thought we’d go to the Terrace Bar,” said the man, “if that’s OK.” Mercy looked at him, not knowing how to respond. She knew that The Settlement had a variety of social areas, but apart from a couple of the female-only ones, she had as yet no experience of them.
It was nearby; literally a terrace, with behind it a single story building that housed its kitchen; there was no inside seating, none being necessary with the climate they now had, but there was plenty of shade provided by vines creeping all over a wooden pergola, and a canvass cover that could be extended in the (quite rare) event of rain. There were about a dozen tables, for two or four people, and several were occupied by couples. It was quite romantic, in its way, Mercy thought, and conveniently gridded with girl-rails for the benefit of both the female customers and the waitresses, one of whom greeted them as they mounted the steps.
“Table for two, please, 269,” said Martin. Mercy noted that the girl was not handcuffed – she was at work – but she did have her wrists joined in front of her body, by about thirty centimetres of chain. More than enough to take orders, fetch and carry. But most of the other female customers seemed to have their hands free; she could see their open wrist bonds lying on their tables, ready. “May I have my hands free, Sir?” she was brave enough to ask, as Martin held a chair for her to sit.
“Of course, just a minute,” he replied. “Padlock, please, 269,” he said to the waitress. Mercy wondered what was going on; as the man made no immediate move to free her hands, she sat anyway, well forward, so as not to crush her arms against the chair back. Then the waitress returned and handed Martin a padlock – one of the standard brass ones, about four centimetres across, with a steel shackle, that were everywhere in The Settlement and to which most of the men had a key. He took the lock, squatted down and used it to fasten 423’s neck chain to a ring placed adjacent to the girl-rail, set deep into the concrete floor. Only then did he bend to unlock her cuffs. So that was it, she thought. Cuffs off only when I am firmly locked in place. She glanced around, noting that the arrangement was the same for all the other female guests. She looked across at the table, where Martin, looking quite relaxed, was now seated. He was perusing the menu, which was chalked on a large board above the bar. “Afraid I might run away?” she said, with an edge to her voice.
He looked up, surprised, and then smiled as her meaning dawned on him: “Oh! The padlock!” He laughed. “It’s just the rules, because this doesn’t count as a secure area. You’ll get used to it. What would you like to order?”
At a loss, for the moment, for further words, Mercy looked at the menu. She remembered restaurants in the old days. The choices were different now, reflecting the food available; mostly vegetarian, but there were curries, stews, roast vegetable loaf, with breads and cheeses. Very little meat, but there were egg dishes – omlettes, or how you wanted. There was also a list of fresh juices; no alcohol. A note at the bottom said ‘dishes are available handcuff style for our female guests that prefer to remain restrained’. Was there a choice? Wondered Mercy.
“The nut roast, please,” the woman said, “and pear juice. Oh, and the keys to all my chains and my clothes please.”
The man looked at her for a long moment; he did not, of course, need to undress her with his eyes, but he seemed somehow to be looking at the intimate secrets of her mind. Then he smiled again, in his utterly disarming way. “That world has gone, you know, 423. And you will find this one is better. We do understand.”
“Understand what? How to keep women as slaves?”
“Women’s needs.” Suddenly he leant forward, and seemed very earnest. “Look, We are well aware that it is a shock; we’ve seen it hundreds of times, but you need to trust for a bit. And in the meantime, let’s enjoy ourselves. Tell me about you, and how you ended up here.”
Although it was still quite early, before the evening bell that signalled the requirement to do so, Annabelle had retired to her cage. She lay on her bed, her knees drawn up, face downward, resting partly on her side and partly on her chest, her nipples rubbing pleasantly, but (she hoped) not obviously disrespectfully on the bed.
Occasionally she stretched and twisted her shackled arms, in the way she had learned to do to avoid unnecessary stiffness in the morning. She tried to sleep. She tried not to think about sex. She tried not to think about touching herself – about moving her cuffs once again in front of her body and touching herself. No way she could do that here, it was far too public, and none of the other women around would be as understanding as 423 had been. They were all longstanding members of The Settlement’s community, and as such they took their responsibility for their own and each other’s security very seriously, just as they had been trained to do. Neither, Annabelle thought, would they appreciate a girl having more freedom than they did themselves; the community worked because everyone – or at least every woman – was equal. So they would certainly report her.
So she tried not to think of playing with herself, and she tried not to think of the man she fancied; the man she had tried to attract for months, and who had shown no interest. The man who, because of his particular role in the community, had dealt closely with so many of the girls, including herself, and could take his pick.
The man who was now having dinner with the new girl, Number 423. Bastard.
In spite of herself, Mercy found herself increasingly at ease. Partly it was having her hands free: she ate normally, with a knife and fork, her fetters, collar and neck chain for once making no impact at all on her activity, and partly it was just, as always, how everyone around her accepted it all as completely natural and normal. But partly it was Martin, his charm, and, she had to admit, his manly beauty; the strength of his muscles rippling as he moved his arms, his unassuming and yet totally assured confidence in himself, his genuine interest in listening to Mercy’s tale of her life, her struggle to survive, and her eventual arrival at The Settlement.
“I understand,” Mercy asked at this point, “that there was a time when women could choose to stay or go. But I was given no choice; I am a captive here. Why?”
“Yes,” said Martin. “It was like that until about three years ago, but it had to change. We discussed it at length. A number of reasons: if we really do mean what we say about keeping our women safe, it made no sense just to let them walk out into the wilderness again, and it was also disturbing the younger ones that had had the pledge made on their behalf, and for the ones that had already pledged, and realised it wasn’t all easy.”
“Ah, so you admit it isn’t all easy then? For women here.” Mercy tried to act as if she had caught the man out, but somehow she didn’t feel she had.
“Of course,” he said. “We aren’t stupid. Your lives are strictly controlled. That has to be difficult, sometimes.”
“So what gives you the right? To keep us like this?” Mercy reached forward and grabbed her neck chain, just below her breasts. She gave it a tug, emphasizing its permanence.
“Don’t tamper,” said Martin, somewhat sternly. He pointed to the woman’s hand on the chain. “Leave it alone.” She did.
He continued: “It’s not me that has the right, it isn’t men, or any individual. It’s the community. In which, as I’m sure you know, women are in a majority. Surely a community has a right to decide how best to live. And over many years, this community has decided it is best to live in a way where its women can be free to be women, and be looked after as they deserve to be. A choice you didn’t have in the wilderness, a choice you didn’t have in the old world, before the disasters.”
“Hmm.” Mercy looked at the man, wondering if he really did believe that, but if he didn’t, if he was dissembling, there was no sign of it. She glanced around; naked, chained waitresses, naked, chained women eating out with their menfolk. Perhaps he was right. Life here, for women, was certainly simple and straightforward – stress free.
“Still, you must enjoy it, being surrounded by naked, respectful, chained-up girls the whole time.”
“If you mean, do I like naked women, of course I do. I am a man. If you mean, do I like women who are appropriately polite and grateful for the total care they receive, yes, of course I do. If you mean, do I like women being in chains, of course I do. Chains on a woman look gorgeous and are very sexy, as well as being useful for security. And speaking of which, tell me about that girl you mentioned this morning, the one who could get her cuffs to the front.”
Annabelle no longer had any dreams in which she was clothed or free of chains; she had been in The Settlement too long for that. Tonight, having at last fallen asleep, she dreamed one of her recurring ones – the mystery girl-rail. She woke in the woods, far from anywhere, attached to a girl-rail just by the massive concrete block in which it ended. She could stay where she was, alone, or she could follow it through the trees. Where did it go? What would she find at the end of it? She had never remained asleep long enough to know.
The moment of truth: Mercy felt the night air cool against her body, her cuffs, restored to their proper place, gripping her wrists. “Do I have to?” she asked. Briefly, she looked around at the darkened campus, the low buildings, the lights twinkling in the windows. The stars above.
“No, of course not,” answered Martin. “You are not a slave, as we’ve discussed. I can escort you back to the Women’s Quarters if you prefer. But I would like you to.” She looked up at him, his size, his maleness. Did she want to go back to his place? Of course she did. She could feel the lust pricking at her insides. Her eyes caught sight of his key, dangling around his neck, reminding her: his power, her helplessness. If she did go with him, what would he do? If she said yes, would she have any further say in what happened?
“OK,” she said, “I’ll come.”
Annabelle was out early, almost as soon as the outer door was opened. A curse on resisting temptation: she could wait no longer, and if she was quick, she had time before work. She traced her familiar route, across the campus, following the well beaten paths, and then towards the less well used ones, in search, once more, of a solitary place. She turned the corner past the administration block. The voice surprised her: “Oh, hey, 175, just the person!”
It was Number 97, Holly, a blonde girl a couple of years younger than she was herself. Holly was one of the girls whom Mitch, the community leader, employed as messengers, a role that gave her substantial access to the higher echelons of The Settlement, and consequently a certain amount of influence with other women, even those much older than herself. It was also a role that gave her substantial access to the leader’s bed, which she generally regarded as a perk, though she was of course also aware that should she ever cease to give satisfaction in that respect, Mitch would be able to call on dozens of alternative candidates for his errand-running requirements.
Her role did not, of course, exempt Holly from any of the normal requirements of female security: she spent her life chained to the girl-rails, just like all her peers.
“What is it. Holly?” asked Annabelle.
“You’re wanted,” replied the messenger, smiling brightly. She had grey eyes, quite wide set. “In the Smithy. Don’t know why.” This last part was, on this occasion, absolutely true: sometimes Holly was party to secrets not generally known, but not this time.
Annabelle wrestled with her emotions. The Smithy? He might be there! But she had not even showered this morning, she was still dishevelled from her restless night, and – and…she was desperate for the relief, the illicit relief, she had been about to give herself. Damn! But a message from the leadership could not really be ignored, certainly not when it had been given in person, or punishment would certainly follow. There was no alternative. She set off for the Smithy.
Mercy peered through the bars of the cage, wondering what time it was. She thought she had heard the morning bell, but down here where the men’s apartments were, it was not easy to be sure. And of course the cage, one of the three stoutly barred enclosures with which all the men’s apartments were equipped, gave no view out of a window or of anything else useful. Women’s cages were not designed to allow their occupants to indulge their curiosity of the outside world.
Idly, Mercy turned around and used her shackled hands to pull at the barred door, but it was, of course, locked. She would stay here, in Martin’s apartment, until such time as he chose to let her go. When would that be? She had heard him go out, of course - early, for it had still been dark. But she had not dared ask where he was going, and of course he had not said. What business was it of hers?
The woman returned to the single futon pad that served as a bed, and sat down. She stretched her legs out in front of her, her fetters rattling. It occurred to her how little she had thought about them recently; in her first couple of weeks she had taken every opportunity to pull, prod and poke at them, imagining she might one day find a way to remove them. But now they were just there, like a piece of jewellery she wore all the time. Would she still be able to walk without them? She wondered. And then she thought, what did it matter? It appeared that from now on, till her dying day, she never would be without them, so the question had no meaning.
Leaning back, her shoulders against the wall, she thought of the night before. The man had been so gentle, holding her in his arms, worshipping her naked flesh with his fingers and his tongue, playing her like a virtuoso on some kind of delicate musical instrument. And of course her body, and her mind, had responded. She had been ready to beg by the time he had at last penetrated her, and how he had filled her! And how he had kept her on the brink, easing in and out, so far in and out, touching, caressing, for what seemed like hours. Her orgasms had been all consuming, when he had finally allowed them to happen.
She had wanted to touch him back, but he had not permitted her to do so. She had remained handcuffed throughout, and when they had finished, he had gently carried her into this cage and imprisoned her within it.
“Number 175, so you got the message, thank you for coming!” He was there, tall, strong, blue-eyed, beautiful. She quailed in his presence, remembering months of fantasy and desire, feeling him look her up and down. Her hair must be a mess.
“The thing is,” the man went on, “we occasionally like to do random security checks, and your number came up. I hope you don’t mind.”
Random security checks? Thought the girl. She had never heard of it before. And it was not like she wasn’t subject to three or four routine security checks every day of her life. But she also thought of her illicit excursions up the remote branches of the girl-rails, and wondered if she was colouring up. It was (as the community’s founders had been well aware) difficult to hide anything when you were nude, that was the trouble. “I’m sure everything is fine, Sir,” she said, trying to look calm.
“I’m sure it is too,” said the man. “Turn around.”
Naturally she thought he was going to either check or remove her handcuffs, and she even held them out slightly, only letting them rest against her backside when he made no move to touch them. The cold metal against the narrow part of her waist was a surprise; it made her gasp. “Excellent,” said the man, “a perfect fit.” He had known it would be, since 175’s measurements were carefully recorded on file, just like those of all the other female residents.
Annabelle looked down, shocked. It was a waist belt. Not a particularly uncommon thing in The Settlement – many women wore them, most often with cuffs at the sides to fasten the hands, an alternative to handcuffs. This one did not have wrist rings, but was otherwise the same; about five centimetres high, padded like her collar and cuffs, stout yet flexibly springy, and fastening with a hasp and staple for a padlock. Martin had sprung the staple into position, though just now there was no padlock. Not that that made any difference: with her hands still cuffed behind her, she could not get the belt off, padlock or not.
There was something else as well, the cold feeling of metal links running down the crack between her buttocks. What was that all about? “What..what is this, Sir?” Annabelle asked, worried, and curious.
“A little something we are trying on some of the girls, just to make life a bit more convenient.” He had retreated to the back of the room and returned, passing in front of her. He had the padlock. He smiled at her reassuringly as he fitted it through the staple and fastened it closed. With some dismay, Number 175 noted that it was not a standard padlock, the sort to which all the men had keys: it was one of the slightly heavier ones that were used on the women’s neck chains. No one would be able to unlock it, except by some special arrangement to get hold of the key. She twisted uneasily at her handcuffs, and felt the length of chain dangling from the back of the belt. It was anchored to a D ring in the centre, and stretched to the place where her hands naturally rested. “What is this, Sir, at the back?” Emotions ran riot inside her: fear, puzzlement, and still the overwhelming desire for this man’s particular attention.
“That’s the thing, you see,” smiled Martin, as, pulling another non-standard padlock from his apron pocket, he passed behind her. He threaded the staple of the padlock through the single link that joined Annabelle’s wrist cuffs, and also through the end link of the chain that hung from the belt. “There, see? It doesn’t affect how far you can move your wrists when you’re cuffed, but when your cuffs are unlocked, they will just dangle there, handy. You won’t have to put them down and risk wandering too far from them.”
This was a fair point: the rules naturally required Settlement girls to keep their cuffs nearby when they were unlocked, as they might be required to replace them at a moment’s notice, but it was not the point that was foremost in Annabelle’s mind as she tested the new arrangement of bonds. Yes, she could still move her wrists from side to side, as she always could. No, she obviously couldn’t reach beyond her hips, could never hide or touch her sex or her breasts, or reach her collar to tamper with it. But neither, now, had she the slightest hope of ever doing what she used to do, and bringing her cuffs to the front. The chain joining them to the belt would quite obviously prevent this. From now on, except when she was at work, or in the crowded Women’s Quarters, her hands would be staying put behind her back. Now she was just like the other girls.
It was lunchtime before Mercy was allowed out of the cage. “Thank you, Sir,” she said, making towards the door of the apartment. Outside she could see thunder clouds gathering. There had been a couple of storms lately. Perhaps they were due for another.
“Where do you think you are going?” said Martin, watching her.
“Home, Sir? The Women’s Quarters?” she stopped, suddenly nervous. There was an edge of – of command in his voice. She stood nervously, stretching her legs respectfully apart.
“Not quite yet,” he said, moving towards her, smiling, grabbing.
“Sir!” she objected, startled, unprepared, and then she remembered. She was in a man’s apartment. She had no right to object. Not that she had a chance anyway. She was up against the wall, her chains rattling, his lips against hers, her warm sex, still a little moist from the night before, but rapidly moistening more, receiving him. They came together, to the accompaniment of the first clap of thunder.
Within the Women’s Quarters, Number 175’s new belt was attracting considerable attention: comparing various different forms of metal restraint was a common form of entertainment for the community’s females, much like discussing fashion might have been in the old world, and this was something none of them had seen before.
“That’s so useful!” said number 281, a long-haired brunette. “How many times have you forgotten where you’ve left your handcuffs?”
“I’ve always liked belts,” said 352, a tall, ample-breasted brunette. “I love the way the padlock hangs in front, above your muff. It makes you look so …. exposed.”
“But it’s just as convenient as normal handcuffs, isn’t it?” This from No 289, another brunette. “You can’t even pull that chain tight, can you?”
Annabelle tried, jerking at her wrist bonds, trying to look enthusiastic, rather than furious, as she felt. 289 was correct: it was not possible, with normal movement, to tighten the chain that held her cuffs to the belt. She looked at the others: all these girls had far more hip and backside than she did. It had not occurred to any of them that it might ever have been possible for her to get her hands to the front, and of course she could not tell them. There was only one person she could discuss that with, and she certainly needed that discussion.
“Bit of a fucking co-incidence, I would say. The only person who knew what I could do goes off with a chain smith and lo and behold, here I am in this!” There was only so much exasperated body language that a shackled Settlement girl could manage, but Annabelle’s new cuffs-to-belt chain jerked violently as she twisted her shoulders and wrists.
“Look, I am sorry,” said Mercy, who had seen no point in denying it. “It just sort of came out.” She could think of nothing else to say. That the bright metal band, with its brass padlock, fitted around Number 175’s waist looked fabulous on her did not seem like the most appropriate comment to make, under the circumstances.
“Oh streams and rivers,” wailed Annabelle. “I’ll never get any relief now! Not ever! They’ll always have me like this.”
Mercy’s own ire prickled: “And they’ll always have me like this! I can’t get my hands free; neither can anyone else. What ever gave you the right? What makes you so different? We’re all women. We should all be the same.”
“And you’ve stolen my man. Cunt.”
The truth about Annabelle’s feelings for the under chain smith dawning, Mercy watched her stalk off, fetters rattling, into the woods ahead.
“Of course you did the right thing,” said Martin, feeding the kneeling Mercy another slice of fruit. “Any loyal girl would have done the same. We are all responsible for security.”
“But was it really that important, for security, Sir?” she asked, before taking her next slice, her tongue caressing his fingers as she gripped. “What harm was she doing?”
“Look, 423.” He stared down at her. He was beautiful, she thought. She was sorry for Annabelle but he was beautiful, and it was she he had chosen. He continued: “You’re an intelligent woman. Think about it. You girls are all kept in strict security, right? Which we know suits you, but we also know it also has its frustrations, as we discussed yesterday. Now imagine if word got round that one girl could somehow defeat the security! There’d be chaos and misery all around. But there isn’t, because you all know that you can’t defeat the security. You can’t ever get free, you accept that, so you can relax and enjoy being so well protected and cared for. It took a long time to get this community like it is now, and we can’t have it undone because of one silly but unusually slim and flexible female.”
“She wasn’t going to get free. She only got her cuffs in front. She was still chained to the girl-rails.”
“Of course, But that’s not the point. The point is that the rules require her – and all of you – to have your hands behind you. As if we don’t both know that the only reason she could have wanted them in front like that was to do something disrespectful, in any case. It’s not like she didn’t’ have her hands free every day at her work or in the Quarters, for all the legitimate reasons.”
Mercy tugged silently at her own cuffs. Was that what all the men thought? That the only reason a girl might want her hands free was to do something disrespectful? But perhaps they were right. It had certainly been the only thing on Annabelle’s mind, so far as she could tell. Assuming you accepted that masturbation was disrespectful, anyway. And most of the girls seemed to.
“The thing is, Sir,” she fancies you. And you ignore her!”
“She fancies me? Gosh. I never knew that.”
“In fact I think she must be in love with you.” Mercy looked up at him, his broad shoulders towering above her, even though he remained seated. She could understand the attraction, she really could. And she was the one that was here. She tried not to smile at the feeling of triumph that surged in her heart. Bloody 175 and her disobedience. Serve her right.
“I do get that,” said Martin, matter-of-factly. “It must be the job. All the nice girls love a chain smith.” His hand was on her neck chain, just where it was padlocked to her collar, and she found herself being encouraged to her feet. She stood in front of him, giving him an unrestricted view, her breasts level with his eyes. His mouth. His head bent.
“The thing is,” said Martin, breaking off his sucking, “she’s not my type, I prefer a woman with more arse!” His hand, reaching round, kneaded pleasantly, drawing Mercy forward on top of him.
The thunder had passed, but the rail sluiced down, drenching Mercy. But it was not unpleasant: it had been more than usually hot and humid, and the cool drops were refreshing. She even stopped a moment and looked up, feeling the rivulets running from her sodden hair, down her front between her breasts. Her feet were splashed with mud from the normally hard baked paths. She carried on up the hill. The stream was swollen with flood water, white torrents rising high up the banks towards where she walked.
It did not take long to find the girl. She ran into her neck chain in the exact same place as she had the first time, that fateful day. “175!” she called, tentatively, as she peered around the bush. “175, are you OK? You must be soaked!”
Annabelle was kneeling up, her head down. She was drenched, but she was oblivious to the storm, being entirely focused on her desire to somehow defeat her bondage. She struggled, just as hard as she had that first day, just as desperately, but this time, of course, it was futile. Her chains rattled, her rat-tailed, soaking hair flew, but her hands stayed resolutely where the community intended them to stay.
“Oh, hey, my love,” said Mercy, going to her side, kneeling against her. Of course she could not do as she wanted, she could not hug, but she pressed her shoulder, arm and thigh against the smaller girl, hoping to impart some comfort. Annabelle half turned away, sobbing. “It’s not fair,” she wailed. “It’s not fair, what am I going to do?”
“Annabelle, look at me, hey!” Mercy spoke gently, and at last the girl looked. Her tears blended with the rain. She seemed, Mercy thought, so pathetic, so helpless. So naked.
The kiss came as something of a surprise to both of them. Their heads clunked slightly, and there was breath, and some exploration; they had to balance carefully, since their hands were chained behind them. But then, somehow, they found the position they wanted and passion erupted.
At last Mercy pulled back, looking at the other girl. She giggled at the sight: “You’re wet!” she said.
Annabelle knelt back on her heels, facing the other woman, and spread her knees widely. “Mercy, please!” she implored.
“You realise what would happen, if we were caught?” panted Annabelle, afterwards.
“No, not really,” laughed Mercy, also somewhat out of breath. “Is it going to stop you?”
175 sat up. The rain had eased, but both girls were still soaking – outside and in. “No,” she laughed. “Of course not. How did you learn to do that? Have you done it before?”
“Not often,” said Mercy. “And certainly never in chains. But it’s a girl thing, isn’t it? Why would I not know what to do?”
Annabelle grinned. “Mercy…thanks,” she said. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry, too, Annabelle. Friends?” said 423.
“Lovers!” laughed the other. “Come on, we’d better get back. I am on desserts this evening. I need to start the prep.”
They walked together down the girl-rail, through the trees, and out onto the little exposed part from where it passed beneath the grassy bank leading up to the boundary fence. “Oh Mother Earth!” cried Mercy, at the sight that confronted them.
The whole path was a sea of mud and debris. Clearly the storm had loosened the embankment, and now the path, and more significantly the girl-rail, was completely buried, and some metres ahead of the first mud pools a tree of significant size was laying crossways.
“We’ll never get past that!” said Annabelle. “Our neck chains are far too short to go around.” And then, after a pause, “Say, do you think it has damaged the girl-rail? We might manage to find a broken end and slide our chains out, get free.”
Mercy looked at her, thinking how lovely she looked with the bright metal of her neck bond draped against her naked, soaking body. “Do you want to get free of the girl-rails? Really?”
“No,” said Annabelle. “I don’t. I told you. I like being chained. Mostly, anyway!” the girl grinned.
“Yes,” said Mercy. “And now I’m beginning to understand.” 423 looked down at her own neck-bond, where it disappeared into the conduit, realizing how comforting it felt, knowing it was there, and would always be there.
“Besides,” continued Annabelle, “it’s been too long now. I’d have no idea what to do. I’d be terrified, left to wander loose.”
The rain came on harder again, and the women looked at each other, once more giggling at each other’s drenched state.
“The girl-rail won’t be broken anyway,” said 175. “It might bend, but it won’t ever break. We just need to wait. They’ll find us eventually, and dig through, and when we hear them we can start shouting.”
“Yes.” A mischievous grin lightened up Mercy’s face. “What shall we do in the meantime? Any ideas?”
If you want to read more, there are longer e-books available (“The Settlement” and “The Settlement 2: Under Attack”) available from www.bdsmbooks.com .