Cursing under my breath every crack in the sidewalk, I teetered in my stilettos along Wells Street. The wind city wind threatened to knock me off of them. As I passed a homeless man huddled on the corner he shouted, “Them some high shoes, lady! You better watch out on them shoes.” I smiled at him in agreement and walked on, checking the address written on the sheet of paper in my hand against the numbers on the buildings. Concern crossed my brow as I reached the door that read 306. I checked the address again. 306, Suite 3. This was it. I frowned at the dusty door and cracked window. Cigarette butts confettied the stoop. I found the smudged buzzer with the small and beautifully embossed sign next to it that read “The Sanctuary.” I pressed it. A moment later a very bored and very British voice drawled over the intercom, “Yesss? Can I help you?”
“Um, I think so. I have an appointment with the Headmistress.”
“Oh, right. Evelyn, innit? Come up. Third floor.”
The door lock released with a buzz and I ascended the distressingly steep staircase to the third floor. At the landing, I heard a large group chanting “What you dream about, you bring about!” from behind the door on my left. Across from it was a black door with a gold Baroque door knocker engraved with an swirling “S.” The door swung open before I raised my hand to the knocker and I found myself standing in front of a slight young man with lank back hair. He melted towards the ground in a sort of bow as he beckoned me in. I got the impression that the poor man’s ligaments would snap if he were forced to stand up straight.
“HaveaseatMistressFionawillbeoutinamoment.” The words were quickly and awkwardly thrust from his mouth. He gestured in a Lurch-like way to a brocade covered chair.
He slithered off through a purple velvet curtain and I settled onto the plush cushion in front of the ornate desk. There was a computer on the desk, a calendar, office supplies, and a post-it note stuck to the monitor that read “Need dog biscuits for Lana session 2:30.” The room was decorated in dark damask and Egyptian iconography. I imagined that this is what it would look like if Cleopatra were an office manager. I started as something wispy brushed against my leg and I looked down to see a fluffy black cat staring up at me. “Mew?” it said. I rolled my eyes. Really? I thought. The cat seemed to be more a part of the decor than a beloved pet.
With a sudden flourish, the velvet curtain was thrown aside and an artificially tall, vinyl covered woman stepped into the room. Her platform shoes made up half of her height.
“Isis, get out of here,” she said to the cat. I couldn’t help but feel smug at calling that one. Her thighs squeaked against each other as she minced to the desk and took a seat behind it.
“I’m Mistress Fiona Von Vamp,” she declared in a British-ish accent.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Evelyn,” I said as I reached my hand out across the desk. She extended her hand to mine in a way that made me think she expected me to kiss it. I didn’t.
“Right…” The way she spoke was breathy, but not in a Marilyn kind of way. It was more of a bored, over-medicated kind of way. I would put money on her being from Indiana and not England. “I read your email. Tell me why you want to be Domme.”
My instincts told me that honesty would not necessarily be the best policy here. Judging by the dull, cold stare seeping from her thickly lined eyes, this woman struck me as a person who took this whole thing very seriously. I didn’t think she would take too kindly to a fashion design graduate and aspiring writer using her spanky palace as research. That, and a shitty job market forcing me to get creative about how to make money. I decided to tell a half-truth:
The corner of her mouth twitched into a half smile. Feeling like I had put a toe down the right path, I continued:
“I’ve always been a very curious and naturally dominant person,” I said, pulling words out of my ass, “I’ve had some experience in the lifestyle and have found that I very much enjoy the power exchange [thank you, internet] and I would like to explore this side of my personality more.”
“Do you have any particular interests? Any experience?”
I mentally scanned my sexual history for anything I could use. “Foot and shoe fetish. Stockings. Spankings. Golden showers. I have some experience with bondage, but mostly as the bound one.” I smiled, grateful for all of the secret pervs I had been with.
“All right. Well, I’ll be starting a new training session next week. You will need to go through that before I put you on the schedule.” She pronounced it shed-ule. It sounded forced. “First, I have some questions for you that will give me an idea of your limitations.” She pulled out a form and a pen. “So, you’re good with corporal?”
“Corporal punishment. Impact play. Spankings. Will you do it?”
“Oh. Of course. Yes.”
She made a checkmark beside ‘Impact Play’ on the form.
“Yes, but I was a terrible Girl Scout. I never earned my knot-tying badge.”
She gave me a look that said that she did not then, nor will ever, find Girl Scout jokes funny. “I can teach you. I’m licensed in Shibari.”
I nodded seriously and made a mental note to look up Shibari.
“CBB? CBT?” She continued.
“Yes.” Again, thank you internet for the education in dungeon lingo.
“I always loved playing doctor.”
“We have equipment that gives light to heavy electrical shocks to the genitalia. I’ll show you.”
“Ok, then. Sure.”
“Golden, brown, or Roman showers?”
“Um, golden only.” I shuddered slightly remembering what I had learned about Roman showers from that John Waters movie.
“Well, I’m trying to quit.”
“So, I’ll put no, then.”
“Wait, is that a thing?”
She rolled her eyes. “Some of our clients have a smoking fetish.”
“Oh, well then I guess so.”
“So, I’ll put you down as a maybe for smoking fetish,” she sighed. “And I’ll put you down as ‘Yes’ for foot and shoe worship. How about strap-on play?”
Yikes. I hesitated.
“It’s a popular request here, but if it’s something you’re unsure of we can leave that blank. For now.” I wondered what other sorts of things were popular requests here. I decided to deal with that when it came up.
“All right, then,” said Mistress Fiona. She slid the questionnaire into a folder. “Let’s give you the tour. Follow me.” She arose from her seat with a rubbery squeak and passed through the purple curtain. I followed.
Gesturing to another curtain to her left, she gave me a strict look and said, “This is my personal lounge. No one is allowed in here.” I could here the faint sound of daytime television coming from within. Was that Family Feud?
She continued down the hall and opened a door to the right. She flipped a light switch and a small examination room was illuminated, complete with gynecological table. An enema bag hung on the wall.
“This is the Medical Play room. It’s fully equipped with everything you could possible need for a medical scene. Follow me to the Violet Room.”
She shut the door to the medical room and continued, squeaking, to a door at the end of the hall. She stopped short and turned to face me before opening the door. I almost ran into her.
“Always keep the doors shut.” She looked straight into my eyes. It was weird. “Never leave them open. Never. I don’t like the cat sleeping on the torture tables.”
She opened the door and walked into the room. As I followed her, looking around me, she turned and glared at me as if she was waiting for something.
“Oh. Yeah. The door.” I scooted over to it and shut it. She smirked, satisfied.
“This is the Violet Room.” Aptly named, it was painted a sickening shade of violet. “We use this space for feminization scenes, and less hard-core scenes. Though it is fully-stocked, as well. Over here is the tool case.” She gestured to a floor to ceiling glass case filled with paddles. I was pretty impressed with it. “And in here are smaller tools and implements.” She walked over to a large tool box, the kind you would see at your mechanic’s garage, and opened the drawers with a small key produced from her cleavage. I peered inside the drawers and saw rows of stabby, pinchy devices. Clothespins, hair clips, something that looked like a seamstress’s tracing wheel, and… were those fishing lures? She opened the largest drawer at the bottom. It was filled to the brim with a rainbow of floppy dildos.
“We have a large collection of dildos in varying shapes, sizes, and colors. They are all sterilized after use.” She closed the tool box and locked it. “This way to the large dungeon.”
I followed her into the next room and found myself in a Goth teen’s dream world. It was dark and cavernous. Tortured industrial music trickled from the sound system. The room contained a swing suspended over a cheap Oriental rug, a gigantic table covered in black leather with heavy metal loops jutting out intermittently around it’s perimeter, a worn blue velvet couch, several gargoyles on the walls, a man-sized cage, several ornate candelabras with black and red candles, a fake skull and a stone ashtray on a glass side table, a crock pot and ladle under the table, another large tool box, a human-sized wooden X studded with metal rings on a platform, a leather bench with hand grips at it’s base, some sort of pulley system hung from the ceiling, and several portraits of Mistress Fiona Von Vamp in various vampiric poses. There was an oak coffin draped with chains in the darkest corner of the room.
“This is my favorite room,” said Mistress Fiona as she stroked the coffin. “I designed it myself.”
“It’s awesome,” I said praying that the amusement I felt at seeing this Anne Rice amusement park didn’t read on my face. “Very impressive.”
“Yesss,” she sighed, caressing the chains draped on the coffin. She didn’t say anything else. She just stood there looking around the room with what I could only describe as pride. It was awkward.
I couldn’t stand it. “What’s that used for?” I blurted out pointing to the pulley system. She looked over at me like she had forgotten I was there.
“What? Oh. That’s for rope suspension. Can you do that?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Oh, well, we have someone here who’s quite good with it. Master Mayhem. And through here is the Mistress lounge.” She pulled open a black curtain at the end of the room. “You can relax in here during your downtime. There’s a telly. We have cable.”
I looked into the room. It looked like a cross between an office break room and an off-campus twenty-something’s apartment, complete with shitty futon.
“And the loo is up by the front desk. That’s it.” She turned on her tall heel and squeaked her way back to the front room. “Now, if you’ll excuse me I have pain slut session I have to prepare for.” She thrust a packet of papers into my hands and pushed me towards the door. “That’s a packet of useful information I’ve put together. My policies, etc. Read it and I’ll see you next week.”
As she opened the door I heard the chanting again from across the hall.
“Hey, one more thing,” I said. “What’s going on in there?” I gestured behind me.
“Oh, that,” she laughed and looked friendly for the first time that afternoon. “It’s some sort of pyramid scheme. Sometimes they’ll run up and down the stairs shouting ‘Sell, baby, sell!’ Be careful not to let clients knock on that door by mistake.”
Then she shut the door in my face. I teetered down the stairs and into the street wondering what I had gotten myself into.