As Clara teasingly proffers the bullwhip with both hands, Lance realizes how beautifully veined and commanding those hands are, sun-burnished like her arms and shoulders. She cracks the whip across his bare chest and he sings his pain-word: Again. “I am going to slice your body to bloody shreds,” Clara sings back, her voice a clarion peal that brings to Lance’s mind a freshly sharpened filleting knife, a moonlight-glazed metallic tongue. “Yes!” he gasps. “Do it! Do it!” And she strikes him again, this time across his belly, and much harder. He cries out, a pleasure-saturated animal sound. The liquid hot blaze of pain, the sight of welling scarlet stripes on his chest and abdomen, makes him tremble—a response that brings a rare smile to her violet lips, now graced with a blooming blood ruby–a jewel of her own self-inflicted pain. This is transport annealed with anguish, pressing relentlessly toward a molten center. Lance feels certain the agony will engulf him, a dying world about to be engulfed by its bloated red sun. He begged Clare to wear her sheer nightgown with its mid-thigh hem. She complied, but it cost him five additional lashes. Then he asked her to slip it off: seven additional lashes. They would be deliriously nearly unbearable, but he fears passing out, which is what happened the last time he requested a special favor from her with its requisite additional lashes. “Pass out on me again, and it’s over between us,” she said. What can he possibly offer her now to reinvigorate lust? He notices the scars on her legs, the blood dripping from her mouth, and runs his tongue over his teeth as the answer, delicious in its sado-masochistic simplicity, strikes him like a whiplash.


Fred White’s fiction has appeared most recently in The Nonconformist, Sky Island Journal, and The Zodiac Review. He lives in Folsom, CA.