This free chapter is taken from the new novel ‘The Bottom Man’ by longtime Janus writer Stephen Sims.
She could smell the hay. Heat hung heavy in the stable. Sparrows fluttered about the wooden cross-beam above the woman’s head where she towered, glowering, a riding-crop flexed in her fists. Horses snorted. Tamar was on her knees. The fearsome face floated closer, the rod lifted to strike her flinching form – and she was looking at the curtains, gently moving where the air from the open window stirred them.
Geoff’s mouth was open in the darkness. He was snoring, his breath fragrant from spirits and beer. Tamar struggled from the duvet and stepped to the floor, half-stumbled out on to the landing in her shortie nightdress, tousle-haired and bleary, heading for the bathroom.
On emerging, Geoff’s snores sounded louder. Tamar saw no solution, short of waking him, which she didn’t want to. Instead she trod along to the small room she called her office on the other side of the stairwell. It was meant to be a child’s room, and when they decided to try for a baby it would be converted to that use.
Switching on the desk-light she thought again of Mr Blezard’s oil-lamp and his spooky schoolroom from another age. What was that about? Had the loss of his wife turned his mind in some way? An oval mirror framed with driftwood hung on the wall behind the filing cabinet. Tamar stepped over to it and studied her puzzled face in the reflection. “Christ,” she muttered to the mirror’s image, “I dreamed I was the girl on the cover of that stupid mag…”
She stepped away till she could see herself full-length, then lifted the nightdress so the light glowed on her lower back and bare behind. Perhaps hers wasn’t quite as peach-perfect as some she’d glimpsed in Claire Higson’s mag, but at the age of twenty-six, with visits to the gym and swimming pool keeping her toned, she felt she couldn’t complain.
The girl in the mirror raised an arm behind her and brought it down, palm open. The impact made a surprisingly loud sound, and stung, making her bottom wobble. She repeated the experiment a second and third time. The brief pain-flashes made her wince. Already the skin was pinkening there.
Feeling a bit ashamed at her antics, Tamar let the nightdress fall back in place and returned to the desk. The clock showed five past three, and she wondered if Geoff had stopped snoring yet. She lowered herself on to the swivel chair, feeling a not-unpleasant smarting where she sat. She opened the drawer and brought out the magazine. There was the girl, whose being she’d briefly inhabited in her weird dream. Printed above the woman’s head was, in forward-sloping letters: BRAZEN, with teasers down the side of the pleading victim: Women’s punishment fantasies revealed; Hot bots in the movies; More confessions of a female sub.
“What’s a ‘sub’?” murmured Tamar to herself with a quiet laugh. “Substitute? Submarine?”
“What the fuck are you doing?” The voice was grating, sleep-slurred. Tamar slid the magazine back in the drawer and slammed it shut, glad that her back was to the door. She stood and switched out the light.
“Couldn’t sleep,” she said.
“Take a pissing pill,” said Geoff. She approached him where he stood in pyjamas in the doorway. He’d started a moustache, blond like the rest of his well-trimmed hair that was starting to thin at the front. Tamar wasn’t sure whether she liked the moustache. He’d be twenty-seven next time and his body was starting to store fat. By thirty he’d be portly unless he worked out.
“What were you doing in here, swatting fucking flies? It woke me up.”
“Get back to bed, Geoff.”
She took his arm and led him back along the landing. At five-foot nine he liked to think of himself as tall, but wore thick-soled shoes to enhance his height. Now, without slippers, he seemed to have shrunk. She steered him back into the bedroom, glad to see his eyelids drooping. On the bed he rolled to his side nearest the wall and she slipped in beside him and turned off the lamp. The alarm-clock glowed, faintly phosphorescent.
She closed her eyes, sleep took her quickly, and she started to dream again…
The gate squeaked as she pushed through it and hurried up the path. She was late, charged with terrible thrills. There was no bell, just a brass lion’s head knocker which she swung against the door, a single ‘crash’ that shocked the quiet garden and echoed away towards the hills beyond the fence.
She was wearing a dark-blue satin blouse and white pencil skirt, and carried a shopping bag filled with things other than shopping. She had to wait at least a minute, gnawing her lip with wonderful apprehension, before hearing his deliberately deliberate tread in the hall. The front door swung open.
He said not a word, but stood back to admit her. She meekly entered the imposing hallway and walked directly into his schoolroom. He followed her in and closed the door, then turned to face her.
“I presume I need scarcely point out that you are twelve minutes late,” he curtly reproved.
She fidgeted, breathing in the room’s unique fragrance of furniture polish, chalk-dust and fabrics. The smell made her weak with delicious terror. “Sorry,” she replied, breathless. “Th-there was a meeting, I had to take notes, sir.”
“Prepare yourself, I’ll fetch my gown,” he said bleakly, “and select a suitable implement. I feel perfectly certain it will be required. Would you agree, Miss?”
She could hardly get her breath. “Y-yes, sir – I’m sure it will be.”
She saw a frail, diminutive man of seventy-four with sparse silver hair, thread-veins on his nose and rimless specs through which blinked two watery myopic eyes; but all that was about to change. As she moved towards the ante-room with her shopping bag she felt his gaze follow her, blinking down the curve of her spine to her neat waist and the skirt’s provocative outswell, and she hastened from the study as though he had touched her there.
Minutes later she reappeared. Even the quality of the light from the window seemed to have altered: evening sun-shafts burnishing dust-motes seen with young frightened eyes, dust raised by flapping black gown and heavy tread, carpet yielding to fear-filled feet as she approached the dreaded desk, gulping in the smell of tobacco and tweed, burned matches, polish and chalk.
All traces of her make-up had gone. She wore flat shoes with white ankle-socks, a navy-blue pleated gymslip that showed most of her thighs, a crisp white blouse with red-and-blue striped tie knotted at her throat. Her palms felt clammy and her shoulder-length copper-coloured mane, which usually tumbled in burnished coils around her face, was gathered into a tail and tied severely back with a pale-blue ribbon; while the fringe that flopped over her forehead, and the gym-trimmed slenderness of her nimble-neat body, completed the illusion of youth.
“Come forward, girl!” His voice, bleakly authoritative, was deceptively quiet.
She shuffled forward, subdued and pale, head down-hung. He was standing stiff-backed behind his desk, a schoolmaster’s black gown over tweed jacket and flannels, mortar board on head. He stepped across to the cupboard and took from inside a crook-handled cane some three feet long, which he swished experimentally through the air with a loud whop.
Solemnly he turned to survey her with hot, bright eyes, gripping the cane in both hands and flexing the thin shaft into a quivering arc. Her mouth was dry and she felt her heart pounding. “Well, Tamar Linden…” His voice was icily severe. “What have you to say for yourself?”
“Nothing, sir. I have no excuses.”
She was staring at his midriff. The bottom button on his jacket was unfastened. The cane came into focus, supple and whispery in his grasp.
“Speak up, girl!” he said tartly. “I can’t hear you.”
“No excuses, sir! I’ve been wicked!”
“And you deserve to be punished?”
“Yes, sir!” It was a hoarse, defiant shout. “I fucking well do, I deserve it, okay?”
“Miss Linden!” The elderly face was stiff with shock. “How dare you use that disgusting expression!”
“I’m sorry, sir.” She gnawed at her lower lip, quailing.
“You have clearly been a disgrace to yourself and the entire school,” he said tartly. “Is that not so?”
“Yes, sir.” She was unable to meet his piercing glare.
“Such behaviour is deserving of the sternest retribution. Do you have anything further to say before I administer punishment?”
“No, sir.” The sound was a half-sobbed sigh.
“I will cane you over one layer of clothing. Six.” Her gasp and flinch were expressive. “You will raise your gymslip to the waist, Tamar Linden, and bend across the desk.”
The schoolgirl-woman walked to the side of the old oak desk and stood against it. Then, wretched with embarrassment, she hoisted the pleated skirt up to her hips to display shapely legs bare from the white ankle-socks to the undercurves of her navy-blue knickered behind. She spread her feet to lower her waist to desk height, then bent forward to lie along its polished surface, reaching out to grasp the further edge, feeling the coolness of the wood against her tummy and thighs.
In the silence she could hear him breathing, then the rustle of his gown as he took up position behind her. She could feel how her bent posture had tightened her knickers, the thin fabric sinking between each buttock and clinging to the soft curves. She knew that his eyes were gloating lasciviously on her there, and the fact excited rather than repelled her as she clenched her eyes shut in petrified anticipation, buttock-muscles quivering.
His arm swept down. The cane struck the springy globes with a snicky-whick and leapt away. Tamar’s body convulsed on the desk-top, her fingers scrabbled and wrenched, she gave a piteous mew, then settled again, ready for the next stroke. He had put power into it, and she’d taken it well.
Five times more he swung the cane, while she jerked and shuddered to the sharp detonation as it met its target, marking the visible flesh with streaks of white which turned to red, a burning epitaph to her self-acknowledged waywardness.
The cane ceased its activity and hung limp in his hand. She was sobbing harshly, slumped lewdly across the desk.
“Your punishment is over. Stand up.”
Shaking, tear-drenched, she pushed herself up from the desk and tugged the gymslip back into place. Her face was flushed, with swollen eyes and runny nose. She produced a tissue from her sleeve and blew noisily into it.
“And kneel,” he commanded.
She sank to her knees, palms kneading her punished bottom. He took the cane in both hands and held it horizontally out to her. She kissed it, wetly, then pressed her lips against the hand that had wielded it.
“Thank you, sir,” she whispered.
* * *
Tamar turned into the modern cul-de-sac of orange-brick houses, eased the car through the open gates, triggered the garage doors and drove inside. There was usually a scramble in the morning: she had further to drive to work than Geoff, but sometimes he liked to get in early. So they were used to jockeying each other’s cars.
For mid-September it was unseasonably warm. Although gone seven there was still no Geoff, just a message to say he’d be back around ten. Tamar felt too agitated for more than a snack, poured herself a red wine from the open bottle, and took it into her little office room.
She’d decided on the drive home that whatever was in Claire Higson’s magazine needed to be confronted more fully. Her vivid dreams last night had disturbed her, especially the one about Mr Blezard caning her on the arse across his desk. In the dream he’d left her panties on. Parts of that dream had kept straying into her mind during the day, it was time to draw a line under it now – its contents were starting to bug her more than she might have expected and she didn’t know why.
Tamar stood up and shrugged off the jacket that matched her black skirt. The turquoise silk top with Chinese patterns shone where the light caught it in the mirror. She pulled open the drawer, took out the magazine, braced herself, then began to leaf through it. There was the expected pageant of well-toned female rears, faces stern and pleading, implements of discipline, surprisingly civilised letters from readers, contact ads. The ‘dominant’ men in the photos looked wholesome and well-groomed, the girls on the receiving end of their punitive attentions were all attractive with good figures, while the text accompanying the photospread was literate and sensitive.
Tamar began to relax. Even the woman with the riding-crop betrayed, in the shoot with the very pretty girl who looked like a fashion model, a vulnerability of camera-
consciousness. Her snarl as she upbraided her quailing victim looked posed, while the shots of the half-nude ‘stable-girl’, now out of her jodhpurs and draped over the side of a stall with her shapely rear uppermost, seemed unconvincingly staged.
An item by a contributor put a name to the apparent ‘need’ being exploited by the magazine. Apart from the fairly routine ‘buttock fetishism’ possessed by many (‘including females,’ it added) was a condition called ‘algolagnia’, from the Greek for ‘pain’. Algernon Swinburne, whose florid poetry Tamar could remember Mr Blezard eulogising over, was reportedly prey to this and his ‘constant craving’ in this respect was kept in check by his cousin, Mary Leith, who gave him regular whackings. Even Percy Grainger, who wrote ‘In An English Country Garden’, was seemingly at it, flagellating himself when he wasn’t making music. Decidedly odd, all of it, Tamar decided.
Then an article written by a female caught her attention.
by Sarah Veitch
Recently I read a book review which claimed that sad men in raincoats were the only ones who bought this kind of literature. I don’t know where that reviewer shops – but it’s definitely not at the same book stores as my friends and I. The reviewer portrayed the usual reader of magazines such as Brazen as a lonely bachelor who has never had a relationship.
The reality is very different. Most of the dominant men I know are married, separated or divorced. Admittedly they haven’t all found a woman who wants to be willingly treated in this way – but that’s because there are relatively few of us out there. Why? Because although many women like to fantasise about the submissive role, fewer understandably have the courage to act these desires out.
So my married male friends find erotic satisfaction in books or magazines like this. Surely there’s nothing wrong with that? It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a brutal sadist or a cringing masochist. One woman’s pleasurable pain is another’s visit to hell; but tone it down and ease up, apply with consideration and care and true respect, and the landscape becomes very different for that second woman…
Tamar took another sip of wine. It was floating into her senses in a delicious way.
The reviewer implicitly made the assumption that anyone who seeks out erotic literature per se is sad. If that’s the case, then we’re an entire nation of inadequate bastards, for the number of people buying arousing materials is very high. Millions of us obtain explicit magazines and books by mail order, via the Internet or from specialist shops.
Our sexual desires shouldn’t be a source of shame. We are all here as the result of a sexual act (you can tell I was top of my Biology class) and most of us will go on to become sexual beings. So long as it is legal, gives harm to no one and is consensual to the adults involved, why shouldn’t we seek out printed stimulus to enhance our fantasies?
There are still too many Thought Police around. They decide that only a very narrow number of sexual responses is completely acceptable. Usually they favour vaginal intercourse in the missionary position with a spouse, preferably for the purpose of creating a child. The further you deviate from this, the more they want to stop your fun.
Yet the fantasising dominant man is surely the least harmful creature on earth. He’s probably asked his wife if he can give her a loving spanking and she’s laughed dismissively or said not in this lifetime. He’s a nice man so doesn’t want to embarrass her by broaching the subject again. So he buys an erotic flagellation novel, locks himself in his study and lets nature take its course…
Tamar laughed, accidentally splashing wine on the page. “Lets nature take its course?” she said out loud. “He has a wank, you mean?” For some reason this amused her. She realised she was feeling woozy. Her eyes were hectic when she glanced in the mirror. She began leafing through the photos again, drank more wine, then started to read an illustrated fiction story which drew her into its fantasy scenario till she was fully immersed.
Strangely enough, it wasn’t the graphic images so much as the emotional sensations inspired in her by the words which triggered the erotic surgings that tickled and grew as her fingers worked, the floaty daze as her gasps came quicker and her knees spread wider…
She heard the front door slam. Slapping the magazine shut and tossing it back in the drawer, Tamar stood up hastily, knocking over what was left of the wine, grabbed tissues to mop it up. The television began to blare downstairs.
Geoff was standing in the lounge in his business suit, still holding his briefcase. He smelled of beer and smoke, swaying slightly as she came in.
“Oh there you are!”
“That’s nice,” she said.
“The tender greeting from my adoring husband.”
“Don’t you get clever with me, girl. You always were too clever for your own good.” He peered at her. “Are you pissed?”
“You’re a fine one, look at the state of you. I thought you wouldn’t be in till ten. And why are we shouting?” Tamar searched for the zapper. “What’ve you got it on so loud for?”
“I’ll get in any time I fucking want,” he yelled.
“Stood you up, did she?”
Tamar turned the sound down. Her head was swimming. “What did you just call me?”
“You heard. It’s wha’ you are!”
He was fumbling for cigarettes. She slapped them from his hand. “Don’t you dare start smoking in this house. It’s disgusting!”
“Disgusting?” he sneered. “You talk to me about disgusting?”
“And forgive me, please, for seeming to suggest that your increasing latenesses getting home might imply dalliances elsewhere.”
“Fuck you!” He hurled the briefcase across the room.
“Geoff! Please stop… I’m sorry.” Her hand was on his arm, he shook it off. “Just calm down a minute,” Tamar pleaded. He stared at her, his face hating. “You always seem to think I’m getting at you. I’m not.” He was breathing heavily. “Anyway, I want to ask you something. If I don’t say it now, I never will.”
“What?” He was peering suspiciously at her.
“Couldn’t we sometimes make-believe a bit?”
He was frowning. “What’re you on about?”
“Be friends like we used to be? Maybe – I don’t know – play a game sometimes.”
“What’re you talking about?”
Tamar swallowed hard. “Like… I don’t know… pretending I’m naughty sometimes.”
“Naughty?” He spat the word out. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Don’t ask me to spell it out, Geoff. Use your imagination – please. I only want to try it, I don’t know why…” He was staring hard at her now. She turned side-on to him and pushed out her bottom. “Just for fun, see what it’s like…”
He ran at her and kicked her there. She shrieked. It was a full-blooded kick that almost lifted Tamar from the ground and sent her slamming against the sideboard, smashing one of the glass panels and causing the crockery displayed inside to jump out, crashing to the floor in pieces. The furniture rocked and threatened to fall, dislodging framed photos and other items from the top and sending them groundwards to shatter.
Tamar was on the carpet, crawling, dazed with shock and aching with hurt from the impact, crying rawly, her left arm bleeding from the broken glass.
“You dirty-minded cow!” he was yelling. “I saw it, that fucking disgusting magazine in your drawer after you went off this morning. Thought you were up to something last night, and I was right. I’m married to a fucking freak!”
She was sucking in air, coughing it out in harsh croaks. “It’s not, Geoff, not what you think.” Tamar clawed at his legs, hauling herself up. Her hands reached for him, he swung a fist that hit the side of her head and sent her sprawling back to thump face-first against the side of the settee. Blood gushed from her nose.
“Slag! Fucking slag!”
Tamar was wailing, sobbing, choking for breath. As she tried to stand, blood smeared the furnishings she’d chosen with such care. At last, on her knees, she twisted her body and slumped weakly on to the cushions, gulping harshly. The front door slammed. Vaguely she heard his car start up, reverse with a shriek of tyres and roar off up the road.
The television muttered. The ceiling blurred through her ever-welling tears, swirling spots obscured her sight, there was a buzzing in her ears and her senses left her.
‘The Bottom Man’ is now available to download from the Janus Online Store by clicking on the highlighted link.
You can also read a full interview with Stephen about his time working for the magazine here.