Nightmare (6)


I’m in a poker game and it must be France (in the mid-1800’s?) because everybody’s speaking French and I can’t read the subtitles. I mean to say I can’t understand a word of what’s going on. We’re in a private room, on the second floor of a house, and the room is full of soldiers in Revolution uniforms and vagabonds, alcoholics who have never heard the word, and they’re all talking softly to get a sip of wine. Their faces don’t matter to me because I’m at the table playing cards against some General with a mustache and the only woman in the room: a raven-haired whore in a black scoop neck dress.

Everyone was watching us play, and the whore either loves me or hates me because every move she makes is designed to throw me off, to break my concentration or to show me she’s the one this is the last hand now and we’re everybody all-in. I’m holding a pair of nines and the whore pushes her entire pile of gold coins to the centre of the table, watching me with fire in her black eyes and licking her lips wet. She wants to fuck me or kill me or maybe both but the other men are watching us now, crowded around and whispering, to be close to the game they can’t play. And so we have to pretend.

I turn over my cards and the whore blinks in sympathy, sipping her sherry and smiling inside and revealing a straight, nine to the King. The crowd howls in shock and I’ve lost everything I’ve ever made (everything’s gone) and I’m finished. I point at her, and in a voice that comes from somewhere else I accuse her of cheating. The soldiers and derelicts are horrified, and they grab her by the arms, lifting her from the table, and without a trial she is convicted and dragged to the far side of this room, and stood in the center, the men gathering around.

Someone hands me a riding crop and ushers me toward her, the whore awaiting her punishment in scandalous grace, a blush in her cheeks and a resignation in her eyes, a martyr for man’s addiction to women. I lower the rusty zipper on the back of her dress, revealing her bare back, her cream white flesh exposed to the drooling animals, and I strike her with the riding crop, as hard as I’m able, diagonal from the shoulder to the small of her back because she has the only thing we need. She winces in pain but doesn’t make a sound the men stiffen and cheer me on. I bring my arm back over my shoulder and whip her again, the leather crack resounds like the applause of a satisfied audience.

Tears are falling from the whore’s eyes as I scar her back with repeated blows, the skin blistering and opening and bleeding in luscious drops. The men watching are rock hard, breathing heavy as the whore takes her punishment, holding her breasts to her chest and I fucking love it. And then the door opens and he walks in, a man in a hood with my face and body, and everyone parts as he approaches the General with the mustache, and in a whisper (quiet whisper but my voice!) the hooded man says that it wasn’t the whore who had been cheating- it was me! (I don’t know) I don’t know what to say: Who is this man that looks like me? When the men pull on my sleeves the marked cards fall to the floor, the Ace and the Queen and the Jack winking his one eye and I’m guilty and I’ve been discovered. The whore steps towards me, salty water and betrayal in her eyes, and slaps my face so hard I see white lightning.

I try to chase after the man in the hood but the soldiers are holding me, grabbing every part of my body for punishment, twisting my limbs in every direction and then

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