In the beginning there was darkness. Then a voice, clear, calm, and carefully controlled in its masculine authority said, “Let there be light.” And there was light, as if mustered into existence by the sheer power of his words, but actually due in large part to an antiquated but still functional voice recognition system.
The man had been lonely, but now he was no longer alone, for in the diffuse, sourceless light he could see that a woman- his woman- awaited him. She waited as he had ordered, or at least almost as he had ordered. She had disrobed, and she was standing straight, but this is hardly how he had expected to find her.
“When I told you to prepare yourself, did I say you were to cower in the darkness?” he growled at her.
“Well, no,” she answered coyly, as if to buy a measure of lenience through her wit, “but you didn’t say anything about leaving the lights on either, so I improvised.”
If her appreciated her thoughtfulness, he didn’t acknowledge it, instead turning to the wall which faded at his approach to reveal his arsenal. “What do you think you deserve for this?” he asked in his stern voice, the one that commanded attention and warned against games of stalling.
She didn’t answer, mesmerised by the array before her. The collection had built slowly over the years, and she had distinct memories of each of its components. Dare she suggest the laser cane? The implement looked fearsome, at least when powered on, and although it left deep red marks the pain was all but simulated. No, even just judging by his posture she knew that such a suggestion would be dismissed instantly. or else would be taken, used, and then she would be compelled to choose again.
As her eyes swept past the canes to the selection of riding crops, she paused to wonder again at how those little whips had come about that particular name. Who could have thought they were suitable for riding on? Surely one would not get very far. Then again, if such thin canes could have served as walking sticks, then maybe the people of the distant past were much slighter and had somehow managed.
“I’m waiting.” his voice prompted, deep and gravelly, rattling her out of the musings she’d been using to distract herself. She cast her gaze with reluctance to the more severe implements that hung across the top shelf.
“I. . .I think 2B. . .no- 4C. Yes, 4C,” she stuttered out, shivering slightly in anticipation of the agony she had bought herself.
She watched with trepidation as he removed the instrument- a long, thin, clear-bladed paddle from it’s ledge. “I approve of your selection, I see you understand the gravity of your infraction” he said gently- the first hint of softness since he had entered the room.
“It wasn’t all that bad,” she protested, calmed and encouraged by this small sign of compassion from her husband. “No one was hurt, and you’d been saying that you’d meant to replace the hover car for ages. Really I did us a favour, getting rid of it so efficiently.”
“Don’t try this with me today, you’ll only make it worse for yourself,” he replied, his stern voice back and in full force.
“But it was just an accident, I didn’t realise-”
“Didn’t you stop to think at all?”
“I did think. . . I just didn’t realise that it would be dangerous.” she replied in a feeble attempt at an excuse.
“Didn’t realise- but you see on the news every day- so many people have died doing less. Everyone knows to be cautious around hovercars, to not leave them running unattended. Since the dawn of time people have known hover cars are dangerous, particularly during upgrade season.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Even just a hundred years ago people had never even heard of hovercars. It was like the dark ages- they were still burning petroleum, the poor dears,” she offered with a pout.
Any sympathy he may have felt for the ancient people, or his wife, at that moment was buried deep beneath his steely surface. “Prepare yourself,” he instructed bruskly, hefting the paddle in his hand to reacquaint himself with its weight.
With a sigh of surrender, she turned to the bench. She had known it would end here, but that didn’t make bending over and allowing the restraints to snap shut over her wrists and ankles any less difficult. In the few moments it took her to approach the apparatus, her imagination treated her to a host of memories of previous trips to this position. The emotions before were always the same, anxiety, sorrow, and a touch of fear that might have unbalanced her if not for the love and trust that steadied her steps. On the heels of those memories, as if driving the evil spirits away, were the memories of what happened After. The love and forgiveness and reunion. Yes, she assured herself, he After bit made it worthwhile, made the pain and humiliation easier to bear.
Easier, but not easy. She trembled as she lowered herself onto the bench. The top cushion was soft- almost luxurious, which she found somewhat ironic considering that the device was intended to serve as an aid to pain and punishment. She bent over slightly and quested out with her fingertips for the handholds. They responded to her touch and rolled into her hands, saving her the trouble of bending all the way over. The movement was meant to allow for a certain amount of squirming while restrained, though she had a habit of taking advantage of this feature to delay the moment when she would have to lay across the bench. Closing her eyes, she squeezed the handles and heard the restraints click into place. She had watched them only once, and seeing the hard, gleaming metal encircling her wrists and preventing her escape had almost had started her tears flowing before her husband had even begun. Though she knew tears would be inevitable, there was no sense in starting too early.
“You know why you are here?” she heard her husband’s voice ask, softly again. From long experience he knew that once she was in this position she would offer no resistance, as though the bonds on her limbs had also prevented her from talking back.
“Yes, Sir,” she acknowledged, trying fruitlessly to send her mind elsewhere, to some happy place where all expectations were satisfied and no one was disappointed, no one in trouble. It didn’t work. It never did; his lecture held her mind in place as securely as the metal cuffs held her body.
“I expect better of you,” he said. “You know full well that your attention needs to be on the car whenever it is running. Even on autopilot- you know how unreliable those things are, ever since the last upgrade. This is hardly your first upgrade, you remember well what happened back in ‘86. You are very lucky that no one was hurt this time. Though I think you also know that you deserve punishment for this.”
“Yes, Sir,” she said again, cringing in agreement with him.
He said no more, allowing the paddle to announce his decision to begin the punishment with its sharp crack. The force of it drove her forward, turning what had been a begrudging half-bend into more of a sprawl across the bench. In the few breaths before the second stroke, he saw her back tense in preparation for the coming ordeal as she adjusted her position into something more suitable for her correction. When her bottom was presented properly, the second blow fell with a crack as loud as the first. He heard her sharp intake of breath this time, and allowed himself a small smile. The shock of the first blow over, that sort of reaction told him he was getting through to her despite the early stage of the punishment.
At first she tried to lay still. Although the bonds would prevent any true resistance, she felt it her duty to try to be brave, to try to take her punishment gracefully, though that resolve didn’t last long. As the spanking continued, her cries grew louder, her squirms grew stronger, and her bottom grew redder.
Eventually, her cries shifted, no longer were they a mere protest but an expression of remorse, of love, of acceptance and commitment. As her hardened spirit broke so too did his heart. Though he continued to strike at her, it was no longer with a punitive hand, but in a dance with his woman, his partner, a dance of pain and pleasure and love.
It might have gone on forever, but with one final, heave swat, one great Big Bang, the paddle shattered and it all came to an end.
Or perhaps it had just begun. For, after the explosion, within in the swirling chaos of the dust was hidden an entire universe of new possibilities, new hopes and dreams, new loves and hurts, new mysteries that no one soul could grasp. And somewhere in that chaos, as ages became aeons, the penitent wait in darkness for the one who will bring the light.