The Amber Columns (The City of Dark Pleasures Book 2)

BOOK: The Amber Columns (The City of Dark Pleasures Book 2)
9.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

The Amber Columns

The City of Dark Pleasures : Book II

By Bibi Rizer

© Bibi Rizer 2015

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or other commentary.


Cover Design by Cover Your Dreams

Chapter One: Tully


This is not a love story. People like me are not permitted to love.  And anyway, much of the love that there is in our world is twisted, a perversion of what it once was. Men live like gods, their dozens of adoring wives clamoring for attention that when finally bestowed might look like love, might feel like love. Those wives pretend to be content to love a fraction of a man.

And some others…well some know love in the old way—two hearts bound together in a permanent union. Sanctioned by society, blessed with children that are at least half related to them. Sometimes I imagine they giggle at night with the knowledge that once their kind of love was maligned, illegal, existing only in the shadows and fringes. Once two women living together pretended to be “just friends”. Just friends sharing their lives until death severed their bond. What kind of world would condemn that? Now these couples are held in the highest regard. The women lucky enough to make this work for them disdain the harem women. Secretly perhaps they’re not all that upset that the Expiation wiped out more than 90% of the men. Maybe they think a world without men is perfect.

There are men like that too, of course. Men who prefer the company of other men. Though this is not a great secret, outside the City of Dark Pleasures it is rarely acknowledged. A union of this sort would still need to be carried out under cover of darkness. It’s illegal, in fact, and men who engage in it outside the Pleasures risk losing their citizen status. If a man loves another man we call it a crime. As though love could ever be wrong, in any form.

And then there is my kind. And no one loves us.

Sex is what we sell in the City of Dark Pleasures. Some in The Authority, some of the Administrators of the Pleasures prefer to call it “intimacy”, making it sound like more than just a simple bodily function. But the varieties of sexual release available to purchase in the Pleasures are as far away from intimate as you can get. Even when patrons are not actually having sex with a machine—as they often are where I once worked, in the Obsidian Stairway—they might as well be. Servants who sell their bodies as a selection of orifices or appendages to exploit for erotic means are little more than machines themselves. To work here you need to sequester your emotions, your humanity, your soul if there’s such a thing. If you don’t you’re in danger of losing it all together, permanently.

For someone like me, my damaged soul is all I have left. I try to slip it off like a coat when I work and most of the time I can. Most of the time no feelings at all come into what I do. But there are times I weaken, times when patrons get to me either for good or ill. Mostly ill.

Once a woman I met got inside me like no one has. It wasn’t love, but it was as close as I will ever get. O’Mara was her name. O’Mara Tanner. Every morning I read her byline on the Island News Service. She writes about fluff—places to shop, entertainments to see. She wrote about me once. It was all lies, but I don’t hold that against her. Our civilization is built on lies. The brief time we spent together was all lies.

Sometimes I think I would give up everything just to have O’Mara Tanner lie to me again. I would hand over my soul in a heartbeat. That is the mutilated teenage boy inside me speaking, the lost and terrified child who more than once begged for death. That is what I hide from the patrons of the Pleasures most of all, the pitiful creature I was fourteen years ago when it all ended.

“Are you selling?”

A man lurks in the shadow of one of the columns. All I can see of him is the furtive twitching back and forth of his eyes. He’s not quite as tall as me, but heavier, with the roundness typical of harem husbands. I wonder how many wives he’s left at home tonight while he goes out looking for a man to have sex with.

“If I wasn’t selling, why would I be standing here?” I cross my arms, leaning back on the column behind me. The Amber Columns are warm; their characteristic color comes from the glowing of the radiant heaters inside them. They’ve been retrofitted this way because much of the service plied in this part of the Pleasures takes place outdoors, between the columns, in full view of anyone who happens by. There are no boudoirs here. Once there were, in the early days after the Expiation ended, but they were bricked up after one too many Culls met a violent end at the hands of a sadistic patron who preferred to work in private.

It was only ever Culls, as though our inherent tragedy is license to make us perpetual victims. I used to carry a blade with me here, until the weapons’ fines got to be too much. And then I left the Columns all together and plied a different kind of service at the bottom of the Obsidian Stairway. When the Administrator suspended my license and froze my account, I drifted back here. Where else would I go? I have to eat. I have to pay another fine to get my license back. I have to make money one of the few ways available to me.

“What are you selling?” The man comes closer. I can see he’s much older than me. And his wealth is evident in his clothes and shoes, the neatness of his haircut, the closeness of his shave. If I’m skillful I might be able to wring a week’s living expenses from this one, or enough to pay a quarter of my fine. That is if I’m what he’s looking for. I don’t look like the others so sometimes there are misunderstandings.

“I’m a Cull,” I say.

The man smiles. It’s not a friendly smile. It’s avaricious. His eyes drift down my body as though he’s measuring me for fit. I wonder if he looks as his wives that way. I wonder what it is he sees in me that he doesn’t see in them. I mean, I’m not really a man—not like him.

I could walk away. I know what he wants and I hate it. There are other Culls who enjoy it more. He could find one of them further down, towards the water. But he’s seen my reticence now. No doubt that has only made him want me more. No doubt he’s willing to pay for that reluctance.

“How much do you want to spend?” I ask.

“Two hundred,” he says, with no hesitation.

I make a huffing noise and turn my head away.

“Four hundred!” There’s hunger in his voice. “Six hundred!”

Six hundred is half the fine. The fine they gave me for doing something so stupid it’s embarrassing to think of. I still look away from him, staring down the long corridor of columns. If another more willing Cull pops out from one of the passageways now I could end up with nothing.

“Six fifty?”

I turn my head. Maybe I can convince him to take it easy on me.

“Credit or coin?” Coin, I can keep it all. A transfer to my account will go towards my fine but the Administrator will take fifteen percent. That’s galling enough, but also, since my account is frozen, I can’t take any to feed myself. And I’m hungry. Coin is the transaction I need. Luckily most of the commerce in the Amber Columns is conducted in coin. It’s more discreet.

“Coin is fine.” He pulls out a handful of silver disks and begins counting them into his palm. Six large ones, five small ones. A handful of humiliation and discomfort that gets me that much closer to having my life in the Stairway back. Such as it was.

That fucking bracelet. Why did I do it? That was so stupid.

I put my hand out and he drops the coins into my palm one by one.

“Where?” he says.

I turn down one of the dark passageways, zipping the coins into my jacket pocket. “Follow me.”

There’s an open courtyard at the end of this passage. During the day servants congregate there to share meals and gossip. A couple of food carts set up selling simple cheap fare. Yesterday morning one of the other Culls bought me some breakfast – coffee and a sweet roll. We talked about the weather. It was almost civilized.

But after dark, the courtyards and plazas, the passageways, all the corners of the Amber Columns are only used for one thing. Culls and unbroken men ply their trade in the semi-dark. The Columns lack the party atmosphere of the rest of the Pleasures. There are no colored lights or music. The mood is somber, sordid; everyone knows what happens here is the object of revulsion and condemnation in the outside world.

There are stone tables in the courtyard, and I think this patron will appreciate something to bend me over.

“Here?” he says, looking around the empty tables.

“You got a better idea?”

He just grins. “Can I see it? Where they cut you?”

For fuck’s sake. Why are all these guys the same? “No. You can’t.”

“I’ll pay extra.”

I don’t even answer that. Dropping my bag on the table I reach forward to the button on his trousers. Maybe I can get away with just a hand job. I’ve done it before.

“Take your coat off,” he says.

It’s kind of cold, but whatever. I slip of my coat and drop it beside my bag.

I can see he’s hard already, the front of his trousers tenting conspicuously.  I reach for him again and this time he lets me slip my hand right inside, right down to…


His cock is

I guess my reaction was not very subtle. “Not what you were expecting?” he whispers.

I start to stroke him. Now I really want this to just be a hand job. I mean

“That’s not what I want.” He grabs my wrist, squeezing it painfully and pulls my hand out of his pants.

“Let go,” I say, firmly. Maybe he doesn’t know that the consequences for fighting back almost always go against us.  I could grab my stuff and run, but since he’s paid me that would be considered stealing and that would be another fine. He doesn’t let go. His fingers tighten on my wrist, pressing my bones together until I’m pretty sure they creak. I mean, I still have a hand free. I could knock him out with one punch. But that would set off his alarm and I’d be arrested for assault. What would that accomplish? More fines. Maybe time in the cells. Women servants get away with fighting back most of the time, and unbroken men sometimes. But never Culls.

“Okay,” I say, letting my knees relax. I’ll just kneel and suck him off. That won’t be so bad.

“No!” He yanks me upright. “That’s not what I want either, gash.”

Gash. I haven’t heard that word in years. It was fashionable during the Expiation and for a few years afterwards. A derogatory word for Culls. Used mainly by members of the gangs that did the cutting.

That would be just my luck. I’ve just agreed to hook up with a cutter. That means he knows exactly the shit situation I’m in. The cutters I’ve met before revel in the reduced circumstances of the Culls, our lack of rights. They take pride in it, because every iota of power they took from us was one they kept for themselves.

I would tell him I killed the cut gang that attacked me if I thought he’d believe it.

He squeezes my wrist again. I fight not to reveal how much it hurts. Instead I think about slitting three throats and watching three lives fade from three sets of eyes. Think about what that did to me, just weeks before my sixteenth birthday.

“Now show me, gash. Show me what you look like.”

“You…you said you’d pay extra.”

With his free hand he pulls a few more coins from his pocket and throws them on the ground. Does he want me to crawl around after them like a rat? I hold my chin up, hoping it looks more defiant than it feels. I stare over his shoulder at the checkpoint terminal on the wall behind him. The blinking red light means this transaction is being monitored. Likely just by a bot, so that’s not very reassuring. At least I’m not about to be killed. Probably not anyway.

As he lets go of my wrist at last and undoes the button of my jeans, I look up. Stars and a delicate crescent moon watch over us, casting us in their non-judgmental silver light.

He sighs as he opens my jeans and pulls my boxers down. Why a tangle of ugly scar tissue would make him sigh is mysterious. Was that a gleeful sigh? A nostalgic one? Is he admiring his handiwork?

“Turn around,” he says.

Well, finally. Let’s get this over with. I turn around and put my hands on the table, lowering myself to my elbows as he presses on my back.

“I have lube in my bag,” I say. I stole a tube from a Tommy Girl who let me sleep in her bed last week.

“Fuck that,” the man says. I hear him spit.

I put my hand over my mouth. I don’t want to give this pervert the satisfaction.

I bite down on my palm and try to take my mind elsewhere as he pushes in.

OH fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. Fuck pride. Fuck hunger. Fuck money.

“You’re hurting me. That hurts. Stop.”

“Shut up and take it, gash.”

He thrusts so hard I gag. I would vomit if there was anything in my stomach.

I whimper into the concrete. “Please, you have to stop.” I’m sure there’s blood now. I certainly know what it feels like to bleed. “Stop. Stop.”

He doesn’t. The pain has morphed from a tearing, searing to the ache of my guts cramping up in protest, like I’m being beaten to death from the inside out.

If I was a normal man with more than two testosterone molecules to rub together I would shove him off me and kick the shit out of him. As it is, with no money I haven’t been able to buy hormone pills in weeks. And without those I regress back to the boy I was before the Expiation. So now I just feel like crying, like curling up into a ball and crying my eyes out with my thumb in my mouth.

BOOK: The Amber Columns (The City of Dark Pleasures Book 2)
9.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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