The Amber Columns (The City of Dark Pleasures Book 2) (7 page)

BOOK: The Amber Columns (The City of Dark Pleasures Book 2)
10.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

The couples pause by the gate, holding each other, kissing and caressing, talking in voices too low for me to hear.

“This is what they do,” Tully says in a firm tone.  “These are people who tried to love in the old way. One of them loses their citizen status in an effort to keep them apart.”

I know he means this to be a warning, a disincentive to my desire, but it works in the exact opposite way. The collection of couples, each one seeming to float in a private bubble of commitment, of joy. Of love, despite the sacrifices. One or two of the men even look like Culls.

It is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

When I turn to look at Tully I can see that he realizes how he has failed to dissuade me. And rather than be stern or disappointed, his face lights up. He looks around, searching. Another bells chimes at the gate.

“Ten minutes,” Tully says, pulling me by the hand. “Come with me.”

We run together, along the gate to the shops and kiosks along this part of the promenade. Tully searches the windows and doors but they all seem to have closed up for the day. Finally he pulls me into the alcove entryway of a candy store. The smell of spun sugar and lemonade floats around us.

“Wha—” I begin. But Tully pushes me against the glass and kisses me.

It’s nothing like our previous kisses. He’s possessed by a kind of madness, a frenzy, his hands tearing at my clothes. Soon his fingers are caressing my breasts, pushing my bra out of the way so he can knead and pinch my nipples. I would say something, something like
fuck, yes
but his tongue has captured mine, our lips so firmly connected together that it’s as though we have become one person.

One of his hot hands slips down my stomach under my skirt into my panties. From the corner of my eye I see one of the couples strolling past the candy shop. They turn momentarily, glancing at us with amused expressions before continuing on.

I gasp, whimpering as Tully’s fingers find the wetness and need between my legs.

“Stop?” he says onto my lips.

“NO! Fuck no.”

He begins to move his lips down my body into my cleavage, among the mangled folds of my shirt and bra. His lips close tightly on one nipple, then the next, a maddening distraction from what is happening further down.

Tully has found the button and zip of my skirt and undone them both. My skirt falls to the ground. Out on the promenade another couple wanders past—both men. They laugh as they disappear out of sight. I find myself wishing they would stay and watch. I want the whole world to see this.

Tully kneels at my feet, his fingers sliding my panties down to fall in the pool of my skirt. Then he lifts one of my legs and slings it over his shoulder. His lips press on the mound of my sex as his fingers stroke my pubic hair, parting me.

…” I say.

“You smell like mint,” Tully says, drawing his tongue over my clit. My core clenches down as his two fingers breach my opening. In seconds my body is trembling as he presses and thrusts inside me.

His lips close on my clit, suckling as his fingers continue their invasion. He slips another one inside, stretching me as his thumb joins his tongue to torture my throbbing bud.

“Tully…ah Tully, fuck yes…”

I clutch at his hair, pulling it until he whimpers in protest, but if I’m truly hurting him all it does is make him double his efforts. His tongue and lips devour me. His fingers plunder my cunt. His free hand slides up to pinch and caress my nipples.

Outside on the promenade a small crowd has gathered. Some of them are couples but there are also maintenance staff and a few servants wandering out after a long night. I look at them, my eyes unfocussed, wanting to tell them to leave us in peace but unable to form a word. My reason is leaving me.

“Tully…Tully…I’m so close…I’m going to…going to…”

I want to say fall, because it feels like falling and I’m losing my footing, almost as if I’m getting drawn up into space by the pleasure building inside me. And then I break, like a fire starting beneath my feet and shooting upwards. Tully continues for a few seconds as it takes hold but then as I’m in the deep throes of this phenomenal orgasm he quickly flips my leg off his shoulder and stands, kissing me roughly, ravenously, the taste of my cum and mint and his mouth mingling with my cries and moans.

“I love you, O’Mara,” he says on my swollen lips, while I writhe in the continued onslaught of his fingers in my cunt, his thumbs on my clit. “I love you so much it scares me.”

He keeps pumping and massaging until I feel like I might go mad from the waves of ecstasy.

“Stop…” I whimper, though my heart is not in it. I want to linger in this paradise forever. And then it crests again and my whole body tenses and convulses and Tully pulls back maddeningly to watch me as I scream bloody murder, coming completely apart in front of all these people.

Finally his fingers slow, sliding out of my sopping pussy. He lifts them and nudges them into my mouth, a wicked grin on his face. I’m too ruined to protest. I suck him, exhausted, spent, wishing it was his cock in my mouth, wishing I could make him come this way.

Dimly I’m aware that the small group of spectators has applauded politely and dispersed. Tully starts to laugh.

“Is this the life you want?” he asks. I’m not even sure what he means. Getting fingered and sucked to distraction in front of a crowd of onlookers? Living with him on one side of the gate and me on the other? Love? The love he professed at the moment my body gave into his ministrations? I don’t care either way. I want it all.

“Oh my fucking God, yes,” I say.

Another bell rings. Five minutes have passed since he pulled me into the alcove. Five minutes seems too short a time for what he accomplished with his fingers and tongue. But I suppose he’s more practiced than most people in that way. And I’m in love with him. That helped.

“They’ll arrest us both if you stay,” Tully says, bending and holding my panties for me to step into like a child. He pulls up my skirt and carefully zips and buttons and tucks me into a semblance of order. I’m self-conscious about the wet arousal between my legs but I suppose I’ll have time to go home and shower before I need to show up at the News.

Masturbate and shower. I’m sure I’ll need to by the time I get back to the city.

Tully takes my hand and pulls me in the direction of the gate. The guards glare at us both as he kisses me, all too briefly before I scan my wrist pass and step through the archway back into the controlled city. Taking my cue from the other couples, I move over to the high bars of the ornate fence to the side of the gates. As the guards pull the gate shut with a final bell, I reach though the bars. Tully takes my hands.

“They electrify the bars in a few minutes,” he says.

All down the fence couples are caressing through the bars, speaking softly to each other. A few of the women and at least one man I’m almost sure is a Cull, are crying.

“I’ll try to come back tonight,” I say, feeling my own eyes fill with tears. “Sometimes they won’t give passes…especially… well you never know. If I don’t come it’s not because anything has changed.”

Tully smiles at that. “If you can’t find me, ask another Cull. But don’t come back to the Columns. It’s not safe. Send someone for me. There’s a Cull who works in Emerald. His name is Bray. You can trust him, more or less.”

“If I can’t come can I send you a message?”

“I can’t get messages while I’m suspended. Send a message through Bray. Why are you making that face?”

“I’ve met Bray. He gave me a massage.”

Tully narrows his eyes. “Just a massage? Bray is a bit of a deviant. I’m surprised he didn’t offer more.”

That makes me laugh. “He did offer more, but I declined. I don’t need a fine for statutory rape on top of everything else.”

Tully reaches up and strokes my hair. “It not a crime with a Cull,” he says lightly, as though that’s not horrifying in its own way. The youngest Culls would only be fourteen years old. Has it never been a crime? Maybe that boy who I paid to help me find Tully was as young as that. What kind of man or woman would want to use a child that way? A mutilated child?

“On that dark note,” Tully says with a wry smile. “The guards will get nasty any minute now. And sometimes they electrify the fence gradually and sometimes they light it up so fast it knocks you on your ass.” He lets go of my hands and I withdraw them reluctantly.

“I love you, Tully.”

He sighs, laying one hand on his heart. “I love you too, O’Mara. I’ll see you soon.”

A guard sweeps along the fence, herding citizens towards the magway. I face backwards as the walkway takes me back into the controlled city. All of the citizens with me do the same, watching our forbidden lovers retreat in the distance.

“Is that your boyfriend?” a kind faced older woman asks me.

I can’t answer her in words. I’m holding back a flood of tears, a storm of sobs. I don’t even know what I’ve done, what this means for me. I only nod.


Chapter Seven – Tully


When O’Mara wrote the story about her visit to my boudoir, she changed one key detail. Instead of letting her million readers know that it was me who fucked her in her dream, she invented someone. She even gave him a name, Alejandro. It’s an old fashioned name, like something from a fairytale. I wasn’t actually in her dream with her, so I don’t know if any of the other details of her lucid reverie are exaggerated or invented. The story was titillating, as I’m sure was her goal; lurid in detail and bawdy in language. It was funny too, though I don’t remember much laughing in the moment.

In fact she cried. She woke up crying after sleep-speaking those words that burned into my mind to repeat hour after hour, day after day.

I love you, Tully. I love you with all my heart.

Is it any wonder I fell in love with her too?

O’Mara didn’t mention love in her review. And it’s a testament to my own fucked up heart that I took that as a sign. A message to me. If I wasn’t trapped here in the Pleasures I might have tracked her down at her offices and put on one of those romantic scenes from the banned movies people find in the ruins. Declare myself hers. Vow eternal devotion.  I thought about it enough. I thought about her all the time. Only knowing the ridicule that would surely follow such a performance—a Cull vowing to love a free woman—stopped me. That and knowing if I leave the Pleasures that way, if I get caught in the controlled areas without a pass, I could end up in jail.

So I kept my feelings to myself, held them so close that they began to feel like a secret treasure, something no one could ever take away from me.

That is what love is. I know that now.

The diamond bracelet was just an impulse. The old harem wife grunted and moaned, sweating in my boudoir as I modulated the current of the electrodes. And something on her wrist twinkled and reminded me of stars, and the tears on O’Mara’s smooth cheeks. So I took it. And the old wife noticed it missing later the next day. And the guards came and searched me and found it in my pocket, because after all sometimes I’m as foolish as a teenager.

Two weeks in a cell with nothing to keep me going but my secret. And another three weeks locked out of my account, my boudoir cold and dark, living off furtive sexual favors and the occasional generosity of those who aren’t quite as badly off as me.

But all of it—all of the disordered thoughts, all the emotional turmoil, the humiliation of the guards putting their hands on places where I can’t stand to be touched, pacing in the dim cell, stomach clenching with hunger, and the degrading things I do for money to eat—all of it was worth it if it led up to the brief time I just spent with her, with O’Mara.

I have never felt more like a man than I do right now.

I turn away from the gate, away from the last stragglers retreating back into the controlled zones on the magways. O’Mara was crying again, which made my heart ache and swell until it was hard to breathe. But we all stood there, servants, almost prisoners behind the iron gate. We could leave—the gate is wide open from dusk to dawn, and the scanners are mindlessly happy to record the
of a servant. Getting back in is the trick. And out there in the controlled areas, the abuses and exploitation wrought on Culls and other non-citizens are sometimes worse than in the Pleasures. At least here we have access to medical care, and someone to incinerate our bodies with a modicum of dignity when we die.

So we don’t leave. We stand and watch the magway moving until nothing is left of our loved ones but after images and lingering smells and tastes. I grip the bars of the gate, tightly, feeling the muscles of my hands begin to ache on the cold metal. I know what’s coming. After getting so close to O’Mara, after what we did, my mutilated body likes to punish me too sometimes, and I can feel it building. I need to get indoors, back to my boudoir where I might find something to swallow or smoke that might make it more bearable, what’s coming.

I let go of the bars and turn, striding purposefully back towards the Obsidian Stairway. I know it’s cold and dark in my rooms but it’s better than breaking down out here on the promenade where everyone can see. There are a few Culls I know wandering around in search of breakfast or perhaps some company for their morning nap. The younger Culls don’t understand though, and the older ones are mostly dead. I’m the grand old gentlemen of our kind, the one the boys come to for advice, or to be talked out of slitting their own throat. As though I’m some kind of expert on that.

It hits me like a bolt of lightning, right outside the entrance to Emerald. One second I’m walking, trying to look like nothing is chasing me, and the next I’m on the ground, one hand clutching at my groin, the other clamped over my mouth to keep from screaming. Phantom pain. Sometimes it is simply an ache in the missing limb or tissue. Sometimes it is like losing that part all over again. It’s the latter with me. I stare at the dirty pavement, eyes swimming with tears, nausea churning up, reliving the pain of having my cock and balls cut off by masked bandits.

I don’t remember the actual moment. My consciousness graciously deleted that experience from the permanent memory banks. I only remember a bloody struggle wherein three bandits lost their lives, and I crawled away covered in their blood and mine. The next thing I remember was waking in a hospice nearly a week later. The doctor transfused me with his own blood, he said. Stitched up what was left of me and saved my life.

I don’t remember the pain, but the pain remembers me. The pain remembers to lay me low at regular enough intervals that I’ll never forget what I am. Not a man. Not a woman. Nothing.

I blink tears away, blink and look down and realize I’ve puked up most of the dumpling soup.

Two Lickers look down on me as they emerge from the misty Emerald gate. They shake their heads sadly but don’t make any move to help.

“Tully! Fucking hell!”

Now someone is lifting me upright, which sends jolts of agony up my stomach and chest to my neck.

“Where? Where do you want to go?” It’s Bray, I see through blurred vision. “Come on Buddy, I’ve got you. Let’s go.”

“My boudoir,” I manage to whimper. “Obsidian Nine.”

Bray drags me across the promenade to a drop passage. Drop passages are crazy fast and cost coin which I don’t have but I don’t argue. We step onto the platform and Bray waves his pass over the censor.

“Obsidian Nine,” he says, and the floor falls away. I feel gravity release me until it’s as though only the still excruciating pain in my groin is keeping me tethered to the earth. The platform does a hard turn, jostling us, and Bray tightens his grip on me, holding me under the arms, across my chest.

“You’ll be okay, Tully,” he says. “Just hang on.”

A bell rings so loud it rattles my teeth, then Bray is dragging me to the sensor outside my boudoir. The door hisses open and we tumble inside.

I land in a heap on the floor.

“Lights!” Bray says.

The terminal by the door replies in a bored tone. “The lighting function is disabled in this suite.”

“Emergency override and I’ll pay for it and don’t be a dick.” Bray says. That almost makes me laugh. His kindness will cost him about a day’s worth of minty massages. Just to get the lights on.

Bray hovers over me as the lights flicker to life. “You have any painkillers? Any weed?”

I take my hand off my mouth, curling into a ball on my side. “Bathroom.” It’ll pass, I tell myself. It always passes eventually. Bray disappears and reappears in what seems to be less than a second. I think I might have briefly lost consciousness. He has a handful of pills, which I shovel into my mouth, chewing them, before swallowing painfully. In his other hand a small amount of powder on a spoon, which he shoves against my nostril.

“Sniff hard,” he says.

I obey. The grinding and snorting of pharmaceuticals is not new to me. Speeds absorption, increases potency. I used to take a lot of drugs, and not always for pain. I close my eyes against the familiar burning in my nose, pinching tears out of my eyes.

In the darkness behind my eyelids I’m in a tunnel, blazing fire at one end, cooling water at the other. I have only to walk in the direction of the water as whatever I just shoved up my nose begins to take effect. 

It works fast. The fire flies away from me like a missile. The muscles in my stomach relax as I uncurl and roll over on to my back. Bray puts his hand on my chest, stroking lightly. I open my eyes to see him smiling down on me, his face uncomfortably close to mine.

“You smell like pussy,” he says with a grin.

I shove him away. “Get off me, you little pervert.”

He stands languidly and flops into my armchair. “Some gratitude,” he says. “Takes one to know one.”

I stare up at the glowing tungsten bulbs, strung along my ceiling like a low tech vine. I built this whole suite from scratch—floors, electrical, the plumbing in the tiny bathroom—all of it was scavenged from the ruins, or from shambling, tumbledown corners of the Pleasures. All that was here on the ninth level of Obsidian when I got here was a tangle of wires and circuitry. Admin was quick to set up scanners though, when I turned up. The tungsten lights are just a quirk of mine. I prefer their golden light over the white light of LEDs. There’s a whole warehouse full of the old bulbs in the ruins. But when they run out…well, like me their time will come to an end, leaving little behind.

But maybe all that has changed with O’Mara in my life. Maybe she will remember me when I’m gone. I’m almost certain she’ll out-live me. I hope she does, anyway.

“She found you then?” Bray says.

“Who found me?” I sit up painfully, crossing my legs.

“The black haired girl with the cute tits.”

I’d punch him in the face if I could stand up. The thought makes me feel pretty good though, despite the lingering pain. “Fuck you, Bray. Stay away from her.”

We only manage a few seconds before we both start laughing. Bray stands and disappears back through the hidden door to my bath and bunk room. He comes back with a wet wash cloth and a glass of water, both of which I accept with begrudging thanks.

Truth is, I don’t want to wash O’Mara’s smell off me.

“You okay now, Tully?” Bray asks, as I dab at my face with the cloth. “I’m sweaty from dragging your ass halfway down the promenade. I’m going for a bath and a smoke in Emerald.”

“I’m fine. I’ll see you later.” He presses the door release panel and the door clicks open to the servant stairway. He could take the drop platform back up but it costs even more than coming down. Anyway, the pool he’s headed to is only one level up. He’ll likely take one of the back passageways.

“Hey, Bray?”

He pokes his head back into the door.

“I told her, O’Mara, the girl, that if she can’t get in touch with me she can give a message to you. Or if she can’t find me that she should send you to look for me. I don’t want her wandering around the Columns alone again.”

Bray gives me a funny look, his head tilted to the side.

“I’m serious, though,” I add. “Don’t touch her.”

“I never touch without permission,” he says gravely.

“Yeah, well don’t even
to touch her. I’ll kick your ass.”

I’m not sure he completely understands the sentiment. I trust him, but only in that he would just do as I ask because we’re friends and colleagues. This jealousy I’m showing, this possessiveness – where would he have even seen it before? He grew up in a heartless group home. And he’s been selling his body for as long as I’ve known him and that’s at least five years. What would Bray know of love?

“You can count on me, brother,” he says, before disappearing into the dark passage.

Maybe brotherhood will be enough.

I try to move over to the armchair and find I have to crawl. Whatever was in that handful of pills Bray gave me, it’s making me a little unbalanced. I drag myself up into the chair, falling into it with a relieved sigh. Even though the pain in my groin lingers, it’s so much less than it was that it feels like ecstasy.  Something lumpy in my back pocket presses into me. I fish it out.

It’s the packaging and instructions for my new implant. I completely forgot about that. Thinking of it makes the new skin growing over the incision where the implant was inserted itch. I scratch it as I read the specifications sheet out loud to fill up the silence.

“Version 37.801 Internal Sensor Implant…bullshit bullshit…confidential. Practitioner use only…implanting procedure blah blah blah…upgrades on previous versions. Size…wow. They really
small. Holy shit. Externally programmable?”

That’s ominous.  I read on.

“Improved functionality includes coded pulses for electrical resuscitation… handy.…disorienting or incapacitating for crowd or behavior control…great. Just what we need. Emergency pain relief or sedation.”

Pain relief. Now they tell me. Still the “externally programmable” is pretty hard to resist too.

I peel the tissue thin information sheets apart. The second and third pages include detailed instructions on how to activate the new features from a hand-held or wall terminal. The unique code of my implant is stamped on the third page. It will have been recorded in the Administration system of the Pleasures and also uploaded to the Authority mainframe. So I guess if they ever want to incapacitate me remotely they can.

BOOK: The Amber Columns (The City of Dark Pleasures Book 2)
10.39Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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