- lovely image by Grant Snider, you can see the full cartoon here
What was it that drew you to the erotica section? Did you find your way here by chance? What made you halt amongst the spanking books?
Your eyes ache at the library’s dizzying vastness. You wonder, in an infinite library do the lesser-thumbed books ever feel neglected?
You continue wandering absent-mindedly through the towering canyons of shelves. Each book silently calling: pick me, choose me, read me. I’ll arouse your mind, I’ll fill your imagination with imagery you never thought you could conceive. Every now and then you stop, plucking a book from the nearest shelf to test its worthiness, evaluating its title, the claims on its back, even the musty woody scent of its pages.
Feet aching, you stop to rest, plucking a book from a nearby shelf at random. This one’s called Waiting – it has a stark monochrome cover of what looks like an austere old-fashioned schoolroom. Dwarfed within the expanse of empty space is a young lady, who’s standing facing a wall with her hands upon her head. She’s so small it’s difficult to make out details, but there appears to be a dark band above her ears. You turn over to read the blurb on the back, it describes itself as a story of apprehension, obedience and impatience. And there’s a quote from the story, from an unnamed protagonist:
“I’ve punished too many recalcitrant minxes to be sure of her sincerity. At first, most I punish are only really sorry they’ve been caught. But by the time they leave this room, their bottoms glowing, their sorrow tends to be genuine.”
Sounds mysterious… perhaps it’s worth a read.
Or maybe you’ll continue browsing. You pluck another book from the shelf – this one’s entitled Cosmopolitan. The colours of its cover image are washed out, as if the scene had been photographed long ago. A group of giggling schoolgirls are hiding around a corner, unseen by a teacher in gown and mortarboard who stands in the distance, hands on hips, as if searching for someone. On the back, the book is described as a story of role-playing and fantasies made real, and teases the reader by asking…
What do you fancy doing in your next holiday?
Basking on a beach? Scuba diving? Trekking? Partying the night away?
What if you could dress up as a schoolgirl and misbehave?
What if? Maybe that provokes your imagination. But if not never mind, there’s still plenty more to see; just slide the book back into its place, and wander further down the aisle.
Now a shiny spine of a newer book glints, catching your attention. Its title is written in angular Latin type, as if it had been chiseled into Roman stone: Lupercalia. On the cover is a painting, a bucolic scene in which a horned satyr is lithely dancing around a nubile nymph. And the artist has not been coy depicting the satyr’s erotic intent. On the back, the story is described as a tale of ancient erotic rituals and virgin smiles, and includes an excerpt to tantalise potential readers:
“The ceremonial chamber was at the back of the temple, and entered through what looked like a fissure in bare rock. Carved into stone above its entrance were six words:
‘Speluncam ire times… Aurea quaeris est.’
In the cave you fear to enter… lies the gold you seek.
Drumming reverberated around the small intimate chamber, a slow, processional, almost martial beat, thumped out by players elsewhere. The chamber was unoccupied and surprisingly sparse, without statues, tapestries or sacred adornments. Its walls were hidden by darkness; the space being illuminated by three large bronze mirrors angled towards a hole in the far wall, through which the afternoon sun streamed in impressive crepuscular beams, which were thrown by the mirrors down onto a single spot in the middle of the room.
On the floor, in the centre of this pool of light, was a long slab of white marble. Its base was only ankle high, and a foot length’s wide, and in its centre the stone had been sculpted into life-sized phallus. It had been sculpted erect, its bulbous head pointing towards the heavens, its oiled surface glistening with a golden hue in the reflected light.”
You rack your memory, trying to remember the last time you read an erotic story with Latin dialogue. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to, and you’ll decide to read it.
Or maybe you’re happy to continue browsing. Ahead, there’s a gap in the shelves and a new section begins, here the sign above it reads “Self Help”. You pick a book from the shelf, this one is much thinner than those you’ve picked up so far, and is called The Bottom Smacking Machine. On its cover is a rather surreal image, a wooden ruler wedged into a bookcase, whilst the back of the book offers a clue to its subject matter:
“Being alone is no excuse for not having a spanked bottom”
If you agree, perhaps that’s the book for you.
But maybe you were looking for something radically different. You leave this section behind and begin to wander randomly through the library.
You ignore the signs that describe each passing section, until the light dims eerily and you realise you’ve now lost yourself in this seemingly unending labyrinth of shelves. Here a book catches your eye, drawing your attention almost magnetically. A musty red leather-bound tome, appropriately entitled Glimpse.
You turn it over, but nothing is written on the back. Your mind itches with curiosity as to its contents, so you open it eagerly, turning the flyleaves until you encounter words. A single sentence looms out of the white:
“Dark things lurk in sublime nightmares, luring those with the most vivid imaginations”
You stop turning the pages, letting the words percolate into your mind. This feels like a darker story, a gothic story, a morality tale. Something macabre, like something Lovecraft or Poe might have written, a tale of hubris, tantalisation and punishment…
It feels spooky… dare you read it?
Or will you continue browsing and exploring? That’s the thing about an infinite library, there’s always so much more to read…
(And a new longform story is coming very soon, I promise)