A Halloween spanking story
It floated ghost-like in the corner of her vision. A thin line, like a hair trapped inside a pair of glasses. Only Judith didn’t wear glasses.
It was so faint as to be almost imperceptible. If she tried to focus on it, it vanished. It was curled idiosyncratically at one end, reminiscent of a shepherd’s crook – or, come to think of it – the canes on the wall of the headmasters’ study. Judith was now a senior pupil of an old-fashioned New England school, and so had sat beneath the canes many times, always mesmerised by what they represented. A means of punishment, of ensuring obedience, of making bottoms sore. Not that Judith had ever been disciplined herself, of course. Her school record had been impeccable, her weekly visits to the headmaster had merely been to discuss school business, her responsibilities as a prefect, the logistics of field trips and the enforcement of school regulations.
Nevertheless, the canes on wall had become a secret fascination. When the head’s attention was elsewhere Judith’s eyes would be drawn, almost magnetically, back to those four thin rods, each lying horizontally in two little curved brass rests, crook handles downwards. She’d try to assess in a glance if any had recently been moved. Each cane was the same length, so usually they all lined up. But sometimes, one cane was out of position, a bit to the left or right of all the others. Which had to mean, at some time during the past week – my goodness – one of her fellow pupils had been…
Barbara interrupted her day-dreaming, “So… are you coming?”
“I’m not sure”, prevaricated Judith.
The two friends were walking home. Around them, leaves were beginning to fall, each stiff breeze rustling the trees and triggering a new cascade of red and yellow.
What Barbara was proposing did sound rather outrageous. She had this ‘thing’ for Ronald, a young man from a posh local family who was fewer years older than they were. From what Judith had gleaned, Ronald now lived in Boston, (or was it Cambridge?), where he’d just enrolled at some prestigious university. Barbara’s beau had the accoutrements of adulthood, smart clothes, his own money, self-confidence – and most beguilingly of all – his own car. Ronald was, for the want of a better word, a man – an almost completely different species from the callow whiny boys she and Barbara encountered locally. He was deep-voiced, dependable, grown up. A proper adult.
As it happened, this weekend was Halloween, and Ronald was driving back home to visit his family. But he clearly did not intend to spend the whole weekend in their company, as he’d telephoned Barbara last night, asking what she was doing on Saturday night. So Barbara had told him that she and her friends had been invited to Shirley Patton’s Halloween party. They’d all been going there since they were young girls, an evening of caramel apples and Jack-o’-lanterns, apple dunking and ghost stories. In the absence of alternative entertainments, it had almost become a tradition.
But in truth, it had become more of a routine. The girls were getting a bit old for all this; the party games had begun to seem rather childish, and the ‘ghost stories’ excruciatingly tame to those who’d experienced the true pulse-pounding thrill of a movie frightener. Last year Barbara had wanted to read some Edgar Allen Poe with the lights off, just a single candle illuminating her face as her friends sat in a circle in the darkness, but Shirley had forbidden it and insisted they all carve pumpkins instead.
Ronald would certainly not be attending Shirley’s Halloween-themed tea party. He’d scoffed at Barbara’s juvenile plans. Do you want to go on a real, scary adventure? he’d asked. Her teenage infatuation meant she would have followed him anywhere, scary adventure or not, and she’d readily agreed to his daredevil scheme. Now she was trying to talk best friend Judith into coming too.
But Judith was not as impetuous as her friend. When she’d first heard what was being proposed she’d rejected it out of hand. It was unseemly and reckless, certainly not the sort of thing a proper young lady got up to.
“Oh don’t be such a Prude-y Judy!”, teased Barbara.
That remark had stung. Judith was, by nature, a good girl. Quiet, chaste and obedient. She did her chores without complaint and handed her homework in on time. She didn’t stay out late or listen to that frightful new modern music that was becoming so popular, where the songs were sung by hip-thrusting young tearaways in denim trousers and leather jackets.
The only criticisms that really hurt are the ones we know deep down are true. Judith was – although she was loathe to admit it – a prude. She was a model pupil, a model daughter. Her innocence had been typified by what had happened during a sleepover at her friend Patricia’s house. Judith had forgotten her own hairbrush, and had borrowed one that was hanging on her host’s bathroom wall. Patricia had reacted with alarm when she saw it in Judith’s hands, telling her that one wasn’t for brushing hair.
“What’s a hairbrush for, if not for brushing hair?”, Judith had asked, naively.
“That one…”, replied Patricia matter of factly, ”… is for spanking bottoms.”
Judith’s open-mouthed reaction had betrayed her ignorance. The episode had triggered an excitable late-night whispered conversation between the overnighting girls. Patrica had explained that in her household if she or any of her siblings misbehaved, their mother would sit at the bottom of their bed and instruct them to fetch the hairbrush. Patricia had described overhearing her brothers being spanked with a particular relish, verging on excitement, which was the cue for those gathered to enthusiastically whisper their own stories. It transpired that most of Judith’s friends had, at one time or another, experienced a sore bottom, and some were still being spanked for misbehaviour. But when pressed for her own story, Judith had been forced to admit she had no spanking stories of her own.
Then it was Barbara’s turn to share. Her story seemed to exhibit a particular disdain for rules and regulations, and a rather blasé attitude to its inevitably painful consequences. She had admitted to them all that sometimes when she was sent to her room she’d find five pillows already stacked in a neat pile on her bed. That was her unspoken instruction to get undressed, to put on her nightie, to wash and clean her teeth and get ready for bed. Then she’d bend over the stack of pillows, and pull up her nightie so her bare bum was exposed, and wait… feeling the cool air across her cheeks and between her legs… Judith had noticed some of her friends had squirmed awkwardly at that point, but hadn’t really understood why.
Everyone present had listened, rapt, as Barbara had described hearing her Daddy’s footsteps slowly ascend the stairs, knowing each clump brought her moment of discipline closer. She told how the steps would then recede slightly, as he went to fetch the leather-soled slipper that was kept underneath her parents’ bed. Barbara even mentioned reaching back to give herself a quick rub in the moments before her bedroom door swung open. But that detail puzzled Judith, she didn’t think a quick rub of the bum would make much difference to a slipper’s whacking.
Barbara hadn’t told the whole story, of course. Of how she’d once entered her home unnoticed, and was alarmed to hear the muffled sounds of smacking. Intrigued, she’d crept upstairs following the noise to her parent’s bedroom door. Behind it, Daddy was telling Mummy she was a very naughty girl. Risking everything, Barbara had tiptoed forward as quiet as a thief to sneak an illicit glance through their keyhole. Just enough to see her Mummy across her Daddy’s knee, her bottom already pink. It seemed Mummy got the slipper too.
She had only just been able to stifle her surprise, and had backed away, praying a creaky floorboard would not betray her. But from downstairs she kept on listening, and soon afterwards the sound of gasping, moaning and panting accompanied the rhythmic creaking of her parents’ bed.
Barbara also didn’t reveal that the next day, when she’d returned from school to find the house empty, she’d sneaked into her parents’ room and taken away one of Daddy’s heavy leather slippers. After stacking her pillows on her bed she had undressed completely and bent over, before reaching back and doing something Daddy never did, rubbing the smooth leather sole across every inch of her own bare bottom, and everywhere in between. Afterwards, she gave herself a long, hard slippering for spying and eavesdropping. It was the very least that she deserved. It turned out to have quite pleasurable side-effects too; what a naughty girl she was, going dancing by herself. But that was her own little secret.
The girls continued walking without speaking, each footstep kicking through drifts of crunchy fallen leaves.
Prude-y Judy? Judith winced at her friend’s tease. Was she really so boring?
As she grew up, Judith was beginning to notice a subtle change in what was considered attractive. When she was young, she had noticed how girls were praised for their cuteness and demureness. On the other hand, the bold, headstrong, impetuous girls were considered disruptive, frequently scolded and frowned at by the authority figures that dominated their lives. But now Barbara’s devil-may-care attitude was attracting a whole new kind of attention. Men loved it; her confidence, her adventurousness, her outspokenness. It had been enough to make Ronald notice her at the new year ball, as Barbara had moved through the ballroom like a force of nature, dancing, laughing and flirting, whilst Judith had nervously lingered by the fruit punch bowl.
That night at the ball had given Judith plenty of time to observe and ponder the unexpected complexities of the adult social world. Here, meekness just meant you were ignored, whereas boisterousness now drew a crowd and raucous laughter. All those traits that had once been so highly praised now seemed to be interpreted as staid, bookish and boring. Prudish even. Perhaps it was time to grow up, to start breaking the rules, to start rattling the world.
Or, she could stay at home like a good girl and work on her history assignment, ‘The role and significance of ancient Egyptian funerary artefacts.’
She kicked a pile of russet leaves emphatically.
“OK. OK. I’m in!”, Judith suddenly exclaimed, with a vehemence that surprised even herself.
Barbara just winked.
* * * * *
Saturday evening, October 31st, 1959, and a thin fog was seeping past Judith’s bedroom window. She nervously eyed the red leather-backed clamshell clock on her bedside table. Ten minutes past seven. She’d agreed to meet Barbara at the wooden bus shelter by the village green at half past, she would have get going soon.
That weird line was in the corner of her vision again. Judith had told her mother she was going to Shirley Patton’s party. She felt uncomfortable lying, but had justified it to herself on the grounds it was time to start exhibiting some independence, to start being a Big Girl, and to stop seeking permission for everything. The deception made her feel uneasy though, and it seemed that whenever Judith contemplated doing something reckless she’d catch a glimpse of that strange ghostly little line, like a visual totem of her misbehaviour, spawned by her own gnawing anxiety.
But she’d told Barbara she’d come, and bailing out now would just make Judith seem even more immature and childish. She took a deep breath and walked over to her closet. selecting her favourite woolen coat, chocolate brown with cream-coloured trim at the hem and sleeves. It was the most fashionable garment she owned, and made her feel very grown up. A dab of perfume, one final check of her hair, and she slipped out of her bedroom, gliding down the stairs like a particularly self-conscious princess, before briefly poking her head round the living room door to announce her departure.
Outside a thin fog blurred the familiar edges of her street, pushed by a light wind, it billowed around the tops of the street lamps, giving each a little halo. Judith walked purposefully past the rows of watching pumpkin lanterns, their glowing slit-eyes seeming to follow her accusingly, their gap-tooth grins endorsing her impulsiveness. All along the road verandas and porches were scenes of bustling activity as sheets were draped over young ghosts and black gowns were wrapped around young witches.
The spirit of the macabre ran deep here in Essex County. Just down the road was Danvers, a town they used to call Salem. As a young girl, Judith grew up hearing how the area was famous for its witches, and had thought the area had once produced special broomsticks or had developed a cottage industry producing cauldrons. It wasn’t until they studied Arthur Miller’s new play ‘The Crucible’ in school that she really understood what had happened here 250 years ago. That the spooky dread of the supernatural wasn’t anywhere near as scary as a mob of hysterical people.
Nineteen ‘witches’ had been dragged to the noose at Gallows Hill, condemned for consorting with the Devil and his demons, killed by a crowd terrified of the dark forces that lurked beyond the light of their lanterns. What could they have possibly seen in the dark to scare them into such a frenzy? The thought had made Judith shiver.
She could still recall the woodcut depictions of the hangings in her history book, their hands tied behind them, the sinister rope dangling overhead. Ever since, Judith had developed a fascination with tying up. Sometimes the chance had arisen to incorporate it into games with her friends, like her version of hide and seek where those hiding were outlaws, and anyone discovered would be captured and escorted to the ‘dungeon’. Many times she’d sat in the woodshed, her hands tied behind her with hair ribbons, pulse quickening as she imagined the thrilling what-ifs of exposure and punishment.
Her daydreaming was interrupted by the sound of music, the muffled tinny sound of guitars on a radio drifting through the foggy gloom. Eventually a parked car materialised out of the murk, its white roof visible first, then an extravagantly curved red bonnet. The car shone under the streetlamps, a symphony of gloss and chrome, above its ostentatious three-part front fender a small shiny hemisphere and a flow of capital letters spelt out its pedigree. Oldsmobile. Judith knew very little about cars, but enough to know this one looked a cut above your everyday family station wagon. This was a sedan, the kind of car the feds drove in movies, a vehicle that would take protagonists on adventures.
Barbara emerged from the back seat when she saw Judith approach, greeting her with a smirk and a huge hug. There were also two young men in the front of the car who politely got out to welcome her with gentlemanly handshakes. Judith recognised Ronald from the ball, and was introduced to his best friend Frank. They were a few years older than the girls, both casually dressed in chunky wool jumpers and off-white chinos. Judith behaved coquettishly, averting her gaze away from the boys’ faces, and down towards their elegant leather shoes.
“So, what’s Barbara told you?”, asked Ronald.
“She, er… said something about an old, er… deserted house… in the backcountry…”, Judith replied, stumbling over her words, quite aware how ludicrous the scheme was already sounding.
“We’re going to Old Dedham House”, Ronald explained conspiratorially, before adding in a whisper, “… they say it’s haunted…”
“Whooooo!”, cried Barbara, hovering around Ronald excitedly in her best ghost impersonation. Judith noticed at once how carelessly she rubbed against him, and began to think the true motivation for this evening’s misadventure wasn’t the investigation of the supernatural, but Ronald investigating inside Barbara’s dress. Judith, she decided, would just have to play chaperone, and do her best to keep her friend out of trouble.
“Well then, let’s go!”, announced Ronald enthusiastically.
They clambered back into the car, the boys up front, the girls close together on the spacious rear seat. The doors clunked shut decisively and moments later Ronald turned the key that made the engine erupt into life with a throaty roar. Minutes later they had passed their town’s last streetlight, leaving civilization behind to drive off into the night.
A pool of light lurked in front of them, the car’s headlamps illuminating the shiny black tarmac of the road and the long white dashes that sped underneath them like a tickertape of morse code. Here the road was meandering through a wood, orange-red canopies loomed overheard, each tree lit just momentarily, then gone, replaced by another, creating a fast-moving arboreal flickbook.
“So what’s so special about this old house?”, asked Judith.
There was a pause, as the boys exchanged glances.
“Some say…”, began Frank in a slow, hushed voice, “… the house is an old asylum. Over a hundred years ago there was once a dispute within a rich family about a will. The row over the inheritance became nasty, splitting the family in two. One night the whole family gathered for dinner, in an attempt to try and reconcile their differences. But afterwards, several members of the family suddenly became delirious, raving and shouting about hideous demons lurking in the shadows!”
“Doctors were called, but they couldn’t help. The afflicted had to sleep by candlelight, as they began screaming hysterically if they were ever left in the dark. Eventually the poor unfortunates were committed into the care of the Dedham House asylum. Some said their madness was the result of poison, and that their screams eventually became so loud their cells were bricked up. And that it took weeks for the yells beyond the walls to stop…”
It was difficult to tell who shrieked first, Barbara or Judith. The boys just exchanged a glance and smirked.
“But don’t worry”, continued Ronald. “They say the house is run-down now, almost a ruin, deserted for almost thirty years.”
“Yeah, ever since the disappearances…”, interrupted Frank, who seemed to be enjoying this.
“In the 20s, several people mysteriously went missing around here. At the time, locals thought only one man lived in the old ramshackle house, a tall strange fellow. But no-one could ever remember seeing him in their village, none of the grocers ever supplied the house, and he never attended the local church. In fact, no one could ever remember seeing him in the daytime. But somebody was there. Some evenings, passers-by would peer through the iron gate at the bottom of the drive, and some swore they’d glimpsed a gigantic silhouette, lit by candlelight, looking back from one of the turret windows. Yet no-one ever discovered his name. Or what he ate. Or what he drank…”
The implications of this tale took longer to be appreciated, and the girls’ reaction was more subtle this time, sidling closer to clutch each others’ arm.
There was a lull in the conversation, the girls reluctant to encourage the boys’ morbid storytelling.
In the silence Judith gazed ahead at the passing orange blur. There was something unsettling about Fall, watching a countryside that had once been verdant, so full of life, begin to wither. It was as if the spirit of the woods was dying – or fleeing, sensing the advance of a malign icy force lurking over the northern horizon. A presence that seemed to scare away the sun, robbing the day of its light, lengthening the shadows. You could already feel its chill breath blowing, sapping your energy, encouraging you to hide away inside. Was it any wonder there were myths of frost giants and ice dragons? For our ancestors the encroachment of winter must have felt like a malevolent invasion, like the world around them was fighting for its continued existence.
We’re all leaves, thought Judith. We start as buds, bursting with potential, growing into soft, lush verdant leaves during the seemingly endless springtime of our youth. Still to come, the long glorious Summer of our adulthood, as we soak up the sun’s rays and all life has to offer. And yet, Fall was a reminder of the fate that faced us all, slowly stiffening with the passage of time, feeling the warmth of the sun dimming. The caped vampires, the white-sheet ghosts and the yellow-eyed wolves were mere cartoons, distractions. The true horror of Halloween was that you, and everything you held dear, all you’d ever love and strive for, everything would ultimately shrivel and fall. It was inescapable, certain, unchangeable; eventually, we would all share the fate of the leaves.
A chill sensation ran over Judith’s skin, raising goosebumps.
She closed her eyes and tried to think about something different, and found herself mulling over what Frank had said.
How typical of the locals to think the hermit in the old house was a monster. Parochial bumpkins! That kind of small town suspicion had fuelled the Salem witch hunts. Behind her eyelids her imagination filled with fog, through which she began to see the silhouette at the window. Then, as she got closer, she suddenly understood. The silhouette wasn’t a cannibal killer, or a vampire. It was a girl. A girl who’d been led astray by her curiosity, and who’d been caught sneaking around the old decrepit house.
Her friend had dared her to come here, lured by years of childhood rumours and implausible legends. And the house had indeed seemed deserted, so they’d crept upstairs in the gloom, hurrying to complete their explorations before the last of daylight faded. They’d been surprised to find the rooms inside belied the house’s shabby exterior, they were in fine condition, luxuriously decorated and furnished. Someone had lived here after all.
Suddenly, a hand had closed around the girl’s shoulder. Both friends had shrieked with panic. She had struggled against the hand that held her, but was unable to escape her captor’s rigid grip. A distant bang, perhaps a slamming door, suggested that her friend had fled, leaving her alone with the house’s creepy occupant.
Tummy fluttering with fear, she’d been dragged by the hand to a room filled with all manner of straps, paddles and canes. Judith could envisage the room in startling detail, but the inhabitant of the house remained a blur, it was as if he (or she?) was in her imagination’s blind spot, she couldn’t even sure of its gender. This room though, made its intention obvious: the fate of naughty girls who trespassed was a very sore bottom.
Frustratingly, Judith lacked the experience and mental dexterity to imagine the details of the captive girl’s spanking. All she knew was it was very long, painful and delivered with devious inventiveness on her bare bum.
Instead, Judith saw the aftermath, the girl had been made to stand on a stool by the window. All of a sudden, the final details fell into place. The giant silhouette seen at the window hadn’t been because the girl was tall. It was because her spanker was behind her, and had put the lantern that illuminated her on the floor, so both hands were free to roam and inspect her sore throbbing cheeks – and everywhere in between.
And now there was just enough light for Judith to recognise the captured girl.
It was herself.
Judith jumped awake in the back of a car with a scream that even made Ronald swerve to the side of the road and stop. Whoa, thought Judith breathlessly. Where did that come from? Around her, Ronald, Frank and Barbara were staring at her, all agape.
“Sorry…”, mumbled Judith, her face now burning pink with embarrassment, “… must have nodded off…”
* * * * *
The gates of Dedham House were an elaborate tangle of metalwork, rusted spikes representing thorns and leaves, a briar patch of brambles wrought of iron. They arrived to find the gates chained and locked, but time had eroded the house’s defences, and large chunks of the drystone walls on either side of the gate had already tumbled to the ground, creating gaps that would be easy to climb over. Ronald parked the car by the side of the road.
As it happened, they were poorly prepared for an adventure beyond the comforting glow of their local street-lights. Turning off the car’s headlamps had plunged them into total darkness, prompting the boys to get out and rummage in the trunk for a torch. The girls shared awkward glances during several minutes of bumping and rustling behind them, until the trunk finally slammed shut and Ronald reappeared with a long cylindrical rubber-sleeved flashlight.
“Only got the one”, he warned, “you girls better stay close.”, which was the cue for Barbara to fly almost magnetically to his side.
“No!”, chorused the girls indignantly.
There was a gap in the wall near the locked gate, a splot of darkness amid the grey granite stones. Ronald surveyed it with the torch, and then Frank clambered up and through it, helping the girls over whilst Ronald lit their way. On the other side a coarse gravel drive rose gently to meet the house, which loomed above them ominously, silhouetted from behind by the night’s weak moonlight. It was utterly quiet, only the crunch of their own footsteps breaking the silence. Ahead, there was no indication the house was inhabited, no smoke from any of its many elaborate chimneys, no lights behind any of its shuttered bay windows or from the gothic turrets that clung to each corner.
Gingerly, they mounted the steps to the front porch, which creaked inhospitably under their feet. Ahead, their torch beam roamed over the large wooden door, its square iron studs glinting back at them, before alighting on the door knocker. It was set at shoulder height, a heavy thick ring of green-tinged brass, hinged at the top. Inside the ring, set horizontally, was a bar that had been sculpted to resemble a paddle, which rested on a base shaped like a pair of buttocks. Seemingly any visitors would be expected to pull the paddle back and smack it back down on the brass bottom cheeks.
The would-be intruders exchanged glances amongst themselves. Ronald felt Barbara clasp his free hand tightly. And just for a moment, Judith thought she saw that little line glowing, like a warning, in the corner of her eye.
Ignoring his companions’ whispered protests, Frank lifted the knocker tentatively. There was some wear on the mound of each buttock, small round circles where the paddle had repeatedly struck, but it was in a pretty good state for a door so old. A detective might deduce the house did not get many visitors, not many that knocked on the door anyway.
Frank gently lowered the paddle onto the brass buttocks and gripped the door knob experimentally instead. It was stiff but – quite unexpectedly – it turned. So he pushed forward with his shoulder, opening the door with a groaning squeak. The torch beam was then sent ahead to survey what was inside, its light was too weak to determine colours and details, but there was enough to see that beyond the door was a panelled hallway.
“Wow…”, mused Frank, “Wasn’t expecting that.”
To the visitors’ surprise, the interior appeared very well-maintained, no cobwebs, drifts of dust or sheltering animals. The floor ahead looked solid and was covered by an elegant carpet. Compared to the forbidding, derelict-looking exterior, the inside of the house seemed homey, positively inviting. It was enough to entice them over the threshold.
The four walked forward slowly, drawn in by their curiosity, yet still wary of stepping on rotten floorboards, and the utter darkness that surrounded their little pool of torch light. The hallway was well-decorated with paintings, some portraits of prestigious men, and depictions of the house and its verdant grounds in its glory days. Ronald occasionally lifted the torch to the wall to look for light switches, but only saw the occasional oil-lamp mounted on brass brackets.
And then, the torch illuminated something else on the wall: a row of canes. From behind them, they heard Ronald chuckle.
“We’d better watch out… looks like if we get caught here, we’ll all be going home with sore bottoms…”
That provoked sniggers from them all, helping to ease the tension. For Judith, the canes held a special fascination, they were just like the ones on the wall of the headmasters’ study. The afterimage of one of the thin sand-coloured rods remained in her vision, even after the torch beam had moved on. She could hear a faint hiss in her ears, as if she could almost hear it swishing.
The hallway ended at the foot of a grand curved staircase that was fringed with sumptuously decorated bannisters. To their left and right were open doorways, black holes leading into large cavernous voids, the staircase seemed somehow more familiar, brighter and less intimidating, they began to climb it almost instinctively.
Ronald’s torch illuminated the next step in front of them as they ascended into the gloom. There was a handrail on the inside of the staircase, a thin beam worn smooth by decades of travelling palms. There was no rail on the wall side, just diagonal lines of paintings, the edges of their frames glinting at the edge of their little pool of light. The darkness made the curve of the staircase disorientating, so when they reached the landing at the top they were no longer certain what direction they were facing.
They paused as Ronald cautiously surveyed their surroundings, three corridors opened out from the landing, each a black gap that swallowed their torchlight. He could feel Barbara gripping his free hand, whilst just ahead Frank and Judith fidgeted nervously. Ronald was not easily frightened, but this complete darkness was oppressively eerie. Even though he knew the house was deserted, there was something weirdly unsettling about losing sight of one’s escape route. Whilst he was downstairs, he knew that at any time he could just turn on his heels and dash for the door. Now, they had wandered deep into the darkness, and their imaginations were populating it with threats and perils.
Tentatively, Frank took a step forward and edged into the corridor ahead. On each side they could now see closed doors, each an unremarkable wooden bedroom door of four bevelled panels. Having come all this way, it seemed absurd not to investigate what lay behind them, so after an exchange of nods Frank gripped the round brass knob of the door closest to them and turned it. It swung open easily and silently.
Ronald’s torch probed the room beyond. Shelves. Books. Dolls. Stuffed animals. A dressing table, with a neat row of small glass perfume bottles. A little wooden chair. Long light coloured curtains, floral patterned. A chest of drawers. A clothes rail in an alcove, bearing blouses, skirts and dresses. This was unmistakably an older girls’ room, and one – thought Judith – that was much neater and tidier than her own.
Beside her, Barbara stood open-mouthed with shock.
The centre of the room was occupied by a bed which, improbable though it seemed, looked as if it had only recently been made. The bedsheets had been tucked into its sides and the feather quilt had been flattened and neatly arranged on top. But even that was not its most bizarre feature. On the middle of the bed lay a pile of five plump pillows, stacked one on top of the other.
Barbara knew exactly what they signified. She knew without seeing it that they’d be a single leather slipper underneath the bed. She felt suddenly queasy, that familiar sick-feeling that bubbled up inside her whenever she knew she’d done something wrong, when she knew that punishment was inevitable. It was as if she could feel Daddy’s footsteps ascending the curved stairs right now. A sense of panic swept over her, the sense that something terrible would happen if he got here and she wasn’t undressed and bending over the pillows.
“We should go. Now.”, Barbara announced firmly.
The torch light left the bed and pointed between them, allowing them to see each other’s faces again. Unnoticed by the boys, the girls exchanged a brief knowing glance. Ronald had been surprised by Barbara’s request, if this place was haunted, it must be the world’s best furnished and best maintained haunted house. He had expected a derelict building of broken windows, scuttling vermin, choking cobwebs and creaking rotten floorboards. Somewhere that would demonstrate his courage, his masculine fearlessness, and that would set the girls’ pulses racing.
“Come on, Barb”, reassured Ronald, “It’s just a house. Let’s take a look in another room.”
He could feel Barbara’s hand was cool and clammy, and gave it a squeeze of encouragement.
Meanwhile Judith was trying to make sense of what she’s seen. The house did seem remarkably salubrious for somewhere so supposedly deserted. Yet something about its interior seemed profoundly unnatural; maybe it was the dark, it was pitch black, tomb black, even the moonlight didn’t seem able to seep inside. Before she’d left home this evening she’d been reading about the tomb of Tutankhamen and something about the sepulchral atmosphere here brought to mind a line she’d read in her textbook,“The ancient Egyptians buried their dead with all possessions they would need in the afterlife…”
The group tentatively backed out of the doorway and tried the next door along, which again opened silently. Here their light caught a silver line on the floor, which shone in the dark like the slime trail of a giant slug. It took closer scrutiny to see the trail was actually two thin parallel lines, and it was only when their light encountered the big red funnel of a model train engine that it all made sense. Glinting back at them were the rails of a train set, which meandered across one side of the bedroom, the route passed detailed miniature platforms and signal boxes, water towers and sidings and even featured a tunnel entrance, where the track disappeared under the bed, to reappear at the other side.
Elsewhere this large, expansive room was filled with the clutter typical of boy’s rooms. Model airplanes. Bats and balls. Books about adventures, real and imagined. There was also a chair in the middle of the room, with a hairbrush incongruently sitting on it. Behind them, Ronald gave a nervous laugh. Even though he’d only seen it in glimpses, he recognised this place.
Ronald cleared his throat. “Er… so. I think we can say, er… this house is not haunted, it’s just… er, a house. I think you’re right Barbara, we’ve seen enough. We should go.”
No-one disagreed with this assessment. They backed out into the blackness of the hallway, turning to retrace their steps back to the staircase.
It was unlike any voice they’d ever heard.
Just five words, which they felt as a deep booming thunder inside their skulls, rather than hearing them with their ears.
A desperate panic immediately scattered them.
Judith heard loud thumps as some of her companions ran into walls in the dark. She teetered into the wall palm first, chancing upon a dado rail at waist height, which she used to feel her way back to the staircase. Ronald’s torchlight had vanished, perhaps it had been lost in the melee, or perhaps he’d run off in a different direction. But it meant Judith had been plunged into utter darkness, quite unaware if her friends were following just behind her, were just ahead of her, or had deserted her entirely.
The dado rail ended when Judith reached the staircase atrium. She was moving at speed now, driven by the primal instinct to flee. It was like running with her eyes closed, relying solely on her muscle memory to guide her. Initially she was lucky, her forward foot found the edge of the top step, allowing her to adjust her stride to take each stair in a kind of controlled falling.
Unfortunately for Judith, her muscles weren’t familiar with the curve of the stairs. In the dark she overcompensated, drifting sideways, as the stairs became thinner and thinner underfoot – until she trod down on an expected stair that wasn’t there. She lost her balance, lurched and stumbled – before tumbling down the stairs with a consciousness ending bump.
* * * * *
Judith awoke in a bed that was both familiar and unfamiliar. It smelt like her bed. And it felt like her bed, that comforting combination of soft cotton sheets and warm feather quilt. It even had those furrows in the mattress that fitted her perfectly, moulded to her preferred sleeping position over the course of countless nights by the curves of her shoulders and hips. But something felt wrong.
She’d been undressed. Someone had undressed her and put her to bed! Now she was wearing just a short white cotton nightgown, which barely extended below her waist. The shock of this discovery made her bolt upright and squeal. Who on earth had undressed her? Someone had taken down her bloomers! She – or he! – would have seen everything!
She searched her memory, what had happened to her? She could remember a ride in a car, the auburn blur of trees in the headlights, an iron gate, but after that everything was hazy, like recollections of an almost-forgotten dream. Vague notions swam in her head. A loud voice. Getting told off. Being scared. A falling sensation. But nothing that really explained waking up here, half-naked.
Judith surveyed her surroundings. It did look like her room, the desk in the corner with its stack of history books, just as she’d left them. There was her wardrobe, and her dressing table, even the four Hudson River School prints in their dainty picture frames, hanging in a row on the far wall.
She could only spot one difference. The electric lamp on her bedside table had gone, replaced by a sooty brass candlestick that held a single stubby candle. It illuminated the room with a weak golden light, hiding most of its detail in shadows.
She cleared her throat and yelled for her Mummy. But there was no reply. A sliver of light was coming underneath her bedroom door, yet the light from the landing was much dimmer than she remembered. Perhaps there’d been a power cut? Did that explain the candle? She yelled again, this time for Daddy. Again, no-one answered.
Perhaps they just couldn’t hear her. Judith got out of bed groggily, wincing as she left the warm fug of her bed, the chill air prickling her bare legs with goosebumps. She looked around, but was unable to see her clothes. Then when she opened her wardrobe, she was bewildered to find it empty – as was her chest of drawers. Suddenly her bedroom felt surreal, like it was a movie set, a simulacrum created from a description, an illusion to fool the viewer.
A worrying thought began to emerge, that she wasn’t at home at all. That she was still within that abominable house, where the interior seemed to change chameleon-like to remind intruders of their naughtiness. If that was the case, where was Barbara? And Ronald and Frank? Had they escaped? Or were they here too, held captive in rooms of their own?
Judith’s need to know compelled her to pick up the bedside candle and approach the bedroom door. She hadn’t been locked in, and it opened silently inward as she twisted and pulled the doorknob. Tentatively, she crept over the threshold emerging into a long hallway of doors that was illuminated by a solitary flickering candle in the distance. Her heart sank, this was definitely not her home.
As she pondered what to do, a waft of cool air tingled her skin, strengthening in moments until it began to lift the hem of her nightgown. Judith’s hands fled to her waist, fighting to preserve her modesty, but the draught blew out her candle, plunging her into gloom. Now the doors around her were shadowy alcoves, sinister and frightening, making her feel she had little choice but to walk towards the light.
It took Judith nineteen footsteps to reach the lonesome candle, a weak light that she could hear fizzing and spluttering as she approached. She had only just passed it when she felt another draught whispering between her legs. Instinctively, she pulled down on the hem of her gown, but the breeze proved too much for the candle, blowing it out and leaving Judith’s only source of light another candle further along the hall.
This happened several times, Judith being nudged forward by the extinguishing candles and her her desperate fear of being left alone in the dark. She’d soon walked passed dozens of doors, and was beginning to realise the true scale of this house. It was huge, a mansion. As she passed each door she briefly wondered what lay behind it, but each time her inner voice convinced her she didn’t really want to know.
And then, ahead, Judith saw one door that was open. This room emitted a golden glow, as if it was a treasury filled with gold. She approached it cautiously, hoping to find Barbara or the boys, and earnestly wishing that it wouldn’t lead to an awkward encounter with whoever might live here. Judith peeped shyly around the doorway, she’d been in the gloom so long, and this room was so bright, that she had to squint to look into it. But it seemed unoccupied.
The bright golden light was coming from dozens of candles that were scattered around the room on various shelves and candelabras. Below each candle were long solidified tails of whitish-grey wax, some of which had begun to form mounds on the floor. Together they gave the room the appearance of a cave full of stalactites, and yet the wax columns weren’t the weirdest feature of this mysterious place.
Judith’s eyes flitted across the walls in growing disbelief. Everywhere there were pictures, each one depicting a scene of corporal punishment from every imaginable era. There were drawings of spankings and canings in every style, from filigree illustrations to crude impressionism. In one the bare bottom of a naked youth was being disciplined by a stern governess, her black dress rendered in thick charcoal strokes, as if she were some angry thundercloud. There were woodcuts too, like the one that depicted some poor soul being flogged in a medieval dungeon beside several contraptions of devious torment.
Then there were dozens of paintings, some in elaborate gilded frames, others in simple wooden squares, some depicting miscreants being spanked in positions Judith could never have imagined. There were maids and concubines, slaves and school pupils, in settings as varied as baths, boudoirs and harems. In some their bottoms were still creamy globes, in others they had already been painted every shade of pink.
Even more shocking were the photographs. Some were sepia and some were monochrome, providing a de facto visual history of bottom smacking since the invention of photography. How the clothes and fashions changed, there were scenes of domestic life in Europe, in Victorian England, even some that looked like they’d been taken in frontier America.
Most staggering of all were the images whose colours were so vivid, so bright and realistic, that it was as if she was viewing the scene through a window. They were quite unlike any photographs Judith had ever seen. In these, the furnishings in the background were almost unrecognisable, minimalist to the point of futuristic, and where the subjects weren’t completely undressed, they tended to be wearing strange, unfamiliar clothes.
These images were also the most shockingly explicit. In one, a young lady was lying back on a bed, holding her legs up above her head, an outrageously thin strip of what must have been underwear behind her knees. In this position, the woman on the bed was utterly exposed and Judith could see every fold between her legs – because whilst she looked older than Judith, her most secret place was as bare as a little girl’s. Judith blushed as she stared at the swollen pink line of her lips, following it to the shameful dark patch of her bottom hole. Beside the bed an older lady (wearing tight denim trousers!) was holding a patterned slipper to the young lady’s bottom. Faint pink patches underneath suggested the spanking had already begun.
The picture had Judith mesmerised. Who was being spanked? What had she done? Why were the two dressed so strangely? Who had taken this picture? And why was something so intimate so publicly displayed? She stood in front of the spanking scene, drinking in every detail as if she was witnessing it, her imagination interpolating for her missing senses. She could almost hear the swish of the slipper and each echoing whack, the subsequent pleading and scolding and moans.
It was impossible to say how long Judith spent staring at that image. But eventually her shame pushed her eyes away and she stumbled backwards in a daze into the middle of the room. When she recovered her composure Judith saw the hand she was using to steady herself was resting on a waist-high wooden beam. An hour ago she might have regarded this furniture with naive curiosity, but the pictures on the walls had since robbed her of her innocence. She knew exactly what this was.
Although it had the appearance of an extraordinarily well-built towel rail, it was unmistakably a punishment bench. Two sturdy upright beams embedded in a heavy wooden base, spanned by a narrow beam at the top. Attached to the uprights lower down were brown leather straps, clearly intended to restrain the wrists and ankles of its unfortunate occupant. The top beam was thick, but only a few finger widths wide, and covered by a worn patch of black leather that suggested many had struggled here before. Pegs on each side allowed its height to be adjusted for miscreants of any size – and, Judith noticed, it had been set at just the right height for her.
Judith stood against the bench, feeling its cool edge intrude beneath the hem of her gown, rubbing against her mound. It made her skin tingle and her tummy flutter. Was this what it was like to be sent to the punishment room? Waiting anxiously for your disciplinarian, knowing they could walk in at any moment, and you’d have to bend over and expose yourself.
And then she saw the cane again, hovering in the corner of her eye. But this stick was no premonition, no visual artefact, it was intimidatingly real, its crook end hanging on a hook on the wall, its smooth varnished surface glinting in the candlelight. On seeing that, Judith knew this spot was exactly where she was meant to be.
Judith placed her feet on either side of the frame of the bench and began to lean over, feeling the short hem of her gown ride up above her hips, slowly revealing herself until she had bent over completely, and her bare bottom was thrust up defiantly in the air.
Now Judith could feel a cool draught between her open legs. The breeze was growing stronger, intensifying the tingling Judith felt in her most intimate regions. Around her the candle flames began to dance, whipped into frenzied flickering before vanishing into wisps of faint grey smoke. As the candles expired the room’s golden glow dimmed to a dingy gloom, until one final gust slammed the door behind her, extinguishing the remaining lights and plunging her into absolute darkness. Terrified, Judith gripped the bench beneath her, a shipwrecked sailor clinging to driftwood in an inky sea.
Beneath her, Judith could feel the straps tightening around her wrists and ankles, slithering and writhing like snakes. Now she was captive and helpless, at the mercy of whoever, or whatever, had bound her.
She called out into the darkness, several times apologising for her intrusion and begging to be released, but each time there was no reply. Soon, she began to wonder if there was anyone there at all. She existed in complete blackness and silence, with only the roar of her own blood in her ears, the rapid thumps of her heartbeat and the whistling gasps of her breathing, accompanied by the occasional creak of the supple leather straps as they easily resisted her struggles.
She called out again, asking, pleading to know why she was being kept here, begging to know what would happen to her. But no response came from the all-enveloping eldritch black.
Judith cursed her own foolishness, she should never have agreed to come on this stupid caper. Had Barbara and the boys escaped? Had they gone to fetch help, or were they being held captive elsewhere, suffering their own torments?
She replayed what she could remember about the last time they were together, and an uneasy thought emerged in her mind. What was the very last thing she could remember? The panic. The stairs. The slip. A tumble. That had been dangerous. She could have been… oh
What was this place? Some weirdo’s residence? A monster’s lair? Some kind of limbo? Or worse, purgatory?
In the dark, something cool tapped against Judith’s bottom, causing her to shriek out loud. She struggled pointlessly against the straps, which emitted mocking squeaks.
Judith repeated her questions urgently. Who are you? Where am I? But no-one answered back. Instead, she felt a cool smooth stick stroking across her buttocks in a slow gentle caress. Just when she was beginning to enjoy the sensation, the cane would lift, sometimes to tap her, other times to deliver little smacks that made her bum tingle, as if to remind her what had to happen to naughty girls.
The cane was capricious and unpredictable. Suddenly Judith could feel its tip exploring between her legs, prompting her to cry out in surprise. Its route began on her mound, slowly moving over her little bump and down between her most intimate lips, before drifting upwards until the tip was pressing against her bottom hole. Here, it lingered for a moment, and then disappeared. Moments later, the stroking resumed.
This happened several times, the smooth rounded tip of the rod probing between her folds. Each time Judith was surprised by the urge to feel the tip of the stick just a little bit deeper, it was as if the dark had robbed her of her usual reticence. So when the end of the cane next returned to her bottom, she began to push her hips backwards, until she felt the tip slip inside her tight little ring. She could feel herself gripping the thin little rod as it edged in and out, which felt outrageously naughty. It made her heart race and her front bottom throb.
When the cane withdrew from her grasp, she felt its length slide between her buttocks, delicately rubbing across her bottom hole and the tender region just beneath, before sliding in between her folds. It was like a bow following the contours of a violin’s bridge, up and down, up and down, until Judith’s hidden crevice had been rubbed warm, and a moaning lullaby had been extricated from her lips.
Was this what happened in the headmaster’s study when the cane came down from the wall? Skirt up and knickers down for a long, intimate, humiliating teasing before the whacking starts?
Judith felt the cane tapping the tops of her thighs, as if impatiently awaiting an answer. She suddenly thought of Barbara, wondering if at this very moment she was bent over a stack of pillows, a slipper cruelly teasing her, attempting to extract her confession.
I’ve been a very naughty girl, thought Judith, I deserve this, I deserve a very sore bottom, I deserve to be punished.
But her fear spoke for her instead, and when she heard her own voice it was pleading.
“No… no… please… please. Please let me go home.”
In the dark behind her, something whispered so faintly that she couldn’t be sure it was a voice or her own imagination.
– – – – –
Originally published at spankingtheatre.tumblr.com. You’re welcome to share.