by Carter Fell
Chapter VI: Sunflower
The next two days roared past for me. Alternately frightened and excited, I could not settle at anything, and my bowels were in turmoil. I had to threaten resignation to get a week’s leave at such short notice, and was mightily relieved that my bluff was not called. On the Friday, I started the procedures to cash my endowments and insurance. If I could not get Tina off the island while I was resident member, I would have to try and buy her at the auction, and wait for another chance. I ran into problems with one of the insurance companies, which insisted that I had to give ninety days notice. In consequence, at the end of the day I could only count on having fifty-two thousand pounds for August 2. It might not be enough.
Paul called at my house on the Friday evening. We shared a stir-fry and a couple of bottles, and I told him all my news, and all my worries about Tina. ‘You’re not thinking of sneaking the daft bitch out, are you?’ He asked.
‘I might think about it.’ I replied.
He was exasperated with me. ‘Don’t think about it. Don’t. One of those ponies could never fit back into the world, you would be doing her no favours.’
I persisted. ‘Help me, Paul. Please help me. Perhaps you could rent a boat, pick us up from the island.’
‘No, no, no. I’m fully committed for next week, and I wouldn’t help you if I could. I shouldn’t have taken you to the island, you haven’t got the balls.’
He stormed from my house, and I have not had a friendly conversation with him since.
Sunday arrived, and I was stood on the Mallaig quay at the appointed hour. An early mist had burned away, and the sun seemed to sear me with a personal malice. The Clear Blue Water arrived at twelve-thirty, by which time I was in a frenzy of anxiety. The skipper was the young one who had first taken me to the island. He did not bother to moor the boat, I just leapt in, and we were away. As we left the harbour, the skipper turned to me. ‘I’m taking you to the landing stage, the tides are very high this week.’
The member I was replacing awaited me on the landing stage. He was a stout man, with a bald head, piercing blue eyes, and thick fleshy lips. ‘Hello there!’ He boomed at me. ‘You’ll be the new man. I say you’ll be the new man.’
I threw my bag out of the boat, onto the planking, and then clambered over the side of the boat. I stuck out my hand; he grinned toothily, shook my hand, and introduced himself. ‘Most people call me The Major. I say that’s what most people call me.’
‘And you can call me Al.’ I replied, for no particular reason. I had taken an instant dislike to this man, for his sheer oiliness and his irritating speech habits.
‘OK then, er.. Al, was it? I have to leave for the mainland before the tide turns. You will be the only member here, the only one I say, but don’t worry, you just have to make sure things tick over until Thursday, and you’ll have Tina, Stevie, and Laura to help you. Help you? They do everything, I say they do everything.’
‘That’s great, Major. Have I got transport?’
With a certain amount of puffing, and considerable straining of trouser fabric, he was battling his way onto the Clear Blue Water. ‘Oh yes, Lord love you, I say Lord love you. The limber, I left it under the trees, gives the ponies some shade. They are good girls, good girls I say; they’ll be fine for you.’
He had hauled himself into the boat. Now he switched on the grin again. ‘Is there anything more I can tell you? Perhaps I should brief you a bit more? What do you say, eh? What do you say?’
‘You’ve told me sweet fuck-all’ was what I thought, what I said was ‘I’m cool Major, you cut along now.’ I wanted him gone, there was a small launch moored on the other side of the landing stage, and I wanted to examine it.
The skipper reversed his boat away, and then pushed it forward into a tight turn. The Major was still bellowing at me as the Clear Blue Water roared away. ‘Take it easy fella, I say you’ve got to take it easy in this heat..’ I turned away, hoping that he would drown. I subsequently found out that The Major was immensely popular with everyone, even the ponies who hauled his excessive bulk. As soon as I was safely alone, I stepped into the launch. It had no cabin, just two bench seats, one behind the other.
I slid behind the wheel, and looked for ignition keys; there were none, just a switch. I flicked it to the ON position, and watched the three dashboard gauges. The temperature needle was in the blue zone, the oil pressure showed LOW, and – joy of joys – the fuel gauge swung slowly to the F position. This was the steed on which I would rescue my fair lady; I was as happy as a pig in muck.
Back on the landing stage, I picked up my bag, and looked around me. On my left, and high above me, was a building with the look of a medium-size hotel. The Hall. Straight ahead of me was a narrow, steeply ascending track. I cursed the evil sun, and set off up the slope. Soon, the narrow track joined a much wider one; identical to the main circuit I had come to know. On my right was a stand of trees; the view to my left was over open ground to the Hall. There appeared nothing remarkable about the place; it was a pair of two-storey blocks joined by a single-storey linking structure. There was a large empty parking area, in the middle of which was a brick clock tower surrounded by rose beds. It looked so lifeless and uninteresting that I was not even tempted to investigate further. I turned right, into the trees.
Thankfully, I soon found the limber, and discovered that it was no more than an ordinary rig with a wider seat and a cargo platform. As I drove the team from their shady retreat, it occurred to me that The Major was an unusually considerate man. He could have driven the limber right down to the landing stage, but he had thought of the ponies’ comfort. I had to remove the blocking chain to exit to the main circuit, and I refitted it behind me. I dawdled along, past the deserted bar, and down Whipper’s Hill. When I arrived at the compound, I realised that one of the things The Major had failed to tell me was the day’s combination. Feeling distinctly stupid, I shouted through the gate, but I could not see a soul, and there was no response.
After an hour of waiting, I was almost desperate enough to ask my pony team what to do. Salvation arrived in the form of Laura, on foot. ‘Hello, Member. I’ve just taken a rig to your lodge, I was expecting you there.’
Under a broad-rimmed sun hat, Laura’s dull brown hair framed a wide face. With her very pale blue eyes, she looked blind. She was the youngest of the senior ponies, and always had an air of quiet nervousness about her.
‘Ah, Laura. I’m bloody glad to see you. Where is everyone?’
‘Sunday is always a rest day, Member. The Major has been using the limber, and I got a team ready for you. All the other ponies will be sleeping right now.’
‘Then I’m in your hands, Laura. What should I do now?’
‘I think it’s best that we go to your lodge, Member.’
‘OK, then. Will you drive?’
It was a tight squeeze with both of us on the seat, and oddly erotic. I was spending long periods in the company of naked women, and yet it was an age since I had had sex. It would be hard to describe Laura as pretty, but my libido was rampant as I felt her fully clothed body pressed up against mine, and her fresh soapy smell was delicious to me. I put an arm around her waist, and felt her body stiffen. This seemed to encourage the beast within; I cupped one of her full breasts in my hand, rubbed the nipple with my thumb.
‘Please, Member. My owner has not given permission.’
I was shocked to see tears rolling down her cheeks, and I pulled my hand back. Beneath their calm exteriors, all of the women here hid a personal tragedy of enslavement and abuse. Laura had made the strongest protest that she could, if I persisted, and took her, she would have to obey me. And she would also have to obey if her owner sent her to the frame for pleasing me without his permission.
‘I’m sorry, Laura. I don’t want to cause trouble for you.’
An awkward silence followed. Laura drove past the training oval, and then there was a turning to the right. Under a scattering of trees were three bungalows, Laura pulled up outside one of them. ‘This is your lodge,’ she said. ‘They are all very nice.’ The rig she had earlier brought here was parked at the side, the ponies were all sat down, their legs curled under their bodies. The lodge door opened, and a beaming face appeared under a mop of bright yellow hair. ‘Hello, Member!’ cried the face, and ran out to the limber.
‘I’m Corrie, Member. I’m your maid. Did The Major get away OK? I say did he get away?’
She was grinning hugely, and Laura was rocking with laughter. The tension had been dispelled by this radiant soul; I felt my own face crease into a smile. ‘Hello Corrie, I’m very pleased to meet you.’ And I truly was. On this damned island there was far too much seriousness; it was understandable, when people were split into the floggers and the flogged, but it was very oppressive.
Corrie grabbed my bag from off the limber. ‘Come on, Member, and I’ll show you your room. And you, Laura, have a cuppa before you go.’ Laura hesitated, and looked at me for permission. ‘I wish you would, Laura.’ I said. For the first time in my presence, Laura smiled. She hopped off the seat, and the three of us went into the lodge. Of course, within yards of us were eight people who had not been offered a cup of tea, but they wore bits and harnesses, and we had all forgotten that they were people at all.
The lodge door opened into a spacious and airy living room, it was spotlessly clean, and there was the comforting smell of furniture polish. Skipping along like a leaf blown by a spring breeze, Corrie took me through to my bedroom. She hurled my bag onto the large bed. ‘There you go, Member. I’ll unpack that in a while.’ Then she bounced up and down on the bed, and spoke to Laura, who was leaning in the doorway with a half-smile on her face. ‘Hey, Laura! What do you say to three in a bed?’
Laura continued to smile, but did not move from the doorway. ‘Corrie is our sunflower, Member.’
‘Aw, Laura, and you’re just a sour old crab.’ Said Corrie.
‘I’m younger than you.’ Laura responded.
Corrie turned to me. ‘Laura always thinks that everyone is going to have her tied to the frame and strapped, Member. Whack! Whack! Whack! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!’ She giggled. ‘But I can tell that you’re not that sort of member.’ She leapt off the bed; gravity seemed to have a very tenuous hold on her. ‘Come on, old crab. Let’s put the kettle on.’
The two of them disappeared to the kitchen. I sat on the bed, and gathered my thoughts. I had come here to get Tina; I had to stay focussed. Trying to think about tides and timing, I was distracted by peals of laughter from the kitchen. Sunflower was an apt description of the cheerful Corrie. Whatever horrors she must have experienced on her journey through slavery, she clearly had an approach to life that allowed her to enjoy whatever there was to be enjoyed, and her sheer exuberance was a shield. It would surely be impossible to think dark thoughts in her presence, to look into her shining face and order a beating.
I leaned back on pillows, and closed my eyes. Tina, oh Tina. To have what I wanted would destroy everything else that I wanted. I pictured the launch speeding across the sea, an arrowhead at the point of a vast spreading wake. The love of my life would be at my side; we would be on a cruise to contentment. The downside was that I could never again drive a team of ponygirls along the coast while the sea boomed on the rocks, never again feel the exhilaration of the trot, never see this lodge again, never again bask in the warm glow of the sunflower.
Sleep was creeping over me when Corrie stuck her head around the door. ‘Wakey wakey, Member! Tea’s ready, rise and shine!’ If she did not already have a nickname, I would have called her The Cheshire Cat, her ear-to-ear grin persisted in the air when she had gone. Only ten minutes had passed since I had met Corrie, but I already felt affection for her. This would have to stop; to quote the centre hood, I would have to harden my heart.
In the living room, Laura was stood in a corner, holding a cup and saucer. A low table had been set for me in front of the setter; there was a teapot with one cup and saucer, a plate of wafer-thin sandwiches, a tray with biscuits and sliced Genoa cake. ‘Please sit down, Laura.’ I said. ‘You’re making me nervous.’
‘If you don’t mind, Member’ She replied. ‘I should see to the limber ponies. I’ll give them some water in the shade.’
She left, and I started on my tea. Corrie was stood to one side, her hands clasped behind her back. ‘What are you doing there, Corrie?’ I asked.
‘I’m waiting on you, Member. That’s what I have to do.’ She was totally at ease and confident, there was no deference in her.
‘Well, I wish you’d eat with me.’
‘All right then, Member.’ And she dropped into an armchair facing me. Suddenly, the smile was gone, and she looked deadly serious. ‘I could get twenty with the strap for this, Member.’
‘Oh God, surely not!’ I cried.
The smile returned. ‘No, not really, Member. The Major is my owner; he’s a sweetie. I was just teasing you.’ She bit into a biscuit. ‘Lots of girls get the strap, Member. Some owners will have a girl strapped just for being a bit cheeky.’
‘Do they get the cart whip, Corrie?’
She wiped crumbs from her mouth. ‘Mmm, sometimes, Member. Not often. Before I was moved to the lodges, I worked in the laundry. That comes under Laura, and she’s cool, but there was a girl who ran away from there, she didn’t know she was on an island. There was nothing Laura could do, the whole laundry team was gathered in the shed to see the runaway whipped, it tore her up like she’d been caught in a machine.’ She popped another biscuit into her mouth. ‘After that, the girl was sent to the construction gang, so I haven’t seen her since.’
My appetite was fading, unlike Corrie’s. ‘Is the construction gang considered a punishment, Corrie?’
A slice of cake found its way to Corrie’s lips. ‘Yes, Member. And when they go there, they stay there. It’s a real dead-end job.’ I found myself laughing with her, although her joke had been dreadfully unfunny.
Laura returned. ‘I’ll take the limber back to the compound now, Member. Someone will collect your rig before dark.’
‘OK Laura. Thanks for your help.’
Finished with my tea, I told Corrie that I was going for a nap.
‘Yes, Member. Do you want me to join you?’
‘Would The Major allow that?’
‘Oh, yes. It goes with leasing me to the island as a maid.’
The temptation to enjoy the sunflower was almost overwhelming, but only almost. Tina would be bound to hear of it, probably in graphic detail, and I was going to ask her to run away with me.
‘No Corrie, not today.’
I lay on the bed; and fell into a dreamless sleep. When I awoke, it was still daylight, but the sun was preparing for its plunge into the western ocean. I could hear conversation, and recognised Tina’s voice immediately. ‘Tina, is that you?’ I called. The conversation stopped, and there was a tap at my door. ‘Come in.’ I said.
The door opened, and Tina entered. Her face was cautious at first, possibly she expected to see me naked, and with a world-class erection. Finding that not to be the case, she smiled.
‘Hello there, Member. I was amazed when Laura told me that you are the new resident, so I came to collect your rig myself.’
‘That’s nice of you, Tina. What else did Laura tell you?’
She sat on the end of the bed. ‘Well, I hear you’ve been playing with Laura’s tits.’
‘Oh Jesus, Tina. That’s not quite true.’ But I was elated. For the first time, she had not called me Member. She was relaxing into informality with me.
‘Oh no? Perhaps you only played with one of them then?’ She laughed, ‘Don’t worry, you’re only a man. But I beg you to be careful with Laura, her owner likes nothing better than to see her squirming on the frame, and I would have to swing the strap.’
‘And what if you refused to swing the strap?’
‘Then they would have Stevie swing the cart whip, I could not take that again.’ She was still relaxed, and still smiling. Brutality was just a routine part of her existence.
‘Why would it be Stevie?’
‘Because she is the senior under me, she is next in line. If I were to be beaten, they would have Stevie do it. And she’d love it, too. Me and Stevie have a history. It goes back years, but she’s never forgiven me.’
‘Tina, I’m being serious now. What do you really think about this island, all the whipping and cruelty?’
She looked at me long and hard, and a frown puckered her forehead. ‘Well, I think that you must love it, or you wouldn’t be here, would you? And I have sponged blood off your ponies’ backs, haven’t I? I just have to accept that things are how they are; and I try to make sure that if there’s a rig to be pulled, then I’m not pulling it, and if there’s a back to be flogged, then it’s not mine. Do you have any cigarettes?’
‘Corrie!’ I bellowed. ‘Are there any cigarettes?’ The sunflower blossomed into the room within seconds, carrying a pack of Marlboro and a Zippo, and then left us again.
‘Are you allowed cigarettes?’ I asked Tina.
She looked at me over the lighter flame. When her fix was drawing, she replied. ‘We are in leisure periods. I just forgot to bring some with me. Of course, we can’t pop out to a shop for some. But the island gives us a few little rewards for our work. On Saturdays we even have beer, so we can get drunk, then we can forget that we are owned as property, and that our owners can lash our bodies with a strip of leather, or harness us to a rig and whip us around the circuit.’
‘I’m sure your owner doesn’t lash you, Tina. Or does he?’
She blew a stream of smoke into the air. ‘No, not since I’ve been leased to the island. That’s four years now. Before that, I was the pony he always screwed on his visits. I hated it; I had to put up with him coming in my mouth, in my arse, over my tits, my face – everywhere. It was a luxury for me when he fucked my pussy. But if I just let him see one wrong look on my face – wow! My back was very fragile then, from being flogged. So he’d take me to the frame, and he’d lay that strap across my arse until I fainted.’
Jeff, Jeff, I thought, you kinky sadistic bastard.
A smile spread slowly across her calm face. ‘And he’s a good owner. You would not believe what some of them used to get up to.’
‘The panel told me that they give ponies a lot of protection now, Tina. Is that not true?’
‘It’s partly true. The island was becoming a whipping club, and enough of the partners were outraged to do something about it. Members were banned from using the cart whip on their ponies years ago. And cutting a pony in harness is definitely not encouraged; I was told to warn you about it. But any owner can send one of his ponies to the frame for a strapping, and a senior has to carry out the punishment. Usually, the owner watches. Up to thirty strokes, there is no appeal.’
She crossed to the window, and flicked her cigarette out. Then she returned to the bed, sat beside me, and placed a hand over my crotch. ‘Yes, I thought so. Violence makes you hard, doesn’t it? You’re going to be a bastard of an owner, I wouldn’t like to be one of your ponies.’
‘No Tina. I really don’t think that I would be like that.’
She move away from me, pulled her legs onto the bed, and crossed them in front of her, her skirt across the tops of her thighs. I could see her panties stretched tight across her shaved vagina.
Knowing what I was looking at, she giggled. ‘One of the privileges of being a senior; I get to wear panties. No bra though. But I still have to maintain my owner’s standards, and he likes his ponies shaved. Personally, I like body hair on a woman. And yes, I am quite certain you will be a cruel owner. You may not think so now, but you will be.’
She lit another cigarette. ‘Anyway, this place can’t work without discipline. I’ve got my job to do, and it centres on having all the rig teams ready every Thursday. All the ponies have to work for nothing, there’s bound to be attitude problems. But I put them on the frame, and I clarify things for them.’
‘Who clarifies things for you, Tina?’
‘You do. I have to answer to the resident member. And if I did not do a good job, I would soon lose my senior position. That’s my real motivation; I could take the strap, but to be in harness again – I’d much rather be dead.’
‘Have you ever thought of running away, Tina?’
‘There’s nowhere to run to on an island. Whoever is using the dinghy, they’re only given a tiny bottle of petrol, and it would not go far. Runaways are flogged terribly, and they spend the rest of their lives in chains, it just isn’t worth thinking about.’
‘How old are you now, Tina?’
‘I am thirty-four, and I have been a slave on this island for sixteen years, almost half of my life. I lost my virginity to an old man who’d just beaten the shit out of me with a cane. For years and years, I thought that I would be rescued, but time rolled on, the operation got bigger and bigger, and there was no rescue. I would see the senior ponies strutting about, giving orders, and giving ponies hell, and I knew I had to become one.’
‘And the future Tina? How do you see that?’
‘I think I can go on as a senior pony for a long time. After that, well, I just hope these kill me in good time.’ She waved her cigarette at me. ‘And what about you? I suppose you’ll be buying at the August auction?’
‘Maybe, Tina. Maybe. Where are the auctions held?’
‘In the compound, out in the open, come rain or shine. I have to organise the stock. The ponies for sale have a spreader bar to hold their legs apart; they have their arms fixed behind their backs, and they wear bits to stop them being saucy. Look, ’ She pulled her lips back briefly. ‘Every woman on this island has had her bit teeth knocked out. The buyers poke their fingers everywhere; they squeeze tits, and generally have a good time. I’ve seen broken old women sold for twenty pounds each, and prize peaches sold for a hundred and fifty thousand. I’ve had to put ponies in the line with blood flowing from their flogged backs; in fact I was once sold like that myself. They’re on display for hours before the sale, and they wind up standing in a puddle of blood. Hey! Don’t look so solemn! This is your world now.’
‘Oh Tina. I’m a monster, aren’t I? I do want to work ponygirls in harness. All of the horrors follow from that, don’t they? The auctions, the whippings; they are all part of the system that puts four ponies in front of a rig.’
Tina stood up. ‘Maybe I’ve been talking out of turn. Maybe you should strap me. That’s part of the system too. But I have enjoyed talking to you; I hope I haven’t upset you. Maybe when you’re an owner, you’ll think twice before asking the panel to approve a whipping.’
She glanced out of the window. ‘I must be going; I have to be back in the compound by dark. There’s always someone who wants to get a senior into trouble, always someone after my position. It’s been good to see you, Member. ’
‘And very good to see you, Tina.’
‘Let Corrie relax you tonight, it doesn’t mean anything.’ And then she was gone. I loved her so desperately, and the thought of her ever suffering on the frame was intolerable. But the beast inside me still wanted to own ponygirls, and to drive them with a whip.
I watched through the window as she drove away on the limber; she also took the rig with her, its team attached to the limber by a coffle chain. That night, I did let Corrie relax me. Experts had trained her; she teased me and tortured me for an age before allowing me to come inside her. I rolled away gasping, and was asleep in seconds. In the early morning I awoke, Corrie was gone; I thought of calling for her, but then something else came into my head, and I went back to sleep. A dark dream invaded my sleep. In the dream, a German led me across a gigantic field of sunflowers; on and on we went, until it seemed that the whole world was covered with sunflowers. At last we came to a clearing; the bare earth here was soaked with blood, it stank of blood, and there were shreds of skin scattered about. In the centre of the clearing, strangely unmarked by all the blood, was a neatly folded pair of white gloves.
End of Part 4