by shukyou (主教)
illustrated by Shrimp King
The bouncer on the sorority house’s front porch folded his arms across his chest and scowled down the stairs at Dagmar. “Buzz off.”
Under nearly any other circumstances, Dagmar would have buzzed right off, and gladly. But Jessy had been talking about this for a full month now, practically every time she and Dagmar were in the same room. She was so excited to have her little sister come to a sorority party, she’d told their parents, Dagmar’s mom and Jessy’s dad. She’d even dropped the step- prefix she usually wielded to make sure that everyone in earshot knew that her beautiful genes were not somehow associated with Dagmar’s plain, chubby ones.
Not that she’d needed to sweet-talk them. She could have told their parents she was taking Dagmar to be thrown off a cliff, and they would have smiled and told Jessy she was so thoughtful for including her little sister.
Jessy was the reason Dagmar was standing there, shifting in uncomfortable patent-leather shoes instead of doing literally anything else to celebrate her nineteenth birthday. Instead, she opened the top of her wicker picnic basket and pulled out a small piece of cardstock. She held it up toward the bouncer so that he could see that it was genuine: gold-embossed letters announcing Delta Upsilon Kappa’s Who Will Survive in ’85?!? iteration of their annual invitation-only Halloween party. The invite was basically like real gold, Jessy had explained as she’d reached across the table at Sunday family dinner and stuck it right in Dagmar’s face. Everybody on campus would want one, but they couldn’t have this one. It was Dagmar’s golden ticket.
Dagmar didn’t bother pointing out to Jessy (who hadn’t even seen the movie) that golden tickets were on the whole more a liability than a boon. But Jessy would just have called her a nerd, like she always did when their parents were listening, or something worse, like she always did when they weren’t.
The bouncer eyed the invitation like an insurance man poring over a painting, trying to divine the difference between a Rembrandt and a forgery. At last, satisfied that it was real, he nodded and handed it back. Before he opened the door to her, though, he looked her up and down. “What are you supposed to be?”
“Little Red Riding Hood,” Dagmar said, who had picked the costume in part because she’d hoped that it would be so self-evident, people wouldn’t ask her questions like that. The other reason she’d picked it was because she’d had it on hand; the red cloak had been oversized already when it had made its Halloween/birthday debut seven years ago. Back then, they’d been living in Sacramento and Dagmar’s dad had been alive. Now they weren’t and he wasn’t. Underneath it, she’d tossed on a plain white dress; after all, who cared what else Little Red Riding Hood wore?
The bouncer snorted. “Watch out for Big Bad Wolves,” he said as he pointed her toward the side of the house. Wolves, plural. Dagmar hadn’t missed that.
She also hadn’t missed that all the sorority house windows had been blacked out or otherwise covered with spooky decorations. Dagmar passed by the house every day on her way to her classes, a too-renovated Victorian monstrosity with ΔΥΚ carved in a rock out front. Dagmar’s mom had pledged Delta and had been so thrilled when her stepdaughter had made the same decision. When Dagmar hadn’t even said a word about rushing, no one had noticed.
Clutching her hands around the handle of her picnic basket, Dagmar cautiously circled the building to find the party’s real entrance: the fire escape. This entrance was guarded by two college boys in tattered, fake-bloody football uniforms. She guessed they were meant to be sports zombies or something else that guys could get away with throwing together at the last minute. “Going down?” one of them asked, wiggling his eyebrows at her as she approached.
Dagmar looked up at the three-story climb. “Don’t you mean, going up?” she asked, wondering if she’d missed something fundamental about the situation in front of her.
The other football zombie laughed. “It’s a descent,” he said, pointing to the top floor and then tracing an invisible line down until he was pointing to the ground beneath the house. “Like, you know, Dante’s Inferno.”
Dagmar had read Dante, not just read about him, and she found herself wishing desperately for a Virgil to keep her company. Alas, it seemed she was on her own. With a deep breath, she tucked her basket around one elbow and started up the creaky ladder. It swayed a bit, but Dagmar glanced down to see that the two men at the bottom were holding it steady (and, she realized, looking up her dress, but she wasn’t going to complain about that, because nobody liked girls who complained when men had a little harmless fun, now, did they?).
At least at the second floor, the ladder became a landing and stairs Dagmar could climb without using her hands. She stood there a minute, catching her breath in the steamy night air. Despite the season, the night still felt like summer. She could feel more than hear the bass beat of the stereo pumping through the house, strong enough to rattle the wrought-iron fire escape beneath her feet. If she’d known there would be stairs involved, she would’ve said no.
That was a lie and she knew it. She would’ve said yes. Jessy had asked, so of course she would’ve said yes. It wasn’t just their parents: Jessy could tell Dagmar she was being taken to be thrown off a cliff, and all Dagmar would ask was when she needed to be there. And Dagmar hated herself for it, but her self-hatred hadn’t stopped anything before, and it wasn’t likely to now.
The top of the fire escape led not to a door but a window, this one propped open and decorated with flame-like crepe paper. Seeing nothing else to do, Dagmar came closer, then ducked her head to step inside. Someone had kindly constructed a small set of steps down from the windowsill to the floor, and Dagmar watched her feet carefully as she descended to make sure her entrance to the party wasn’t marked by her falling on her face.
When she looked up, Dagmar began to realize she might be in over her head.
The house’s attic was small, and it was obviously, under normal circumstances, someone’s bedroom — a shared bedroom, in fact, because there were twin beds on either side, tucked under the shortest parts of the slanted ceiling. A handful of people were standing around in costume, talking and drinking from red plastic cups and watching as couples fucked on both of the beds.
That was what they were doing, too. Dagmar thought for a moment that this might be some kind of tableau, maybe a hazing sort of thing to shock newcomers. But no, this was definitely sex. One of the couples, the guy was completely naked and on his back, and a girl dressed like a demon was straddling him, bouncing her hips up and down so vigorously that her little devil-horn headband had come askew. She had beautiful, heavy breasts with dark brown nipples that bounced along with the rest of her. Bracing her hands on his chest, she threw her head back and moaned in a way that seemed to Dagmar more theatrical than sincere. “Your dick is so big, baby,” she moaned, like that was a normal thing to say when other people — strangers, even! — were in the room with you. “Give me more of that big, thick cock! Yes, baby! Your big cock is so good!”
On the other bed, the positions were somewhat reversed. The girl, naked except for a pair of angel wings strapped to her back, was on her hands and knees there, gripping the foot of the college-issue bedframe for stability as her partner knelt behind her. He had his hands grabbed tight around her hips, but as Dagmar watched, wide-eyed, he let go long enough to deliver a cracking smack to her ass cheek. She moaned and lifted her hips. “Spank me, daddy!” she gasped. “I’ve been a bad, bad girl! Spank this naughty, naughty bitch!” As though inspired, he did it again, making her gasp like a porn star.
Dagmar knew she should play it cool, but she couldn’t stop staring. A few times, she’d heard through the walls as Jessy snuck her high school boyfriends over, but that was different. She was in the room with people who were having sex! If she looked, she could actually see where the men’s cocks disappeared between the women’s legs. Dagmar felt her hands grip the handle of her picnic basket tight enough that the grooves in the wicker pressed into her flesh.
It made Dagmar think of sawdust, the way it once had settled on all the things in her father’s shed when he’d been working. As a little girl, she’d loved the smell of the wood, been drawn to its oils and rich colors, its grains like ink frozen in water, its smooth skin under her fingertips. But once she’d taken a pinch of that sawdust — just a pinch — and placed it on her tongue. Immediate regret had set in. Something that had seemed so lovely from a distance, so enticing to all her other senses, up close was dry and nothing at all.
Why was she thinking that now?
“Hey!” said a cheerful voice. Dagmar turned in time to see a semi-familiar face — one of Jessy’s friends, but Dagmar couldn’t even remember if she’d ever known her name. She was dressed as Cleopatra, complete with wig and heavy eye makeup. The rest of her costume was a short gold toga-like dress sheer enough that Dagmar could see her nipples through it. “You’re Jessy’s sister, aren’t you? The one with the funny name.”
Dagmar didn’t see any reason to deny either part of that assessment. Swallowing hard, she nodded.
Cleopatra smiled and handed Dagmar one of the red plastic cups. The liquid inside was as red as the cup and smelled of fruit punch. “Jessy told us you’d be coming! So glad you’re here!”
Somehow, the greeting just made Dagmar feel more uneasy. She wasn’t used to meriting anyone’s attention, especially when Jessy was in the picture. Even before they’d met, Dagmar had spent most of her life beneath most people’s notice; standing next to Jessy, she all but disappeared completely. All eyes in the room were always on the tan, athletic blonde, until her mousy younger stepsister might as well not have existed. Therefore, being seen at all in Jessy’s territory set Dagmar’s teeth on edge.
But what was she going to do? Turn around and walk back down the fire escape? Instead, Dagmar forced a smile. “Hi,” she said, not sure what else was demanded of her in this situation.
Cleopatra, however, laughed as though Dagmar had said something clever. “This your first time at one of the Delta parties?” When Dagmar nodded, Cleopatra laughed again. “Well, welcome! I’m the chapter vice-president, and we’re just so happy to have you here! Now, the real party starts as you work your way downstairs.”
Considering that two couples were already fucking ostentatiously on the room’s two beds, Dagmar paled a little to think of what this woman might consider a real party. “Like Dante, right?” Dagmar asked.
Cleopatra laughed once more and put a hand on Dagmar’s arm. “She said you were smart!” With a little squeeze, Cleopatra began to walk Dagmar toward the attic room’s door. “Now, we don’t have nine floors, so we’re making do with five circles. You start here, and you work your way all the way down to the basement!”
Dagmar’s mouth felt dry. She looked at the cup in her hand, then back to Cleopatra. “So I just … walk downstairs?”
“That’s the spirit!” Cleopatra gave her a little nudge forward, and as she did, one of the shoulders of her dress slid down her arm, revealing one of her breasts. She didn’t even bother trying to cover herself. “Of course, feel free to look around a bit on your way down,” she added with a salacious wink. “You might find something you like.” And before Dagmar could ask what she meant by that, Cleopatra turned and walked right back up to one of the boys in the attic, who draped his arm around her shoulders possessively.
Dagmar liked girls. She liked girls more than it was normal for girls to like other girls. She had already quietly come to terms with the fact that she liked girls. She wasn’t worried that anyone else knew — sure, she’d endured schoolyard taunts of “Dag the Fag”, but that had been more about rhyming than strict accusation. No one in her life had ever seemed puzzled about why she’d never had a boyfriend; no one ever got to the point of pondering that she might not even have wanted one in the first place.
But oh, she’d never found liking girls quite as difficult as she did right now. Standing at the top of the stairs, Dagmar turned to look back into the attic room. On one side, the devil was still riding her partner, but had turned around so that he could see her ass bounce, while she faced the room. On the the other, the angel was still getting plowed from behind, but now she was sucking someone else’s cock as well, moaning as she was penetrated from both ends. And in the middle, the boy let his arm slide from Cleopatra’s shoulders down to her perky butt, giving it a fierce squeeze. She smiled and leaned closer, standing on tiptoe so she could wrap her arms around his neck.
Dagmar didn’t want to look anymore. So she began her descent.
The third floor was the first proper floor, even if it was mostly just a long hallway with rooms on either side. Jessy had lived in one of those her first year, which Dagmar had seen when she’d been pressed into being her stepsister’s moving help. The name on the open door was “Tiffany” now, though, and someone who may or may not have been Tiffany was kneeling in the doorway, sucking a man’s cock. She was done up like a glam rocker, complete with hair teased into a rat’s-nest halo and ripped leotards. She held the base of his cock with one mesh-gloved hand, stroking the bottom half of the shaft while she bobbed up and down the other. Her bright pink lipstick was smeared at the corners of her mouth.
Was it rude to stare? Was it ruder not to stare? While Dagmar stood stock-still, frozen in place by uncertainty, she became even more aware of how dry her mouth was. Under normal circumstances, good sense would have prevented her from drinking what Cleopatra had handed her — but good sense was trying to work out the etiquette of watching a public blowjob, and as such was not monitoring her hand as it raised the cup to her lips and poured in a mouthful.
After that, everything was a little funny.
The fruity contents of the cup didn’t make Dagmar’s mouth any less dry — if anything, they made the problem worse, which Dagmar reflexively tried to combat with a second swallow. That was a mistake. There was alcohol in there, not just a little like the sips of beer her dad had given her when she was little, but a lot. It made Dagmar cough, which made maybe-Tiffany laugh despite the cock half-filling her mouth. Honestly, she seemed glad for a little entertainment.
The guy getting sucked off said something to Dagmar, but Dagmar was surprised to find she honestly didn’t care. No, that wasn’t quite it — she wasn’t surprised at all to find that she didn’t care, but she was a little shocked to find that she didn’t feel compelled to pretend she did, either. But he repeated it, and Dagmar’s brain processed it as language this time, whether she wanted it to or not: “Aren’t you? Jessy’s little sis, I mean?”
Dagmar, who had not started out today thinking she’d spend her birthday talking to a man whose penis she was currently seeing, nodded. “Yeah,” she said. She licked her lips, tasting alcohol and lip gloss.
“Nice to meet you,” the man said. He thankfully didn’t hold out his hand; Dagmar wasn’t sure she could manage a handshake under these conditions. “I heard Jessy say she’s waiting for you. She’s downstairs.”
“Downstairs, like..?” Dagmar prayed the answer was the second floor, or even the first.
But the guy just smiled at her as he grabbed a handful of maybe-Tiffany’s hairsprayed mane, no doubt destroying at least some of the effect. He grunted a little as he pulled her down onto his shaft, making her choke a little. “The basement,” he said at last, once maybe-Tiffany’s lips were leaving their painted mark all the way up at the base of his cock.
The basement. Everybody was talking about the basement. Maybe that was where Dagmar should be headed. She clenched her basket and walked on without so much as saying goodbye. She knew it was rude, but she also figured that both of the people in the doorway had better things to do.
All of the doors on the hallway were open, making Dagmar think of mouths, of maybe-Tiffany’s mouth in particular, how pink and plump her lips had been. Dagmar tried to keep her eyes straight forward as she walked through, but every time she passed by, it was as though some force were gripping her head, forcing her to turn and look. The rooms themselves were all but dark, lit only by the occasional red-tinted lightbulb or flickering electric candles. In each of them, though, some kind of sex was happening — that much was obvious from the sounds and what few movements Dagmar’s eyes could detect. No one in the rooms seemed quite as bold as maybe-Tiffany and her date, performing right in the doorway, but several had audiences nonetheless.
In a few of the rooms, Dagmar couldn’t even see what was happening; the line of sight from the hall was blocked by the bodies of the spectators. She could hear it, though. Every room sounded like it had a porno playing in it, like the sounds Dagmar had heard from Jessy’s bedroom those nights in high school, lying awake in her own bed and trying not to imagine her stepsister’s legs spread wide, her legs locked around some college boy’s waist.
But why did it all feel so fake?
No, Dagmar though as she reached the staircase that would lead her to the second floor, that wasn’t quite it. It wasn’t fake; that was clearly real sex happening in those rooms, and Dagmar would only have to step into one of those mouths (no, doors, they were doors) to check. So if it wasn’t that, what was it?
Well, whatever it was, it was probably just Dagmar’s imagination. It wasn’t as though she were any expert on sex; she’d never even held hands with someone, much less been kissed. But she was at a grownup party now, and she was a grownup to, so she’d better start acting like it. And that meant not being weird about whatever other adults were getting up to, even if she personally found it uncomfortable and maybe even a touch upsetting. Jessy didn’t invite her here to be a weirdo about it, to run crying to their parents about how, oh no, she saw a nipple at a college party. She’d invited Dagmar because…
Because she thought Dagmar could handle it. Because she thought Dagmar would be cool about it, not a drag. Because maybe, after three years of their being stepsisters, teasing and tormenting Dagmar had finally gotten old, and she wanted them now to be friends.
Each of those seemed as unlikely as the last. But they were all Dagmar had to go on. Maybe Jessy would explain once Dagmar found her. But first, Dagmar had to find her. That meant the basement, and the only way there was down. Taking a deep breath, Dagmar descended the staircase.
The second floor was a bit of a relief, after what she’d seen down the hallway and in the attic. It was much more of what Dagmar would have expected of a college party scene — and was clearly the source of the bone-rattling bass thrumming through the house like a heartbeat. When the house had been renovated for Greek living space, someone had clearly torn down several of the original walls, leaving the place open enough for a wide common area. The best part of this was that it gave Dagmar a clear line of sight to the top of the next flight of stairs, just against the far wall.
The party here was significantly tamer than what Dagmar had seen upstairs, only now everything was happening out in the open. At the center of the room, another three women in matching schoolgirl costumes were bent over a table, making exaggerated moans every time someone came up and spanked them. They each had their hands in front of them, bound together at the wrists with identical pairs of fuzzy pink handcuffs. Someone came up behind them with a leather belt, drawing it across the middle schoolgirl’s thighs. She wriggled her ass and threw her head back. “Spank me, Daddy!” she cried, barely audible over the pounding bass of the DJ’s music. “I’ve been such a bad girl! Baby needs a spanking!”
“Spank me too, Daddy!” piped up one of the other girls, wriggling her ass so that the pleats of her too-short skirt swayed. “Spank your naughty baby girl!”
“Baby needs a spanky!” cried the third. “Give your widdle baby a spanky-spank, daddy-waddy!”
Well, that was unpleasant. Dagmar decided to take a detour around this particular scene. She detoured closer to the DJ’s corner setup, where the music was louder but at least she didn’t have to hear any conversations over it. Dagmar hugged the wall as she made her way toward the staircase, holding her breath. Once she got there, it would be only one more floor to go.
A small light in one corner of the room illuminated one of the sorority girls, this one dressed like Marilyn Monroe, complete with white skirts starched into an eternal updraft. She held her hands in front of her as though trying to fight for her modesty, giving a little shriek every time someone try to get behind her and peer up her dress. Whenever one of them claimed to have seen her underwear, she would laugh like that was the only thing she wanted in the world, like this kind of game wouldn’t have gotten tiresome after even the first round.
Past her, another sorority girl in a too-tight candy-striper uniform was seductively eating a banana, squirting whipped cream on its tip and sucking it off before taking a bite. Dagmar wondered how long she’d been at it, and how long she was expected to continue. There were at least four banana peels tossed against the wall by her feet and two brand-new cans of whipped cream next to them, which Dagmar supposed was at least something of an answer.
Next to them, another scene recreated what had been happening in the center of the room, but on a smaller, reversed scale. One of the sorority girls, dressed in a two-piece outfit Dagmar supposed was meant to resemble a cop’s uniform, lightly paddled a bent-over man. Every time she delivered a halfhearted hit, she covered her mouth with her hand and giggled coyly, as though reassuring everyone around her that she wasn’t really the one in charge here, no matter what the uniform might have implied.
Did these girls like this? They must have, or they wouldn’t have been going along with it, right? After all, no one was holding guns to their heads. Maybe this was just the kind of thing that Dagmar needed to learn to like too. Then she could get along with people like Jessy. Then she could be normal.
As she gripped the bannister, she realized that along the way she’d lost both her cup and picnic basket. She couldn’t even remember having put them down, or how much of the punch she’d consumed before she had. Her knees felt like they’d been replaced with water, making the task of descending the house’s wide main staircase a chore.
She had no chance to find out what the first floor was like, because the second she got there, she was met by two men — one dressed in a zoot suit, giving him the look of a Depression-era gangster; the other in a pair of ratty fatigues and combat boots, unmistakably a soldier. “Jessy’s sister, right?” asked the gangster, shooting Dagmar a big grin.
Dagmar was going to answer, but her gaze locked on something over the gangster’s shoulder: the house’s front door. Even in the dim, colorful lights of the party, Dagmar could see that the bolt was unlocked. Sure, there was that bouncer on the other side, but he was meant to keep people out, not in. Dagmar had been willing to go with this so far, in part because once she’d stepped on the fire escape, there had seemed little choice. Now that an exit was barely ten feet away, though, Dagmar found herself suddenly aware of how easy escape would be.
“She sent us to escort you,” the soldier said, as though she’d confirmed it anyway. “You know, to make sure you didn’t get lost.”
“How could I get lost?” Dagmar asked, an uneasy feeling beginning to grow within her. Talking wasn’t supposed to be this difficult, was it? “It’s just downstairs, right?”
“Oh, sure it is,” the soldier said, giving her a charming smile of his own. He draped an arm around Dagmar’s shoulder and turned her away from the front door, back into the rest of the house. “In fact, it’s right this way.”
Dagmar’s fuzzy brain had only a moment to register that he’d turned her so she couldn’t see the gangster anymore. Then a pair of strong arms pinned her arms behind her back. Even stone sober, she would have been no match for the gangster’s athletic build; as it was, she barely had the strength to stay upright. She looked back to the soldier, who gave her an apologetic half-shrug. Then the world went dark.
Dagmar felt ashamed of herself immediately after, but her first thought as she came to was relief — because there, at the foot of the table, stood Jessy, smirking from beneath the vinyl habit of her slutty nun costume. “Jessy!” Dagmar shouted, or tried to shout, except that the men who’d grabbed her had stuffed something in her mouth. The wadded-up cloth kept her from making any kind of intelligible sound.
That relief evaporated, though, as it became clear that Jessy wasn’t rushing to help Dagmar. In fact, Jessy wasn’t rushing to do anything. She was standing there, her hands on her hips, looking smugly at the scene before her. She opened her red-painted lips to speak, but the words that came out weren’t in English.
From out of the shadows around her, other figures approached, maybe six or seven. Most of them were women, but Dagmar could see among them the two men that had jumped her upstairs and, presumably, carried her down after she’d passed out. Each of them carried a candle at the height of their chests. Those that she could see were speaking along with Jessy, chanting something that made Dagmar’s skin crawl just to hear. It was as though she could feel the words running up her sides, like a swarm of fire ants fleeing from boiling water poured on their colony.
Dagmar thrashed a little, but she was tied in place, strands of cheap nylon rope prickling against her bare ankles and wrists any time she struggled. The cloth they’d used to gag her was balled up tight enough that she couldn’t push it back out; it stretched her jaw open to an uncomfortable pitch and was shoved far back enough that she felt like it threatened to choke her.
That was when she began to panic. Very funny, Dagmar wanted to say, Very funny, you got me, you pranked your little stepsister, you all had a big laugh — now can you let me go? The words caught not in her gagged mouth, though, but in her throat. Even if she could physically have said them, deep down she knew this wasn’t a joke at all.
“Hail, Aamon!” cried Jessy, holding her candle up above her head.
The others repeated the greeting and gesture, until Dagmar’s prone body was stretched beneath a circle of flickering lights, shimmering over her head. Dagmar’s heart was pounding in her chest. Maybe if she stayed still, if she let them go through with … with whatever they were doing, they’d let her go. She could promise them that she’d never tell anyone.
Were they going to kill her? Dagmar desperately wanted to believe that they wouldn’t. If they were going to kill her, would Jessy have told their parents where Dagmar was going? Of course not. Besides, too many people at the party had seen her, right? If they were actually planning to murder her, they wouldn’t have shown her off to the whole house, right? Right?
“Hail, Aamon! Princeps omnium fortissimus est!” shouted one of men. Dagmar could just see from out of the corner of her eye the way he held his candle aloft. “Intelligens præterita & futura!” Dagmar had taken high school Spanish; for all she knew, he could’ve been reading a grocery list. “Quadraginta imperat legionibus!” Still, the tone he used made her break out in a cold sweat. She’d see movies like this before, with girls tied up in shadowy places. Chanting Latin was usually what happened not long before those very same girls had to die.
“Is this working?” asked one of the girls. Dagmar couldn’t see the speaker and couldn’t recognize the voice. “Because, like, I don’t think this is working.”
“Hush!” Jessy hissed at her through clenched teeth. “Do you want this to be the best Delta Halloween ever or not?”
The unseen girl sighed. “Fine. What’s next?”
Dagmar lay as still as she could. Maybe if she didn’t move, they’d just forget she was there. Maybe their vision was based on motion. Maybe if she wished hard enough, she really would just disappear.
“Next we need to get the–” The candles and the angles made it hard for Dagmar to see much, but she thought the speaker was one of Jessy’s high school friends, someone who’d been over to the house a few times through the years. She was flipping through the pages of an old book, holding the candle close to the page as she squinted in the low light. God, why couldn’t Dagmar remember her name? She supposed sheer terror did a number on the brain’s ability to recall little details like that. “Okay, this is where the blood comes in.”
Before Dagmar could process the sheer horror of that statement, she felt a small splatter of liquid fall across her, tossed from a small bowl in one of the participants’ hands. The drops were cold and heavy — and it was definitely blood, from the smell of it. Dagmar recoiled, trying to get away from it, but already it had started to seep into her white dress. Was it human blood? Dagmar felt bile rise in her throat.
The girl with the book squinted at its pages. In the flickering light of the candles, Dagmar could see that she wore black kitty ears rimmed with sequins. It seemed such an incongruous detail that Dagmar wanted to laugh. She was becoming hysterical. With every inch of her remaining self-control, she willed herself to stay calm. “And all we have to do is call on him with…” Frowning, the girl with the book held it out to Jessy. “Do you think that says coeurs purs or coeurs pirs?”
“I think it doesn’t matter,” said Jessy, knocking the book from her hand to the floor. “Call with me, everyone! O Aamon!”
“O Aamon!” echoed everyone else in the circle. Dagmar had stopped believing in God when her father had died, but she was horrified to learn about herself that she did indeed still believe in all the rest of it. Were they going to laugh at her and swear it was a joke? Were they filming her? Dagmar’s eyes darted around the darkness beyond the circle of bodies, but she saw no telltale red light of a camcorder. Or did they actually expect something to happen?
Jessy raised her candle. “Come to us, O Aamon!”
The others raised theirs in turn, holding them up as though making an offering to some god. That was what they were doing, in fact, Dagmar supposed. It was just that she was lamb brought to the slaughter. They cried out various invocations, asking whatever Aamon was to come their way. The more they shouted, the more Dagmar became convinced this was no joke. Whatever they were trying to do, they were actually trying to do it. All she could do was to hold so still she barely breathed and pray that the book was wrong. Eventually they’d have to get tired and quit, and they’d all go home, and that would be the end of that.
That was when all the candles stopped.
At least, the candles were what Dagmar noticed at first: every one in the room, frozen mid-flicker. Her eyes traveled down to the bodies that held them, which were now little more than extremely lifelike mannequins, caught in poses no person could hold for long on their own. The world around her had become as still as a photograph, to the point where Dagmar might have believed she’d halted with it, except that she could feel the strain in her chest with the labored movements of her continued panicked breathing. So she was still alive. She didn’t know if that was good news or bad news.
“Hi,” said an almost-friendly voice from out of the darkness.
Dagmar tried to scream, but she could barely make a sound. Her jaw ached from the pressure of her gag. She could feel trickles of blood starting to seep from the raw skin of her ankles and wrists. Whatever they’d done, whatever they’d summoned, it was here to feast on its victim.
“Mm, sort of,” said the voice, as though Dagmar had spoken aloud. “A virgin. I haven’t been one of those in a while.”
It was then that Dagmar realized the voice wasn’t in the darkness — it was the darkness. It came from whatever held the ground in the space between candlelight. And it had so many teeth. They couldn’t be seen, but Dagmar knew they were there. It was foolish to worry that she might be eaten by the thing. She was already inside its jaws.
What she felt instead of the close of teeth, though, was a gentle pressure at her ankles. There was a smooth touch to it, almost reptilian in the way it curled along her skin, easing its way beneath her bonds. When it gave a quick tug, the rope fell to the floor, freeing her leg from its scratchy fetters. “You look uncomfortable,” said the voice. “In fact, I don’t think you’re here by choice. Are you?”
Dagmar shook her head. The rope was gone, but the snakelike weight of whatever had freed her lay where it had been, holding her just as surely in place.
The voice from the darkness seemed to cluck its tongue in dismay. “If I let you go, can we talk?”
Saying yes to the voice’s question seemed like a terrible idea, but saying no seemed even worse. Dagmar took a deep breath, feeling tears of fright roll hot from the corners of her eyes. She nodded. Yes, they could talk.
She somehow could tell that in response to her agreement, all those teeth gathered into a smile. As quick as she could even imagine it, the ropes on her wrists and other ankles were gone. Dagmar sat bolt upright on the table, clawing to get the gag from her mouth. It tickled her throat on the way out, and Dagmar coughed, trying not to vomit in the process. She had a feeling that would make the current awful situation even more unpleasant.
“It is a bit of a mood-killer, yes,” said the voice. It seemed closer now, as though it were atop the table with her, inches from her face, all but curled up in lap like a full-grown hound unaware it was not a lap dog anymore.
“You’re–” Dagmar started, then had to cough again before she could continue. “You’re Aamon?” She hoped she’d gotten the name right.
“I am,” it confirmed. “At least, that’s one of my names. For now, it’ll do. And you’re the lovely Lady Dagmar. So now we’re acquainted.”
Dagmar felt the urge to draw her red cloak around her; she felt exposed in her little dress, too visible for being in such a vulnerable state. She raked the heel of her hand beneath her eyes, but the tears wouldn’t stop flowing.
“That’s a reflex, I’m afraid,” Aamon said, sounding sincerely apologetic. “It’s difficult for your kind to be around us unmediated. Your friends that called on me tonight, it seems as though they didn’t know that either.”
“Not my friends,” Dagmar murmured miserably. She stared ahead at Jessy, now a beautiful statue, as still as the flame she held. Dagmar felt disgusted with herself. How had she been so foolish as to believe that Jessy would ever want Dagmar around? The trap had been obvious from the beginning. Only a willing idiot would have walked into it with eyes open. Which just went to show exactly what she was.
Aamon hummed thoughtfully at that, though Dagmar didn’t know if it had lips to hum with, much less lungs. “Would you like them to be?” it asked.
Dagmar wanted to lie, to say that she hated them all now, that she never wanted to see any of them again, that she wanted to call the cops and send them all to jail for a thousand years each. But what was the use of lying to a thing that could read her mind? Sobbing, she lowered her head miserably into her folded arms. She was the worst kind of pathetic, the kind who returned for more abuse because at least it was something. Jessy hated her and tormented her, sure, but to everyone else, Dagmar might as well not have existed. Her stepsister had conspired to sacrifice Dagmar to a dark and powerful monster, but at least that meant she’d thought about Dagmar at all.
“That sounds frustrating,” Aamon said kindly.
Her cheeks burning with shame, Dagmar nodded. “Just go ahead and eat me,” she mumbled. “Or … or do whatever you want with me. I don’t care.”
She could almost feel the air around her frown in dismay. “Oh, my dear,” Aamon said, “it doesn’t work that way.”
Dagmar outright burst into tears at that. Wasn’t that the ultimate kick in the head, that she wasn’t even useful for a sacrifice? She couldn’t even die properly.
“No, no. Don’t cry.” The darkness moved in around her, slipping across her shoulders. It didn’t feel like a snake anymore; it was more like fur, warm and soft. It felt closer than her clothes, in fact, as though the tender hairs were brushing against her bare skin. “You don’t need to cry. The world has been unkind to you, hasn’t it, lovely Lady Dagmar?”
Dagmar didn’t feel lovely, and she barely felt like a lady. She felt like someone who should be ninety-nine rather than nineteen, with her frumpy looks and her dumpy figure and her old-fashioned name. She felt like a ghost walking through her own life, an afterthought in everyone else’s minds, if they even thought of her at all. The last person who’d looked at her and actually seen her had been her father, who had died so long ago now that Dagmar could hardly remember what such attention had been like.
And then Aamon pressed its voice up against her ear, as though its words were physical things, and asked, “What if you didn’t have to take it anymore?”
The same reptilian tendril that had freed her brushed across her cheeks, taking with it the streams of tears leaking from her eyes. Of course she had to take it. That was what girls like Dagmar had to do — they had to let it happen. They had to swallow down anything that might make them seem impolite, or unattractive, or ungrateful. They had to take it, because if they didn’t…
“Because if they didn’t,” Aamon prompted her, “what, exactly?”
Dagmar had to admit, it had a point.
That warm fur drew closer to her, so close that she could swear she could feel it under her skin now — almost like it was no longer an intrusive outer force, but had instead become something within her pushing to get out. She could feel how heavy her bones were. Had they always carried such weight? They made her think of concealed weapons, retracted claws. She ran the tip of her tongue along the biting edge of her top row of teeth. They were all still flat. She didn’t know why she’d expected anything to feel anything different.
“Do you know why they brought you here?” asked Aamon. “Tonight, I mean. Do you even know what they meant to accomplish?”
Dagmar shook her head. “I don’t know,” she managed, her voice a dry whisper. “My stepsister — that’s her, there — she said it was just a Halloween party.”
Aamon’s sigh of response was resigned but not surprised, even though Dagmar didn’t know how she knew that. “They’re a carnal little bunch,” it said. It ran the tongue it didn’t have along the teeth that couldn’t be seen, the same way Dagmar had, only it felt the relief of all the sharp points. “But so mundanely. As though bared breasts and casual sex were the height of debauchery. They expected that summoning me would bring them to previously unexplored pinnacles of sexual pleasure. That my presence would take this halfhearted orgy they’ve gathered and make it the most orgasmically memorable event of their whole lives! Or something like that anyway.”
Dagmar thought to the rest of the house, how even the attempts at “kinky” deviance in hindsight seemed so lackluster. She pressed her lips together in thought, then exhaled through the thin line of her mouth. “They don’t know what they want,” she said. No, wait; that wasn’t quite right. “They know what they’re supposed to want.”
“Precisely!” Aamon was outright proud of her for that. It drew its darkness up her body, holding her, though not in the way the ropes had. No, it was holding her still now, calming her shaking. She blinked and realized she wasn’t even crying anymore. “A perfunctory existence built on willfully limited understandings of desire. But would you like to show them what it is to truly want? To be hungry?” It took a deep breath, scenting the air. “You’ve been invisible for too long. Do you want them to see you?”
“Yes,” Dagmar whispered, almost without thinking.
“Do you want them to feel that ache you have inside you?”
Dagmar nodded. “Yes.” The fur was thicker now, heavier against her body. There was no question it was hers now.
“Do you want to make them want like you do?” Aamon’s voice was no longer in her ears. It resonated against her skull. It might have come from in there all along.
There was really no other answer. “Yes,” Dagmar said, or perhaps just thought. It didn’t matter. She was only answering her own question.
“Then let me in.”
The world jolted, the way a car might when getting started again after a full stop. The candles burst back to life, and all the people surrounding Dagmar staggered to find their footing. They looked at one another with mild confusion. She could tell they were wondering, was that it? Had they indeed managed to achieve their goals? And why on earth was their virgin sacrifice suddenly not only unbound, but smiling?
By way of answering, Dagmar looked them each in the eye in turn, working her way around the table and looking at Jessy last. She made damned sure each of them saw her, and in return, she saw each of them in kind. “Okay,” Dagmar said, her voice strange now, but not unpleasant. “You want to fuck?”
They did. Dagmar could feel their lust radiating from them like heat. They stood fixed in their places, their minds flooded with desire, but their expressions clouded with fear. That wasn’t good; Dagmar didn’t want them to be afraid. She knew what it was like to be afraid, and she wouldn’t have wished that on anyone. So instead, she simply wished their fear away. There, wasn’t that better? Now seven much happier people stood around the table in the sorority house basement, waiting on her word.
Before Dagmar, Jessy stood, looking at her stepsister with undisguised adoration. It wasn’t the perfunctory affection she’d always feigned in front of their parents, the artificial friendliness that disappeared when no one else was watching. Jessy looked at Dagmar like she was the goddess, the beautiful flame that burned all the oxygen in every room it entered. “Master,” Jessy said, cupping her own breasts with her hands, running her thumbs across the little rises that her nipples made in the clingy vinyl dress.
“Kneel,” Dagmar ordered, the word barely more than a whisper. They did, all of them, falling to their knees in front of her, their heads bowed. They would wait like this forever if she told them to, loving every minute. They wanted to do this for her — for Aamon, perhaps, but there was right now no meaningful difference between the two. Dagmar didn’t know if there ever would be again.
Dagmar reached out her hand and the darkness caught it with gentlemanly precision, holding her steady as she climbed off the table and onto the floor. She sat back against that darkness, which held her up as the shadows themselves her throne. Tendrils of lightless space flicked around the exposed parts of her skin, until she could no longer be sure where it ended and she began. She parted her lips and felt the mouth around her open wide.
There was no moment of decision on anyone’s part, nor did Dagmar give a command. They wanted to, and she wanted them to, and so they did. The first to move were the two women just to Jessy’s left, both tanned and trim beauties, the same as Jessy herself. They fell onto one another like they’d been waiting their whole lives for this exact moment. The one dressed like a cheerleader had her short skirt flipped up almost immediately, revealing lacy pink panties that concealed little; the other, in the exaggerated lingerie of a fantasy maid, pinned the cheerleader down and squeezed the pert cheek of her ass, her grip firm without being rough. The cheerleader squealed with unfeigned delight and went for the bodice of the maid’s outfit. In seconds, the maid’s bare breasts were spilling out, her pink nipples on display to everyone who cared to see. The other two girls — a vampire in a wispy black dress and the sparkle-eared panther in a tight black catsuit — crawled over to them, eager to join the play.
Watching from her seat, Dagmar began to realize she wasn’t just getting aroused watching them. She was feeling what they felt, like pulses returning through electrical connections they all now shared. The cheerleader squirmed as she spread her legs wide, urging someone to strip her of her underwear. The panther obliged, pushing up the cheerleader’s skirt before pulling her panties down and sticking her face right between the cheerleader’s tanned thighs. The cheerleader gasped with delight, leaning back into the arms of the vampire, who kissed her with enough force to smear their lipsticks across both their mouths. They didn’t care; this wasn’t about looking good anymore. This was about what felt good, no matter what anyone else would think.
Beside them, the two boys turned — though not to the women, but to each other. They were both visibly erect through their clothes, breathing heavily. The gangster grabbed the soldier’s hair and shoved his head downward. The soldier not only gave no resistance, but eagerly opened his lips, mouthing the gangster’s erection through his trousers. The gangster groaned and tightened his grip on the soldier’s hair, making the soldier laugh. “Suck me good,” the gangster ordered in a heavy, needful growl. “Suck my cock.”
The soldier didn’t hesitate, just went straight for the zipper of the zoot suit’s trousers and peeled it open. He yanked down the gangster’s pants and underwear, then swallowed the gangster’s cock like he’d been dreaming about it. And he had, that was the secret Dagmar knew now. He wanted to suck cock so bad, he sucked on his own fingers when he jerked off in pitch-dark rooms, terrified that someone would find out and call him gay. He wasn’t gay, he didn’t think, not really. He just really wanted to know what other men tasted like.
He was getting his wish now. He bobbed his head up and down on the gangster’s shaft without even the barest hint of shame. And why would he? There was no shame here anymore, no hesitation. There was only desire unfettered by the chains of propriety.
“Fuck,” the maid said, watching them go at one another. “That’s so fucking hot.” She crawled closer and got behind the soldier, fixing him on his hands and his knees as she pulled his pants down. Beneath him, his cock pointed straight down at the floor, its tip drooling a steady stream of precome. The maid wrapped her fingers around his shaft and stroked him, enjoying the way he squirmed beneath her touch. She liked having that amount of control over him, and he liked being that helpless against her touch. It was a win-win situation for everyone.
The panther was still eating out the cheerleader, who was moaning for more. The panther had three fingers inside of the cheerleader’s pussy already, but the cheerleader was hardly at her limit. She’d been fucked by plenty of men during her life, but never in a way that had really satisfied her. None of them had ever even made her come before. She’d let them all fuck her, sometimes without any protection at all, because everyone else had always promised her that sex felt so good like that. She suspected they were lying. She’d faked every orgasm she’d appeared to have with someone else.
Meanwhile, the panther wanted a cock. She wanted so bad to have a big dick sticking out from between her legs, hard and swinging and ready to fuck. Maybe she hadn’t always wanted this, or even ever considered the possibility before, but she wanted it now. She wanted to shove her cock right into that cheerleader’s pretty pussy and pound her until both their eyes crossed.
“Can we do that?” asked Dagmar.
“Of course we can,” Aamon answered. “Watch.”
The darkness spread around the panther’s body, growing and shaping her, changing her until her catsuit bulged and built at the front of her crotch. Dagmar watched in wonder as the vinyl suit grew, until the panther was sporting a cock of near-inhuman proportions, as thick as a fist and almost as long as her forearm. Its shiny black surface was just as responsive as skin — and had perhaps become her skin, so that her whole body, minus her hands and face, was now of the same sleek material as the massive tool hanging between her legs. She’d never cover it up again. She was too proud of it.
The cheerleader’s eyes widened with awe. “Stick it in me,” she moaned at the panther, spreading her spit-slick pussy lips with her fingers. She wasn’t reciting from a script now, saying the things she thought her partner wanted to hear. If she didn’t get fucked right now, she might literally die.
As the panther penetrated her fully, the cheerleader experienced the first orgasm of her whole life, thrashing and crying out as she got stuffed to the brim. Impaled on the panther’s new cock, the cheerleader could hardly move. The vampire reached for the cheerleader’s nipples and squeezed them between her fingers. She was happy for her friend, but she wanted her turn next. She’d never taken something that big in her life, but she was more than ready to try.
Dagmar was so taken with the scenes in front of her that she’d nearly forgotten there was one more person in the room. She looked up to see Jessy before her, her nun costume slightly askew. Jessy licked her lips. “What do you want, Master?” she asked — begged, really, given the need in her tone.
The sound of the word from Jessy’s lips made Dagmar’s heart flutter. How long had Dagmar wanted this? Probably from the first minute she’d seen Jessy, with her perfect body and her perfect face and her perfect popular life. Dagmar had never been able to hate Jessy as much as she should have, to say nothing of how much Jessy deserved. Dagmar had always wanted her too much.
And now she had her — or, more to the point, a better version of her. Jessy was free now of all that hatred, that jealousy. Wait, jealousy? Yes, Dagmar could feel now how Jessy had envied how Dagmar had always refused the game Jessy had felt the need to play. Jessy had spent her whole post-pubescent life trying to impress all the boys around her, and doing so by tearing down every woman who seemed to stand in her way. It was a brutal and exhausting process. She was like a shark who couldn’t sleep, because as soon as she did, all the other mouths in the ocean would come for her.
“I didn’t know,” Dagmar said softly.
Of course she hadn’t known. Jessy hadn’t wanted her to know. That was part of the whole game, pretending not to be miserable, making sure that everyone else’s miseries were worse.
It was good, then, that Dagmar could take that away, that she could leave them all with nothing but wants that could far more easily be satisfied. Dagmar beckoned with a single finger, and Jessy came forward willingly, eagerly. She knelt down in front of Dagmar with a smile and pushed up the hem of Dagmar’s dress. Dagmar lifted her hips and let Jessy’s fingers tug at the elastic waistband of her underwear.
Jessy didn’t laugh about how they were plain and white, unlike the silky scraps of fabric Jessy and all her friends wore. Jessy didn’t need to be that girl anymore. She could love things on their own merits now, things like the look of Dagmar’s soft pussy as Jessy pulled the fabric away. Jessy licked her red lips.
“Do you want me?” Dagmar asked.
Jessy nodded. “Yes.”
Dagmar knew she could be cruel now; it would have been the perfect moment, after all, to take revenge for years of misery and abuse at her stepsister’s hands. But Dagmar no longer felt any of that hate in her heart. She only felt love. That was all she wanted, to show everyone how to love and to be loved. After all, what could possibly be bad about love?
Jessy bent forward and parted Dagmar’s outer lips with her well-manicured fingertips, then leaned in and closed her lips over Dagmar’s clit. Dagmar groaned and leaned back, letting the darkness stroke her exposed skin as Jessy began to lick her in earnest. With a quick tug, Dagmar pulled Jessy’s costume habit away, revealing the cascades of Jessy’s blonde hair. Dagmar grabbed a handful of it, letting it twirl around her fingers as Jessy moved in close. This was the first time Jessy had ever eaten out a girl, Dagmar knew now, but she took to it with all the enthusiasm of an eager student. Fortunately for Dagmar, Jessy was a natural.
Dagmar looked back to the rest of the room, where the others were still delighting in being able to satisfy their wants with each others’ bodies. The gangster was bent over the soldier now, fucking him like animals mounting one another. Behind them, the maid smacked at the gangster’s bared ass with her hand, making him thrust harder every time she did; her other hand was jammed down her own panties, rubbing herself off as she watched the two men go at one another. The panther was on her back now, her enormous cock shrunk down to a somewhat less hole-breaking size as the vampire rode her. The cheerleader had one of the candles and was dripping the wax on the panther’s chest, while the panther hissed with every hit as though it were falling on her bare skin.
“They look so happy,” Dagmar said to no one in particular, writhing a little as Jessy slipped one of her fingers inside of Dagmar’s slit.
“They are,” Aamon told her. “Because they’re free.”
They were, weren’t they? Dagmar thought about all the people still upstairs in the house, playing out their halfhearted roles. Maybe-Tiffany, looking bored as she knelt on the floor. Cleopatra, sighing as she bore up under her boyfriend’s possessive arm. The angel and demon on the attic beds, saying things like they were reading from mid-quality porn scripts. Everyone else too, probably — not just in the house, but in the world.
Jessy’s tongue flicked hard at Dagmar’s clit, making Dagmar moan. The sound just made Jessy grin and do it again. Her loose hair made a wispy halo around her head, illuminated by candlelight. She looked more angelic than any nun Dagmar had ever seen before, despite how her face was all but completely buried between Dagmar’s soft thighs. She could probably do more good in the world like this, in fact.
“Now you’re getting it,” Aamon said. It was still here in the room, but no one was weeping. She understood now what it had meant about an unmediated presence — she was the mediator. Her very presence dried its tears from their eyes.
Dagmar let her legs fall open wider, let more of Jessy’s fingers push inside her. She gasped as Jessy’s hand touched something in her that made her whole body jerk. Jessy found the spot and did it again, making Dagmar moan. “Yes,” Dagmar gasped, “right there, please, keep touching me right there…”
It was then Dagmar realized that everyone else in the room was looking at her — not through her, but at her. They all kept up the motions of their bodies, touching and licking and fucking one another, but as they did, they all turned to her as though for guidance. Dagmar realized that they were waiting on her, poised for her instructions. Freedom didn’t necessarily mean anarchy, after all. Part of freedom was the freedom to submit.
That submission was what Jessy was living out to its fullest between Dagmar’s legs. Dagmar didn’t know how she was even breathing anymore. Maybe she wasn’t. Maybe her need for air had been replaced with her need for Dagmar. Maybe that was the case with all of them. As Jessy licked Dagmar’s pussy with feverish intensity, the others watched with rapt fascination. Dagmar closed her eyes and let the soft pressure of Jessy’s tongue work her toward orgasm, pushing her closer and closer until it finally sent her over the edge. The weight of Dagmar’s climax rose and washed over her, lighting her nerves with pleasure. Every time she felt as though she were going to fall, the darkness held her up, keeping her right where she needed to be.
That was it, after all. She was right where she needed to be. She had chosen to descend and found herself unafraid of what she found lurking in the depths. Now it was in her, using her as the mediator. She was its prophet now, the harbinger of what it had for all.
She stood, feeling the insubstantial weight of the shadows shift beneath her until she had her balance. All seven of her new acolytes watched her, debauched and in varying states of undress. None of them had gotten off yet, but that was all right. There would still be time enough for that. It was going to be a very long night.
“In fact,” Aamon rumbled softly in her ear, “the sun may never rise again.”
All Dagmar could do was laugh with delight. Very well, let it happen; the sun had never done her much good anyway. Besides, there was so much lovely warmth in the darkness, so much care and so many caresses in spaces the daylight never got to see. It wouldn’t take long before everyone understood just as she now did.
At her side, Jessy extended one of her arms, and Dagmar took it, letting herself be escorted like a queen. That was what she was, after all, wasn’t it? The queen bee, the alpha wolf, the head of a new kind of sorority. Sisters were doing it for themselves now, wasn’t that how the song on the radio went? Only Dagmar’s sorority wouldn’t be nearly so exclusive. Everyone would be invited, all bodies and all desires. Everyone could just walk right in. And if they couldn’t come to Dagmar, then Dagmar would just have to come to them.
The others fell in line behind them, two by two, a bridal procession of sorts. Standing on the first of the steps leading out of the basement, Dagmar turned and smiled at all of them. Even in the dim light, they could see the shine of all her many teeth.