"Do not fear little one. Your time with us is not to be frightened of. We would not harm you, but you must remember that you will be at our mercy. Your very soul will be ours, your body will be ours and your mind will want to be other than yours. We shall treat you well. Keep you warm and safe, feed you and clothe you. We will not falter as you will not falter. You will give of yourself, as we will give of our selves. Your sister companions will assist you and care for you as you will care for them. Remember, you are part of us as we are part of you. Nothing will harm you."
His speech done, the huge man with a goats head mask, turned and led her into the dark foyer that brooded behind him.
What had brought her to this place? Carmen's thoughts of her recent history flashed behind her eyes, replaying a tableau in chronological order.
It started she remembered, when she and her friend had visited a club in London's Soho district. The club in its self was nothing special, just an ordinary nightspot, where, for a small sum of money, you could dance until the morning sun rose. Where drink, although expensive, would flow until, either the place closed, or your capacity was reached. It was a safe club; nothing or nobody would trespass on your space unless invited. They had danced until their feet hurt from being up too long and in action all of the time. Jean and Carmen had sat at a floor side table to watch the dancers and have a well-earned rest. They ordered drinks, something long and refreshing she remembered and over the subdued lights looked at each other and gazed at the dancers.
Carmen and Jean had been lovers on and off for a number of years. Way back when they first broke out of the confines of school, they had remained close, shared boyfriends and occasionally, a bed. Neither was overtly gay or even bisexual, just that their friendship had transcended to another plane with sex as a natural conclusion. Sex with Jean, while not earth shattering, was safe and satisfying. Like a re-affirmation of the bond they shared. Few of their respective male partners could understand or tolerate the closeness they shared, but the girls were determined that no one would intercede in their relationship.
The club started to close around five in the morning. Already, pink mackerel clouds coloured the sky. The street washers had been in action. Lamplight reflected off the wet pavements. Carmen felt as if she had had far too much to drink she felt lightheaded, and more than unsteady on her legs. A glance at Jean confirmed that her friend was in little better condition. Hailing a taxi, the two girls headed back to Chelsea and Carmen's flat for some sleep until Saturday afternoon. Ex might follow, but was not a necessity. Neither of them noticed the dark limousine that followed a discreet distance behind and drew up as they arrived at the flat.
Although neither of them knew it. They had been given spiked drinks. GHB was coursing through their veins, making any kind of movement or speech like an out of body experience. Carmen fumbled with the keys. The lock seemed too small for the enormous brass key she as trying to fit into it. Their legs could hardly support them as they fell through the door. Strong arms lifted Carmen and Jean, taking them to the flat entrance door and gently stripping them of their clothes. They were awake, but in a sort of dream world. The drug had dulled volition and self-awareness.
Carmen and Jean were raped. The assailants took their time and gratified themselves on the helpless girls. Each and every hole was abused at different times. Then they were left. The door to the flat closed on the outside world and they slept the sleep of the almost dead.
That afternoon, when realisation and awareness returned, the truth of what had happened dawned on the two friends. A quick check to see if any lasting damage had been done revealed that the perpetrators had been very careful not to eave any traces. No semen stains on the sheets or pubic hairs to give away the identity. It was as if it had never happened. That was how the girls decided to leave it, it never happened. Nothing had been removed from the flat. No damage done, pointless to even report it really.
A few days later, Carmen picked up her mail. Bills made up the bulk of the mail, but one envelope stood out. Fluorescent pink amongst the white and buff coloured carriers of doom and gloom. Carmen ripped it open to find a business card inside. Nothing else was in the envelope that she let drop to the floor while she turned over the small white card with serrated gold edging. There was just one word on it and a number. 'COME' in embossed gold large font letters and the number in black underneath 07966 8890. She didn't know quite what to make of it and still didn't after work that day. She called Jean and began to tell her of the card, but Jean interrupted her and said that she had also received a card, just like hers, but with the word 'HITHER' on it and the same number.
Jean had called it during the day, but an answer phone had informed her that the number she was dialing was only taking messages, would she like to leave a message? Intrigued, the girls decided to meet the next night for dinner at Swells, a little Italian restaurant off the King's Road.
They met as arranged, both carrying a new card that had arrived in the post that morning. Again, just one word appeared on the cards, Carmen's had the word CHOSEN, while Jean's had the word ONES. Both had the same telephone number as the previous cards, and when they called the number, again it was answered by a recorded messaging centre. Carmen left a message to call her on her mobile number, enumerating carefully, each number twice.
Two further cards came in the post the next day. Repeats of the first two. Put together, the message, if that was what it was, read: Come hither chosen ones, come hither. Both jean and Carmen left a number on the answering machine, but after a week, nothing happened and they forgot about it.
A month went by, then two more cards arrived, both with the same word on it: TONIGHT. Carmen rang Jean, they met for dinner and rang the number. This time, a male voice answered with Hello, you are the chosen ones. Listen carefully. An address was given with a date and time.
So that was what had brought Carmen to this strange building in Hampstead. Jean was to arrive half an hour later according to the instructions. Carmen's taxi had dropped her at the gates of a large gothic looking house. She could see square shaped turrets on either side of the forbidding looking manse. Garret rooms looked out over the heath and flickering light illuminated the net-curtained windows. Her view of the house was restricted by the over hanging shrubbery that darkened the gravel path leading to the dimly lit portico.
She had banged the brass lions head knocker and after a few seconds, the goat headed man had answered...
"Please be seated". Goat man indicated a lovers chair that stood in the entrance lobby. White and black tiles made a chessboard of the floor. A few dingy looking paintings hung from oak paneled walls and a dark oaken stair curved up and away from the lobby at the far end. Goat man opened a door that looked exactly like the panels on either side, and disappeared from view, leaving Carmen to sit and gaze around.
A few minutes passed, but seemed like a several hours.
Carmen became aware of a rustling sound above her. Instinctively, she looked up, but could only see the frescoed ceiling. Then, from the corner of her eye, she noticed movement on the staircase. Gradually, a woman came into sight. She had a crinoline dress on, complete with a ridiculously high wig. Her face had been heavily powdered and a crescent shaped moon, stuck on her right cheek. The dress and the whole manner of her bearing came straight out of the 18th century.
Filigree slippers occasionally poked out from under the voluminous as the woman descended the stairs. She had an air of regality, which remained as she approached Carmen. Her bright red, bow shaped lips parted revealing teeth that probably were quite nice in ordinary circumstances, but under the caked chalk white powder make up, looked quite yellow.
"Would you follow me." Without waiting for an answer, she turned and floated back towards the staircase. The treads creaked under the combined weight of Carmen and this apparition. The curve of the stair soon obscured the view of the lobby and opened up onto a long landing that passed either side. Ornate reed and fluted architraved doors could be seen on either side of the corridor. At the furthest ends, stained glass windows cast multi-coloured sunlight pools on the deep red carpet.
Her guide turned to the left and walked sedately down the passage. Carmen was able to see the doors that were so richly surrounded. Each bore a coat of arms or a sigil of some sort. She could not guess at the significance, but thought it best to remain silent and not ask. At last, they stopped in front of one of the doors. Her guide produced a golden key from within the folds of the rustling heavy dress and unlocked the dark stained door. Carmen noticed the sigil and thought she recognised it as a pentacle but wasn't sure.
She was shown into the room, but before she could take in her surrounds, the woman informed her that dinner would be at seven sharp.
"Please be dressed for it and try not to be late. The master detests lateness almost as much as he dislikes rudeness." The quavering voice advised just as she shut the door and left Carmen to her self.
Carmen wondered if the door had been locked, she couldn't be certain whether she had heard the key turn or just being removed from the lock. Rushing to the door in an unreasonable and panicked haste, she tried the lever handle and was rewarded when the door opened on silent hinges. Her guide had begun to walk away from the door, but turned and with an indulgent smile, told Carmen that any room in use is never locked. She stressed the word never, turned and continued on her imperious way.
Carmen explored the room. A huge four-posed oak bed took up one wall and the opposite was home to a wall-to-wall armoire. Costumes filled the hanging spaces. Period dresses; wigs and slippers bulged from the recesses of the wardrobe, making it difficult to close the door.
A soft knock at her door shook Carmen out of her questing. She had discovered a small closet that housed a toilet and shower cubicle. Make up stood on shelves with violet and rose water scents in small perfume bottles with old fashioned squeeze bulbs. Everything shouted 18th Century at her. The tapestries on the walls depicting hunting scenes from several hundred years ago, the heavy brocade bed cover, all came from the period.
The owner of the soft knock peered around the edge of the door and introduced herself as Rose. She was tiny. Her small feet were crammed into tiny velvet slippers, her small head bobbed from under a lace cap and small breasts thrust upwards from a tight bustier.
"I will be your personal maid." Even her voice was tiny. "I will help you bathe and dress for dinner."
Carmen soon lost her shyness around the tiny little dynamo. Almost before Carmen had thought of something, the little maid had it in her hands, holding it out for inspection. She kept up a constant running chatter, telling Carmen of the house and its history. How the Master's family went back over many centuries and had always lived here or in their country retreat in Buckinghamshire. Carmen liked her. She liked her industrious busyness and the quickness of her movements.
Eventually, after trying many of the heavy dresses over copious underskirts, Carmen was ready for dinner. The smell of rose water wafted from her body in little puffs as the air was driven from between the tight bodice and her skin. The ridiculously tall wig balanced its self on her head and had been secured with pins.
She descended the stairs and was shown to the dinning room. The first thing that struck Carmen, was the two heavy crystal chandeliers that hung from the vaulted ceiling. A long table stretched away from her which was set for about fifty places. An ice sculpture of a swan sat in the centre and refracted rainbow shards of light in all directions.
Through out the meal, Carmen noticed that the men kept their masks on. All of them had eye masks of feathers or fleece depending on which animal they were. All of the women were dressed in the same period costume. Talk was of nothing in particular. She lost count of the courses, soup followed melon, followed meats and so on until the desserts of profiteroles. The men as one, stood from their chairs, bowed to the lady on his left and walked from the room through a door at the opposite end to that she had entered.