Feeling Darkly

By Lacey DeLeye

I.

Although she had resolved not to, she could not resist, as he looked at the laptop screen, glancing at him, searching for a hint, a clue. But nothing betrayed his thoughts. He read with intent and focus. The flickering regularity of his eyes scanning the lines rhythmically from side to side was quietly impressive. It reassured her that this man is serious, he knows how to read, he knows what writing is, he absorbs it all, the story, the phrasing, the language, every comma and every full stop. And she knew that she would pay attention to what he had to say, that she would listen just as he reads, taking it all in, feeling it work inside her, and resolving to act as he advises.

A half smile formed on his lips, he gave a small nod to the screen, and his gaze lifted upwards, over the laptop and directly at her. He paused, as if weighing up how to deliver his verdict.

“Do you close your eyes when you orgasm, when your body is screaming at you that you are about to come? Or do you leave them open?”

Startled by his unexpected questions, she flushed. “Um…, I don’t know how to…” she hesitated.

“Don’t worry, I’m not expecting you to answer, only to think about it. But there is a point to this. Your chapter is good in lots of ways. It’s an interesting story, and you develop it well. There’s good pacing, and your style is clear and clean. I can see it working as a novel and I think it would have a chance of finding a place in the market. But it’s not what I’d call good writing or good erotica.”

She looked quizzical, disappointed, unsure of what to say.

“Because it’s too visual,” he concluded.

He sipped some coffee, gathering his thoughts for an explanation. She remained silent, her eyes wide with uncertainty, poised expectantly for understanding.

“As I say, your chapter has many fine qualities, but it is also an example of something that often makes me despair. So much writing about sex, so much of what is termed erotica, sinks into badness under the weight of the visual. Of course, I know the importance of sight, of the visual; I know that humans are highly visual creatures. But we live in a culture which is saturated with images, in which our obsessive focus on the visual means we lose sight—and I’m aware of the irony of the word ‘sight’ in this context—but we lose sight not only of the other senses, but also of that inner sense, the inner feeling that has nothing to do with looking, nor even with hearing, tasting, touching and smelling. But it is that inner feeling which goes to the heart of the erotic; it is the essence of desire and its fulfilment. The visual is fascinating but it is only the surface; it is the darkness and depths beneath that surface that are truly interesting. And if there isn’t an attempt to capture that, then something crucial is missing, and what we call erotica will never truly be erotic.”

She watched, captivated and wordless, as he drank some more coffee before taking a lifestyle magazine from the rack beside their table. He opened it at random and casually turned the pages.

“It doesn’t matter where you open a magazine like this, which page you turn to, images, the visual, they dominate everywhere. Sure, images are fine up to a point, but look at all this—it’s all surface and no depth. Sometimes I think we should try a brief Calvinist-style reformation, we should do what the iconoclasts did in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when they smashed statues, whitewashed images, ripped illustrations out of books, all so that they could focus on the word and the inner feeling of the presence of God. Imagine if we burnt all the pornographic images, and all the adverts that imitate pornography. Erotic desire and sex wouldn’t suddenly go away. But just imagine what such image destruction would do to the way we think about sex and desire. Certainly we’d lose something—but we might gain something too. We might feed our imagination and deepen our understanding. And possibly deepen our feeling too.”

Closing the magazine, he gestured to it dismissively. “But in this culture, in the world we inhabit today… well, I think we are left impoverished by it, I’m saddened by it. But you might be glad to know that I think your novel could do well. You appeal to the sense of sight. You’re good at gazing. You’re good at describing the object of your gaze, at depicting the surface, in all its superficiality, brightness, and light. There’s no doubt that there is money that can be made in writing about that. You might have some commercial success.”

The judgment had been delivered, and its point, which she had anxiously anticipated while he spoke, now drove in. “But you know that’s not why I write,” she appealed, “and that’s not why I chose you to look at the chapter.”

“Actually, whether or not you know it yet, you chose me to read your chapter precisely to hear this. I know you want to be a writer rather than a hack. You want to write literary erotica. And you knew I would be honest and fair in my assessment of how well you’ve succeeded. Well, you’ve got some great ideas, your plot is good, you’ve got a very good story, but the writing and the characterization—I can’t say it’s terrible writing, because I can see it working for many readers and may make you some money, but, as an attempt at literary erotica, I’m afraid I can say it is terrible.”

Tears now glazed her eyes. But he merely stared at her, neither sympathetic nor disdainful at her upset, waiting. He would not force her into the course she should take; he would let her choose it. And he knew, from the way she held her eyes on him, silently appealing for rescue, that she would make that choice.

“But how can I improve it?” she finally asked, whispery cracks of emotion marking her tone. “What can I do? It’s clear I need help with it. I can see that. In fact I could see that when I asked you to look at it. But I don’t know what to do.”

He took his time, deliberating, now that she was hooked, whether he wanted to bring her in, to help her. She was so young, so eager, so vulnerable; it would be easy to bring her in, but not so easy to help her. Would there be any point? Yes, because one day she will be seduced by someone, by something, maybe money, maybe fame, but right now there was still a chance that she could be steered another way.

“Improving it is not a simple task,” he said at last. “Sure, there are ways of working on the mechanics of the writing, on your technique. But good writing does not come from technique alone. It comes from your inner self, from the core of your being. And a key question is how far you are prepared to go in order to explore your inner self and to bring it to your writing.”

“I’m prepared to do whatever it takes,” she responded without hesitation. “I want to write well. I want to learn. I want…”, and now she did hesitate. “I would like you to teach me if you can.”

He sat back and drained the rest of his coffee. “Yes, I’ll teach you. But only if you’re prepared to do what I ask you to do. I can teach, but the only way you’ll learn is if you are willing to learn. Are you sure you’re willing?”

“Yes, totally, absolutely.”

He set the coffee cup down and closed her laptop. “Then come to my flat next Friday at 8 p.m. I’ll set you an exercise to peform, one that will help you with your writing. But it will only work if you follow my instructions. If you want to become a better writer, you will have to engage with the exercise. Do you understand?”

She nodded firmly.

He stood up and extended his hand to her. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, and I look forward to seeing you next Friday.” He took his wallet out. “Here’s my card with the address of my flat. One thing, just to be clear: you can stop the exercise at any point, but if you do then I will be unable to help you and there will be no point carrying on with the teaching.”

He turned and walked out of the café, without looking back, while she held his card between her fingertips, unsure why her feelings of hope were tinged with anxiety.

II.

“Come in, you can hang your coat there. Please have a seat, make yourself comfortable. Would you like a glass of wine? I’ve just opened a bottle.”

She nodded and walked through into his living room. His flat was so different from her own. Whereas hers was full of pop art, colourful posters and hangings and curtains, bright painted walls, exotic items and lustrous objects picked up on her travels or salvaged from flea markets, his was dimly lit, modern and minimal, understated and verging on the ascetic.

“Everything you said about the visual, I can see it all reflected here in your flat,” she said as he handed her a glass of wine.

“I’m not immune to the charms of the visual,” he replied. “Indeed, I love many images, many sights. Looking at beauty is one of life’s great pleasures. But I want to go beyond the surface. I don’t simply want to see beauty, I want to feel it. I want to know what beauty is, not only what it looks like.”

“Like Plato?” she suggested, flushing suddenly at the potential folly of engaging with him in learned discussion.

“Yes, very good,” he smiled. “A little like Plato, a little like the philosophical search for ideals or the forms of things. But perhaps more like the many different ways humans have tried to move beyond the realm of appearance, and tried to explore somewhere deeper within themselves, and darker too because it is so hidden from view. Like emotions and feelings. You can never be completely sure how someone is feeling, because where it comes from is concealed, a dark place that cannot be seen.”

She gulped some wine, and glanced around the room, conscious of a murmuring undertone of nerves darting around her body.

“Please don’t be anxious,” he told her. “Really, you have no need to be. I assure you of that. When I talk about darkness, I mean it literally rather than metaphorically. And remember that pleasure and beauty lie at the heart of the erotic. You’ll begin to understand shortly. But finish your wine first. And remember what I told you about stopping the exercise any time you want.”

He watched her finish her wine and place the empty glass down. A calm pleasure and anticipation was winding its way through him, yet he wondered too: Would she complete the exercise? Would she let him teach her? He looked at her deeply, trying to penetrate the tense surface of her being, trying to glimpse the inner person. Yes, he thought, yes she would.

“Let’s begin the exercise,” he announced suddenly and authoritatively. “I’d like you to stand up, go to the centre of the room, and take off all your clothes.”

Not immediately registering what he’d said, she didn’t move. Perhaps it was a joke? But she could tell from his look that he was serious. “What… but… but I can’t do that… I thought I was going to do a writing exercise…”

“Do you remember when I asked you what you were prepared to do to write well? If you want to write well, if you want to be good at literary erotica, then you need to experience pure inner feeling. Or at least to get as close to it as possible. That’s what this exercise is about. What I will ask you to do may seem daunting, but if you want to create art then you need to be ready take risks, to move outside your comfort zone. The exercise requires you to be naked. So, let me ask you again: please remove your clothes.”

Mortified, she nevertheless hesitantly stood and stepped to the centre of the room. An inner voice was urging her to run out of there, to grab her coat and leave immediately, to abandon this. But something else held her there; perhaps it was necessity or destination, but it did not manifest itself, instead wispily rooting her there, no more than a voiceless feeling defying articulation. It seemed to direct her hands to unzip her dress, to slip it over her shoulders, and to release it and let it fall to her feet. This same feeling, smothering the urgent voice of resistance, then guided her hands behind her back and moved her fingers to unclasp her bra. As her hands slipped her bra off, she marvelled, astonished and suddenly vulnerable at the realization that her naked breasts were exposed. It was as if someone or something else was inhabiting her body, clouding her mind and taking control of her movements, she scarcely recognized herself in the act of removing her shoes and unrolling first one stocking and then the other. Briefly, now wearing panties only, the inner voice made a final attempt: you must go, you can’t do this, put your clothes back on and go. But the sound of another, stronger voice appeared above it.

“And now your panties. They have to be off too. Here, let me help you.”

Motionless, arms hanging loosely by her sides, she passively let him crouch before her, hook his fingers into the waistband of her panties and pull them down, lifting each foot to slip them over to leave her stripped completely naked. Dimly aware of how fully exposed she was, she became conscious of his eyes within inches of her pussy; instinctively trying to cover up, she allowed him to clasp her hand and return it to her side. She tried to gather her senses, to restore the focus that had become hazy and misty, and through the low light she realized he had stood up and was opening a drawer. But her mind was racing, and she barely noticed his movements behind her before everything went black. For a second she thought she had passed out, until the realization came with a gasp: he was blindfolding her.

blindfoldHe firmly secured the blindfold with a knot and gently massaged and kneaded her shoulders. “Breathe slowly and deeply, and try to relax,” he spoke softly in her ear. “You’re doing well; that was probably the hardest part of the exercise. But it was only the preliminary. Now the exercise really begins. So relax and simply accept that you cannot see. I will remove the blindfold at the end of the exercise. But until then you must forget about the visual world. Keep breathing, slowly, steadily, until you are calm and your breathing feels natural. Then try to focus on your sense of touch, and on sounds, smells and taste. Move through them, giving yourself up to the full experience of each, and then try to go further by turning your mind towards that deep inner sense, one that has nothing to do with the external senses. Try to get in touch with that and to feel it fully and deeply.”

Closing his eyes, he continued to massage her shoulders and upper back, pressing and squeezing his fingers into her flesh and muscles. He moved his hands down her back, taking in the charge of the contact with her skin, and then to her bottom, his fingers gliding lightly over each cheek, before running his finger down the crack of her arse to her smooth, soft thighs, and on to her calves and her feet. He pressed close against her, burying his face in her arse, working his tongue between her cheeks, and reaching his arms around to stroke the front of her legs, moving to her thighs, and then softly tickling her neat bush, before caressing her hips and stomach and wrapping his hands around her breasts. He stood up and buried his face in her hair, smelling it and tasting it, while his hands stroked her tits, his fingers brushing over her nipples before he lightly pinched and pulled them until they became hard.

A soothing relaxation was gradually flowing through her, accompanied by the calming beat of her heart. She was giving herself up to his hands and mouth, to the sensation of his fingers on her neck, his tongue and breath in her ear, to the pleasant discomfort of his nails digging into her back. Only when she felt his fingers lightly feather her pussy lips, so softly at first that she was barely sure if his touch was real or an illusion, did she realize how wet she was. Her attention turned to her pussy and she concentrated on the different sensations of his touch, the different jolts of pleasure from the gentle caressing of her clitoris and the firmer stroking now of her entire cunt, her juices trickling slowly along its lips. Then his fingers—how many? one, no two—slowly pushing into her, releasing sparks of excitement as she felt their pressing and probing inside her. Sliding into a reverie, she became aware of a warm moistness rubbed into her face, over her nose and lips, and then his fingers inside her mouth spreading a salty wetness over her tongue. And soft tremors leapt inside her as his fingers entered her cunt once more, and then again moistly stroked her face, her mouth eager to taste and lick them.

He slowly stepped away, licked the wetness of her cunt and mouth from his fingers. He opened his eyes, filling them with her nakedness, with her glistening cunt, her breasts rising rapidly with each intake of breath, the fleshiness of her thighs, the curve of her bottom. She sensed his closeness as he circled her, and her inner awareness that her naked body was being observed, that every inch of her was exposed to his gaze, drew warm ripples of excitement beneath her skin.

“Get on all fours,” he abruptly ordered her. Startled, she sank to her hands and knees. “I’m going to guide you to my bedroom now.” Tightly gripping her hair, he pulled her head up and led her crawling, disoriented and in darkness, over the unfamiliar floor of his flat. Reaching the door to his bedroom he instructed her: “Now crawl forward until you feel the end of the bed against your head.” He slapped her arse and watched its movements as she tentatively crawled towards the bed.

For a moment she was conscious only of her own breathing and heartbeat, until she sensed a quiet tread behind her. Lifted up, she felt herself pushing forward onto the bed, a flash of softness of the bed against her breasts, and then an intense awareness of her arse bent over the end of the bed. She did not instantly connect the sound of a slap with the sudden sharp pain in her bottom; only when it happened again did she realize she was being spanked. As the spanking intensified, she was aware of only the feel of his hand against her yielding flesh and the burning soreness that passed through her bottom occupied her mind.

He removed his leather belt, doubled it up and ran it lightly over her bottom, her thighs, and between her legs, pressing the leather against her pussy. First tapping it softly against her bottom, he then raised it high and brought it down swiftly across her arse, then again and again, listening to her moans of agony. When a bright redness covered her entire bottom, he put the belt aside and stripped. He pushed her thighs apart, closed his eyes again and very gradually eased his cock inside her cunt, sensing the excited tensing of his breathing as the tip of his cock pushed slowly inside. Now he fucked her, gently thrusting at first, but gradually more rapidly, until he became aware of the sound of his body slapping forcefully against her arse with each thrust.

As she sensed his cock slide out of her cunt, and his hands pulling her up from underneath, she realized how simultaneously detached and involved she was with what was happening. She let him roughly lift her, push her forward and roll her onto her back; but pleasure was gripping deep inside the centre of her body and spreading out in waves, right to the ends her fingers and toes. She did not hear him move around the bed, nor feel his thighs pressed either side of her head, nor his arse pushed down onto her face. Nor did she hear his command to “Lick”, but she licked instinctively; she was only barely aware of his cock thrusting in her mouth, no longer noticing the salty taste of her juices, and only dimly, as if it was happening far away, did she sense his tongue licking her clitoris and sliding inside her cunt.

He lifted himself off her, gripped her ankles and pulled her forward until her bottom was at the end of the bed. She seemed to be moving, she sensed, but she could no longer grasp what was happening. He raised her legs and held them wide apart, closing his eyes again as he leant forward to lick her tits, flicking his tongue over each nipple, taking in their hardness. Her mind was whirling, unsure of any sensation apart from that of waves raising her up and breaking over her, again and again, each wave larger and more powerful and more pleasurable. The waves lifted her legs into the air, and they poured their force into her cunt, their noise rushed and drummed through her head, and then from somewhere she heard the sound of screaming.

He collapsed on top of her. Their sweat mingled, their bodies pressed close with rapid breaths. She was somewhere and in some time, but she didn’t know where or when. For several minutes they lay still. Gradually she became conscious of the beat of her heart and the sound of her breath, and then his heartbeat and breath, and his skin and hard body against hers. She felt his hands reach under her head and untie the blindfold.

“Now you can look again,” he smiled.

Returning his smile, she blinked rapidly but closed her eyes again. “Wow”, she said, “that was incredible.” In her voluntary darkness she tried to immerse herself in the gentler waves that lapped through her body. As they subsided she laughed. “That was quite an exercise.”

“But do you think you learnt something?”

She opened her eyes and looked at him. “It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.”

“Now write about it.”

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