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Monday, 20 August 2018

The Perfectionists - Part I

Story from Janus 54 by Stephen Sims
The chapel looked gaunt and grey against the pale-blue evening sky. Erected during sterner Victorian days, it had for many years served as a religious centre; and if its function then had been a meeting-house for those seeking spiritual elevation, it was certainly no less so now. The great difference was in the methods practised therein to uplift and purify the adherents of the moral ethical group known as the Perfectionists, to whom it now belonged.
The chapel stood about a mile outside town, perched high on a rocky spur overlooking vistas of lovely English countryside, flanked by fields and woodland, so that its interior was perennially washed through with the pure scents of nature.
The Perfectionist sisterhood fluctuated between thirty and forty devotees, though there were signs that these numbers were beginning to increase. Each adherent was unwed, led a normal everyday life as regards work, home and social relations — and none was more than 25 years old. On the weekly communal evening when they all gathered hip-to-hip on the pews in the tiny hall, the light striking through the colour-stained panes fell on faces fresh and devout — some pretty, some plain, and several of startling beauty. And every girl was comely and healthy, attractive to the male and eminently marriageable.
Over this purity-aspiring sorority one man ministered: an exceptional man known solely by the devotional appellation of Magister. It was one of life’s ironies that he might have been fashioned from a woman’s ideal of how a charismatic spiritual mentor might appear: earthy yet mystical, evangelically fervent in the ways of Perfectionist enlightenment, he was tall and broad with rugged features, and an unflinching gaze that had a way of coaxing a female’s darkest secrets out into the light.
On this particular non-communal evening in mid-week only five young ladies were at the chapel — four of them to attend contrition, an intensely personal affair where each in turn gave an agonising self-appraisal of her falls from grace during the past few days, and submitted herself to whatever form of atonement the Magister deemed appropriate. For the fifth girl, named Melissande, it was her first visit. 19 years old and painfully shy, she was constantly plagued by feelings of inadequacy and imperfection — and, having heard vague stories of the ‘self-improvement’ sisterhood in the old chapel, had plucked up the courage to come along on the off-chance.
Melissande was training as a classical dancer. The routines were mentally and physically punishing, and her whippet-lithe body was extremely supple from stretching and leaping, driven by the hectoring voice of Madame. She stood five feet five, willowy and swan-graceful, with a slender waist and small but perfectly rounded breasts. Her legs were springy and swift, the hips of that nubile breadth between girlish cuteness and womanly voluptuousness. She approached the chapel with trepidation up the steep rocky slope from the road, and entered the little slate-roofed porch. On the weathered oak door was a silver plate so highly polished that her reflected face stared anxiously back at her — the elfin features, oval and pale, dominated by beautiful green-flecked eyes framed by long thick lashes. She might have been a child’s vision of a very pretty fairy with her high forehead and swept-back chestnut hair, the tip-tilted nose and pertly pointed chin — though the wide mouth and innocently sensuous lips belonged more to lusty male fantasy than fairy-tale.
Rat-tat-tat. Melissande gnawed those pretty lips as she swung the heavy antique knocker. Having no idea what to expect, she was completely unprepared for the splendour of the man who, after a few tense moments, pulled open the door and stood filling its frame, a smile of peace-filled welcome on the arrestingly handsome face. The white robe he wore seemed to give off a shimmering aura against the gloom behind him; and his hair, thickly flowing and as startlingly white as his gown, appeared to radiate an effulgence emanating from within the powerful leonine head, as though a light were glowing there. In her awe, Melissande judged this towering Being to be no more than 35 years old, though the expression in his deep-set eyes beneath the imposing brow belonged to someone of infinitely maturer age. He exuded a pristine freshness, animal vitality and sheer unadulterated goodness which permeated the young girl’s bones like some heavenly balm — and made her certain, in those first moments of seeing him, that here was one who would irrevocably change her life’s course forever, to the good. It was a golden moment.
But the nerve-wracked Melissande was able to answer his smile with little more than an awkward facial contortion. She licked her lips and blurted out: ‘I… want to be a Perfectionist! M-my name is Melissande.’ His fathomless gaze brought more words up, like bile. ‘I’m hopeless, you see,’ she found herself saying. ‘I-I need some sort of extra discipline in my life. I’m unhappy with myself! C-can you help?’ She at once felt confused and foolish, until it seemed that the man absorbed her quailing figure with a penetrating gaze which read to the depths of her being. It was a magical, all-seeing, consuming look such as the wizard Merlin might have cast on her, stripping her soul. Weirdly, it brought her peace.
‘You’re welcome, Melissande,’ he said at length in warm vibrant tones. ‘I am the Magister. Please come in.’ The girl stepped across the threshold and followed him in through a small congregational hall with polished pews and a raised altar stone. She was puzzled to hear subdued sobs and mutterings and, looking around, glimpsed two girlish figures crouched before the eastward window murmuring fervently and clearly moved by some powerful emotion. Melissande would have been alarmed to know that beneath the grey gowns they wore both girls were naked, and that their tender hides still smouldered with the embers of a righteous scourging.
‘This way, please.’ He held open a door, and the dancer was ushered into a cosy inner sanctum where two other young females were perched on chairs sipping tea from a bone china service and nibbling petits-four. A plush carpet cloaked the floor, there was a pleasing smell of pine polish and expensive perfume. The furniture was austere but comfortable. ‘Won’t you sit down?’ invited the Magister in deep tones.
‘Thank you.’ Melissande lowered herself on to a Queen Anne chair and accepted a cup of tea. She felt unpleasantly nervous again, hating the shyness that made an ordeal of every social situation. The man turned graciously to the other two ladies and introduced them as Anita and Gail. Two pairs of eyes inspected the new arrival who sat awkwardly twisting her hands; quickly took in the elfin prettiness, the straight-backed poise, the flinching ocean-deep eyes.
‘And what do you do in life, Melissande?’ asked Anita conversationally in soft, highly-cultured tones. The enquirer was vividly attractive with a carefully disordered mass of butter-coloured hair and sky-blue eyes pellucid with intelligence.
‘I-I’m training as a classical dancer,’ mumbled Melissande meekly, annoyed with herself for blushing but sensing the contempt of the one called Gail who, after her initial scrutiny, had turned away as though it were beneath her dignity to show favour to a mere beginner. The Magister’s shrewd glance, observing this and much more, remained impassive. Gail was aggressively appealing in a sultry way, her buxom figure hardly disguised by the trendy shapelessness of her dress, the out-thrust bodice swollen by full heavy breasts. Her wavy hair was long and coal-black, her feline features plump and restless, with an autocratic glare in dark ovoid eyes which betrayed a fascinating dash of oriental somewhere in her ancestry.
The Magister’s voice purred into the mounting silence. ‘Anita is a solicitor, soon to be called to the Bar,’ he informed Melissande. ‘And Gail is a gifted fashion designer who runs her own business. The two in the chapel completing their weekly penance are Michele and Tracey. One is an unemployed social worker, the other a bank teller.’
Melissande was becoming increasingly affected by a curious thrilling tension in the atmosphere. Her mouth felt dry, and she sipped more tea. ‘Penance?’ she echoed, unable to restrain her surprise at the word.
‘Of course you know very little about us,’ said the Magister. ‘The Perfectionists ask nothing of you that you are not prepared to give,’ he went on. ‘You are at all times free to go. The motivation for seeking to achieve a perfect nature and forming thereby the nucleus of an ideal society must come from you. It is your will. Nothing is imposed unless you yourself invite it.’ The strong gaze settled on Anita, who reacted in apparent agitation; then his eyes returned to the new girl. ‘In a moment,’ he informed her quietly, ‘I will take Anita for her contrition and atonement. If you wish, Melissande, I will then take you.’
At this, Gail bridled, her mouth hardening into a line. When the young dancer looked startled he added, ‘I do realise that this is merely an exploratory visit on your part, but making contrition is the best possible way to experience at first-hand how we function.’
‘Well…’ she faltered, ‘I-I’m not sure if I —’
The Magister frowned. ‘There is no provision for negative thoughts in the Perfectionist code,’ he observed with steely gentleness, then turned to address them all. ‘You are the mothers of the next generation,’ he declared, ‘the guides and inspirers of your children’s earliest attitudes. As such, you form the spearhead of our earnest crusade to raise humanity from the pit of moral poverty, cowardly violence, selfish greed and spiritual degeneration into which it has allowed itself to sink. Unless you are all willing to accept the painful consequences of your laxities and base human solecisms now, you cannot help to uplift and purify the vital, coming generation to whom you collectively hold the key!’ The burning gaze fell once more on the statuesque solicitor, and his voice sank to a murmur. ‘Are you ready, Anita?’
The blonde girl stood up, and Melissande was able to fully appreciate her beauty. It seemed preposterous that this vibrant young woman could be a solicitor — a profession she had always associated with pedantic pin-striped men with joyless faces. As Anita walked to the door her hips swayed, consciously or unconsciously seductive, and her sharp yet slumbrous blue eyes smouldered with strange excitement. Her face, a little too round for classical beauty, was enticingly watchable, the full lips constantly mobile as if seeking phantom kisses. Anita exuded sex-appeal, and as she vanished from the room behind the Magister, Melissande couldn’t help wondering how the male in the man could fail to be aroused by her.
After the door had closed a silence grew between the aloof fashion designer and the shy young dancer. ‘Er, excuse me,’ ventured Melissande after some while. ‘Wh-what did he mean by “painful consequences”?’
Gail was a busy, talented lady. Her drive for success was rooted in a need for self-perfection. In her view the road to this did not lie in consorting with less elevated mortals such as this hesitant slip of a thing. Fixing the dancer with a brief look in which pity and scorn were intermixed, she snapped: ‘I expect you’ll find out soon enough. Now if you’ll forgive me I must prepare.’ At this, Gail turned snootily away and closed her eyes in dramatically devout contemplation, ignoring the girl completely.
Being so obviously snubbed, Melissande felt terrible. Several times she thought she would get up and go, yet some instinct held her there. She was imprisoned by her own self-conscious thoughts. The antique long-case clock tocked on, the tea grew cold.
Some 25 minutes later the door opened and Anita stumbled in, ashen-faced, her clothing disordered as if it had been removed and replaced in great haste. Without a word or a look she collected her bag and hurriedly left the building, clearly in great distress.
‘Melissande?’ The Magister was there, his voice a polite query with no hint of compulsion or threat. What on earth was the matter with Anita? Painful consequences? Gail was glaring, greatly indignant not to have been given priority.
Uncomfortably aware of the other’s resentment, Melissande stood up apprehensively and left the room. She followed the dazzling-robed figure along a passage and down a flight of stone steps. At the bottom of these he opened another door and led the mystified girl into a basement room illuminated by many candles and scented with joss-sticks. Melissande stopped, and stared. Dominating this room was a magnificent confessional box, ornately carved and of great antiquity, its two sections enclosed by faded velvet curtains; and so strongly did this imposing structure take the girl’s attention that she barely noticed another piece of seasoned carpentry standing in a nearby corner. This resembled a hurdle on trestled legs, with a leather padded cross-beam some three feet high. Just as Melissande’s bemused eyes found it the Magister said in his calm voice, ‘Do you still wish to take contrition?’
The girl hesitated, then nodded with a tight little smile on her pretty elfin features, her chestnut hair burnished by the strange wavering light. From the gravity of his expression she knew that whatever the ritual entailed was extremely serious, and that this man was utterly sincere. She could not deny that she found his presence disturbingly attractive, and perhaps for this reason was able to allow curiosity to overcome her extreme diffidence. Yet her vital being seemed to be held in his inner magnetic embrace, his eyes penetrating her soul.
He indicated an alcove, which she entered. On a hook inside hung a grey gown of the kind the weeping girls in the chapel had been wearing. Remembering this, Melissande fingered the fabric doubtfully.
‘All who make contrition must humbly wear the gown,’ came his voice. ‘The clothes associated with your everyday life must not be worn, so kindly remove them.’
‘Ev-everything?’ she faltered.
‘As you were when you came into the world, so must you be beneath the gown.’ Melissande swallowed hard. It was, she thought, a little odd, but scarcely different from changing for dancing. The girl stripped swiftly and pulled on the gown. It hung loosely, bringing up goose-bumps on the nude flesh beneath. In a way, it was a little exciting. Self-consciously she stepped back into the room.
‘Go into the Contrition Box and kneel beside the speaking grille,’ the Magister now instructed. And so she did, easing somewhat warily into the curtained gloom and sinking to her knees. She could smell Anita’s perfume. That glamorous creature had so recently knelt here, as naked under the gown as she. What had been said or done to upset her so profoundly?
The Magister’s voice was suddenly strong and clear in Melissande’s ear. ‘You are here,’ it said, ‘to come to terms with the frailties of your flesh and try to transcend them. As womankind you must know how prone you are to waywardness and temptation, to evil thoughts and malicious cruelty, deceit and foulness of mind.’ At first the girl found it hard not to giggle, but unpalatable though his words were they held a chilling truth which killed her smile. ‘Open your soul to me, Melissande,’ coaxed the throbbing tones. ‘Begin by saying what has truly dissatisfied you about yourself during the past few days.’
For a while Melissande had no idea what to say. And then, from some previously unknown mental reservoir, the words began to trickle, then rush as though a dam had been breached by a silver sword of light: an admission of laziness at ballet training, her hurtful rudeness to a friend, malevolent thoughts towards those who sought to improve her, little lies she had told to avoid trouble. None of the offences was serious, yet collectively they were a source of not-inconsiderable guilt to the highly sensitive girl, a guilt which Melissande needed deeply to have assuaged. Merely declaring them like this, however, seemed scarcely enough; and when she had finished she continued to kneel without hope — for now, the girl felt sure, this quasi-priest would intone a few meaningless words of absolution and she would go home and forget the whole idea.
She heard him leave his side of the Contrition Box. ‘Come out here, please,’ he said. Melissande did so, and watched the Magister cross the room and select what looked like a scrap of cloth from a cupboard. ‘Do you wish to receive atonement?’ he now asked gravely, returning to her.
The girl gulped. Atonement? She supposed it would be a mild telling-off. All right, best to get the charade over with. She gave a weak smile, and nodded.
‘Very well. Put these on, please.’ The girl took the piece of lightweight fabric he handed her, and not till she had returned to the sanctuary of the alcove did she discover it to be a tissue-thin pair of thigh-length Victorian drawers, flimsily silken and virtually transparent with age and wear. She lifted the gown and pulled the drawers up her legs with some difficulty, for they were extremely tight. She was mystified as to their purpose, for it wasn’t cold in there. Once she had smoothed them into place the old-fashioned garment felt slinkily cool against her intimate zones, and from the manner in which it sleekly hugged her hips and thighs and clung with embarrassingly thrilling snugness to the inward curves of her buttocks, she imagined that these drawers had been especially tailored to fit her bottom like a second skin.
Rather flushed now, and slightly alarmed, Melissande hastily pulled the gown back in place and represented herself. The Magister at once took her hand and led her to the corner where the hurdle contraption stood. The young dancer stared in puzzlement at it. She could feel the power and heat of his hand spreading tingles through her. Then he released her. ‘As this is your first atonement,’ he explained, ‘I will allow you to wear the drawers. Having identified a few of your more negative traits and destructive behaviour patterns, I have decided that six strokes will serve on this occasion.’
‘I b-beg your pardon?’ stammered the girl. ‘S-strokes?’
The Magister frowned, and surveyed the slight, trembling figure thoughtfully. Barefoot in the gown, the large soulful eyes a-glitter with flames, her deliciously pretty face a mask of girlish alarm, the new girl looked waif-like and vulnerable. ‘Have you ever been chastised before?’ he asked softly.
‘Chastised?’ she whispered in horror. ‘Surely you don’t mean…?’ Blood rushed to her cheeks, then drained to paleness. ‘Well no,’ she gasped. ‘No-one ever.’ Indignation flared, lifting her graceful head. ‘Certainly not!’
‘Do you wish in your heart to become a Perfectionist, Melissande?’ he asked, not unkindly.
‘Not if it means that,’ the girl declared firmly. ‘I had no idea…’
‘Then you may leave,’ he told her calmly. She knew she should run. Run now. Quickly. And yet she hesitated. The Magister’s eyes held hers, hypnotic as whirlpools in whose depths smiled incredibly beautiful things beyond immediate comprehension. Melissande was breathing hard as thought struggled with thought. No-one had ever laid hand on her. It was inconceivable that a complete stranger should do so now. And yet…
‘I don’t want to leave,’ she whispered.
‘Then raise your gown to the waist,’ came the instruction, gentle yet unopposable, ‘and bend forward across the beam with your head well down.’
Melissande could scarcely believe it was happening. Thrills squirmed in her bowels, it was like a dream. The decision had been hers entirely. This was unthinkable! Cheeks flaming she lifted the gown up her slender, exquisite legs, all the way up, disclosing more and more of the naked dancer’s limbs, up and up to where the agile thighs swelled to the girlish hips, the tightly-clenched posteriors in their flimsy dressing so exposed, so exposed! Delirious with embarrassment she stood up on the little step and stretched obediently forward across the padded beam with a weird sigh, gripping the lower struts on its further side. The position was insufferably humiliating — her face, close to the floor, staring briefly at her shins before the gown rustled down the steep slope of her back to blot them from sight, the tight-packed mounds of her pert young bottom forming the topmost apex. Never had she been more conscious of her arse, not even when catching boy dancers watching her sinuous body at the training bar.
‘Don’t hurt me,’ she pleaded in a tiny voice.
For a moment the Magister surveyed the ripe hillocks so snugly encased in the whipping drawers; then went to a marble-topped table on which lay a fine-bristled ceremonial brush known as an aspergillum. This he dipped into a silver chalice of purest spring water and returned to the girl, who was now making little entreating moans from her abjectly doubled-over position. ‘Before the atonement I will anoint you,’ he announced devoutly, spreading a hand on the tissue-thin silk and reverently cupping each buttock in turn.
‘This crude area of your body,’ he intoned, ‘through which purification’s flames will blaze, is the very obverse of higher thought and spiritual enhancement. It bears the brunt of the physical shocks necessary to attain Perfection — and as such, in the Perfectionist creed, represents the gates to the soul.’ So saying, the Magister flicked water with the aspergillum on to the flesh-hugging drawers, and Melissande shuddered wildly at the cool kissing licks of the bristles which dampened the cloth so that it sucked each individual bottom-cheek and showed clearly the pinkly pretty virgin buttocks through the wet silk.
Then, with an air of firm duty, the Magister picked up an oval-bladed paddle, clamped his other hand on the small of the girl’s back, and swung the wooden surface sharply against the straining target with a loud whap. The blow wasn’t hard, but Melissande screamed! Never could she have imagined such pain! It sprang into and possessed each tender nether-cheek like jets of flame. The paddle drew back and smacked in again, appearing to bounce off the springy cushions of caressable flesh. The girl called out hoarsely, inarticulately. Crack! The paddle impacted for a third time on the wet, drum-taut cloth which scarcely protected her bottom, and Melissande loosed a shriek. SMACK! The blade landed harder this time, firm and square across its daintily quivering target, and the dancer screeched through lips slack from shock, her pretty head jerking from side to side as she kicked her feet in spasmic convulsion.
But the remorseless paddle swung back yet again, hissed through the incense-scented air and splatted emphatically against the meatier zone at the girl’s thigh-tops with an almighty spank, igniting fresh fields of fiery sensation. Her anguished howl seemed to make the candle-flames shiver. ‘N-No more! No!’ she wailed. The Magister cocked his arm judiciously for the final stroke, a righteous zeal burnishing his eyes, for he sensed that this doe-like creature could be brought in time to the highest levels of enlightenment. She was pleading with shrill little bleats as the Magister ran a testing hand over the smarting target; then dampened the diaphanous membrane once more, almost lovingly, with the aspergillum, and swiped a final blast across the girlish bottom that had never in its life before been so used.
He had to help the young dancer from the whipping-beam and pull her gown back into place. She was shaking violently, her cheeks and eyes as soaked and heated as the flesh inside the drawers. He felt greatly encouraged by her utterly chastened expression.
‘Come with me.’ Melissande limped in the Magister’s wake, hanging her head. He led her out of the Contrition Room to a little side-chapel with velvet hangings, where he set her on her knees. ‘I want you to remain here and ponder on the reasons for your chastisement,’ he told her, ‘and on how your entire mode of thought and self-conduct can be radically altered to enhance your life and the lives of those around you. You are here to be transformed to purity, ecstasy and light. Believe me, Melissande, this goal is attainable.’
At the doorway he paused, and added mysteriously, ‘If I should call, come at once.’ Then he left the chastised girl to her penance, and returned to summon the impatiently waiting Gail.
Minutes later the buxom fashion designer stepped into the Contrition Box and knelt devoutly, having shed her day-clothes and donned the penitential gown. When the deep voice invited her to speak, her words came gratefully, pregnant with self-dismay.
‘Oh, Magister,’ Gail moaned dramatically, ‘I try so hard to rise above the faults which hold me back. But this week I slipped from the high standards you have helped me to expect of myself. Please punish me as I deserve, drive these weaknesses from me!’ Gail proceeded to unburden herself of a catalogue of failings such as letting down a colleague, using another’s design idea and claiming it as her own, negative thoughts, lack of charity, vulgar extravagance.
When she had completed her contrition a heavy silence grew. A stern, sombre silence in which guilt crawled into every crevice of her soul. She heard him leave the box and cross to the punishment cupboard. Then he spoke.
‘Come out!’ His voice had a quality like thunder, and the shapely woman shivered. She wanted to feel his powerful presence dominating her, his hard hands holding her down, flailing her flesh. She stepped from the box and quailed before him. Her sensual olive-toned features and black eyes with their oriental slant appeared like an ivory carving in the candle-light, the lips parted to show pearly glints. She was panting slightly in suppressed excitement, her large breasts billowing against the cloak, nipples stiffly defined. Her insides seemed to melt when she saw the leather tawse he had selected — and gave a little yelp as he grasped a shoulder and shoved her stumbling into the middle of the room.
‘What keeps you grounded, Gail,’ he declared coldly, ‘is pride — misplaced pride.’
This she had not expected. ‘Pride?’ queried the designer, puzzled. ‘I’m sure I can’t think what you mean!’
‘It surrounds you with disharmony,’ said the Magister tartly. ‘As long as your offensive attitude towards those you consider “beneath” you is maintained, you cannot ever hope to achieve Perfection.’
Gail was nettled. ‘In my business,’ she expostulated, ‘you need to be tough to succeed! The weak and the meek get flattened. If I’m proud, I’ve earned that feeling by guts and damned hard work! It’s against my nature to be crawling and humble to wimps and idiots, so don’t ask it of me!’
His measured words came back at her, crisp and chill. ‘Until you are able to embrace humility and humiliation,’ he intoned, his steady gaze challenging her autocratic glare, ‘you will remain the brittle, cramped-minded hoyden that you are.’
‘What?’ Gail was gaping in shock.
‘Yes!’ he rapped. ‘You are an over-proud, haughty young madam — and the first part of your atonement will stress the need to expel this distorting imperfection from your nature, for with humility and loss of face begins the true quiet strength and inner light which will lead you the way to Perfection.’ The man raised his voice in command. ‘Bend over and touch your toes!’
Gail’s eyes had hardened to match his own. No-one, not even he, had ever dared speak to her like this. She was extremely angry. ‘No,’ she snorted. ‘No, I won’t. Not this time!’
The Magister stepped forward till he towered above her. ‘Then, for your own good,’ he said earnestly, ‘I must make you.’
Astounded, she protested: ‘It’s against Perfectionist principles to impose against will!’
‘But not,’ returned the man, ‘against our principles to save when there is a chance of salvation. Bend over!’ The young woman cried out as he seized her in a powerful grip and forced her to double forward at the waist till her head was level with her knees. Amid a storm of shrieks and struggles his strength prevailed: in a moment he had gathered up the gown and flung it up over Gail’s bare back to expose two large, smoothly naked buttocks, soft and invitingly rounded, the pale light quivering on the lush cushions of pliant flesh.
With an expression of unrelenting sternness the Magister drew back a well-muscled arm and slashed the leather down on the twin-globed target with the deeply-cleft divide. Gail exhaled a groan at the full-blooded impact, and tried to heave her body upright.
‘Down!’ he roared. The man’s power and will were unopposable. The tawse sang again through the air and struck home, imprinting a second burning double oblong on the ivory skin. Then up and down, biting and retreating, smacking and thwacking against the rosy moons with fierce gusto; and when the stalwart woman began to buckle at the knees he wrapped an arm around her middle to hold her tormented body steady.
Crack, crack, thrash. The volatile leather spat and sang ceaselessly as Gail gasped out shrill cries, all anger blasted from her system by the first few searing strokes, the split-tailed demon of pain beating a tempestuous rhythm on the broad womanly bottom — till Gail began to screech and squeal in what sounded suspiciously like pleasure.
The Magister stopped the beating. The full-seated buttocks were blushing angrily, and he kept her bending while he tested each with his broad palms, expertly fingering the raised weals caused by the tawse. All was well, he decided — this lusty young female could certainly take more.
‘Now,’ he declared, ‘your real punishment this evening will be for something you neglected to mention in the Contrition Box.’
Gail’s voice sounded strangled as she laboured to catch her breath. ‘I’m sure I admitted everything of importance, Magister,’ she protested.
‘No you did not,’ he retorted. ‘As I think you well know.’ He had brought forward a low padded stool some two feet high and three feet square. ‘Take off your gown completely,’ he commanded, ‘and resume a standing posture.’ Gail did so, breathing rapidly as she straightened up to stand naked in the restless light, her magnificently spheroid breasts swinging free, nipples jutting like bullets, the supremely globulous bottom-cheeks raging with ecstatic fires. Pointing at the low stool the Magister now growled impassively: ‘Lie on your back on there, and raise both legs in the air.’
‘Pardon?’
‘Do as I say!’ he thundered. During the tawsing Gail’s defiance had collapsed, and so she lay back in trepidation, feeling her spine and shoulders sink against the chill leather as she lifted her legs in an ungainly manner. When she was in position the Magister strode to the door, opened it and called out loudly: ‘Melissande!’
And, with a horror no chastisement could inspire, Gail knew what was about to happen. She tried to struggle up off the stool, but his warning glare froze her there. ‘No, Magister,’ she pleaded, ‘I couldn’t bear it. Not the new girl! She — she’s a neophyte…’
The Magister nodded sagely. ‘Had you been contrite about your disgracefully overbearing attitude towards this hesitant girl a little earlier, you would have been spared this,’ he bit out. ‘But perhaps at the hands of a neophyte you will at last begin to learn the virtues of humility. And Melissande may benefit by learning what it is like to be totally positive.’
Melissande’s penance was interrupted by the man’s call. She had heard the noises of Gail’s chastisement, the frighteningly rapid cracks and strange cries. Her nerves jumped with dreadful thrills as she rose and returned, still gowned and barefoot, to the room of candle-flame and shadows. As the dancing girl entered she was amazed and nonplussed to see the haughty fashion lady sprawled stark naked on her back on a stool, the darkly intriguing features contorted, the black hair brushing the floor just beneath her head. The Magister took a long cane from a selection hanging in the tall cupboard, and Melissande could only stare in astonishment as he handed the implement to her.
‘Now, Melissande,’ he said evenly, ‘this woman, your sister Perfectionist, requires to be soundly chastised. By you, a neophyte.’
‘M-me?’ The girl was astounded.
The Magister nodded gravely. ‘As always here, the punishment will be with love, never rancour. Stand forward, please.’
The young dancer gripped the cane in a dainty fist and trod trimly up to the stool, staring down in fascination at the fashion designer, observing in a daze the mortified tears squeezing from the tight-shut lids. ‘No… no-o-o.’ Gail was whimpering so heartrendingly that Melissande made to query the extraordinary request. But when the Magister took up a stance immediately behind Gail, grasped her ankles one in each hand and heaved her legs up over her head to hold them there in the most appallingly abasing position for any woman, Melissande had no further doubts of what he required her to do.
The dancer licked her lips and turned her wide pretty eyes on the upthrust moons so temptingly — yes, temptingly, she breathlessly realised — presented. Every vestige of the snooty designer’s dignity had been taken from her. The great breasts shivered like two cream blancmanges where she lay on her back, the sturdy legs pointing tensely ceilingwards, her feminine sensibilities burning in shock at such humiliating exposure. Melissande’s own pert bottom-cheeks still smarted from the paddling they had received, and she was surprised at how far from unpleasant the sensation was. The delicious tingling warmth that had stolen over her body filled her with a curiously suspended rapture. Experimentally the girl flicked the thin cane, which swished and quivered in a way that brought choking thrills to her throat.
‘Proceed with the caning,’ came the commanding voice, and Melissande hesitated no more. Raising the cane above the full, lush buttocks she brought it somewhat tentatively down to strike with a swish and splat across the inverted buttocks, ‘Harder, much harder — but remember, with love,’ instructed the Magister, locking the squirming ankles in the vice of his arms. And Melissande did. Bracing her frail-seeming shoulders the pretty dancing-girl swung back a graceful arm and swept the cane against the springy globes with a vigorous thwack. A bright line at once flamed across the curved cushions of flesh, and Gail gave a yowl like a cat that has had its tail stepped on. The girl hesitated, alarmed at the mark and the terrible cry. ‘Again!’ commanded the Magister. ‘It is for the good. And harder — as hard as you will!’
In a haze of duty and pleasure in which his voice became a clarion call of all that was right and true and good, Melissande obeyed. Lifting the cane, feeling it quiver and wobble, she swung it sharply against the upraised rude arse with its livid mark; and she shrilled in sheer startlement as the stick struck home with a jarring, slicing, meaty judder which seemed to fill her veins with light. A hoarse shout exploded from Gail as a second crimson streak flared across her bare bottom.
The young dancer looked enchantingly spritely and sweetly beautiful in the intimate cosy light, her eyes pools of startled innocence as she wondered if she should slop — for the young woman she was, incredibly, thrashing with a cane was in evident distress. Yet Melissande’s deeper instincts informed her that, with the Magister’s saintly presence seeming to bless her every breath and movement, she was merely the instrument of a greater good, and that beyond this ephemeral pain and abasement lay a scarce-to-be-dreamed-of joy.
Gail was in a nightmare of embarrassment, appalled at being chastised by anyone but her revered Magister. Yet the girl seemed to have become infused with his spirit, magnificently clean and uplifting. Wielded by her dainty hand the cane took on life of its own, the candle-light catching its supple shaft as it sped up and down, cracking, snapping, biting, scorching, searing the helplessly upthrust buttocks. Again and again the cane swished through the air and struck in with solid thwacks; and through the inverted arch of her upstretched legs Gail saw, in a sparkling nimbus of hot salt tears, that her nimble and lovely chastiser seemed to be dancing, shifting as if choreographed from angle to angle to deliver a full-weighted blow on every square centimetre of the blazing, curvaceous targets. And then it seemed, as the searing concussions continued in a thrashing, hypnotic rhythm, that the girl was a conductor conducting a symphony of slashing, cleansing pain. God, the little bitch was strong!
Gail was roaring-crying now, and Melissande’s eyes were glittering intently in the smoky radiance as the cane she wielded beat out a crimson network on the fleshy globes. Swish-crack, swish-thud, swish-splat: the cane’s staccato voice snapped remorselessly on, slowing as the energy drained from Melissande’s arm.
‘Enough!’ called the Magister, and the young dancer stood weakly back, breathing deeply. In a daze of self-amazement she watched the man release Gail’s ankles. At once the fashion designer squirmed over and lay across the stool on her stomach, hiding her face in shame. The Magister was satisfied. He knew how difficult this particular atonement had been for the proud, talented lady — but he also knew that she was able to take a great deal of punishment, and that this evening’s work would undoubtedly serve to lift her a little higher up the long ladder to Perfection. He went to the punishment cupboard and brought out a tube of some substance which he handed to the new girl with an infinitely gentle smile, then left the two alone.
The tube contained a salve, and Melissande realised at once what it was for. Gail still knelt in unspeakable humiliation across the stool, her roasting buttocks thrust out as though seeking forgiveness. The dancing-girl squeezed out some salve and applied it with cool palms and fingers to the twin tumuli of lividly-marked buttock-flesh, tenderly caressing, easing the agony from the heart of each soft buttock till Gail’s sobs ceased, and moans of relief began.
At last the fashion designer steeled herself to turn and look at her chastiser. Their eyes shyly met. ‘Thank you,’ she said to Melissande, and managed a remorseful smile. Then she took the hand which had wielded the cane with such zest, and kissed it with extraordinary tenderness. ‘Thank you, Melissande dear,’ whispered Gail. ‘Thank you for caning my bottom so thoroughly. I’m sorry for being so sniffy with you.’ Again she smiled. ‘It used to be a fault of mine.’
‘It’s strange,’ came Melissande’s sweetly piping tones, ‘but while I was thrashing you I was filled with love for you. And I don’t feel hesitant any more, or shy. He’s a wonderful person, almost unearthly.’ The girl blushed prettily. ‘He made me wear some very tight Victorian panties and bend across that beam. He spanked my bottom with a paddle. I’d never been smacked before. It still hurts. Look…’ Melissande turned her back, bent forward and lifted the gown to exhibit her own reddened buttocks.
‘You poor thing,’ said Gail. She got up and sat gingerly on the stool. ‘Come across my knees,’ she murmured, ‘and let me soothe that darling bottom of yours like you’ve soothed mine.’ Melissande did so with a sigh of pleasure, and allowed Gail to work the salve gently into the springy globes in sisterly comfort. It seemed hardly more than a formality, for the sweet little rump was scarcely marked; but from the way the pretty dancer began to writhe her stomach against the other’s lap with weird little grunts she was evidently deriving much soul-benefit from the contact — so much so that the happy Gail felt obliged to give the girl a couple of salutary slaps to quiet her.
It was dark when Melissande left the Perfectionist chapel. A full moon washed the roads and fields with silver radiance. Never before had she felt so complete and alive. Guilt and inadequacy had melted away, and it felt as though her spirit had been swept by a cleansing wind. Something rather special had happened to Gail too, because when they had parted with warm embraces, the fashion designer had been radiant.
But what about Anita? mused the girl as she cycled back into town. After that golden young woman’s traumatic session with the Magister she had left in a rush, desperately distressed. What atonement had been given or promised? Or had she left for ever? Somehow, Melissande thought not, and that the statuesque solicitor lady had only just begun the punishment which her un-Perfectionist behaviour had provoked.
Melissande’s bottom throbbed and tingled on the hard saddle. Yes, she would go back — for the doors to a new life had opened and let her in. The way, she knew, would be hard: there would be pain and penance, self-denial, tears. But above and beyond it all there shone like a beacon a haven of joy and light, the ultimate state of spiritual rapture any human can aspire to: Perfection.
Sweetly, Melissande began to sing.

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