I’ll tell you what I’d do, if I had the time and money. I’d buy up one of those abandoned malls, the sprawling, multi-acre kind that litter the country, that had their own on-ramps and used to be filled with cruising tweens and rent-a-cops; Mrs. Field’s Cookies and Sears and cheap-o ear piercing joints and are now just a waste of real estate.
I’d gut the place. I’d brick up all the doors. All except two, one on each side of the building. Those two I’d replace with oversized metal security doors, painted black, with big yellow signs on them, one labeled “ASTERION” and the other labeled “ARACHNE”. I’d install electronic locks on them, so I could control them from my computer, right here, where I’m sitting.
I’d knock down all the interior walls. Demolish all the shoppes, all the movie theatres, the food court, all the potted plants and decorative fountains, pull down all the drop ceilings and inoffensive public works of art. Maybe I’d leave a fountain, trickling away in the semi-darkness; it’d be kind of creepy.
I’d design up a maze, draw it out on graph paper, one square equals five feet. The maze would have two entrances, one at each door, and it would wind through the building; up and down stairs, full of dead-ends and wrong turns and long passages to nowhere. In the heart of the building there would be a central chamber, which each half of the maze would eventually lead to.
I’d have workmen construct it, stud walls and three-quarter inch plywood, floor to ceiling. I’d bring in illegal laborers from Thailand, pay off the local inspectors. There would be low-level light throughout, compact fluorescents, a perpetual twilight. I’d install security cameras everywhere, fancy high-end models, super high resolution, quality optics, the kind you can control with your keyboard: pan and tilt, zoom in and out.
The central room would be more brightly lit, with recessed dimmable LED fixtures. There would be a big, industrial-sized refrigerator, stocked with food. Racks and racks of freeze-dried and canned food, everything from diced pineapples to Meals, Ready to Eat. There would be a microwave, a sink, some dishes and utensils. There would be a bathroom, a toilet and a shower with two towels but no curtain over in the corner. There would be a futon mattress and a cabinet filled with every sex toy I could think of. There would be a full-length mirror that took up most of one wall, the kind with a pair of angled panels that displays three images at once. There’d be a chin-up bar, a weight machine, a treadmill; and reams and reams of pornography. I’d stock a library with all kinds of ink-on-paper porn: everything from the Kama Sutra to Anais Nin; everything from Playboy to Hustler magazine, and everything in between.
When it was all done, I’d send my carpenters home to Cambodia or wherever it was they came from, pockets stuffed full of cash. I’d bribe the local fire marshal, it never takes much; he wouldn’t even take a peek inside. Then I’d settle in for the wait, cameras trained on the two outer doors rigged with motion detectors, wired straight into my computer.
It might take months or even years. The parking lot would sprout brambles and poison ivy, scrub oak and skinny pine. The walls would crawl with graffiti and kudzu. Eventually a likely prospect would come along.
Oh, there would be others before him. Homeless dudes looking for shelter; groups of teens out scrounging around for trouble; looters and vandals and petty criminals in search of scrap. They’d all find the doors locked, impregnable.
This one would be different. Say he’s a teenager, a smart kid, but a bit of a loner. An aspiring poet maybe, from a broken home, the kind who always looks like he needs a haircut, and slouches around in hand-me-down jeans that are a size or two too big.
He comes furtively snooping around one night. Maybe he’s just had another fight with his dad. Maybe he wants to find someplace quiet to write, maybe he is looking for somewhere to have a smoke, or to jerk off, I don’t know. Anyway, he walks up to that big metal door labeled ‘ASTERION’, and when he tentatively nudges it, it swings smoothly and silently open on oiled hinges.
He steps inside, and the door swings shut behind him with a click. Being a sensible guy, he checks the handle, and finds it locked. He might spend a little while trying to get it to open again, but he’ll have no luck. The door is locked, and nothing short of an oxy-acetylene torch or a large-scale battering ram will open it again without my say-so.
Eventually, he gives up on the door. His eyes adjust to the dim lighting. He starts to explore, and I track him on my cameras as he wanders up and down the empty corridors; past the eerie fountain tinkling away in the semi-darkness, where he stops for a drink because he’ll be thirsty by then; groping along passages that all look the same, coming to dead ends, retracing his steps, getting more and more profoundly lost.
In the end, of course, he finds the central chamber. By then he is famished; thirsty, disoriented and exhausted. He slurps water straight out of the tap and scarfs down one of the energy bars that I had conveniently left sitting on the counter, and then he falls asleep fully clothed on top of the futon. I leave him there, make a run to the Seven-Eleven to stock up on junk food: chips and salsa and pretzel bits and Cheetos; and spend the next few hours padding around my apartment in my bunny slippers, nervous as a cat, jumped up on caffeine, just waiting for my motion sensor to tell me he was up and about.
I imagine that when he wakes up, he starts to explore his surroundings. He probably won’t stray too far from the room at first, for fear of getting lost. I haven’t done anything stupid, like supply him with a ball of twine or a bag of M&Ms to make a trail with. After poking around the maze a little bit, and it pretty much all looks the same, he retreats to the central chamber. He examines the contents. Makes himself a meal from the supply of freeze-dried and canned foods. He leafs through some of the pornography, and gives the cabinet of sex toys a puzzled look; there are dildos, butt-plugs and vibrators of every size, shape, and description. He holds up a string of anal beads, looking charmingly quizzical; probably not his cup of tea, and certainly far outside his realm of experience. God, I’d love to know what he’s thinking about now!
Eventually he takes a shower – at least there’s hot water, and plenty of it! – and boys being boys, he’ll probably jerk off.
He has a nice body. Smooth, slender, almost like a girl. He could have been an athlete: a long distance runner, or a rock climber, or a gymnast, if he’d ever put his mind to it. He has a little bit of fluffy, sandy body hair, and a surprisingly big dick. I wonder what he smells like.
I zoom in with my hidden security camera, admiring his hardness, watching the way he touches himself, the way he starts slowly, almost tenderly, before the excitement overtakes him, and his hand is ratcheting up and down his cock almost too fast for the camera to pick up. I feel a warm rush of satisfaction when his face is drawn up tight into a twisted grimace of pleasure as he orgasms, and his semen jets out from his swollen cock in a beautiful arc, splashing across his belly so crisp and clear that I can almost reach out and touch it. I watch, glowing, as he lays there panting, his tired cock slowly diminishing. Maybe he plays idly with the puddle of come as he recovers, dipping his finger in the pearlescent lake and spreading it about. Finally he cleans off and resumes exploring.
In time, he traverses the entire maze. There is nothing particularly remarkable, no lurking Minotaur, no Shelob, nothing but raw plywood and CFLs. He makes his way back to the place he came in from; eventually he finds the other entrance. Both doors are locked. He might bang on them for a while, he might scream silently against the cold steel, but it doesn’t make any difference. They stay impassively shut.
He will commit the entire maze to memory. It doesn’t matter, there’s nothing there, no secret passages, no cryptic message, no fiendish riddle that will unlock a hidden door to freedom. Sometimes; not often, but sometimes; he wonders if there actually is an outside, or if that was just a dream, and the maze is all there is.
I never get tired of watching him masturbate. It feels like an act of intimacy. I know his body by heart. He usually does it about once a day; sometimes more, sometimes less. Time doesn’t mean very much in there; the lights dim in some approximation of circadian rhythms, but the days quickly blur together.
I always feel my heart rate increase when he whips it out, coaxes it to full erect hardness. He experiments with the toys: I made sure to stock the place with plenty of lube. He is tentative at first, barely tickling his anus with the smallest, least intimidating of the dildos. Apparently he likes the sensation. His dick seems to curve up and out from his body as he eases the toy inside. His forehead is wrinkled with concentration. He fucks himself, and I can see his cock bobbing and waggling, he is watching himself in the mirror, and when he orgasms, the come seems to shoot halfway across the room.
Eventually he moves on to the bigger, scarier looking toys. He spends hours sprawled out across the bed, hard-on pointing up at the ceiling, balls drawn up tight, carefully working an enormous dildo up his ass. He inserts a large butt-plug, and walks around with a boner all day, plug in his asshole, just torturing himself. He leafs through the porn, hands on his knees, dick pointing straight down, hard and thick, until he has memorized every single picture. He’ll even practice deep-throating the dildos and occasionally lick his own come out of his palm.
He grows a fringy little beard, and when his hair gets long enough he pulls it back into a pony tail, binding it like a bonsai. Sometimes he writes feverishly in a little spiral notebook, erasing and scratching out what he’d written before until the pages are thin as onion skins. I’ll never know what he is writing; he cups the notebook in his hand and hunches over it like a secret agent. Otherwise he passes the time by reading, jerking off, lifting weights, and doing sit-ups and chin-ups and running on the treadmill. It becomes a routine for him: work out, jerk off, shower, read, nap, repeat. It may be the only thing that keeps him sane. He gets skinnier. All the extraneous fat melts away. The old, shaggy clothes that he brought with him hang off him like rags. He mostly doesn’t bother to wear them; I keep the temperature inside comfortably warm. He is almost unrecognizable as the boy who wandered in. He is ripped, a far-out warrior monk, a Jedi recluse.
Outside, the unemployment rate continues to soar. The suburbs whither, atrophy, withdraw into themselves. The shell of the old mall starts to seem more and more like an organic part of the landscape. The parking lot has become a jungle. Visitors to the abandoned shopping mall are fewer and further between. And yet they still come.
Eventually the right one comes along. She is older, in her thirties, maybe pushing forty. She keeps her dishwater blonde hair piled up inside a battered blue baseball cap.
She has an MFA in sculpture, but no job. Maybe she still lives with her parents; maybe she squats in one of the innumerable half-finished McMansions that litter the country like toadstools. She wears a lot of black, and walks aimlessly through the woods and fields in an ankle-length skirt and hiking boots, looking for something but she doesn’t know just what.
When she finds the door labeled ‘ARACHNE’, she pauses. Thinks it over. Maybe she walks away, but she comes back, the next day or the day after. She finds a comfortable place to sit in the sun, and just looks at the door as she eats the cheese sandwich she packed for herself. There is something disturbingly significant about that black door, menacing or monumental. The proportions are off; it is slightly too large for comfort, and it is not marred by a single scratch of graffiti, though the walls around it are an overlapping tapestry of spray paint and markers.
She seems to make a decision. She gets up, puts the remains of her lunch away in her pack for later, dusts off the crumbs from her dress. She tries the door. It swings easily inward. She looks around one last time, and steps inside. The door swings closed behind her.
I can almost hear the click as it shuts. She doesn’t appear particularly surprised to find it locked. She tries for a minute or two, just to be sure, but of course the door is unyielding. She composes herself, shoulders her pack, lets her eyes adjust to the low light, and sets off to explore her surroundings.
It takes her a long time to find the central chamber. The maze was designed that way. The destination is obscured, but inevitable. She must be tired, footsore and hungry and thirsty by the time she finds the room, but it doesn’t show.
He is asleep, nude, on the futon when she enters the room. The lights in the central room are dim right now, in twilight mode, though outside it is early morning. If she is surprised to see a naked young man asleep on the bed before her, she doesn’t show it. This one doesn’t give much away. She sits down, eats the last of her sandwich, drinks water out of the tap, and waits.
I wish I could hear the words they speak to each other when he wakes up and finds her there, but I don’t have microphones in the place. I have that much decency, at least.
He is embarrassed by his nudity; she is amused by it. He covers up, wearing dirty jeans that are three sizes too big and blown out in the knees and butt.
She takes stock of the contents of the room. There is still enough food for many years, even with a population of two. She raises an eyebrow at the cabinet of dildos; he blushes so red I can see it on camera. Apparently she asks if she can use the shower; he steps out of the room while she disrobes.
She doesn’t have a bad body, not at all. She would have been pretty as a twenty-year old. She is a little bit heavy, a little utilitarian. Her breasts are not large, but they aren’t as perky as they once were. She has large, dark areolae, and dimpled nipples. Unbound, her hair falls halfway down her back. Her bottom is wide and rounded, and her legs are thick.
Together, they explore the maze all over again. It has been a long time since he has strayed very far outside the room. What’s the point? There isn’t anything new to find: the fountain still trickles creepily away, a fine layer of green slime spreading across the damp room. The doors are still resolutely locked.
They don’t fuck, certainly not right away. They aren’t really each other’s type. They learn to co-exist. They share the bed, because there is nowhere else comfortable to sleep, but they don’t touch at night. He sleeps in his ancient boxers; she keeps her underwear on. The rest of the time, they divide up the space between them, dancing around each other like fish in an aquarium.
She goes for long walks in the maze, all by herself, searching even though there is nothing to find. She must know that. Maybe this is just a way for them to give each other a little privacy.
Sure enough, probably sooner rather than later, she comes back to the room in time to catch him masturbating. He is lying on the floor, naked, a dildo shoved up his ass, and his hand wrapped around his cock. She freezes. They make eye contact. He doesn’t stop. She stands there for a long moment, a dozen heart beats. Then she turns around and leaves him to it.
She finds a convenient dead end, and sits down with her back against the wall. She piles up her skirt on her lap and masturbates right there, sitting on the floor. She jerks off primly, one hand squeezed between her thighs. Even with my high-tech camera gear, I can’t see any of the goodies. It doesn’t matter: it is a beautiful thing. When she comes, she squeezes her eyes tightly shut and bites down hard on her lower lip.
I wish I could hear what they say to each other, but I feel that I owe them at least that modicum of privacy. In any case, it isn’t long before he is jerking off while she watches. She sits, fully clothed, on the futon mattress while he does his thing. The first time is awkward, tentative, but soon enough he loses his inhibitions. He shows her how he uses the different toys; stretches the act out for an hour or more, balancing himself on the edge; does a shoulder stand so he can jerk off into his own mouth.
When he is done, she always excuses herself, walks out into the maze, sits down in her private corner, and gets herself off with one expertly minimalistic finger. I know he wants to watch her, but either he can’t bring himself to ask, or she won’t let him.
They finally fuck, of course. I am surprised by how long it takes; but given the circumstances, it was pretty much a guarantee. They go straight to the main event, that first time, no fooling around or making out first. It is the first time he has seen her naked, and I try to see her through his eyes. She is flat on her back on the bed, he climbs carefully on top of her, cock jutting out like a figurehead. He is tender about it. His movements are slow and gentle. She responds eagerly, wrapping her limbs around him, pulling him closer. When he has stopped moving, they lie like that together for a long, long time.
It is like a sea wall bursting. Suddenly, they are doing it all over the place, in every way, every day, sometimes more. I can barely keep up with them. I see them, conjoined and bouncing joyously, reflected three times over in the big mirror. The image is etched into my mind like a tattoo.
From my bird’s eye view, I watch their negotiations. He wants to go down on her, she isn’t sure she wants to let him do that. I only figure that out later, of course. I play back the tapes, reconstructing their conversation, making up my own words for them. In the end, he convinces her to try it.
She takes a shower, achingly self-conscious under his watching eyes. His dick is already hard. Surely she must take that as a compliment, a vote of confidence.
She sits on the bed, back against the wall, looking at their triple reflections in the mirror. He lies on his stomach, between her legs. She shuts her eyes and folds her hands behind her head. He is patient. It takes him a long time to bring her there, but when he finally does, the results are spectacular, a flower blooming in fast forward. She writhes and bucks and heaves, caressing his hair as he continues to lick her, staying with her to the very end.
She learns how to suck his dick. I have the impression that she has never participated in oral sex before, or that it has been a long time, and was not an especially pleasant experience the first time around. She starts out tentative, but once she gets going, she is doggedly persistent. That first time, she isn’t able to bring him off; in the end he has to push her away and jerk himself off, spilling his come all over her breasts.
Practice makes perfect, and she is an excellent student. Before too long she is swallowing him whole, taking his entire length and girth into her mouth; jamming wet fingers up his asshole; playing him like a musical instrument.
Slowly, they get kinkier. With much giggling, they try out different poses from the Kama Sutra. They sixty-nine. He fucks her in the ass. She seems to approve; this becomes a regular part of their repertoire. She finally masturbates for him, sitting shyly across from him on the bed, legs just barely spread so that I can see a flash of brown fur and her finger drawing tiny circles until she stiffens and clenches. It makes him so hot that he stands up and masturbates right there, and his come falls on her like a warm summer rain. This only makes her start up again. When they are done, they are both grinning and ravenous.
I don’t know whether they are trying to get her pregnant, or trying to avoid it, but either way it doesn’t happen. Maybe she is too old, maybe they aren’t fertile, maybe that’s just the way the dice roll. It is, I suppose, probably for the best.
When she comes now, she completely lets go. She explodes outward, bursting like a chrysanthemum: fists clenched, hair flying wild, head thrown back, face contorted and red, ecstatic. It is amazing to watch.
Inevitable, they start to grow old together. She has a head start, but as the years go by it matters less and less. They have sex somewhat less frequently, and rather less acrobatically, but it is still just as beautiful.
One day, for no reason in particular, maybe they’d go for a walk hand in hand through the maze. He’d be wearing his ragged old jeans, worn spiral-bound notebook tucked into the back pocket. She’d be wearing her old black skirt, and nothing else. Her hair will have gone grey, but she’d seem taller and leaner. If anything, her breasts would have improved with age; they’d seem larger, rounder, more perfect. Maybe she has just gotten more comfortable with her body as she has gotten older.
The maze will also have aged. It would be darker; many of the fluorescent tubes will have burned out, and some of the ballasts may have gone bad over the years, and would flicker epileptically. The fountain will have slowed to a trickle, choked with algae. There’d be a fine layer of dust coating the floors, and on the cameras I’d be able to see where they have walked like footprints in new snow.
When they got to one of the big steel doors, they’d give it a push, out of long habit more than any kind of expectation. This time, they’d find it unlocked. It would swing outward with a complaining creak of metal on metal as the long unused hinges pivot. They’d step blinking and half-dressed out into the natural light, moving slowly as if in a dream. Outside. It is the same old sun shining down on them, but the world has changed.