By Joshua Ryan
Chapter 5: You Must Take the Tour
A taxi took me to the headquarters of the State Labour Program. It was a couple of miles from the hotel, and on St. Bevons, a couple of miles makes a lot of difference. The street was wide but almost deserted. A few old frame houses straggled along, but most of the frontage was warehouses or wholesale places—Stor-It-Here, Pure Products, Empress of India Auto Parts . . . . Because it was St. Bevons, everything was wreathed with tropical foliage, even the razor wire fences around the parking lots. But you could see why this part of town wasn’t on the tourist itinerary.
The cheerfulest place was actually the SLP building. Nothing to brag about, but they did make an effort to fix it up in a “colonial” style, and the foliage facing the street was well maintained. Even the little strip of grass in front looked like it was trimmed by hand, every day. As soon as my shadow approached the glass doors, a slappie jumped out and held one wide for me, bowing. A man at a desk—a real man, not a slappie—stood to welcome me, asked if I were Mr. Lansing, and said that Major Timmons was awaiting me. Within a minute I was comfortably seated at a table in the Major’s spacious office, watching the morning light play across his ebony features.
Major Timmons was short and thick, with an air of command and a hint of polite condescension that would have been amusing, except for the muscles revealed by his short-sleeved uniform. Speaking of the uniform, I don’t know why, but I’d somehow imagined that the officers of the State Labour Program would be wearing brown, like the slappies. That’s how ignorant I was. The Major’s uniform was a sort of electric blue, as far as possible from the drab color that the slappies had to wear.
The Major confessed himself “very glad to have the opportunity of meeting a friend of St. Bevons,” meaning me. Roger must have laid it on pretty heavy about my potential interest in investing. The Major said he was “delighted to answer any and all questions you may have,” then launched into a proud review of statistics—how many “participants,” that is slappies, were “enlisted,” how many were “currently employed” in “the various classes of labor,” annual percentages of growth, margin of profit for the state . . . . Not surprisingly, the stats all reflected very well on the Program.
As he talked, I became aware of shouting, rhythmic and purposeful, coming from somewhere nearby. My head involuntarily swiveled in the direction it seemed to come from. The Major jumped on it right away.
“BUT, my dee-ur surr, I am keeping you from the tour. What you are hearing is our freshman class. Let us go and see. Will you follow, please?”
He led the way through a short series of hallways to a rear door—thick, black, and made of steel, a door that required three keys to unlock. You can feel a little intimidated, confronting a door like that. A little claustrophobic too, as if you were locked inside, instead of outside, something. But beyond the door there was sunlight.
The Major gestured at the landscape ahead. “We call this the Labour Training Station. The slappies, I hear, call it the Chicken Coop. A funny phrase! But what you are seeing is the portal to a new life. The transition is marked.”
One kind of transition was obvious–the back of the building was completely different from the front. No more manicured lawn, no more meticulously cultivated plants. What I saw was a big rectangle of dirt, enclosed by a wall topped with the razor wire native to the vicinity. The contents of the rectangle were two lines of low brown buildings flanking a concrete slab, and two lines of men in little brown shorts, using the slab to exercise.
Exercise? No—to be exercised. This was no health club. Orders were barked by a massive wad of muscle baked into a slappie suit, and every order was accompanied by such motivational words as “bitches,” “cunts,” and “worms.” Right now, the worms were doing jumping jacks. I remembered those from high school. Unpleasantly. Now, though, I wasn’t the one doing them, and shouting out how many he had done.
Most of the puppets doing their dance appeared to be in their early 20s, but all of them were bald, and none of them were wearing anything but shorts. Shorts, and little strips of metal around their necks—probably those shiny necklaces I’d seen before. I’d thought they were bottom-of-the line bling that owners used to dress up property working in public places, but I must have been wrong. These slappies weren’t the kind to be accessorized. And the shorts—they weren’t the athletic kind. They weren’t even the kind that slappies wore at work. They were just little brown briefs, y-fronts to be exact. If slappies came in various models, I was looking at the stripped down version.
The Major guessed what I was thinking. “We like every day to begin with a minimal amount of clothing. It’s a refreshing break–a cold shower, if you will. In addition to their actual cold shower! But that comes later in the day. Though relatively short, this minimalist treatment of the body reinforces useful concepts of dependence. If one of our freshmen were wearing normal clothing, he might conceivably develop the illusion that he was still a freeman, retaining some kind of so-called human dignity, but when he is confined to a tiny set of briefs, well . . . . ”
I could see what he meant. On the slab before me, surrounded by all the young guys doing their jacks, then going down for their pushups and crunches, I noticed one of those wankers that list themselves on the net as “mature.” Oh man—he was older than I was! I wasn’t sure I could have done all that stuff. But there he was, a freshman slappie–he was doing it. He had to do it. It was fun to imagine that he’d been one of the CEOs that I’d had to deal with. Yesterday he was wearing a two-thousand-dollar suit like the rest of the boardroom pharaohs; today he’s wearing little y-fronts, the kind he probably wore as a kid, except that those were white, not dirt brown, and he’s hoppin around in them like a monkey, following the orders of a bigger, tougher monkey. Lucky you get to mix with the young dudes, eh? Hope you’re gettin a charge outta that! And maybe you are. I was, just watching.
“You said this was the freshman class?”
“Yes, Mr. Lansing, but my statement, as you see, has no relation to age. We educate slappies of all ages–although, in recent years, due to the laws of demand and supply, the majority have been quite young. Young in OUR terms, you understand. No slappie is ever inducted under the age of 18. This is an absolute! You may tell that to the great humanitarians in your own country! A humanitarian, said a wise man, is someone who does not understand humanity. But come, come, this is not the time for political lectures. If you are admitted to our Program, you enter a period of training and conditioning to fit you for your future life. This includes, of course, physical conditioning. There is no point in teaching a slappie intellectual skills. A newly inducted servant needs to learn that from now on he is nothing but a body and enough of a brain to follow orders. The better he learns that, the happier he will be.”
“I understand what you mean,” I said, recalling the faces of my favorite slappies back at the King George Hotel. It would be interesting to know how much of their brain was actually functioning.
“Any specialized training must of course be provided by the eventual employers. What we teach here is discipline, which as you know is the foundation of all else.”
Why doesn’t he just come out and say it? I joked to myself: This is the world capital of BDSM. I was getting mesmerized by the slappies’ genitals jumping up and down, up and down, barely concealed by those thin brown briefs. I was hard, and I hoped the Major wouldn’t look down at my slacks and see it.
“So,” I said, “what’s next on the slappies’ schedule?”
“Their schedule is full, Mr. Lansing. In a few moments they will be trucked to one of our state plantations for a morning and afternoon of healthy work.”
“In their briefs?”
“No, they will be allowed to resume the other elements of their uniform. You cannot work in our fields, Mr. Lansing, if you are not booted, capped, and enclosed in a sturdy suit. You would not last long in that labor environment. You would be debilitated and rendered unfit for future labor. In addition, we find that the absence of full clothing coverage draws undue attention to individual differences.”
“Really?” I was grateful for the tour, but I was getting tired of the Major’s pomposities. “Everybody’s got two eyes, two ears, a mouth, and a penis.” I would have said “dick,” but I didn’t want to damage my respectability.
“While it may be true,” he said, uncoiling his lecture as if there had been no rebellion from me, “that slappies are like other primates in basic bodily equipment, they have fewer needs for its various adaptations. Consider all the ways in which a normal person uses his eyes. He uses them to study, to review his agenda and plan his daily schedule, to converse online, perhaps even to invite others to enjoy highly personal enjoyments.”
What the hell is he driving at, I wondered?
“A slappie, however, need only keep his eyes on the task assigned, or on the ground while waiting for assignment. He needs ears only to hear his orders; he needs a mouth only to say ‘Yes sir, immediately sir’; he needs a penis only to drain his urine. The organs of one slappie vary only slightly in function from those of other slappies. Yet some slappies are tall and some are short; some are black and some are white; and so forth. Such differences of appearance, while irrelevant to the functions of a slappie, can acquire a distracting importance for the slappie itself. Once enclosed in a uniform, however, the slappie can see these irrelevancies as what they are—irrelevant. It is therefore relieved of all concern for them. People often say of slappies that ‘they all look alike to me.’ I am always happy to hear that, because this is the effect we strive to create. I suspect that after a while, even slappies have trouble distinguishing themselves from other slappies. That is why you can say, ‘Boy!’ and ten slappies will run to hear your orders.”
He chuckled. And he was right—there was something funny about it. I’d always liked seeing the kind of BDSM pix that made subs into something mindless and comical. Roger and I discussed that one time. He liked it too, as much as I did, but it was another one of those things that kept him from “what people call fulfillment.” As he confessed, he was sometimes reluctant to have sex with his subs. “Either you have sex or you have a fetish,” he said. “I prefer my fetishes. Once a sub is tamed, it is tamed. At that point, it is no more than an object. Possibly a decorative object. But why should it get the reward of the owner’s embrace? A reward for what?”
I hadn’t been able to answer that question. But I was thinking, if I were a slappie right now, maybe I’d be getting my reward—not in terms of an “embrace” but in terms of what slappies obviously needed: discipline, absence of choice, absence of responsibility—the experience of total subjection.
The slappie drill instructor, or whatever he was, bellowed “Suit up!”, and the freshmen all started grabbing the garb they’d stacked at the edge of the slab. The slappies wriggled into their shorts and buttoned their shirts over their chests and flopped onto the ground to get their legs into their boots, then stood up and popped their little brown caps onto their little bald skulls—the total package.
“I suppose,” I said, “the color helps a lot. The brown, I mean.”
My comment wasn’t complete, but the Major knew what to do with it.
“Yes, Mr. Lansing, the subdued, anonymous hue makes the slappies even less . . . distinguishable. Earlier in the Program, there was some discussion about the tendency of brown to blend in with the fields, thereby encouraging attempts at escape.”
“I can see why that would be.” I knew I wanted to escape right then, and take a few nice looking slappies with me . . . .
“As you will see, however, we have other methods of rendering escape impossible. At the most it could be a passing inconvenience. And after all, only a small proportion of slappies are employed in the fields. Trainees, of course; and the punishment squad. And there are some slappies that do not adapt well to city life. The farms are right for them. But to return to the famous slappie browns– ”
“They look like mud to me. Mud, clay . . . . ”
“You are exactly right, sir. And this is the self-conception that the slappie needs to have. It is hard, I think, to look at oneself every day in that mud-colored suit and see, all around one, others of the same status dressed in the same garb, and not to think of oneself as, well, as common as mud and pliant as clay.”
Fuck I was hard! But I wished he’d stop talking for a while, because now the slappies were leaving. “Left face!” the big slappie yelled. The freshmen formed one line and headed toward a collection of brown trucks that could be seen at the rear of the Station.
“As I mentioned,” the Major said, “they will be delivered to one of our plantations, for a productive day of weeding and hoeing. You may have noticed a sign on a certain building just down the street. The letters DF in brown, surrounded by a circle of silver?”
“Yes,” I lied, “I noticed that.” I was itching to follow the slappies.
“DF, Dominion Fields. ‘Dominion,’ obviously, for the Dominion of St. Bevons. A new and successful state enterprise. What you saw was the warehouse and distribution center for the canning factory operated by the SLP. For which, Mr. Lansing, we seek and value investments.”
Yes, he had me down as an investor.
“As you can imagine, the labor costs are quite low, and the returns, so far, have been most encouraging. But while I am talking, our freshmen are preparing to leave for their day’s recreation.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t have a . . . closer view.” Brown objects were already being packed onto the trucks.
“Certainly, Mr. Lansing, if you would like one. Follow me.”
He strode down the slab, with me in tow. “Hold up!” he shouted at the drill instructor, and the DI shouted something at the slappies–something with “mothuhfuckin” and “butt-hoes” in it. The slappies halted next to the trucks.
“Which one do you want to talk to?” the Major said.
Whew! Which one! What an opportunity! All these young animals, standing at attention, waiting for me . . . . Finally I chose one. Fifth one from the end. It was another one of those sturdy, JV football types.
“Step forward,” the Major said, and the slappie stepped forward. He was sweating, but it didn’t look like the kind of sweat you get from jumping jacks. He was scared, very scared, that something was about to happen to him.
“Hello,” I said. “Slappie.” Interesting, how easy it was for me to say that. And to say it in the way I now understood it was supposed to be said—firmly, and with no suggestion of interest in any impact it might have on the recipient. After all, the guy WAS a slappie, and at the cheap end of the product line. His shirt was faded and generic, not even a name and number on the chest; his cap was too small for his head; his shorts barely covered his stuff; his eyes were blank with fright. OK with me; this was still a hot guy. Whether he’d be that hot if he wasn’t a slappie—unknown. But definitely, he was hot right then.
“Sir here sir. Yes sir.”
“Where are you from, slappie?”
“Sir Kalamazoo sir.”
What do you say to that? Nothing. The goofy heartland name meant nothing. It made no difference, probably not even to him. He was just a brown suit with a body inside it. He was just a slappie like all the other slappies. The look in his eyes told me the Major was right about all slappies ending up the same.
“Getting along all right?” I couldn’t think of anything else to ask.
I saw his eyes darting to the side, where the Major was standing. “Sir yes sir. Getting along fine sir.”
“Like it here?” I knew that was a cruel question. So what? The guy was a slappie. But I guess the obvious response wasn’t automatic yet. I sensed a movement next to me, a slight movement of some part of the Major’s body, and the slappie said, “Liking it fine sir.” His throat made a funny sound.
What more could I ask him? Looking forward to the rest of your career? Maybe not.
“Back in line,” the Major said, and the slappie slipped away. “Not very smart,” the Major said to me, “but could turn out to be a valuable property. Once the discipline takes hold.”
“I’d be interested to know more about that,” I said. Now I was hitting pay dirt.
“Indeed. Most visitors are not, but since you asked, please to step this way, and I will acquaint you with one device from our disciplinary repertoire.”
To be continued …