what is pleasure?



a dark tank is our home. 
the scent of chemicals is overwhelming, although we cannot smell.
we hear the voices murmuring, although we have no ears.
and the swirling water is fishy. 
though we have no tongues, the finned taste pervades.


Evil is a switch, Ariel thought.  Evil is a switch that can be turned on by what turns you on.  Once it’s on,  you feel the buzz all around you.  When she’d seen the online ad, she hadn’t known what the switch was, but she sensed it waiting, and she wavered.  Every night that passed, she trembled when she thought of it.  It had said, “strictly artistic thing.”  She thought the words themselves connected in a creepy way. 
Barely 15, she had always been labeled “artistic,” but to think of herself as a “thing.”  Well, that was not really what it meant.  But still.  Her trembling had not been unpleasant.

Then one night, she stopped waiting.  Her parents long in bed, the trembling radiated to her toes.  She had walked to her computer—her footsteps on the carpet becoming the steps of an older girl—and she had gone to the site for the ad again.  It had disappeared.  She continued to search, her brain powered by her young, thrilling body, and somehow, she remembered the contact info.  Again, not without pleasure.  She only hesitated a few seconds—the words “bad girl” surging from her stomach downwards—then sent her response off with a click of her finger, easy as flipping a switch.

Within a few minutes, she received an email from the videographer that said: I’ll pretend I’m your friend and phone you.  Send me your number.
    That was it.  All business.
    The exact wording of the ad flooded over her like a blush, “older successful videographer seeks beautiful teenager for projects—strictly artistic thing.”  Her heart palpitated—like the times when she had frantically hoped for a lead in the school play and had walked up to the list of names.  Propelled by this same swirl of dread and excitement, she didn’t know what to expect from this older, successful guy.  Would he, like the directors at school, not want her?  It stung; maybe it was good not to be wanted.  Then she wouldn’t have to buzz with worry and could calm the hornets in her stomach.

After she had sent her number, almost instantaneously her cell rang.  What’s your name, he asked.   When she told him, he gave a little snort, what did that mean?  Have you seen any Greek statues?  What the hell, she thought, and didn’t bother answering.  Then he asked, do you have any navel pierces?  No, she said quickly.  Check, he said.  What?  Put your finger in your belly button and move it around.  She hung up.
    That was it, she thought.  Phew!  What a weirdo.
Before she could put her cell in her pocket, it rang again.  Fully clothed in bed, she tugged her phone out of her jeans.  The pocket tingled, her cell hot in her hands.  She thought of herself, the too good little girl; her parents would never imagine her doing anything like this.  The phone rang again and she answered. 
    The switch was now on.

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