Thursday, 13 June 2013


My boyfriend works at the brothel called Galilee. You’ve probably seen it. It looks like a pub from the outside. You might have even been inside it. It's got beer, dangerously low ceiling beams and a dog that will moult hair all over your coat. But pub it is not. Brothel it is. You won’t see a sign outside but go on upstairs and ask for it, and you’ll find it. There might be balm in Gilead but there is spunk in Galilee. And that’s where my boyfriend works. Well, worked.

It’s a place for a wealthy clientele of a certain persuasion. Anyone who needs to feel the hand of God when they’re doing something sinful can find what they’re looking for at Galilee. From what I’ve been told, most of the scenarios these people conjure up aren’t their own fantasies at all. Instead, they go in for the recreation of paintings. My boyfriend told me he’s seen everything from Rembrandt’s Belshazzar’s Feast to Bosch’s vision of hell being recreated in that place’s upstairs function room. Like some kind of fine art karaoke. But with fucking.

My boyfriend is, as he puts it, a background whore. His name is Laurence. My name is Ruth. For two years we’ve been together, and for two years I’ve known what he did for a living. I never judged him for it. At least, I never judged him in any way that he would notice. It was what he was doing when I met him. He told me it was a job, but not just a job. I asked him if he wanted to give it up and he told me that he didn’t. He answered any questions that I had and he never lied to me. Sometimes I wanted to know and when I didn’t, I didn’t ask. His life in Galilee was as separate as I wanted it to be.

Then he asked me to join him. Just for one night, he said. I wouldn’t even have to do anything. All I would have to do was background movement. Put on a white robe, look like I was having a good time, and then, when the time came, I had to scream. He told me that I would be paid the same as him. A last minute replacement got the same amount as a seasoned player. And I wouldn’t even have to do anything. All I had to be was background colour. He wanted me to do it. And I would be lying if, even as I told him I wasn’t sure, I didn’t want to do it as well. Just to see what went on at the top of the stairs. I was curious.

He told me to arrive at seven. I was met at the bar by a woman in her late forties called Hazel. Her hair was black, her eyes were green. “Family name?” I asked. She smiled and told me that she was very grateful for my assistance. The usual woman had contracted a case of gastric flu and they had very strict policies about what exactly went out and in and in what fashion at Galilee. I smiled back and told her that it was my pleasure. She directed me to the stairs and told me that I would be met at the top by someone who would get me into my clothes.

I was helped into a white shift by a slender dark-haired boy called Joshua and a red-haired girl who told me she was named Ruth. I told her that was my name too and she scowled at me. “Not tonight. Day players don’t get a name.” Which settled that problem. I was anxious to see where Laurence was but he only found me as Ruth hustled me along the corridor to a narrow space covered in sand behind a huge red curtain. He pressed a leash into my hand and smiled at me.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “They do this all the time.”

The curtain went down. The space was much bigger than I expected. Impossibly bigger. There was no way that we could be in the same building. I looked up and saw the night sky through the glass ceiling I had never known was there. Then the noises started.

I hadn’t seen the clientele. They’d been holding still until everything was ready. Men and women dressed in robes that looked like they could be torn off very easily. They wouldn’t even need Velcro.

Once we’d all lined up and got into position, they started enjoying themselves. I’m not going to say I didn’t look. These people were entertaining themselves in ways that I hadn’t really considered before, at least not in any great detail. And there it was in front of me. I just had to stand there in my toga, holding a leash, while others were putting things into places and making all kinds of noises. The use I was getting out of my leash paled in significance to what they would have done with it, I’ll tell you that. I felt a tug on the leather and glanced down. A sheep looked back up at me, looking about as useless as I felt. I assumed that it was part of the background decoration like me. At least, I hoped it was.

I don’t know exactly how long I stood there, trying not to look directly at the various parts of human anatomy on display. It might have been an hour, it might have been less. I had drifted off and started staring up at the sky, wondering what a satellite would pick up if it looked down at Galilee. I was startled when Laurence grabbed my shoulder. “Time to go,” he said. I nodded, but something in the corner of the room caught my eye. A small fire had started. I hissed at Laurence but he pushed me towards the door. “It’s part of the show. Just start moving slowly.”

There was a roar of what I assume was the fire catching, then the screaming started. And it hit me. Sodom and Gomorrah. Of course. I should have known. I knew exactly what I had been brought there to be and it should have broken my heart.

“Look, Ruth! Open your eyes!”

I did no such thing. I wondered how hurt I should have been as he pawed at the back of my neck, telling me to turn around, to open my eyes and look. Instead I tuned him out and listened to the screams of the poor fornicators who I assumed were well on their way to ash. He told me he loved his job. This was his job. It wasn’t mine.

The heat from the flames was becoming unbearable but it gave me a good indicator of where I didn’t want to go. When I walked away from it and felt a hand on my arm I knew where Laurence was. So I turned around, I grabbed that arm, and I pushed at the body it was attached to.

The scream let me know that Laurence had gone where I wanted him to. When it didn’t stop I knew that I could keep walking. I hoped the sheep would keep up.


It's been months since the last story. Bloody months. I've been busy but I'm hoping to get some more stuff up here soon. I'm planning a couple of things. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this. Here's some music.


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