72 hours

by Binder
- do not use without the author's permission.

April signed the agreement; she put the pen on the desk and slowly stood up. She then watched as the woman seated on the other side of the desk turned the papers around and carefully flipped through the pages insuring that each of the required places for initials had been properly marked and that April’s signature was properly placed and dated. Seemingly satisfied she placed the paperwork into a file the tab of which showed April’s full name and the date of April 2, 2012, her date of birth, eighteen years ago today. The woman nodded to a woman standing near the door. The woman stepped forward holding something silver in color in front of her.

“Lift your hair please.” She instructed. April gathered her shoulder length blond hair in both hands and lifted it up and away from her neck. When she had done so the woman lifted the device in her hands and carefully placed it around April’s neck. Careful not to catch any skin she snapped it closed. With a very audible click it locked into place and a small led panel in the front lit up. It was below her chin so April could not see it momentarily flash 72:00 then almost immediately changed to 71:59.

It was done. Well, not exactly done. It would not really be done for three more days.

In the early 21st century the world’s major economies had all gone sideways. The mortgage credit bubble had burst leading to entrenchment and massive reductions in jobs around the world. The sovereign credit collapse was next. This led to near bankruptcy of many nations leading to extreme austerity measures that further reduced worldwide spending resulting in the elimination of even more jobs. There were just too many people and not enough resources to support and maintain them. In the past rich nations had been able to subsidize at least some of the needs of the impoverished, at least reducing the suffering of the massive populations. But the rich nations had been living beyond their means and now they did not have the money to continue helping.

Life within the so called ‘civilized’ societies was also under extreme pressure. The rich were still rich; in fact, even wealthier as their hold over resources increased while the ‘middle classes’ slowly lost their position, in many cases even their ability to sustain. Some moved up to join the wealthy class, but most were reduced from trying to ‘keep up with the Jones’ to fighting for their and their family’s survival while holding desperately to the memory of their former life and position. Blue collar workers who in the past had maintained a comfortable existence were also affected. As the work force shrunk unemployment compensation became too expensive for cash strapped governments to sustain, it dwindled and then ended. The safety net, even the one riddled with holes was gone. Now it took only a couple of months without the primary bread winner’s job to completely devastate most families. Health care became a luxury not a right (if it ever was one) as simple disease and sickness began to lower life spans for those without means.

For the very poor – lost from notice, separated from care by the economic pressure placed on those who had once donated to help them – the devastation was biblical. Millions starved, more, ravaged by disease found no treatment available and died, often slowly and painfully in squalid surroundings.

Hospitals began to close emergency rooms opening special 24 hour facilities for those with the means to have access. Lines for service in the few remaining emergency rooms threatened dying of old age before receiving treatment. Even life threatening injuries often went undiagnosed, let alone treated as the poor seeking care died on gurneys in the waiting areas.

With huge populations of unemployed the once prosperous nations of the world first reduced immigration then closed their borders to anyone without means. Workers, hungry for any job, did not want the competition and governments did not need more desperate, starving and sick people, they had enough of their own already. As unemployment increased laws that had protected workers, laws that provided for such things a minimum wage, laws that limited work time, laws that limited working conditions were eliminated or modified with ‘exceptions’ that watered down the protections of the blue collar and serving classes.

One such modification involved new laws which codified new systems of involuntary servitude. China and India, staggered by huge populations were the first to adopt such laws. With conservative pro business forces in power the United States followed. These laws were challenged, but the United States Supreme Court ruled that such laws did not violate the thirteenth amendment prohibition on slavery because they only held the individual to a contract willfully signed, and only for the term of the contract. It thus became legal for an individual to become chattel of another for the term of a contract. Similar laws and interpretations were passed and enforced in most of Europe, South America and Asia. A century of United Nations legislation was undercut by the adoption of similar protocols making the practice legal almost everywhere in the world.

In the United States such agreements could only be entered into through licensed service brokers. These brokers developed the contracts and terms of service, consistent with federal law, screened the buyers and sold the contracts usually at healthy profits. The contract usually included a ‘signing bonus’ consistent with the length of service and then annualized pay throughout the contract. The bonus and pay could be held for the benefit of the indentured individual or paid for the benefit of their family. It all depended on the terms of the agreement.

April had just signed such a contract. She stood now with a collar locked around her neck looking at the woman seated across the desk.

“Have you willingly entered into this agreement?” The woman was looking at April.

“Yes.” Her throat felt very dry and she was not sure that the word had even been heard.

“Your 72 hour acceptance period has begun now.” There was an emphasis on the word now. “At any time during the next 72 hours you can opt-out of the agreement. All you have to do is simultaneously push the two buttons located on the top of the collar around your neck and hold them depressed for three seconds. If you do that the timer will stop, we will be notified, all of your belongings and clothing that you reported with will be returned to you and you will leave the institution. If the timer on the collar runs out without your activating the opt-out the transaction will become final and you will be unconditionally bound to all terms and conditions of the agreement. Do you understand that?”

April tried to clear her throat enough to be heard. “Yes.”

“Have you had sufficient time to review the agreement?”

April mustered a little more voice: “Yes.”

“Do you have any questions?”


“Very well. Show her to her room.” The last comment was directed to the woman who had placed the collar around April’s neck.

“Follow me.” It was more a command than a request. April knew that if she did not ‘chicken out’ during the next 72 hours she would be responding to lots of commands for whatever period of servitude she drew.

Before taking her to her room the woman showed her the dining hall and the recreation area. Meals were served three times a day in a cafeteria setting. They were now at the end of the lunch session and there were still five women sitting at tables and poking at food on their tray. The dining hall was not closed between meals, but the food line was only open for about 45 minutes for each meal period. If you missed service you did not eat. The recreation room had a number of couches and overstuffed chairs, a bookcase with a few books and magazines, none looked current, and a single television. This room was occupied by ten or twelve women. The Woman explained that this entire facility was only for women. There was another building that housed the men.

Only then was April taken to her room. It had the number 36 on the door. Inside there was a bed with clean sheets and a single pillow. The only other item of furniture in the room was a not to comfortable looking chair in one corner. There was a bathroom, small but private, entered through a door from the room. It had a toilet, sink with a mirror, and a shower. A single towel and washcloth hung on a rack near the shower. There was a toothbrush, small tube of paste, a single bar of soap, a tube of shampoo and a brush. It was all very Spartan and would take some adjustment. April wondered if this was the way she would live for the next . . . next however many years. Would she even live this well. April felt her eyes moistening. She told herself that this was no time for her to start feeling sorry for herself. Her family was depending on her and she could do this. She had to do this. She had always been lucky. She would be lucky now.

April turned around to ask the woman how she would know when it was time to eat, but the woman was gone. April had not noticed her leaving and was not really sure how long she had been gone. The door to her room was still open and she realized that there was no lock on the door. She stepped out into the hallway and looked up and down. The hallway was empty. She walked back into the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror. Her make-up and hair looked perfect – she had always been fastidious – but with no make-up or hair products she knew that would soon change. Her hands reached up and touched the metal collar locked around her neck. It was about two inches high and about half an inch thick. She could not see a joint or even a seam where it had connected. But, right in the middle, right under her chin was a LED panel with red letters. It read 71:11. It had been less than an hour from the time her opt out period had started.

April returned to the bedroom and sat on the bed. She didn’t think of it as her bed, just a bed. She laid herself over onto her side and without thinking drew her knees up to her chest as she wrapped her arms around them. She felt very tired and wanted to take a nap, but her mind could not relax as she considered her situation. Could she really go through with this? If she knew exactly how long her commitment would be it would be much easier to decide.

Condition of servitude had varying degrees of protection largely based upon the term. The maximum term for any contract was 26 years. The minimum was for a single year. Terms up to and including five years were considered general servant in nature. Although the service for all commitments was complete during the term, i.e., the indenture tied the individual to the owner of the contract 24/7 from beginning until completion, servant class commitments placed restrictions on the severity of the actions that could be inflicted on the server. These included no permanent markings on the body, no body modification, no dangerous assignments and no compelled sexual activity. Service of six through fifteen years allowed some body modification including piercing and a single brand or tattoo designating ownership to be located on the right flank and/or breast; assignments to heavy labor such as mining, quarry work, and limited exposure to potentially hazardous materials; as well as sexual assignments as directed by the owner. Service of sixteen through twenty years allowed multiple markings from the neck down and almost unlimited body modification with the exception of limb removal or transformation. Service of twenty-one or more years removed these restrictions and many such service animals were marked on their forehead.

While it may seem nonsensical that any formerly free person would commit for longer periods of time, especially the extreme twenty-one years or more the signing bonus increased with the length of service. Commitments of five years or less often provided no signing bonus at all and although the living conditions tended to be much more manageable the annual payment was also smaller. These commitments tended to be sought by individuals who expected their difficulties to be short term and were looking for a manageable situation with a small nest egg at the end. The service tended to be household servants such as nannies, housekeepers, butlers, drivers and cooks.

April, as the oldest child in her family, was looking for assistance to her family and an opportunity for her two younger sisters. While her family had not been well off they had been comfortable. Her father was an engineer and up until two years ago he had provided a good livelihood for the family. Unfortunately, two years ago he had become ill and was not able to work any longer. They had been able to survive on savings for a while. Then they had sold their assets and possessions, but that money had run out. April and her mother had both looked for work, but all of the untrained jobs were occupied by indentured servants and service animals. Unable to find any work April decided to place herself in servitude as soon as she was eligible (age eighteen). Her mother and father had been opposed to the idea at first, but as the family’s situation became more desperate they relented. Beside, as an adult it would be completely her decision.

April had decided to take advantage of a new type of offer. She signed up with Elite Service for their lottery option. The advantage was that it paid a signing bonus of $75,000. It would normally take an eighteen year commitment to obtain a bonus this large. In addition it paid $18,000 a year. Not a great annual payment, but enough for the family to survive. But it came with a great risk. The service period would be randomly selected for a period of anywhere from one to twenty-six years at the beginning of service. That meant that April had committed to whatever period of time was randomly selected and would not have the option to back out once she learned her fate. The odds were good for a period of less than sixteen years and there was a one in five chance that she would collect a large bonus for the family and draw a term of five years or less.

But nothing would happen until the completion of the opt-out period. Upon arrival at the processing facility April had removed all of her clothing and the few small items of personal jewelry (nothing of real value) sealed them in a bag that would be stored until completion of her term and been issued white cotton pants with an elastic waist band, a short sleeved shirt that snapped up the front, and cloth slippers that she would wear for the next three days. She had been allowed to retain her panties but had no bra. If she completed the initial period her clothing would be at the whim of her new owner.

She had been so sure this was the right decision before she got here, but to say she was now having second thoughts would be an understatement. She was afraid. But, shouldn’t she be afraid? Wasn’t that the normal and natural emotion? If she wasn’t afraid then she should be really worried.

She must have actually drifted into sleep because she heard the sound of bells. They were loud enough to bring her from sleep, but not so loud as to impart fear or panic. They went on for about 30 seconds then stopped. “Was it a fire drill?” April asked herself. She got up from the bed and walked to the door. In the hallway she saw other inmates moving down the hallway. April joined in, uncertain of their destination until she saw the doors to the dining hall. “That is how you know when it is time to eat.” She spoke, but more to herself than anyone else. More regimented than she liked, but she had not eaten breakfast before coming and she had missed the noon meal while filing out papers - 'in processing'. She was hungry.

While not luxurious, given the times and the hardship outside the walls of this institution the meal was good. There was rice, a slice of pork with apple sauce, and a mix of vegetables. It was under seasoned, but it tasted very good. There is something about a good meal that raises flagging spirits, and this was exactly the effect on April. There was even a bowl of apples on each table in the dining hall. April wondered what would happen if she took one back to her room. The woman had not mentioned any rule against removing food from the dining hall. The loose fitting cotton outfits had no pockets or any other place to put or hold anything. Still, she vowed to take an apple with her. What could they do anyway, make her a slave? She laughed to herself.

The dining hall tables were all designed for four people with build in seats. April found an empty space and sat down. There were three other woman at the table. April had noticed that everyone here seemed to avoid eye contact and kept her own counsel. One reason for not looking into the face of others was the bright red LED just below their chin. This place had no windows and no clocks. Instead every person within the walls was wearing their own clock ticking away minute by minute around their neck. April could not see her clock but knew with a quick glance that she had the most time at the table. The redhead to her right was 46:23. The brunette across was 28:55. April had not easily seen the time on the blond to her left because she sat with her head hung down, her chin actually over the top of her collar. She was not really eating, more moving food around on her plate with her fork. As she turned her head slightly April saw 2:14 which immediately changed to 2:13.

Two hours, the girl was down to just over two hours. What would she do? April studied the girl’s face and decided that she had accepted the inevitable and was resigned to her fate. April’s stomach was about to reject its contents. April had to look away. She looked over at 46:22 on her right. Her clock was just under two days. She was a day ahead of April. She looked like she was no older than 22.

“Do you think you will go through with it?” April asked.

“Of course.” The eyes that had been averted now drilled into her. “There really is no choice; I need the money so my mom can raise my daughter. She is four now.” The steel in the eyes softened into pain.

“But isn’t it more important for her to have her mother?” April’s horror was only mildly disguised.

“It is better for her to have food and survive. My mother is too old to be accepted or draw any meaningful bonus or I know she would have volunteered for us, but she is a good mother and will see that Audrey is properly taken care of until I can finish my commitment and get home to her. Maybe I will be lucky and draw a very short time. I just need a little luck.”

But all April could see was the image of Dirty Harry standing over the girl saying: “Do you feel lucky . . . well, do you?” Suddenly April did NOT feel lucky. She could see why no one was talking.

46:17 looked up at April then at the girl to her right. “This stupid opt-out period is torture. This isn’t some vacation we are signing up for. We are all here because we have no choice. I know it is the law. I know it is suppose to protect our rights, but I just want to get this over with. Another two days of this, for God’s sake. It seems like I’ve been here a month. Besides, nobody opts out. At least I haven’t seen or heard of anyone opting out.”

28:47 then piped in: “I heard there was a girl that used to sign up every six months or so just to get three days of food and rest. Then she would opt out in the last hour. She thought it was the country club or something. But then one time she seems to have fallen asleep and slept right through the end of the period. They had had turkey for dinner that night and she may have had just a little too much tryptophan. Or maybe the staff added something to her food. According to the story she drew 24 years. She was making such a fuss when they came for her that she was gagged, hooded, hogtied and wheeled out on a dolly.” They tell us the service time on the collars is random, but I have heard they can control it. There is no data available to double check.

“What happens to you when your timer runs out?” 1:57 had looked up at 28:45 her face ashen.

“From what I hear it depends on whether you are a servant or service animal. Everyone receives their wrist and ankle cuffs. They are made of the same titanium as the collar and locked on for the duration of the service. Servants are just leashed and led away to the training and classification section which is someplace else in this building. Service animals are hooded and restrained before being taken away. I guess that makes sense. Even though we all know the risk the urge to bolt must be very high. I hear that the first week is conditioning to strict bondage so you more easily accept what is coming.”

April did not like this conversation any more. 1:53 had her head in her hands. April did not want to be anywhere near her when her time ran out. April wasn’t sure but it seemed 28:41 was delighting in torturing the other girls. How much of this was she making up? Her story about the girl who wanted to opt out and fell asleep sounded completely bogus. At any rate, she did not want to hear any more. And she sure did not want to be around in one hour and (with a glance to the blonde) 52 minutes. April excused herself and headed for her room. She did not feel tired, but she wanted to lie down. She wished she had a little tryptophan to help her sleep right now. Halfway down the hallway she remembered she was going to bring an apple. She stopped and considered going back. Then she shook her head and walked on to her room.

April told herself that she was not going to pay attention to the timer, but she could not help herself. As soon as she got to her room she went to the mirror. The collar read 66:47. She considered turning the collar around so that she was not looking at the timer, but the collar was formed to the neck and collar bone. It did not want to turn, and it hurt when she tried. That was a stupid idea any way. She was strong enough not to look at it. She was going to go to bed. She would feel better with a good night’s sleep.

Sleep did not come easily. She tossed and turned. She kept trying to clear her head. There was really nothing she could do right now. Who knew where she would be sleeping in three days. She should enjoy the bed. It was not wonderful, but it was reasonably soft and had clean sheets. The collar was even more noticeable when you lay down. She could not stop herself from touching it, from running her fingers over its smooth service and over the two small buttons protruding on either side of her chin. Eventually she slept.

There was a bell. Not so loud as to resemble either an alarm clock or an emergency warning, but enough to cut into the fog of her mind and bring April from her sleep. She sat up and looked around. It was breakfast. She wondered what time it was. She was once again conscious that there were no clocks anywhere in this place except for the personal timers worn by each occupant. April decided she was not hungry. She rolled over and tried to get back to sleep.

“Damn”, she was awake now and her mind suddenly filled with the dread of her situation. What time did her clock say? How many hours had she slept? She was not going to get out of bed just to go see a stupid clock around her neck. All she had to do is push down on two little buttons and hold them for three seconds. That was all she had to do and she could get up and walk out of here and return to her old life. But, that would mean no money for her family. That would mean a return to a household that worried from day to day how to put any food on the table. She knew everyone would forgive her, but how could she forgive herself. Instead of their salvation, she would once again be just another mouth to feed. . . . There really was no choice.

The prospect of further sleep was gone. Her mind, fully consumed, would no longer allow it. She pushed away the sheet covering her and walked into the bathroom. How long had it been since the breakfast bells had rung? She did not know. The face in the mirror staring back did not look like it had slept. Even though the red LED read 52:34. She had slept for over 10 hours. Why did she not feel rested? She should not be tired. Then there was the realization, she had just over two days to go.

The girl in the dining hall was right. This was not right. This was just torture. Although April knew that these rules had been created for the protection of people like her, people who were about to sign away their freedom, people whose entire life was about to change in the most unpleasant way it was not an advantage. She already knew she had no choice, no choice at all. This was a pretense. This was nothing but a shame. She would endure the time and then she would give in to her fate. It had been preordained before she even stepped in the door to this place.

April’s mind drifted to an earlier time. Her family had been comfortable, more than comfortable. They were advancing to be part of the privileged class. Slavery had been a part of the world April knew almost all of her life. She accepted it. She thought it was the way things should be. After all, the lives of slaves were certainly better than they would be if they were just left to fend for themselves in a world where they had no prospect for earning their keep. April never thought about the jobs destroyed by the introduction of slavery. How many paid workers could have protected and raised families if employers had to hire people – free people – to perform the tasks that now fell to slaves? She was not sure how much impact it had on the economy as a whole, but she knew from her own experience that she saw slaves almost everywhere. Every store had at least one performing menial tasks. She had even seen some elevated to sales jobs. Maybe she would end up with a good job, one that had some sense of dignity.

She knew that was not likely. Mostly you saw slaves leashed outside the stores. Every store had a metal bar next to the front door with a number of rings to which slaves could be hitched. And depending on the type of store any number of slaves could be patiently standing, leashed to the bar waiting for their owners to return.

While the slaves outfit would vary to some degree, the common thread was that each slave had a metal slave collar, metal cuffs at the wrists and ankles, and almost always a metal waist strap or belt. Each of these had rings protruding that could be used to secure the slave. Many slaves, it seemed more all the time, were also fitted with a chastity belt. April knew that in less than 53 hours she would be taken to a place where, most if not all of, these accoutrements would be attached to her. They did not lock in place. They were welded on and would remain until her contract time expired. They were only removed to be replaced or for medical emergencies.

The design of the restraints also assisted in the control of the slaves. For example, owners used a leash. It came in two, four, and six feet lengths with a clip on each end to tether their slaves to the holding bar outside stores or in other locations. A simple snap link fastened to the ring on the front of the slaves collar and then to one of the rings on the bar. A slave could then have their hands clipped behind them using the rings at their wrist cuffs, but that was not even necessary as the clips on the leash responded to chips inset into the cuffs of the slaves. If a slaves wrist cuff came within six inches of the clip it locked tight. This meant that an owner could clip and unclip the leash at will, but no slave could operate the clip. A slave could not free their own leash (or that of another slave.) It was interesting that even though the leash alone provided sufficient protection most owners added a second short line. It clipped the wrists together at the small of the back (sometimes through a ring in the waist belt) and then extended up to snap at the back of the collar. Although the bottom clip could work while close to the chip found in the wrist cuffs it was locked tight when the neck clip was attached and could not be opened until the neck clip had been unfastened. This clip, of course, was resistant to any manipulation by a slave.

Similarly, leg hobbles; which came in 6”, 12”, 18” and 24”, could not be opened by a slave and once clicked into place may as well have been locked with a padlock. April thought that the self locking mechanism which distinguished between slaves and free persons was more dehumanizing and demeaning than locks would be. A slave leashed at a simple rail outside a building would stare at the simple snap on their leash only a short distance in front of their face knowing that to their hands it was impermeable – because they were only a slave and not allowed to open such things.

In this ‘modern’ world many other things would respond in similar fashion. Simple door knobs would not turn if set to a slave denial mode. Drawers would not open. Machines would not operate, for example no slave could purchase a train ticket from a ticket dispenser. And, without a permission clip fastened to the slave’s collar, unique to a certain device or vehicle, no motor vehicle could be operated by a slave.

What would it be like to be chained? April held her arms in front of her and imagined cuffs around her wrists. She sat on the side of her bunk and put her arms behind her letting her wrists touch as if chained together. What would it feel like to have real chains? She had seen many slaves standing at slave posts or rails, even though the slave leash was sufficient to hold them, most owners also fasten their hands behind them. Most slaves just patiently held their position, usually staring straight ahead lost in some internal world, but some, probably newer to their chains would twist and pull at the chains somewhere between testing the strength of their fetters and struggling with the reality of their own predicament.

This later group also seemed to glance around as if looking for someone to rescue them. Not infrequently this later group was also closely hobbled sometimes with only a single link holding both ankles together. The final accessory was often a gag of some sort. For public use a ball gag or a sheath gag covering the lower part of the face and clearly something else that bulged the mouth were the most common. These sometimes had elaborate strapping but most often were only on a single simple strap that fastened and locked behind the neck. And then, every now and then, there would be a slave in full hood his or her features completely masked from view and the connection to the world surrounding them completely severed. There would be the occasional shift or cock of the hooded head as if some hint of sound had penetrated the thick leather covering. How disorientating must that be? April shivered as she closed her eyes and imagined herself so adorned, knowing that there were people within feet, maybe inches, sensing the closeness of other humans but locked in dark and silence.

She jumped almost falling off the bed. There had just been a bell, not loud, but it had been completely unexpected. It was time for lunch. She was not sure she was hungry, but she did not want to wallow in her room any more. Two more days of this was going to drive her insane. She needed something to raise hers spirits and take her mind off her future.

As she reached the hallway she saw several other young women heading toward the dining hall. April followed. Nobody was walking with any degree of urgency or even enthusiasm. There were no conversations. Every person seemed to move as an individual almost avoiding connection or contact with the others sharing the common hallway.

Before reaching the dining hall area it became necessary to move to the left in order to avoid a figure kneeling on the floor. It was an indenture scrubbing the linoleum floor of the hallway. Under normal circumstances April would not have even noticed the girl, slaves were almost invisible. April actually stopped to look at the forlorn figure before her. Another girl walking behind April almost bumped into her, stopping and moving around only at the last minute. Under normal circumstances this would have evoked some interchange between the subjects of the near collision. Not today, not in this place. The other girl moved on without even looking back to see what had caused April to come to a halt, while April, for her part, felt rooted to the floor.

The slave before her was kneeling on a small platform with small multidirectional wheels. The platform was only the width and length of her lower legs, but seemed to operate under its own power. The occupant’s legs, from her toes to her upper thighs were encased in a mono sleeve made from what appeared to be black rubber. Straps at the ankles and below the knees connected her to her little movable platform. Her upper legs were folded back so that she sat on her lower legs. A short chain connected from the sleeve at the point of her toes to the back of her waist belt. There was enough slack to allow her to raise her buttocks only an inch or two.

A molded hood of similar looking material to the mono sleeve completely covered the slaves head leaving only two small holes at her nostrils and a slit for each eye. The narrow vertical slit blocked her peripheral visions and had flaps that appeared capable of being folded forward to cover the eyes removing all sight. Bulges at the mouth and ears spoke to padding and/or packing of some sort to remove speech and the distraction of noise. Her head was held upright and pointed forward by a high posture collar cut lower in front for the chin. If she wanted to see anything that was not directly in front of her she had to turn her entire upper body to do so. This action, however, would be complicated by two light chains each extending forward from a ring in each of her nipples to the forward corners of the platform. There was enough tension to hold her bend slightly forward and to keep her body aligned forward.

Both of her hands were inserted into something resembling a glove but with a brush on the bottom. This held her hands side by side positioned over and held in a grip of the brush. The glove locked around each wrist making removal by the wearer impossible. A chain from the back of the glove to the front of the platform meant that she could reach the tray of water positioned on top of her upper legs or the floor in front of her to scrub.

April was standing directly in front of the girl. As the girl observed April’s shoes she stopped what she was doing and looked up. Her eyes portrayed a sense of pleading that immediately unnerved April. A couple of seconds went by as the two interlocked eyes and then the girl jumped against her restraints and mmphed before dropping her eyes and immediately returning to her scrubbing with renewed vigor. April could see the end of a protrusion lodge in the girl’s vagina. She assumed there was another filing her anal cavity. Clearly she was controlled by the devices. If she stopped her work she received a shock. From her previous knowledge of slave control April assumed that the devices could also be utilized to provide pleasure. They were devices strategically placed to deliver both punishment and reward – or in some cases just frustration.

Even if she had wanted to there was nothing April could do to help this girl. In fact in two days April could easily be this girl. Her stomach knotted. It was going to be difficult to eat now. April wondered why they would utilize slaves in such sever bondage in a place where girls had to make their final decision about accepting that life. Apparently they were not afraid of scaring people away. Could people’s desperation really be so great? Apparently, April still wore the collar around her neck slowly ticking toward the moment of her enslavement and she had not pushed the buttons opting out. She was almost overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness.

April fell into line in the dining area. Wherever the food was being actually prepared could not be seen there was a serving line open to the dining hall by only a window. It was populated with three serving slaves. The last time April had eaten she had not even noticed the serving line. Now she did. As with the cleaning slave, the bondage was unnecessarily strict. Each one stood in a ridged pose. Each head was covered with a hood very similar to the cleaning slave that April had just observed. Narrow slits removed peripheral vision and a posture collar kept the head facing forward and the chin up. Again bulges at the mouth and ears betrayed the tightly gagged and sound deprived condition of each slave. Each slave had one hand behind her back, clearly locked within a slave mitt and then fastened to the back of a thick waist belt. The right hand was held inside a mitt to which a serving spoon or thongs had been fastened so that she could ladle or spoon food from the bin in front of her and place it on the tray of each diner who passed her station. A chain from the right wrist to the edge of the counter prevented each slave from doing anything else with either her hand or the implement attached to it.

April could not easily see below the waist as it was blocked by the food counter. Not being able to resist her curiosity she leaned forward toward one of the serving slaves. The slaves were held in a rigid position because each was perched on the top of a pole that extended from the floor between the legs where it disappeared between the recipient’s labia lips. To add to the discomfort each of their ankles were spaced slightly apart and fastened by short spreader bars to the ankle cuffs and then to rings in the floor. Even if they had had use of their hands, which they did not, it would be virtually impossible to bend over with the intruder in place and reach, let alone unfasten, their ankles.

Again, there did not appear to be any real efficiency or purpose in such strict bondage. April pictured herself held helplessly in such a position. She did not like the image and immediately tried to drive it from her head by shaking her head back and forth. Instead she turned her attention to the food on her tray and followed the line of diners to where she could find a table.

Once again there were four of them at the table. This time nobody spoke. Directly across from April was a pretty blonde about April’s age. She showed 49:33 pretty close to April’s time. They looked at each other, but each was really looking at the clock below the other’s chin watching the time tick. Was April below 49 yet? She didn’t think so. She thought she had maybe an extra hour on this girl. An hour, an entire hour of freedom, April felt somehow superior. To April’s right was 23:23. Ouch, last day. She looked to her left 68:21. Fresh meat, she still had three days, but she still did not really know what she was in for. Looks were exchanged, but not a word was spoken. And no one lingered. As soon as they had eaten they were up and gone. Lunch had taken about 15-20 minutes.

April was back in her room. She had had to walk past the slave cleaning the floor but April kept her eyes straight ahead and did not look at her. She did not need any more visual reminders of her future. She remembered seeing the cleaning slave shocked when she had stopped working. April’s hand drifted to between her legs. She touched herself and began to move her fingers up and down over her panties. April liked to masturbate. She knew many masters and mistresses carefully controlled and used their slave's sexual desires. April remembered Daisy, their household slave through most of April’s early teens. Daisy had been equipped with a chastity belt that included a dildo that could deliver shocks, bring pleasure, or most frightening to April in a mode April’s mother had called a “slow cook” could drive the slave to the edge of fulfillment but hold her short of orgasm.

As a household slave April’s mother controlled Daisy. Daisy slept in a sleeping alcove off the kitchen. It consisted of a space five feet long, three feet high and about two feet deep. The bottom was a pad about two inches thick. Daisy would sleep on her stomach. In preparation for sleep her wrist would be connected behind her with a four inch chain. Her ankles were connected with a 12 inch chain and then the two chains joined by a loop that connected to the top of the sleeping alcove. In this position she had to place her head forward into a padded receptacle which then locked it into place covering her eyes and ears. So as not to disturb the family the head receptacle included a penis gag that could be enlarged for training or as punishment. Once secured inside Daisy could do nothing but wait to be released. April’s family normally started the day at 7 am. But there were things that Daisy needed to do before the family was up so the alcove allowed for a timer control for release so the slave could perform early morning functions without the mistress having to get up.

Once Daisy had been secured for the night she could be punished if she had not met expectations. Punishment could include series of electrical shocks but more often than not consisted of several hours of the “slow cook”. April had slipped out of her bedroom and into the kitchen a couple of times to watch when she knew that Daisy was being punished. In the early stages Daisy began to move and sway. At this stage it looked enjoyable, but Daisy knew it would not be enjoyable. Before long her movements took on a more urgent tone with jerking and shaking. Based upon her own self exploration April assumed that Daisy was now reaching the point where she needed to cum. But this would not be allowed. The belt carefully monitored her responses keeping her just short of fulfillment, even employing shocks if necessary to deny satisfaction. After a while Daisy would be thrashing wildly within the confines of her bonds.

April was sure that if she was not gagged Daisy’s screams would be heard throughout the house. Even gagged as she was her vocalizations of frustration, rage, pleading and begging could be heard throughout the kitchen. But as far as Daisy knew not only did no one come to her assistance there was not even anyone there. With her ears and eyes covered she would not have heard April come into the room. And even though the control for the belt was only a few feet from Daisy she could not do anything to help herself. Even if she were not restrained, her cuffs would not allow her to utilize the control.

April remembered inspecting the control on several occasions. She could have helped Daisy by reducing the time her mother had set, but she didn’t. In fact on several occasions she had even added an hour to Daisy’s torment. At the time she had giggled as she slipped back to her room where she would usually masturbate to satisfaction – now she felt guilty, not for her act of self-satisfaction but for her role in the torment of Daisy. Was there some moment of payback waiting in her future?

She must have been thinking a long time. Or maybe she had dozed off. It had only seemed like a few minutes since she had returned from lunch, but the dinner bell was sounding. April was not hungry. In fact her stomach hurt and she felt like she wanted to throw up.

She couldn’t do this. It was too much to expect. Her hands went to her collar. She grasped it with both hands feeling for the two buttons, the two buttons that could so easily be pushed, the two buttons that would free her of her torment. Her fingers were on the buttons, but she froze. She couldn’t do this, but she could not not do this. She had never been a quitter. Her family was depending on her. She was their last hope. But this was too much. She could not be expected to do this. Her family would understand. They would accept her home – wouldn’t they? All she had to do was push the two buttons, her hands were right there, her fingers were on the buttons, but she didn’t push. Her hands fell from the collar as if her arm muscles suddenly refused to work. She regained the use of her arms and it was a good thing. Her head fell forward into her hands and she began to sob. Then she fell to her side on the bed and pulled her legs up holding them close to her chest with her arms. Then she slept.

She was kneeling. There was a lot of sound around her. It was a party of some sort. But April was clearly not here as a guest. April wanted to look around, but she could not see anything. A heavy bag of some sort had been pulled over her head. It had been pulled tight around her neck so that no light came in from below. It was made of heavy enough material so that no light came through it. It was not form fitting and it expanded and contracted in front of her with her breathing. Somehow she knew to stay on her knees. Her hands were behind her. She confirmed with an almost imperceptible tug that both wrists were secured behind her to the metal belt she wore with a chain extending up to her collar. She was sure the belt was part of a chastity device.

She could hear people as they walked by talking to each other. It did not appear that anyone was paying any attention to her. She shifted her position a little to change the pressure on her knees. She could feel that her ankles were also cuffed and connected together by a hobble, the length of which she could not determine from her current position, but she was sure it would be more than sufficient to keep her from going anywhere.

If that were not enough she could also tell that the ankle hobble was attached with a short line of some sort to the back of her belt near her hands. She felt the clip that had been fastened to the belt. It was only a simple carabineer type clip, but when she tried to open the gate with her fingers it would not move. Of course not, she was wearing slave bracelets on her wrists and that meant any slave clip would lock when she tried to touch it. It might as well be a padlock. Actually, a padlock would be less restrictive. If she had the key to the padlock she would herself be able to open it. With slave clips there was nothing she could do to open them.

There were voices in front of her. She was actually being noticed by someone.

A female voice, it was familiar but she could not quite place it, said: “Wasn’t it nice of Jeff’s parents to buy them a slave girl?”

Another female voice, also familiar: “Yes, but Sue is so spoiled. Now she will be insufferable. With her own slave girl, I expect to see her just have her follow along after her like a pet poodle.”

The other girl giggled and April could hear them moving away from her. Then it registered. Connie, the first voice was Connie. The second voice was clearly Megan. April didn’t know Megan as well but they were inseparable and hearing the voices in association she was sure. That meant that Sue they were talking about was April’s ex-best friend Sue; the one who had stolen April’s boyfriend Jeff from her.

April had thought that she and Jeff would get married. His family was very well to do and if she married him she would have been set for life. But that is not the reason she wanted to marry him. She loved him. She really loved him – at least up until the point he dumped her and took up with that back stabbing, self centered, unfeeling excuse for a best friend Sue.

April had heard that Jeff and Sue had become engaged. She had received an invitation to the wedding, but it was to be about two months after April turned 18, thus well after she was no longer free to attend such affairs. This must be the wedding. And she was here. Not as a guest. Not as a friend. She was here as a wedding gift, a gift to the two people in the world that she hated the most. But maybe this would not be so bad. Jeff use to love her, could he really treat her as a slave girl? And Sue, she was self absorbed, she was spoiled, but they had been best friends. There were times in her life when Sue had been there for her. Could Sue be the disciplinarian slave mistress? April did not think Sue could treat her anywhere near as badly as April had watched her mother treat Daisy. Daisy lived in constant fear of April’s mother. No, Sue could not be like that.

April was thankful that nobody removed her hood during the remainder of the party. All of her old friends were here, but luckily none of them recognized her – or if they did they did not say anything that she heard. In any event she was thankful at the end of the evening when she was collected with the other presents and removed from the wedding hall. The clip which was Fort Knox to April was easily opened by a hand that did not wear slave bracelets. She was signaled to stand, then a leash was connected to the front of her collar and she was lead away by someone. April learned that the hobble was about 12 inches so she had to shuffle along to try to keep up with the hand holding the leash. The hood was not removed, which made the trip a little frightening. But she quickly learned that whoever this was they were use to handling slave girls and would protect the valuable merchandise that she had become. When they came to steps where April would have stumbled, she was stopped and then eased forward then stopped with the touch of a hand and then guided with the words “step – down” She eased her foot forward and negotiated the short step, the length of her hobble just allowing the maneuver before using up its length.

April was not placed in a car. She was walked up a ramp into the back of a truck. Once inside she was eased forward onto her stomach on a padded bench. She felt straps encircle her shoulders, just above her elbows and then her waist below her belt. When all three belts were tightened she was held tightly to the padded surface. A forth belt was the fastened across her thighs just above her knees. This not only held her to the bench but also pulled her legs together. April could feel that the bench did not extend further. There was no place to connect her lower legs and ankles. At least that is what she thought until her ankles were bent and her legs were pulled up until they touched her buttocks. Another belt was then pulled across her legs and tightened. As this belt was tightened her feet were pulled down to her buttocks resulting in a very secure hog-tie.

Then April was in a house. She was kneeling again, but not hooded. Her head was down but she could see the legs and feet of her mistress in front of her. Her wrists were still connected to her belt behind her back.

Her Mistress’ voice was firm and commanding. “I don’t know what they were thinking when they bought you. Now it is my responsibility to see that you are a proper slave in all respects. That seems a tall order from what I know of you. That means my job will be much more difficult.”

There was a pause.

“Get up.” Mistress commanded.

April slowly rose to her feet. She started to raise her head to look at her Mistress but a quick switch of the rod in Mistress’ hand against one of her exposed breasts stopped that action. “Keep that head down. Just as I thought, presumptuous.” Mistress directed April to turn and move across the room to a padded bar set at waist height. She directed April to lean forward over the bar. Mistress moved to the other side of the bar and clipped a line to April’s collar. This line was then tensed pulling her head down and her body forward against and onto the bar.

Next Mistress knelt and pulled each ankle to the side connecting a clip to the outside of the ankle cuff. The twelve inch hobble was still attached so that when she was finished April’s feet were held twelve inches apart. She could not move.

“You may be thinking that because we were once friends that will make a difference now. Well, it actually will, but not what you were hoping for. You are not my friend. My friend is gone. You are just a slave girl and the sooner you understand your place the better life will be. That means that every glimmer of hope for ‘special treatment’ or even compassion must be driven from your being.”

“You are in the place and position where you will receive your punishment each night. Each mistake, each defalcation will be accounted for here. And the first of those is for being you and for being here. That will cost you ten strokes tonight and ten strokes each night thereafter – all in addition to any other punishment you earn – until I decide that that debt is paid, if ever.”

April felt panic surge through her. She did not want to be beaten. She had seen Daisy beaten a few times, but her mother only beat her on rare occasions when she had really done something wrong. And then, it had only been a few strokes. Ten strokes, just for being herself? That was completely unfair and wrong on so many levels. Sue had to be kidding. She had to be just trying to scare her. Well it was working she was really scared. Then there was much more. She heard the whistle as the rod sliced through the air until it came to a stop across the lower part of both April's buttocks. It felt like she had been branded. The line of fire instantly jolted her entire body. April could not remember anything to compare the pain to. April tried to squirm and move her buttocks, but pulled forward with her legs spread and secured, with the bar pushed against the front of her thighs, any movement was impossible.

Before she could bring her mind to fully comprehend the pain of the first strike there was a second one. This time it hit just below her buttocks across both of her upper thighs. This one hurt even more than the last, if that was even possible. “No . . . please . . . Sue, don’t do this to me. . . Please!” April didn’t even think about what she was saying, the words just rolled out.

“What? What was that? Did you just utter your Mistress’ name? Did you just question your Mistress’ actions? Did you just fail to thank your Mistress for helping you? That is two major and a minor defalcations in one sentence. And by the way, you failed to count either of those blows, so they don’t count. That means we are going to start again from one and continue until we get to fifteen. Do you understand?”

If April was not held up she would have collapsed. But she knew she had to pull what strength she had together. “Yes Mistress.” She paused, Mistress had not moved. Everything was quiet. “Thank you Mistress.” April added.

“Better, slow, but better. Maybe there is some hope for you after all.”

Mistress stepped back and delivered the next blow. It hit high, near the first strike. April could not contain herself, she shrieked in response to the pain. April tried to reach her hands down toward the pain but they were held well above helpless to intercede.

“One Mistress. Thanks you Mistress.” April prayed that was acceptable.

It must have been. The next strike was also on the buttocks, but low down and with a somewhat upward motion to catch the lower portion. April threw herself at her bonds but moved almost not at all.

“Two Mistress. Thank you Mistress.” April could not decide which stroke hurt more. The pain of each stroke was more than she could imagine. April so wanted to plead for some compassion, but she knew that such action would have the opposite effect. Somehow she managed to suppress the panic and the urge to beg for mercy.

There was really nothing she could do but endure the unendurable, then count and thank her abuser. Before it was over April was certain she was going to pass out before she got to the end. But she did not have that luck. There was no escape and she received, counted and thanked Mistress for every blow. As she counted out sixteen, she almost panicked again. Sue had said fifteen, but had not stopped. But then the strokes of the cane did stop. April breathed a sigh of relief. Her eyes, her entire face was wet from crying, her nose was running and saliva streamed in a long line from her mouth but she did not think of any of those things. All she thought about was that it was finally over – at least for today it was over.

Mistress approached from behind. April felt her hand rubbing softly over the tortured flesh of April’s buttocks and thighs. She could feel the size of the welts when the fingers passed over them. April was sobbing out of control. She tried to stop, but she could not. Mistress hand was at April’s mouth. Something pushed in, she felt something hard behind her upper teeth, then as her head was pushed back she felt an equal pressure push in behind her lower teeth. She had been fixed with a ring gag that was then quickly fastened behind her head.

“If you were crying because you had failed your Mistress, or because you committed the affront of familiarity with your betters, we might be making some progress. But you are not. You are standing there feeling sorry for yourself. I suspect you are even thinking this has been unfair.” A hand squeezed April’s buttocks causing pain to the enflamed flesh. “I was so kind to you tonight. From now on any act of familiarity will cost you five strokes. Now you can just stay there and think about what should be the proper perspective. You should be thinking about how sorry you are that you disappointed your Mistress and how you can set things straight.”

April heard the footsteps as her old best friend walked away. Once upon a time she would have done anything for Sue. She had thought Sue would do anything for her. Of course that was before Sue ended up with April’s boyfriend, now Sue’s husband. What irony. When April’s relationship with Jeff fell apart she had no real options but a contract of servitude. But then, to become the property of Jeff and Sue, she was not going to be able to handle this. It was too much. But what could she do? She was legally property – their property. April was just a slave who was expected to obey and fulfill every command and expectation. Failing in any way subjected her to punishment, even severe punishment. The law was completely on their side. And escape was impossible. Even if they gave her the opportunity there was almost no chance for an escaped slave to get away. What was she going to do? What could she do?

April’s legs had felt weak after the beating, but as she stood held over the padded pole they began to wobble and she was having a great deal of difficulty even holding herself up. She was so focused on the task that she did not notice when Mistress returned.

“I hope you have had a chance to reflect positively on your failings and your responsibilities.” April kept her head down and did not try to look at Mistress. “I guess we will see tomorrow.” Mistress released April from the bar and folded it away revealing a slave sleeping cubicle. April did not have to guess who was going to be sleeping there. Never-the-less, in April’s state it looked very inviting. April had no idea what time it was. She had no idea what time she would be required to wake and start her day. Would she be automatically released from the cubicle to start morning chores before Mistress was up? Or would she be kept restrained until Mistress got around to her? It really didn’t matter, right now all she wanted to do was lay down and try to get some sleep. She could not believe that her ex-best friend had subjected her to such a severe beating, and with the promise of much more to come. But again, right now, none of that mattered. She just needed to lie down.

April barely needed to be guided onto her stomach on the sleeping mat. Her wrists were still cuffed to the back of her belt, and she knew they would stay their throughout the night. That was ok; she didn’t need her hands to sleep. She felt her legs pulled up and the hobble chain clipped to the back of her belt in a not terribly tight hogtie position. That was ok too; she was tired enough that even the uncomfortable position created by her bondage would not stop her from sleeping. She would prefer to have the stupid ring gag out of her mouth, but even that was more comfortable than many gags that she could be wearing. She expected that she would be gagged most nights. She would just have to get use to it. A chain from the back of her belt clipped up to the ceiling of the cubicle. There was another from the back of her collar. It was loose enough to let her head rest on the mat but the combination of the two chains would keep April secured on her stomach and inside her cubicle.

April had assumed that the hood would be pulled back over her head and that she would then be left to sleep, but that is not what happened.

“I am tired and I am going to bed. But your day is not over.”

April turned her head to the side and looked up at Sue. What on earth was she talking about?

“You remember how much Jeff likes a good blow job?” That was clearly a rhetorical question but it did evoke thoughts back to when she had dated Jeff. They had had sex a couple of times and while he had never specifically asked April for head his not very subtle actions made it pretty clear that that is what he wanted. One time when she was manually manipulating him he even pushed her head down toward his penis. She had not followed this lead, but instead had twisted her head out of his hand and tried to divert his attention by kissing him.

“I don’t mind – sometimes – but as much as he wants it is a real ‘pain in the ass.’ Well, actually, that is another issue we will deal with later. . . Back to the subject. You are going to become a world class cock sucker so that when I don’t feel like it – which is most of the time – you will be ready to leap into the breach.”

Sue produced a large artificial penis. It was at least 9 inches long but appeared pretty flaccid. Sue knelt down near April’s head and pulled up a flap in the floor. From the opening Sue folded up a series of metal bars. Then she attached the artificial penis to the end of the bars and repositioned it right in front of April’s face. April would be able to avoid it to either side, but it was close enough that she could take virtually the entire shaft into her mouth without needing any more movement than her current restraints allowed.

“This fine work of science is to be your instructor. When I push this button . . .” (She pointed to a small red button not more than 18 inches from April’s head.) “. . . You will take this shaft in your mouth and you will work it with your mouth, tongue and throat as if your life depends on it. If you do a good job the green light will stay on. If the yellow light comes on consider it a warning to do better. If the red light comes on . . . well, let’s just say you won’t need to be looking at the light to know that has happened.” Sue was patting April on the head as she pointed to the lights – just above the button – and described the task.

“But there is a good side. As long as you keep the green light on your will receive stimulation as a reward. It might even be possible, if your performance is outstanding, to achieve orgasm.” Sue pushed the red button and the yellow light came on.

April had actually never given head. She had only the vaguest idea of what to do, but knew she better do something. April quickly found the end of the penis with her mouth and tried to work it in through the opening in the ring gag. At first it flopped away from her, but she managed to swing her head enough to capture it on the return. She pushed her head forward pulled her tongue down so that at least the first two inches of the penis slid into her mouth. She started to move her head forward and back but the first two inches of penis pretty much stayed where it was in her mouth as the shaft bent.

“You will find that the penis is not always as hard as it should be. This device will simulate all the different states you might discover and your challenge to get to the correct result. Oh, by the way, if you stop paying it attention for five seconds the red light will come on. Enjoy!” Sue’s footsteps disappear out of the room, but April was no longer paying attention. The yellow light had come on. The penis was not pleased. She could not use her lips because of the ring gag. She could not use her jaw either. The opening into her mouth had been set for her. That really seemed to be an unfair addition to the challenge. But she did have her tongue. She eased her head back so that just the tip was still inside her mouth. Then she started to stroke it with her tongue. The green light was back on. She could also feel it beginning to respond. It was becoming more firm.

She was now able to work her head from side to side allowing her tongue to take different angles of what was still only the tip. But the entire shaft was now getting hard. She checked it by slowly moving her mouth forward until she could feel the tip at the back of her throat. Far enough to start a gag reflex, but she pulled back away to control it. She must have done something right because the vibrator that she knew would be between her legs began a soft gentle massage. That felt good. That felt really good. Involuntarily, April squirmed moving her hips back and forth and tried to push her crotch forward so she could rub on the mat. The slave belt and chastity control, of course, would not allow her to exert any control. No friction initiated by her would be transferred through the device so as to reach her. The only pleasure she would get would be from the belt and only to the extent that it decided to allow her to have pleasure.

April had stopped paying attention to what she was doing. The shaft had softened. It popped out of her mouth. She struggled to feed the end back through the ring gag. The yellow light had come on. The shaft seemed very soft now. April was panicking. Every time she got it lined up with her mouth it seemed to just bend and slip away. Even though April knew the shock was coming she was not ready for it when it hit. It was painful, not painful like the strike of the cane, but painful in a way that seemed to radiate out through her body. Painful in a way that caused the brain to tell the body to make it stop. Painful in a way that caused her muscles to contract. At first she gasped and let out a scream. This did not help her cause because the shaft slipped completely from her grasp.

The shock was not constant. It hit with a jolt, then it stopped for a second or two, then it hit again. After about the fourth jolt April was desperate to make it stip. Her first instinct had been to struggle against her bonds trying to break free of her bondage. Two jolts later she stopped and wildly searched for the now flaccid shaft that provided her only means of escape from the pain. She found it with her tongue. It was not easy to use her tongue through the ring gag, but she managed. She began to lick at the shaft moving her tongue up and down its sides.

The shocks stopped. The light had returned to yellow. April did not know how long this was going to go on, but she was not going to let her attention be diverted again. She drove all thoughts from her head and focused only on the shaft in front of her face. Nothing in her world was more important than that.

April opened her eyes. She was not in a slave alcove, at least not yet. She was in the bed at the facility. She was having trouble shaking off the residue of the dream. Weren’t dreams supposed to leave you very quickly after you woke? She wanted this one gone. April had not been prone to nightmares, but her current situation was a great catalyst for them, and this had been a whopper. Was it a sign that she should not go through with this? She was approaching her last day of freedom.

Immediately she felt guilty. In her dream she had cast her former best friend as the evil villain. Maybe she had good cause to be angry with Sue. But April knew that the real Sue would never be the Sue of her nightmare – or would she? “Stop it.” She told herself. “You are going to make yourself crazy.”

She did not know what time it was. She knew she had slept through dinner and probably most of the night. She was very hungry. Was it time for breakfast yet? She curled up on the bed and waited for the bell to sound. She did not feel like sleeping. The last thing she wanted to do was return to sleep. But she did not want to get out of bed either. Everything was quiet and the hallway outside her door seemed somehow frightening. She felt like a child afraid to look under the bed. She remembered those feelings of dread. She remembered being afraid to even put her foot on the floor for fear something would reach out and grab it. This was that same kind of unreasonable but at the same time uncontrollable fear. So she did as every child faced with the specter of a lurking monster hiding somewhere in the shadows. She pulled the covers up over her head.

April did not know if she had fallen back to sleep. She did not know how long it had been since she had awoken from her dream. She had been waiting for the breakfast bell and finally it was sounding.

April did not even go to the bathroom to straighten up. She did not wash her face. She did not comb her hair. She did not brush her teeth. And most of all she did not look into the mirror to see the red numbers displayed below her chin. Instead she slipped her feet into the slippers by the side of the bed and walked into the hall.

She could hear movement in other rooms nearby, but she was the first one out of her room. She was not the first to the dining hall, but she was close. The strong smell of bacon was inviting and immediately made her feel much better. The three serving slaves were on the line. Dressed as they were it was impossible to tell if they were the same slaves from the day before or new ones. April had the vision of these slaves left restrained as they were without any relief over the course of the last 24 hours. A shiver ran through her body and she immediately lowered her eyes to her food tray and away from the helplessly encased creatures only a few feet away.

With only a few people in line before her most of the tables were available. April did not feel particularly communal so she selected an empty table. She was certain that others would join her soon, but she would at least get a few moments with her food alone. And, she imagined as disheveled as she was that she looked pretty frightening. Maybe that would keep people away. She did not know what her clock said, but she figured it must be under 30 hours by now, one more day and night.

There was movement across from her. A petite blonde placed her tray on the table and maneuvered onto the connected seat. April looked up and the girl made eye contact and smiled. She displayed 57:54, just over two days. April relaxed in the girls smile. How could she be so calm? Had April felt that good yesterday? Was it only yesterday that she had been in this girls place? Why did it seem like she had been here for weeks?

“Hi, I’m June.” The blonde’s voice was soft but clear with no hint of tremor.

“I’m April.” April’s good manners were ingrained; she could not possibly have not responded.

“This breakfast is pretty good. I didn’t get out of processing until after dinner last night. Is all the food this good?”

April could not believe the conversation. This was not some cruise ship. This might just be her last day of freedom forever. How could this girl be so calm? “I don’t really know. I haven’t had much of an appetite.”

“I can understand that. Are you going to go through with it?” The girl had stopped eating and tilted her head slightly to one side.

“There really isn’t a choice, is there?” April was afraid she was going to throw up the food she had just eaten.

“Not really. Certainly not for me. But it could be a lot worse. This is the first real meal that I have had in many months. It is warm here. And as a slave they have to feed me and take care of me. I was just afraid they wouldn’t take me. But, somehow I managed to pass the medical tests.”

“Don’t you understand? We are about to be property. We will have no choice about where we go, what we do. No choice – NONE. We will be punished for disobedience. We can even be punished for no reason at all.” April dropped her head into her hands. “Oh God. Oh God. What can I do?”

The smile disappeared from the girls face. “I will take the beatings. It is better than eating scraps – or nothing at all. I will take having my skin warmed with a cane or whip if I don’t have to try to sleep in the cold trying to stay dry so I don’t get sick, trying to find a place that is protected from the wind, learning to defend even a small point of shelter from others desperate to escape the elements. At least this way I can survive, and maybe at some future time have a little money to find a better life.” The eyes of the girl had hardened. They drilled into April’s.

Once again April felt guilty. She had come to this place from a decent from good living. She had seen the homeless wandering the streets, pulled up into alcoves under the highways or in back alleys. She had always gone out of her way to avoid them. They were not her and she was not them. There was nothing to connect them to her. But this girl had been one of them and here she was cleaned up and dressed the same as April. Actually, in April’s unkempt state she looked more like the refugee from the streets. Now they were both the same. Both the same except that to April this was just another step in her fall from privilege. To this girl it was salvation.

“I’m sorry.” April said. “I guess I have been feeling sorry for myself.” April paused and took another bite of food. “And to answer your question, the food is pretty good here. I kept thinking last meal stuff, but they do seem to make sure we are comfortable.” April found herself smiling back at the girl. Strangely she felt better than she had before breakfast.

April was drawn to movement as a black haired girl settled in to April’s right. April’s smile immediately disappeared as she turned to catch a look at the girl, and as everyone here did, her collar. A gasp escaped from April’s throat. The display below her chin seemed to grow huge – 1:13. This girl was in her final two hours.

57:49 also turned to look at the new arrival. The girl smiled back at them, but the smile looked forced. “I guess I need to enjoy my meal.” She broke eye contact and started to eat. April had seen others shy away from those with only a short time. It was as if they stood perched on the end of a diving board extended over a bottomless pit and if they touched you they may pull you in with them.

“I guess you are going through with it.” April could not believe she had just said that. She dropped her eyes. “I’m sorry. That was rude of me. It is none of my business.”

The smile that now found its way to the girls face seemed more sincere. “That is ok. I am actually terrified. But I have been terrified from the moment they snapped this collar around my neck. I guess I am just relieved that it is almost over.” She paused and looked back and forth between April and 57:48. “I haven’t looked in a while. Am I under an hour yet?”

“No.” 57:47 chimed in. “About an hour and ten minutes. Plenty of time to enjoy your meal. Can I fill your glass or get you anything?”

“Thanks, but no. I guess we will all be waiting on others pretty soon.” The girl returned her attention to her meal.

April had found in these two fellow travelers a calm, maybe it was just a resignation, but a state of mind that seemed to wash away her panic. She was able to eat her food without the feeling it was about to come back up. In fact the three of them sat and quietly ate until less than an hour remained on the black haired girl’s collar. April could not leave the table. She wanted to stay and watch as much of the last minutes of this girl’s freedom as she could.

Nobody sat at the fourth seat at the table. One girl had walked up as if to join them. When she looked at the girl sitting directly across from the empty seat she almost dropped her tray. :39 smiled at her as the girl retreated casting a quick look back over her shoulder to make sure she had not been mistaken.

After that the conversation was light. April stayed talking to the two other girls for what seemed like a long time.

“I guess I better get back to my room.” :08 did not seem concerned about what was about to happen to her but the reality of her comment and the clock below her chin cast a pale of reality back on the table. April watched after her for a moment after she left rose from the table and walked out the door. April knew she would never see her again. Or if she did she would not be able to communicate with her.

April smiled across the table then took her leave and returned to her room.

Finally she took to her personal care even taking a long hot shower. It felt very good. She had tried not to pay attention to her collar, but as she was working with her face and hair she could not avoid it in the mirror. 25:13 – almost exactly one day left. God it seemed like she had been here a lot longer than two days. April’s optimism was fading. She had no real thought of not going through with it, but she wished she could free herself of the fear.

April was not really tired but there was really no place to be off your feet in the room other than on the bed, she had tried sitting in the chair and found it intolerable. She didn’t sleep, just lay on her back and thought about her sister and her family. Did they really understand and appreciate the level of her sacrifice? Did it really matter if they did?

There was a room directly across the hall from Aprils. April looked up as two very powerful looking women dressed in khaki shirts and shorts walked up the hallway and stopped just outside the door. April sat up and looked at them. One of them was carrying a large zippered bag. She set it on the floor as the two women stood just out of sight of the inside of the room and waited.

It did not take long. April heard a scream. “No. Oh God no. That is not fair. It is too long.” The voice was coming from inside the room.

As if on cue the two women stepped through the door of the room. It seemed that their timing was perfect. They reached out and caught a running figure clearly headed for the door. The girl was thrown back into the interior of the room where she landed unceremoniously on her buttocks. April could not get a very good look at her because of the two women still standing in the door.

One of the women had a switch in her hand and was tapping it against the palm of her other hand.

“Strip slave.” April was not sure which of the women had said that. April could make out the figure on the floor of the room now crouching on her hands and knees but looking ready to spring.

“I said strip slave.” April was pretty sure it was the woman on the right who was speaking. The girl in the room launched herself toward the small space between the women and the tantalizing opening of the doorway just behind where the two women now stood. They caught her without even stepping back. April watch as one woman grabbed the girl by her upper arms from behind and faced her toward the other woman. The second women popped open the front of the girl’s cotton shirt. (April had wondered why the shirts they were issued had snaps and not buttons.) She pushed the shirt back over the girl’s shoulders and on to her arms where she was being held by the other woman. The girl had large firm breasts that now flopped up and down as she struggled to free herself from the grip of the woman behind her.

The woman holding the girl’s arms pushed her knees into the back of the girl’s knees as she pushed her down to the floor. As the girl came into a kneeling position on the floor the woman in front pushed her head down squashing her large breasts against her thighs. Then she sat on her neck holding her powerful thighs tight to either side of the girl’s head. She then reached forward and grasped the girl’s upper arms just above where the shirt had been pushed back onto the hands of her partner. The second woman than pulled the shirt down and off the girl’s arms while the woman now straddling her neck and shoulders forced the girl’s arms close together behind her.

“Please. No. I’ve changed my mind. I can’t do this.” It was hard to make out what the girl was saying, her speech was muffled by the muscular thighs locked around her head and neck. The girl was babbling.

The woman who had removed the shirt had reached into the bag sitting on the floor and withdrew a triangular shaped piece of leather with straps hanging from various parts. Deftly she slipped the wide end of the triangle up over the girl’s arms. The top reached to above the girl’s elbows, halfway to her armpits. The lower end of the triangle had what looked like a small pouch and April could see as the girl’s hands were forced down into the pouch forcing them tight together. A strap just above the pouch was tightened over what would be the wrists restraining the hands tightly together behind the girl’s back. The girl had struggled and tried to twist and push her way from the grip of the two women but to no avail. As the strap tightened over her wrists she seemed to realize that struggling was fruitless and calmed down. This seeming compliance did not cause the women to relax their grip. They were experienced and knew well that new fits of effort could erupt at any moment.

After the wrists were strapped the women behind held the upper portion of the armbinder – April realized that is what it was – in place while the woman in front fed straps under the girl’s armpits and then back over her shoulders to where they fastened back to the binder. To do so she had lifted her weight slightly and moved her body back. Her thighs, however, were still clamped on the girl’s head. The woman pulled the straps tight as the woman behind smoothed the leather up the arms.

The armbinder was not coming off, but the women were not satisfied. As the woman in front once again lowered her weight onto the neck of the poor, now helpless, girl, the woman behind began tightening laces up the armbinder. She did not stop until the girl’s elbows were pulled almost completely together. The lacing ended at the top of the binder and a flap of leather fastened over it and was strapped into place. Straps in the binder both above and below the elbows were fastened to provide extra security.

The girl was groaning and moaning. The device looked very uncomfortable. The woman sitting on her head moved back. As she did the other woman grabbed the girl’s hair and pulled her head up and back. Before the girl could even react the woman in front reached forward and popped the ball of a ball gag into the girl’s mouth. The girl had never even seen it until it was in her mouth. The strap was quickly pulled behind her head and fastened. The girl tried to shake her head to be rid of the invader, but it was not going anywhere and there was nothing she could do to remove it.

The woman standing behind grabbed the girl by her armbinder and pulled her up to her feet. “Stand slave. I have had enough of your disobedience. You have already earned a very severe beating it would not be wise to make it worse.” Even though April was looking at the girl from a profile view she could see her eyes go wide and then her shoulders slump (as best they could pulled back by the pressure of the binder.)

As soon as the girl was on her feet the woman in front grabbed the waistband of the girl's pants and pulled them down to her ankles. The girl was now dressed only in a pair of panties, the only underwear allowed here. But that was not to last. These too were pulled down to her ankles.

While the woman in back still held the girl by the armbinder the front woman knelt down and quickly fastened leather cuffs to each ankle just above where the pants and panties had accumulated. These were quickly joined with a six inch hobble chain.

The woman then reached into the bag and withdrew a leather discipline hood. April had seen Daisy wear such a device many times but had never really given it any thought. She now looked on with an entire new appreciation.

When the girl saw the hood she started to shake her head wildly from side to side. She tried to back away but was held firmly by the woman behind her. The hood covered the entire head leaving only two small holes under the nose for breathing and an opening for the mouth. The woman pulled it over the girl’s head and maneuvered the front to insure that the holes were properly aligned. Then she grabbed the straps from the armbinder that passed across the front of the girl’s chest and held her while the woman behind closed and tightened the hood up the back of the girl’s head. When she was done all of the girl’s head had disappeared. The red exterior of ball gag poked out through the mouth hole, but even the girl’s lips were blocked from view.

The woman in front clipped a leash into a ring in the bottom of the girl’s collar. April instinctively reached to her own collar and felt the ring, innocently dangling, just waiting there. In only a day she too would be leashed.

April had not been able to get a good look at the front of the girl’s collar during this entire event. As the woman pulled on the leash the bound helpless blinded girl was turned toward the door and then led out stumbling on her short hobble chain to the hallway. The LED below the girls chin read 21!

April gasped. She could see why the girl had reacted so strongly. That was a long time. That was a very long time. It also qualified for the most severe levels of treatment. As the girl was led away April gave her a good looking over. Her skin was pale and looked smooth and soft. She had large but well formed breasts that firmly projected from her chest. She had a long neck and nice shoulders. April thought she would look stunning in an A line dress. Not that she would have the opportunity to wear one now. Her waist was very narrow and with rounded hips and long well formed legs. The light fringe of blonde hair between her legs matched the blonde hair that was visible below the lower edge of the hood. April could not now see her face, but she had seen it during the girl's struggles. She was a very attractive girl. April wondered why she had not found a good husband. What was she doing here? April would never know. The girl’s history and background just disappeared. She was now just a slave being led for processing and sale. She should draw a very good price April thought. The facility had made a good deal on her.

As the girl finally disappeared around a corner in the hallway anxiety washed through April. Her hands went to the collar and the two buttons that could change her life. April had just seen how severe the risk was. How irrevocable the decision was once the time ran. The girl had fought and struggled but there was not even the slightest of chances for her to avoid her fate. And now she would be beaten for her efforts. April’s hands moved to her buttocks and then to her breasts. She had seen so many slaves marked from punishment on their buttocks and breasts as well as the rest of their body. She had watched Daisy whipped by her mother. The girl had been foolish to fight. April had always been an obedient girl she would be an extra obedient slave. As a slave you really didn’t have a choice.

April continued to stand frozen at her doorway. There was no sign of anyone else in the hallway. If others had heard the commotion, none had responded to see what was going on. April stood looking up and down the quiet deserted hallway. The dining hall was in the opposite direction from where the girl had been taken. April started to walk that way. There had not yet been a lunch bell, but April needed to get out of her room. As she passed other open doors, she saw occupants sitting or laying on the beds. Several looked up at her, most paid no attention.

It had to be late morning. April instinctively looked to her wrist where there was once a watch. Again, she hated the fact that there were no clocks anywhere here. There was, after all, an internal schedule based at least on meals and sleeping. April wanted to know how long it would be to lunch. She could have just looked in a mirror. She knew that she had come in just after lunch. Therefore, lunch, her second to last lunch as a free person would be at about 25-26 hours. However, April just could not look at the thing below her chin. She just could not do it.

As she reached the area of the dining hall, she saw others beginning to mill about in the attached recreation room. Several were watching television. Some appeared to be reading magazines. Some just sat and stared. At least the chairs in here were more comfortable than the ones in the rooms. April had just located a chair and was about to sit down when the bells for lunch sounded. She was not really hungry, but she was certainly ready for lunch.

Lunch went by in a haze. The latex entombed servers dished the food from their restrained positions behind the food table. Again April would wonder if these were the same or different slaves than those who served earlier meals. The nature of their outfits rendered them unidentifiable. They were just slaves and completely interchangeable. As that thought drifted into April’s mind she wondered if that was the lesson behind tightly restrained servers. In two days it could just as easily be her encased as one of these poor creatures and no one passing through the line would notice – or even care.

April found a table with only one other occupant. 49:35 did not look up from her meal, which was fine with April. She did not feel like conversation. She was too busy trying to grasp the enormity of her decision and what was in store for her. Would she be beaten? Almost certainly, what slave was not beaten? Would she be used as a sexual object? Maybe. She was not sure what she thought about that. With the right master that might be bliss. But then she thought of herself ensconced in some brothel servicing a never ending line of unattractive uncaring men. She thought she was better than that, but would her new owners? It would not be her decision.

After poking at her food and only eating a portion April bused her tray feeling slightly guilty over the waste of food and headed back for her room. She did not feel like being around anyone.

She lay down on the bed. First she lay on her back and stared at the ceiling. Then she turned to her side. She found that she had pulled her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. She just wanted this to be done.

When April awoke everything was dark. Not black dark, light enough to see the walls, but too dark to read. It must be the middle of the night. She had slept through dinner, but she was not hungry. She still felt exhausted, but she did not think she could sleep. She lay on the bed for a while staring at the blank wall across from her. Then she sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. She looked around the room. The faint light provided a ghostly illumination. It seemed to emanate from around the walls just below the ceiling. She looked around the room. There was, of course, no clock, no timepiece that showed the actual time of day – only the time to destiny worn by each occupant. April could have gone to the bathroom and looked at the mirror. But, she did not do that. She could actually see the red glow beneath her chin. That was almost as unnerving as seeing the numbers.

April stood, she walked out the doorway of the room. It was not that she wanted to go anywhere, only that she needed to go somewhere. The hallway was empty. Even in the dim light it would have been easy to see anyone if they were there. No one was there.

Instead of turning toward the central area and the dining hall April turned the other direction. She started to walk up the hallway. About half of the doors were open. Through those doors she could see other inmates. Most appeared to be sleeping, the twilight lighting made it difficult to see their eyes, but the slow rising and falling of their chest with their breathing betrayed a state of sleep. Several doors up the hallway there was a girl who was clearly not asleep. She was lying on the bed, but as April slowly walked past her head moved as she followed April’s movement. April could not make out her eyes, instead in the slight light the sockets appeared as dark hollow holes in her head even the features of her face washed away by the red glow from her neck. The slow movement of the head as it followed April’s movement sent a shiver through her body. No words were spoken by either and soon April had passed out of the field of vision.

The hallway eventually turned to the right. It continued for some distance to where it appeared to turn again, once more to the right. April walked on. There was no indication that any of the doors, whether open or closed, led to anywhere other than the small rooms. At the end of the hallway there was nothing but another hallway, leading off to the right. With her hallway these made what appeared to be three legs of a rectangle. This pattern was confirmed when she reached the final turn and found a forth hallway leading into the central area.

At the central area she could have turned to her right and followed the hallway back to her room, but instead she walked forward to the recreation area. Even here the lights were dim. April was surprised to see another person, a young woman, sitting on in a big chair in one corner. She had her legs pulled up in front of her and did not appear to be moving. April might have missed her completely if it wasn’t for the bright red light from her led collar. April was too far away to read the number. The girl raised her head and stared at April without saying anything. April froze in place. She didn’t know if she should turn and leave or say something. Finally she ventured: “You couldn’t sleep either?” The girl continued staring. She said nothing. She did not move. She just stared. With this girl April could see her eyes. What little light there was seemed to collect in her eyes. They were bright blue, azure April guessed. They were not red or puffy like someone who had been crying – the common look of many of the girls here – but bright and clear and almost florescent.

April took a step forward. She paused and continued to lock eyes with the girl. Nothing – no movement, no sound – nothing. April took another step. April’s heart was pounding. She felt like bolting, she wanted to run away, but she could not. Why was she so frightened? It was just a young girl – just another victim of this terrible place and this terrible system. April took another step. Even though the girl was not moving her head somehow her eyes remained locked with April’s.

April was now only about eight feet away. She could probably have read the time on the girl’s collar but she could not break her eyes away from the girl’s bright blue eyes. The girl’s head did not move, but her hands slowly rose until they were on the collar. April could no longer see the led because the girl’s hands covered it. The girl’s expression did not change. April saw her fingers move. She saw the buttons depressed and watched as the girl pulled away the two halves of the collar. It dropped behind her. Her eyes had not moved. She had not broken the visual lock between her and the girl. The collar was gone, but there was still a red glow coming from the girl’s neck where the LED had been. April’s eyes shifted slightly focusing on the spot in the middle of the girls neck that glowed bright red. It was just a dot, but it was very bright and then it began to grow laterally slowly circumscribing the girl’s neck.

Without warning the girl’s head tipped forward, but it did not stop. It kept going bouncing first into the girl’s lap, forward across the chair, off the edge of the chair onto the floor – rolling like a soccer ball. Finally it stopped only inches from April’s feet. The face was up, even though it should not have maintained that posture, and the eyes were still open and bright and still staring at April. April felt frozen. She could not move. She wanted to move. She wanted to run. She wanted to scream. But, she could do nothing. Then the mouth of the disembodied head opened. “You know you can’t go home.”

It felt like the floor was the deck of a small boat in a rough sea. April’s legs wobbled and she collapsed. She was afraid she was going to fall on the girl's head, but as she reached to the floor trying to catch her balance the head was gone. She looked up to the chair where the girl had been sitting. There was nothing there, only an empty chair.

As some sense of feeling returned to her arms and body April shook herself. She was half sitting, half lying on the floor. She did not want to be on the floor, bus she did not want to be in or anywhere near that chair either. She pulled herself to the nearest wall so she could rest her body against the solid upright surface and try to catch her wits.

April did not believe in ghosts. She did not believe in disembodied heads that talked. And she certainly did not think removing her collar would make her head fall off. Although it might be better if it did. It was nothing but a dream. But the vision in the dream was right. There was just no way she could go home. They would accept her, or at least do everything they could to make her feel they had, but how could she not blame herself for every bad thing that then happened to her family? If they didn’t blame her she certainly would. She was stuck. In about 12 hours, just half a day, she would either be a slave for up to 26 years or she would be a broken failure who didn’t have enough guts to put her family first and save them. She could be a savior or a curse. The head was right. She could not go home now. She had to see this through. She would see this through. She could be strong. She was strong. After all, not every indentured position would be horrible.

April’s head slowly nodded until it rested on the wall partially supported by her left shoulder. An observer would have noticed her breathing become slow and deep. There seemed to be a gentle breeze, warm soft air with a light fragrance of magnolia. April’s face was warm. The sun was to her front. She was comfortably standing proud and erect like a soldier on guard duty. She kept her head still even though she wanted to look around. It was more important for her to hold her position as she was the one being watched. She could feel from the caress of the breeze that her breasts were bare. They extended straight out from her body, large, but not too large. Firm, but there was just the right bounce when she walked or ran. They were supported by a network of straps that extended from a harness that wrapped around her upper body supporting and holding but leaving most of the flesh bare. Her nipples were hard and responded to the gentle touch of what was certainly a summer afternoon breeze. There was a slight weight on each nipple. She knew it came from bells clipped to the rings embedded there. She could feel the tightness and the support of harness straps both above and below her breasts and the wide belt about her waist. There was also the feel of a high collar around her neck and straps around her head. There was even something in her mouth. It was not a gag, it tasted of leather but it was hard, metal on the inside, it was a bit from which reins extended over her shoulders and back to the hand someone out of view behind of her. Even slight pressure could signal a change in direction as she ran.

There was a flip of the reins and the vocal sound of clicking. She didn’t have to think about what it was. She knew. She lifted her right leg until the upper leg was parallel to the ground, leaned forward to compensate for weight that she somehow knew would pull at her waist and began to step forward. Her steps were smooth, evenly measured, and precise. As she moved forward the sulky behind her slid forward. She pictured it in her mind but would never think of breaking posture to look over her shoulder, she was far too disciplined for that. She could hear the sounds of the crowd as they interrupted their conversations and turned their attention to watch her.

Her arms were behind her back, each wrist fastened to a cuff at the other elbow. It had been that way through most of her training, but that was proper. She hadn’t used her arms in many months but she didn’t miss them. Ponygirls didn’t need arms. They were pampered and cared for by others. Even average Ponygirls had grooms. But as Ponygirls went, she was the best of the best. Her training had been harsh, but she had taken to it. She knew well the kiss of the whip on her buttocks and back. She knew that feeling that her lungs were going to explode with the next breath or that she would be unable to suck in any more air. But she had learned how to keep going through and beyond the exhaustion and in spite of, or maybe with, the pain. She trusted that her trainer knew just how much more she might have inside and how to find it. And she had found it. She knew that when she felt his whip on her flesh that he knew she had more to give and that he knew she could dig down inside and find more strength. She trusted from the sharp pain that she had more to give and that she could find it. Over and over again she had. People would now come many miles just to get a look at her and to buy a ticket to see her run which were often sold out well in advance. She was important. She was proud. And, she was happy.

The breeze was gone. The air was still. Yet April sensed movement nearby. She opened her eyes. The lights had also come up. She had not noticed the change but it must officially be morning. Several other girls had come into the room. April assumed they were waiting for breakfast to start. They had the same listless movement that characterized all of the occupants of this hellish place. Doomed souls wandering in purgatory waiting for the gates of hell to open and swallow them. Even though they must have seen April on the floor nobody looked at her. It was if she was afflicted with something they could catch. First, she was now a very low number. Anyone who’s number was lower than yours evoked fear, strangely the site of anyone with a higher number seemed to evoke contempt. Was anyone sane when they left here? April shook her head.

There was a smell. It was bacon. April realized that she was very hungry. And, for some reason the food really smelled good. Without paying attention to any of the others in the room April rose and headed for the dining hall. Several other girls had already queued up. April had never enjoyed standing in line and considered evoking her low number to cut past some of the others, but the line was moving forward with enough speed to render her plan silly. Instead she just turned and looked back at the line behind her. She looked into the eyes of the girl immediately behind her (but not until after she glanced at her timer – 55:05.) The girl’s eyes widened and then dropped to the floor. “Wimp”. April thought but did not say. The next girl behind her was 52:55. She, as well, could not seem to maintain eye contact. April smiled and turned back. The line had moved forward leaving a gap between April and the girl ahead, but nobody had attempted to move into the space or even tell her to move up. She casually walked forward, slowly filling the gap just in time to get her tray and start receiving her breakfast.

April did not think of herself as a breakfast person, but for some reason this food smelled very good. There was bacon, potatoes cooked to a golden brown, buttered toast and scrambled eggs. April even pushed her tray back in the direction of one of the serving slaves when she felt she had been given too small a portion of potatoes. The slave quickly responded by providing a second scope. What April could see of the eyes through the slits in the hood looked terrified.

April did not join the few people who had seated themselves at several tables. None of them were of interest to her. They all seemed to slump forward with their eyes down on their food trays. April was aware that she was standing tall and straight. She walked confidently to an unoccupied four seat table and sat so that she faced the area where diners emerged with their food.

A girl started to move toward April’s table. April locked eyes with her and the girl turned away moving instead to a different table. April sat, relaxed and confident, at her table – alone – and enjoyed her food. She considered returning for more, but decided she was sated. When she was done she stood and moved toward the recreation room. She did not bus her tray as was the protocol. She left her tray, flatware, and the remnants of her meal on the table. Let the slaves clean it up, after all, it was their job not hers.

In the recreation room the single television was turned to some stupid sit-com. Several girls sat on a coach, watching, but not laughing or otherwise reacting to the television program. No wonder, it was a stupid program – not funny at all. April walked to the table and picked up the remote. Without a word to any of the others she aimed the remote and began changing channels. One of the girls looked as if she were about to say something, but April turned her body so it was straight on to the girl and looked into her face. The girl slumped back into her seat and said nothing. April found a detective show. This she liked. She put down the remote and sat down. Even though the remote was back on the table in front of all of the girls no one reached for it. No one tried to change the channel. No one was going to try to countermand April’s choice. They would watch her show.

April watched her show and several others. Girls came and went. For some reason April did not even pay attention to their timers. She felt comfortable and confident. This was going to be ok. If anything now she was bored. She needed to get this stupid part done and get on with the business of the next whatever part of her life she would be allotted. Before she had felt helpless, but somehow she realized that people were almost always in control of their own fate and the same applied here. Yes, she could push the buttons and opt-out, but that is not the control she meant. What she meant was that whatever time she was contracted to spend she knew there would be a selection and assignment process. How she presented herself certainly would not just make a difference, it would be determinative. She knew what she wanted to be. She was going to be a ponygirl. She had the body for it; she was tall, long legs and firm good sized breasts. She was in very good shape with the muscle tone of an athlete. It was a natural choice, but only if she presented correctly. She did not know, in fact doubted they would ask her what she wanted. She would have to show them. Great posture, head held high, proud – that would do the trick. This would all work out.

The lunch signal interrupted her thoughts. Lunch also tasted fine. Once again she sat commandingly at a table and the others avoided her. She smiled knowing that she was standing out from the crowd just as she needed to do.

After lunch, April wandered slowly down the hall retiring to her room. She didn’t bother to look in the mirror. She knew that her timer was now in its final hours or even minutes. Good – it was time to get this stupid part finished and get on with it. She had a plan, a good plan. It would save her family and still work for her. She wished that she had thought about this before she even came here. She could have spent some time researching the selection process. She would love to do that now, but this place did not have Internet connections. It did not even have computers.

They had given her some papers when she came in. Maybe the selection process would be described there. She carefully reviewed every word of each pamphlet. Then she read them again. Nothing of any help, there was an explanation, in detail, of the law and limitations on different periods of servitude. Her contract had a short paragraph, but no help. It provided that she consented to any assignment or sale by the Company that did not exceed the legal limits of her service.

She had been so focused on the papers that she had not thought about the passing of time. It had now been a long since lunch. There could be only minutes left. April's confidence suddenly drained. She felt panic. Whom was she kidding? She could not do this. It was just too much to ask. Her family would understand. Her hands went to her collar. As she did, there was a clicking sound. She ran her fingers to the location of the two buttons. They were gone. She tried to push down on where they use to be, but nothing happened.

April looked up at her doorway. Two women were standing there. One held a bag in her hand; the other was tapping a leather quirk in her hand. April stood and faced them.

"Strip Slave." The one with the quirk ordered. April began to disrobe. She knew she needed to follow their instructions. When she was naked she turned her back to them on command and stood as her arms were fastened into the armbinder. It did not feel very uncomfortable at first, but she was sure that would change and it did as it was tightened. As they produced the leather hood April realized that she had not even seen her collar. She did not even know the length of her servitude. She needed to get to the mirror. She needed to at least see what it was before they hooded her. She twisted her head away from the hood and tried to break for the bathroom and the mirror she could see only a few steps away.

Even though one woman was still holding her by the armbinder it was clear that they were not expecting any resistance and her sudden action caught them by surprise. But, April's ankles had already been hobbled and as she spun and tried to step toward the bathroom she only succeeded in losing her balance. With her feet hobbled and her arms confined behind her she thumped onto the floor knocking her breath out in a audible gasp. She felt pressure on her back as one woman knelt on her and everything went dark as the hood was pulled over her head.

She would not see the clock beneath her neck. Why wouldn’t they let her look at the timer. But suddenly she realized it didn’t matter. She was a slave now, and for a slave time no longer existed.