Taara Bakshi, the notorious Hollywood producer’s ex-wife—more famous today for her insatiable taste in young flesh and widely broadcast divorce—made a spectacular entrance, flying over the raving crowd in one of those wooden cages. Two strippers groped her mature, flawless body, scarcely concealed under a thin muslin dress, while she danced against the weathered wooden planks of her makeshift cell. The spotlights followed her down to the stage where she landed, and I was instantly struck by her natural beauty. She swaggered out of it, and all it took her to get the crowd’s attention was a tilt of her head to the side: her long wavy dark hair swung around her and orderly rested on her left shoulder.
“Good evening shackers,” she started in a silvery voice and a strong Indian accent. Her full, voluptuous lips parted to continue, but widened instead to share an uncomfortable smile as the crowd screamed her name in unison. She waited for silence and repeatedly thanked everybody with a composure that only real leaders mastered.
“To celebrate our fifth anniversary as a strong and growing community, the Love Shack team and I have worked relentlessly to provide you with an ever more sensual experience. That’s how committed we are to meeting your expectations and needs.” She proudly nodded and brought a small, fragile hand to her generous chest.
“I am beyond honored to announce that we are the first event organization of its kind to integrate artificial intelligence into our selection and matching processes.” She stretched a toned arm out as her ship drifted to the side of the place, unveiling a large, bright red mouth on the wall, a ludicrous echo to Salvador Dalí’s Mae West Lips Sofa.
The crowd all so suddenly went wild, and some even pushed their way toward it as its lips were pulled open by two burly strippers.
“What you will find at the end of the tunnel will blow your mind, both for its performance and accuracy. However, dear shackers,” she jumped off her ship and waltzed up to the giant mouth.
“We are not artificial,” she went on, preaching. “We are not machines!”
People acquiesced, transcended by her words.
“No, we are blessed with a brilliant sensory intelligence that desperately craves our ignition to unleash its full potential.” She snapped her head back and spread her arms out under a shower of colorful balloons that bounced up and down over the crowd’s hands.
“Your initiation starts inside that tunnel. From now on, you’ll only have your touch, hearing, smell and taste to rely on. Sex is a sensual adventure that touches the deepest layers of your being. You’ll connect with your partners at a whole new level. You’ll experience deep, carnal pleasure as you make the other beg for your skin, shiver under your breath, and break to the beating of your heart!”
Amidst the churchy ovation, she tore off her dress, releasing her body from its unnatural skin, and paused as a goddess in lace lingerie, gathering her troops for battle.
“Welcome to The Love Shack, fifth edition. Now let’s lose control!”
As soon as she finished, darkness gobbled her down, and the music blasted through the speakers as people turned into animals in front of the DJ’s explosive finale.
Elena dived in a flirty conversation with the pirate bartender, and I sat next to her, not knowing what to do with myself other than drink. Don’t overthink it. Don’t overthink it.
Taara’s sermon had turned me on. The damp air flushed my skin and fuzzed my hair as I waggled on the stool and watched the show, pumping the intoxicating juice from my glass which drowned all signs of sprouting doubts in my mind.
To my surprise, when the lights came back blazing around the concert hall, half the crowd had disappeared and the remaining black and gold masks—new members like us, I’d figured—hesitantly ventured inside the tunnel, which swallowed them whole down its terrifying wide throat, one by one.
“Fuck,” I blurted out when my hand unexpectedly went after my mask.
“Don’t,” the bartender yelled behind me. “It’s your call. The mask turns green and vibrates when it’s your turn,” he explained, and winked through the golden locks of hair that curled across his face.
“Wait for me outside! Now go and have fun!” Elena ordered, and didn’t waste another second to resume her business, which now required more touching and kissing.
Heart racing, I lurched through the guard of honor of cheering staff and entered the silent—too silent—tunnel. The brutal transition plugged my ears while my disoriented feet moved warily, one in front of the other and down the infinite rows of dim neon lights that framed the walls and guided my blurry eyes. I finally reached the beast’s stomach and stepped onto a small, rounded platform, to which six long corridors converged. Same lights, different colors.
“1308, please don’t move,” an automated voice declared from the low ceiling as my mask beeped again.
My clammy hands trembled, and each beep of my mask sent a new drop of sweat trickling down my spine. I gulped. My throat was too dry. It was a little too late to think about that but, where the hell was my drink?
“Looking for suitable matches,” it added, and dozens of loud clicks followed as the corridors illuminated in different patterns of red and green rectangles.
“Choose a green door, 1308,” the voice faded. Lazily, I tiptoed down the first corridor to the left, barefoot. Where were my shoes?
As my hand grazed along the walls and luminous door frames, I realized I had to choose a bedroom in which somebody who shared my fantasies—hence the quiz—patiently awaited their midnight fuck.
Just as told, I halted in front of a green door. Either out of luck or superstition—I was too drunk to think straight—number thirteen attracted me like a magnet. Number thirteen it would be.
Taking a deep breath, I pushed it open to a small dressing room which reminded me of the ones we had at the campus swimming pool. A low bench, empty shelves above my head and a rack on which to hang a dress or a shirt. Except there was no intercom at the pool.
“You have chosen number 666,” I read on the screen. It was fixed on the wall, next to yet another door.
I didn’t need to be sober to know that this number was not a good omen. My brain started bouncing around my skull as I hysterically paced around the small room. Damn superstition.
What if he was violent? Yes, it had to be a man, I’d checked that box, hadn’t I? Worse, what if 666 was the guy that had assaulted me earlier? My legs trembled, forcing me to plop down on the bench, and I braced myself to keep the liquid food down my throat. When the burning breeze of rum reached the back of my tongue, I sprang from the bench to leave. I couldn’t take the risk of locking myself up with that douchebag.
“Is this your first time here, 1308?” a robotic, manly voice genuinely asked through the intercom as my hand slid off the knob. Whoever this was, he wasn’t the douchebag. Douchebag wouldn’t care if it was my first time here. I breathed in, mustering all the courage I could find within, pushed the speaker button and said in a brittle voice, “Yes. You?” No answer came right away. I wondered if he was still there.
“No,” he finally replied. Fuck. The fact that he was a regular shacker was comforting, but it only added more pressure on my shoulders: I’d have to perform.
“You’re safe with me, though. I’ll be gentle,” he whispered.
Something in his tone—an inexplicable loneliness—tugged at my heartstrings and reminded me why I’d come here in the first place. I leant against the only door that separated me from my goal, both hands on either side of my shoulders. I closed my eyes, and breathed in, and out.
You can do it Avery. In the dark, all bodies look the same. It’s just fun, emotionless sex.
“Just come in and let me guide you,” he added. “I’m going in, now,” and the intercom shut down. Before I could find another reason to leave and act against my body’s desperate cries, I instinctively jumped out of my dress, opened the celestial door, and firmly locked it behind me.
My breath caught in my throat when I realized I was in a blind room. I tried to blink the white fog off my eyes’ confused retinas, in vain. There was a presence, I could feel it; but the air conditioning system growled over my head, covering the faintest sound of breathing. This room was so damn cold.
The chills on my arms intensified and spread down my whole body when a fresh and sweet aroma of mint liqueur tickled my nostrils. The air heated up in seconds, and two large palms shoved me against the door. Here he was. His warm, steady breath invaded my parting lips, his forearms framing my face. The lace of my mask softly came loose around his querying fingers. Sensing no objection in my posture, he slowly took it off, and a thud on the floor followed. I couldn’t hide any longer.
How dramatic. I liked that. I let go of my fears and grasped firmly onto his arms, inviting him closer. They were the size of my thighs, strong and smooth—no hair.
As he pressed himself against me, his hardness brushed and teased my belly button with its slick head. He was taller than me. My interior commands completely shut down, giving in to my body entirely as his rough fingers ventured on my eyebrows, eyelids and cheeks. They smelt of laundry detergent, a flowery scent that he’d probably got from his clothes.
My heart jumped out of my chest, flushing a wave of wetness down my thighs as he kept caressing my face. I couldn’t take it anymore. I reached to his length and stroked it. It was big, there was no way I could take it all. He loudly exhaled in approval, but when his finger landed on my lips, he stopped breathing and abruptly pulled away from my grasp.
What had I done? Was he hurt? I ached to ask, and the frustration of our forced muteness became unbearable. No matter how close and warm he still was, my body went numb and cold in the blink of an eye. He’d just rejected me.
I shamefully slid down to the freezing floor, back against the door, as he clumsily walked across the room, bumping and stumbling on his way. He was leaving, all because of me. Because I wasn’t pretty enough. Because even in the dark he couldn’t see past my flaws and scars, like all men before him, and I could only accept his sentence. My skin was carved with the deep reminders of a sixty-pound weight loss that I was forced to carry around every—fucking—day. I’d never be good or sexy enough in a man’s eyes—or touch, for that matter. Coming here was a huge mistake.
A sudden river of tears flowed down my cheeks, cooling my burning cheeks. I had nothing to lose, except for the bit of dignity I still clung onto; and I spilled it all out, regretting every minute of this night. There was no place in this world for weakness, not even in The Love Shack. Only the strongest survive; and I wasn’t one of them.
I sniffed, putting an end to the unnecessary misery, and convinced my drunk brain it was time to leave. Just as I grabbed the doorknob, shaking, a wide, strong pile of muscles forced me back around.
He came back. Why?
Taking my hand in his, he gently placed my palm on his chest so I would feel his heart pounding in its cage, which I took as a silent apology for pushing me away. The experienced shacker was as insecure as I was, inside that burning and hairless armor of his.
Leaving my hand there, he cupped my face and wiped the tears off my cheeks with his thumbs. A lock of my hair was tucked behind my ear as the tip of his nose fondled mine, and he tenderly kissed me, making my body sink into the door. His rejection was already forgiven and forgotten.
His kisses quickly turned to licks as he trailed down my neck; I quivered under his touch, and letting go of all restraints, wrapped my arms around his bulky neck as he heaved me up against the door. His grip on my ass sent me over the edge. I needed him now.
Next thing I knew, he was carrying me through the room, our lips heatedly moving and tongues swirling inside each other’s mouth. I softly moaned in anticipation as he delicately sat me on the edge of a furry mattress, his breath hitting the front of my panties when he kneeled at my feet.
He slowly pulled the bra straps off my shoulders in a soft caress. I kept groping his body for his crotch, but he kept pinning my hand in the blanket in disagreement. A bossy leader he was. I gave up the fight and let him lead the dance: he had a lot of love to give and I craved it too much to turn him down. When he finished peeling me out of my underwear, he pushed me onto my back and spread my legs apart, his hands barely touching my thighs. He was being gentle, as he’d promised, and the lioness in me roared.
She needed him rough and deep inside of me, and his slow caresses built too much pressure for me to handle, so much that I almost came when his fingers and lips brushed my folds. He rubbed my clit in slow circles and licked the thin skin next to my pussy, but not really my thigh. His fingers halted at the gate of my tunnel and playfully rolled into my wetness, as though gloating about the undeniable sway he held over me. Preparing for his thrust, I arched my back as my pussy clenched frantically. Instead of granting me what I wanted, he kissed and licked his way back to my lips, pinching and biting my hard nipples on the way up.
His head hovered over me for a second as his sweet breath hit my face once again. Positioning his cock at my door, he firmly grabbed my wrists and wedged them above my head into the feathered pillow. He finally slid himself in, slowly, all the while kissing me with euphoric fervor. He was so big, so warm, and his cock fit so perfectly inside that it felt like he was home inside of me.
Our hips danced for what felt like hours along the slow rhythm of our deep breaths as he thrust back and forth, burning my lungs and heart in the process. My walls clenched, harder and harder around him, and when he picked up the pace, my legs started to shake. I turned to his forearm and dug my teeth deep into his skin to muffle down my moan as a wave of pleasure coursed through my chest and all the way down to my pussy.
He groaned against my cheek, his lips desperately searching mine. For a second, he pulled out of me, teased my clit with his cock and shoved it back in, moving in and out, faster and faster, until he hit the bottom of it and lingered on my g-spot, long enough to make my walls clench uncontrollably as I came around him, hips riding my orgasm and nails digging into his back. Fuck, he was so good at this.
He crashed on my hot, sweaty body, his cock spilling its warm cum inside of me. Our bodies danced together, slowly, perfectly nested in each other’s curves, our bones and muscles intertwined as we silently caught our breaths.
There was solace in this moment. His nose sniffed my neck, keeping record of my scent, and my hands retraced the path down to his brawny butt, making note of a straight-cut scar in the small of his back. He slid out of my pussy, kissed me one last time—bit my lip, even—and scurried out his door.
Swimming in sheer bliss, I watched my soul float around the room, reliving every single moment of my passionate encounter. As I melted deeper into the mattress, I found myself wanting more of him, his hands, his lips, his cock. 666 hadn’t fucked me. He’d made love to me.
What I’d just shared with a stranger was more powerful than all the sex I’d ever had or dreamed of. He’d scratched past my scarred skin, and seeing right through me, had given me all I really needed: selfless, passionate love.
Eventually, the artificial blinding lights brought my soul back to earth as I adjusted to the sight of numerous pleasuring objects hanging on the walls. How thoughtful.
I slowly dressed up, relishing the peaceful moment that loneliness had granted me, but my heart hopped when my eyes landed on the white and gold mask on the bed. I scoured the empty room for mine. It was nowhere to be found.
I laced his mask around my head to leave, and with a gritty voice, I said, “Who are you, 666?” convinced that our paths would cross again. That night, I walked home barefoot in the pouring rain. Never had I felt freer in my life than in that very moment, dragging my groggy best friend through the maze of Vancouver’s dark streets.