I grew up on a planet separated into six independent domes connected by intricate rail and light speed trains. All land outside the glass enclosures is toxic, so there is no life away from the vaults. Our people are few, but for the most part, seem content. They keep their heads down and follow the laws in fear of death.
My planet is nothing like that of Earth, even though we mimic its lifestyle and cultures. We are humanoid, but our kind is a mixture of human and alien. We walk on two legs, have two genders, and eat the same foods found on Earth. We try so hard to mimic the history that shaped the countries that we became lost in our own laws. I guess that is what happens when your first Governing Leader was a human astronaut lost in space. The story goes that while marooned on our planet, he fell in love with one of the alien girls from the nearby world of Disport. They had three daughters and one son. Each of them returned to their home planet and brought back more of their own kind. Little by little, the population began to grow, the industry started to blossom, and the planet of Utopia was finally functional. He used what he learned to create the Governing Law that still holds post at the highest point of the planet.
Things here work differently aside from the connection to another galaxy; some rules and regulations are barbaric and archaic. Our travelers have brought books and other customs from the continents on Earth, and yet we still follow the rules sent down from the original Governing Law. Years before I was born, Governing Law disabled a woman’s right to hold a seat and changed the laws for a women’s education. We had become a society that segregated our sexes while using knowledge as its hangman’s noose.
What follows is not a love story, though some sections can be thought of as such. This only the start of my story, much more will become known as we flashback to when it all started. My name was Joselyn Jager, and I am from the planet Utopia. This is the story of how I became the Dark Madame of Disport.
I was born on the third day in the Summer Solstice, to Randall and Helen Jager. My father was the local drunk while my mother tended to hide her misery in prescription drugs. For most of my life, I was forced to perform manual labor in exchange for the luxury of living indoors. My father was one of the many that believed children should be seen and not heard. If I were not doing a chore, he would make things up for me to do. I had no toys growing up, and my clothes were always hand-me-downs from the neighbors. My father made just enough money to keep himself swimming in alcohol, and my mother did not work. She stayed at home and “aided” with the housework while I was forced to do the chores my father deemed would “build character”. Things he said were essential to find a good husband. My mother would silently look at me. I knew she was not happy with her life. She wanted to escape. So really it was no surprise that she finally had enough.
Life on Utopia is not as easy as the name might suggest, at least not on women. For my mother to run, she had to break about a dozen laws. Divorce is not an option, death is not final, and if you cannot have children, you cannot marry. She took a risk that night, at the same time changing both our fates. I am still debating on if it was for the best.
“Joselyn, get up it’s time to go.” I felt my mothers’ warm hand on the side of my face. I opened my eyes and looked at her. She was a beautiful woman with charcoal black hair and eyes that were slightly glazed over, but clearer than the streams that ran outside of the city.
I grabbed the small bag next to the door and followed her down the winding hallway of our apartment. We had made this hike several times before, only to be caught. My mother would take the beating, while I hid in my room under the bed too scared to come out. My father never hit me, but he had no issues when it came to my mother. According to him, girls that had scars did not fetch much at auction. He was grooming me to make him a fortune. Even though I worked my fingers to the bone, I did not have a single scar on my body. If I so much as got a papercut, he would take me to the doctor to have the wound healed before it had a chance to scab, or god forbid scar.
“Shh, my love, don’t wake your father.” She whispered as she shut the door behind us, making sure that not a single click of the knob was heard.
I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, and we continued the silent walk towards the bottom floor of the building. I knew my father was passed out in a drunken stupor, and the fresh welts on my mother’s face only proved that he had beaten her in a fit of rage. The swelling around her eye concerned me; he never cared if the marks were visible when it came to her. During this era, women had no voice. We were merely meant to procreate and sold off to the highest bidder once we were old enough to marry. Many of us were forced into loveless marriages and poverty. Then again, most women would do anything to avoid the auction block.
Infertility is common on Utopia. It is considered a blessing to be able to bear a child here. At eighteen, we undergo a medical procedure that determines if we can give life or not. After that, it is at the father’s discretion if he will find a husband for his daughter or sell her to the highest bidder. Most of the girls in my neighborhood are sold at auction; the money feeds their parents addictions for years. That is why the families here are so big. The more girls you have, the more money you can make.
For those that are deemed barren, which happens often, life is not as easy. Parent’s will throw them on the streets to die. They are forced to take the jobs in the local brothels to stay alive. The best thing that can happen to a barren woman is to be chosen as a mistress. That is another one of our disgusting laws. After the birth of the first child, a husband is encouraged to take a mistress. If a woman were lucky enough to be chosen, she would be able to live her life without fear of selling herself as the law dictates that a man must take care of his wife and his mistress.
Either way, there was a risk in what we were doing. My mother was not barren; I had seen the dead babies that were carted from our home. Much later, I realized that was the reason my father started to hit her. He blamed her for the deaths of his daughters, other girls that he could have sold once they came of age.
We came to the exit, and my mother peeked out through the opening, looking to see if anyone was on the streets.
“Come on, Joselyn,” my mother demanded as she grabbed my hand and began to run down the empty street.
We were breaking the rules by being out after dark. If we had been caught, the penalty for breaking curfew was death. Maybe not so much for me, since I was only ten at the time, but for my mother, it would surely send her to an early grave.
We ran down a nearby alleyway, and my mother banged on a large red door. I watched as a middle-aged woman, with fake red hair, grab her by the wrists and yanked her inside. She had kind eyes but strong hands. It was clear that she had been on her own for some time. I remember looking at her clothing and being confused. She was wearing a dress that mimicked those of the westerns that played on the television in our living room.
The Madame grabbed my face forcing me to look up at her.
“Quiet, child. When the police ask where you have been all night, you say you were here washing the dishes and doing the laundry.”
“But why would they question us?” I muttered meekly.
My father had been a man of many words. So many in fact that I was not allowed to speak unless spoken to; which was next to never. It was a rare event when he did, and usually, it was to demand I bring him another beer. His opinions had made him many enemies over the years.
“Never mind you that. Just do as you are told.” The Madame gave me a warm smile and a pat on the back. She took a deep breath and focused her attention on a small blonde girl cutting vegetables at a table. “Mildred, please have a room prepared for young Joselyn. She will be staying with us for a while.”
“And the child’s mother?” Mildred asked as she wiped her hands on her apron.
“I already prepared a room for her. Joselyn was a last-minute addition.” The Madame looked back at me and winked.
I learned years later that my mother was supposed to leave me behind. In the heat of the moment, she could not bear to leave me with my monster of a father. She had taken me with her during her daring escape. I will admit I was heartbroken to learn that I was disposable to her. There is no telling what he would have done to me if she had left me behind.
Madame Brevard, as I learned to address her, took great care of my mother and me over the years. No police officers ever came asking questions, and we were never told to go home. My father disappeared the night that we left. I never had the heart to ask what had been done to him. Judging by the large men always flanking the Madame, I could only assume they forcibly removed him.
I began working at Madame Brevard’s Home for Women the following day. I learned how to cook, clean, sew, and nurse the ladies during their times of need. I would change the sheets after a male caller, and make sure that the women were clean and dressed when the next caller came to see them. Madame Brevard made sure she kept the goings-on a secret. It was not until I was fifteen that I learned what went on inside the large hotel. All I knew is that I worked during the day, and when nighttime came would be forced into my room for the evening. I would spend much of that time reading all the books I could get my hands on.
My mother became the administrator, working closely with the Madame, but she took ill about two years after we had escaped my father. When she died, Madame Brevard could have thrown me into the street, but she did not. Instead, she petitioned guardianship. Due to my age, the Governing Law deemed it appropriate. I was now a small statistic and a loophole to the women’s laws.
In exchange for my education, I was tasked with the daily upkeep within the hotel walls. I continued the jobs that I had previously done but took on more as time passed. Many times, I would aid with stitching closed the wounds left by the sadistic men. Not everyone was gentle with the women. Some of them would be covered with bruises and gashes on their arms and legs. The only rule was nothing could be visible on their face, many took that as an invitation to leave their mark somewhere else on the woman’s body. I cleaned the floors, scrubbed the marble, set out the food and drink, and entertained the customers as they waited for their turn with one of the many high-quality women.
Madame Brevard was quiet and reserved, always managing to avoid a tough situation with any of the male clients. They would eye me and talk to her continually asking if I was of legal age yet. Madame Brevard would smile and tell them that it would not be long. I knew that nothing would ever come of these empty promises. In the evenings, after the customers had all gone, Madame Brevard would share with me her hopes and dreams of my future. She had put money aside to send me to University. Only women born into money could go to college, after procuring a degree many of them began to work in their future husbands’ offices. She had hopes that I would meet a good man and avoid the auction block. She had my whole future planned out.
I thrived on the idea of being independent, though I knew that was not a possibility. The chances of me being barren were high, but I knew it was not the case when I got my first period. For some reason, I knew the road I wanted to take was going to be riddled with roadblocks.
I worked long hours each day and devoted my evenings to learning. I was going to get into University one way or another. I knew it would be harder since I was not going to one of the prep schools located in the more prosperous sections of Utopia. I could do it though; I was smart enough.
The brothel was owned by the Vanderbilt family, a wealthy husband and wife duo that came to visit only a few times a year. Mr. Vanderbilt visited more than his wife, and when he did, he would bring me gifts and chat with me about my education. He would tease me about finding me a better future, but after hearing those promises for so many years, I learned to smile and pretend that I believed he would find me an out. I loved Madame Brevard like a mother, but she worked so hard that it was wearing her down.
I began to lose hope about my future six months before things took a drastic change. While I was content with my life at the hotel, I felt like there was a giant hole in my soul. I smiled rarely, and usually when Mr. Vanderbilt came to visit. I felt no emotion, and I thought that I was walking through a dream most of the time. I did my work; I studied, I read my books; and yet nothing seemed to fill the gaping void.
“Joselyn,” I heard Madame Brevard calling to me.
“Yes, Madame?” I asked as I wiped the residual cleaning product from my hands on to my jeans. The Madame stared at me, disgusted.
“I have raised you to be more proper,” she growled in disappointment.
“My apologies, Madame.” I had no idea why I always apologized when I disappointed her. It was not like it bothered me. It did when I was younger, but as the years dragged on, I became less and less worried by her tone of voice.
“Can you please make sure that all the sheets are changed, and all the stains are out of the carpet. I am expecting a very important visitor.” She placed her hand on my shoulder and instantly pulled it away as if I had something disgusting attached to the cotton fabric.
“Oh?” I asked with slight vocal fluctuation. “Who is it?”
“I am not sure, but Mr. Vanderbilt has said our guest is to have anything that he wants; no matter the cost.” She smiled at me and began walking towards the set of stairs.
The brothel had been fashioned like that of a saloon. The girls all dressed in cancan dresses and did nightly shows. I had learned to play piano over the years and was allowed to play the music, with my back turned, of course. I was never allowed to see what happened in the main hall. Playing for the dancers was still relatively new. I had pleaded to Madame Brevard, and she had caved; as she often did. I had read everything in the Hotel; I needed something to do right before bed.
“I will make sure that everything is in order,” I replied as I gave her a small bow.
“I knew you would not let me down,” Madame Brevard said with a wink.
I turned on my heel and began my walk towards the linen closet. I had no idea who was coming, but he must be important if he can have anything in the hotel. I wish now that there were limitations to what a guest could request.