The Infinite Matrix

Stories Columns Archive FAQ Home

the sleep of reason

by Michael Swanwick

with illustrations by
Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes


26. [Plate 27]
Grace in the Bordello

Was ever a woman less suited to be a whore than poor Grace? Her virtues betrayed her. So modest that she blushed to see two dogs sniffing each other with amorous intent, she was required to perform acts of reckless depravity. By nature meek and submissive, she must now publicly solicit wickedness in the most blatant manner imaginable. Alas, her mother had sold her to a brothel, and she was too dutiful a daughter to disobey.

Worst of all was her discovery of what men were really like. Not one of her assignations was sweet and romantic. Blunt and selfish was the best she could wish for. Perverse and weird was what she usually got. Who would have imagined? They all wanted to do disgusting things with leather, rubber, diapers, clothes pins, urine, feces, dead fish… Not a day went by without a new and appalling fetish.

It was disillusioning.

Still, she soldiered on. Like a good little scout, she did her best. She hid her feelings, gave good weight, and never short-changed the house. The other whores despised her for it, but what could she do? It was the way she'd been brought up.

One day a supremely confident woman walked into her little room in the bordello and told her to pack her things. "I paid off your pimp," she said. "You're working for me now."

Grace wailed. To be bought and sold like a piece of merchandise — it was really too much! Her life had reached an absolute nadir. "Could any human being be more miserable than me?" she wondered out loud.

"Easily," the woman said. "Let me teach you how."

Then, almost as an afterthought, she added, "My name is Elena."


[ Previous ]  [ Next ]

This is the 26th of 80 stories by Michael Swanwick written to accompany Francisco Goya's Los Caprichos. For a listing of the most recently available stories, go to The Sleep of Reason.

home | stories | columns | archive | faq | talk