To the Hilt
I scoped out the store for more than an hour before I was sure it was safe to go in. I watched customers come and go and pretended to check my reflection in the glass so I could look inside. The man sitting behind the counter had dark curls that fell around his neck and wide shoulders. I hadn’t seen him working there before, which meant he hadn’t seen me before either. When the last customer left, I ran my palms down the sides of my skirt and pushed my way inside.
In a few steps, I was in front of the clear glass counter.
“Something I can help you find?” he asked.
Knives everywhere: in the case, behind him on the wall, on shelves and in boxes. I was never sure how I’d pick just one. I looked down, and a flash of blood-red caught my eye.
“Can I see that one, with the red handle?” My finger left a small smudge-mark on the glass.
The man behind the counter didn’t get up; he just leaned forward until the key around his neck would reach the lock on the case. From outside, his hair had looked black, but now I could see that his curls were woven through with strands of early grey.
“She’s a beauty,” he said as he lifted the knife from the white fur that lined the bottom of the case. “You have a good eye.”
He laid the knife down on a piece of cloth on the counter. She was a beauty—inlaid with red coral in the stainless steel handle and just the right size; folded, as she was, she’d hide perfectly in your palm. I couldn’t wait to see the blade.
“May I?” I asked.
“Please.” He waved his hand in the direction of the knife as though it was nothing. As though I was asking to pick up and fondle a twenty-dollar Swiss Army knife instead of a limited-edition Kiwi. I didn’t dare ask the price. Once you start asking questions with knowledge behind them, people start asking questions of their own.
I picked her up. She had a solid heft for her size. The handle was smooth to the touch, but that wasn’t what I really cared about. I flicked my thumb, and she opened into my palm. The blade was short and shiny, with just the right sheen when you tilted it against the light. You could tell just by looking at the edge that it was sharp as hell. I laid the blade flat against my palm. My skin looked pinkish, alive and hot, in contrast to the cold metal. I could almost see my blood running.
I wanted him to go away, to leave me alone with her. Sometimes that happened, if I got lucky. But he didn’t. He just watched my hands work the blade open and closed.
“Have a thing for knives, do you?” he asked.
I sucked in air. The shop smelled of steel and the parts of animals that stay around after they die. Bone and skin.
“It’s a gift,” I said. “For someone else.”
He touched my fingers, at the point where they curled into the knife’s handle. His skin was warm, but his hands were rough, callused.
“And the one you bought last month?” he asked. “That a gift too?”
I pulled away from him, then folded the knife carefully and put her back on the cloth. I looked into his dark eyes, almost as dark as his hair but flecked with brown instead of grey, and I was tempted to lie. But I couldn’t, or I didn’t want to. I couldn’t tell which.
“No.” I said. “That was for me.” It was a small truth, a tiny cut in my armor. Surely it couldn’t hurt.
He leaned closer and ran his fingers across the knife’s smooth red handle. We both watched his skin slide over the coral. When he got to the point where the base of the blade hinged inside her, he looked up at me. The skin on the inside of my arms prickled.
“And what do you do with these knives of yours?” he asked, his finger still stroking her edge.
I looked to make sure my long sleeves were pulled down to the wrists.
“Nothing,” I said.
He picked the knife off the cloth and popped her open with the practiced fingers of someone who knew how to handle things.
“Nothing?” He twisted the blade back and forth in the light. I couldn’t take my eyes from its metallic shine. “Waste of a good knife, if you ask me.”
He closed her, and then she was hidden inside his palm and there was nothing left to look at but his eyes, the stray curl that twisted at the side of his forehead, and the short goatee that made his chin look even sharper than it was.
By the time I could stop looking at his face, the knife was back in the glass case, like a sleight of hand, a magic trick.
“You don’t want that one anyway,” he said. “It’s nice, but not the best.”
He locked the case. “So you rotate, right? Hit a store once every couple, what, months? Weeks when it’s really bad?”
My legs shook and I put both palms down on the counter to hold myself up. My hands made sweat-prints on the glass. This had never happened before, the way he’d opened me and seen to my insides. I felt as clear, as transparent, as the knife case.
“I don’t know what you mean,” I said.
“Okay. Guess you won’t want to see the collector’s room then.”
Something thin and sharp trailed up my arms and entered me.
“Sure.” He pointed to a door behind the counter. “More blades than you could imagine, not even in your wildest dreams.” He enunciated wildest dreams carefully, like to say that he knew what mine might be.
I pressed my hand to the inside of my arm until I was sure my voice wouldn’t give me away. “Well, I guess I could take a look.”
For a few seconds, as he turned away from the counter, his head still at my chest level, I didn’t understand what I was seeing. And then I realized that he hadn’t been sitting on something behind the counter—he was in a wheelchair. Not an electric one, but one of the old-fashioned ones that you push with your palms, only it was streamlined, shiny chrome and thin wheels. He moved himself forward with a few pushes of his big hands and wide shoulders until he was in front of a door.
He opened the door with the same key that he’d used on the knife case and then rolled himself in. After a second, I followed him. The door shut behind us with a click.
The small room was chilly, but the air wasn’t what made me shiver. The walls were lined with swords. Long, ornate handles and hidden blades. Cases were filled and topped with knives and knives. I could almost see through the handles and the sheaths, imagine the blades buried inside the bone and stone and steel. Even without touching them, it made me wet.
He wheeled his chair around so he faced me. I took him in: the width of his shoulders and chest, the small hips, the denim-covered legs. The way the metal of the wheelchair contrasted with the skin of his arms. The knives on the wall behind him seemed to enter or exit him, disappear into his skin and come out the other side like a novelty act.
“Now,” he said, “tell me what you do with those knives you like so much.” He took my arm where the sleeve covered it and rubbed his thumb over the fabric. I wondered if he was feeling for scars.
I pulled away, then ran my fingers over the inside of my arm, the same place where his thumb had traced.
“I had a thing for needles,” he said and his voice was hard. He started to roll up one of his sleeves. I looked away. I didn’t want to see needle tracks, to try and figure out how old they were, how long his addiction had been going on, whether or not he’d actually broken free.
But when I looked back, I realized that wasn’t what he meant. His inner arm was covered in color, mainly reds and greens. Some blue and black. It was a design, but I didn’t know of what. Abstract, the kind of thing you could look at a million times and never see anything in. Or look at once and see your own face.
I laughed. In the chilly room, the laugh was the warmest part about me.
“Now, tell me about the knives,” he said.
My hip knocked against the corner of a case. On top of the glass, a long sword tilted and rattled.
“It’s not what you think,” I said.
“What do I think?”
“I don’t cut,” I said.
He lifted his shoulders up, as if to say “maybe you do and maybe you don’t.”
He rolled himself forward until he could reach around me to grab the sword on the case. He brought the sword across his lap, then gripped the hardwood handle and pulled the long blade from its covering. The blade was pure black, a matte that didn’t reflect anything. It divided him in half as he held it, a clean line of nothingness between his strong chest and small lap. He watched my eyes as he twisted the blade. I looked away.
“So you don’t cut,” he said. He slid the blade back in, reached around me to return it to its spot. His tattoo nearly touched my hip, but I didn’t move away.
In one swift motion, he caught my right wrist in one callused hand.
“Let’s see,” he said, and he slid my shirt sleeve up. The skin inside my arm was pale and uncut, lined only with the blue road-map of my veins.
I exhaled, and I swear my breath made clouds in the chilly room. He looked at me through narrow eyes, and I felt my pulse beating time to his. It was time to go. I’d go now and I’d never come back. I’d start taking my chances with the internet, buying knives I couldn’t touch first, and hoping for the best.
He had my other wrist. “This one,” he said.
I tried to pull away, but his upper arms were strong, and he kept me pinned there against the glass, like just another collectible.
“Let’s see.” His hands were busy keeping me there. “Lift it.”
I shook my head. You keep your secret so well, all the time, careful, and you dream that someday you might get caught. And when you dream, you hope it’s like this, by someone with the power to force it from you. Maybe even the power to understand. But then it happens ... and you don’t want it. You don’t.
“No,” I said, and I held out my clean right arm again. My masturbation arm, although he didn’t know that. The other arm was the one I needed to see so I could come.
He pulled his chair closer until my legs were hemmed in by his. Behind me, nothing but glass and knives. He took hold of my shirt sleeve and pushed it up as high as it would go. We both looked at my arm. I’ve seen it a million times, and every time it’s like for the first time: the long blade that ran from my wrist to my elbow, inked in a silver that was as close to metallic as I could find. The gutter that wraps around my elbow and, inked at my bicep, the red handle. Not coral, but some other stone. Something that hasn’t been discovered yet. Blood stone.
He let go of my wrist to run his fingers over my skin. He traced the tip that pointed just above my artery, the edge of the blade that ran up my arm. No one else had seen it. No one else had touched it since I’d had it done six years ago. I’d scoured the world, put myself in debt, to find an artist who could nearly replicate steel, who could give my skin the shine I wanted. Needed.
He leaned forward and pressed his lips to the tip, right at the place where my pulse beat hard under the skin.
“She’s beautiful,” he said. That almost turned me. But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t until he took my wrist tight in the circle of his fingers and leaned forward to run his tongue along her, the tip of his pink against the tip of her steel. That’s what turned me.
His mouth spent more time on her than most guys ever spent on my whole body. He kissed her hilt, nipped at the edges of her handle. He traced her blade with his tongue, leaving the metal inked on my skin as shiny as any in real life.
The warm, wet feel of his tongue made me sag against the glass counter until I was leaning my full weight on it. I watched him, every lick and bite. The sight of his teeth and then his tongue and then his teeth again tightened my nipples and made my insides go molten.
When he seemed satisfied that I wasn’t going to take my arm back, he let go of it and reached under my skirt with one hand. His fingers shoved aside my panties and stroked until they found the hot, wet furrow between my legs. He barely touched me, too soft for all my liquid center, and I ached to press myself onto his fingers. But I didn’t want him to stop with his teeth and tongue, so I held myself against the counter as his light touch split me.
He brought his fingers out and they glistened in the light. Then he rubbed my own fluid into the blade of my arm in long, sure strokes, making the ink even more shiny, metallic. My clit pounded in time to each sweep of his fingers. I bit back my moan, but it came out anyway, low and wanting.
He raised his head and his eyes had lost their brown flecks. “I know what you do with your knives now.”
I wondered if he did.
“Take off your clothes,” he said.
“I’m too cold.” It was something I generally believed about myself. Always too cold, for love, for fucking.
“Just your panties, then.” He pressed his thumb, hard, over her tip. I could feel my blood beat frantically, trying to get through the vein. “And keep your sleeve pulled up.”
I didn’t want to fuck, but it seemed I owed him that, for what he’d given me. For what he’d given her. And maybe, this time, I could get off without her. Maybe it was a chance to be normal, to do what normal people were supposed to do when they came. Wasn’t that what I wanted? To not have to hide any more? To not come alone by diddling myself with the back end of a blade while staring into my own almost-reflection on my arm?
I slid off my black thong and dropped it on the counter. The fabric was so warm and wet that it steamed up the glass beneath it. I pulled my shirt sleeve up as high as it would go, careful as always not to catch the fabric on the blade of her. As though she were real.
I’d never done it with a guy in a wheelchair—I wasn’t sure I’d even talked to anyone in a wheelchair before—and so I didn’t know what to do. Was I supposed to get him naked, or did he do that himself? Could I sit on his lap in that chair? Did his cock even work?
I touched him there, where his jeans bunched up and his cock would be. I couldn’t feel anything, but maybe I was in the wrong spot.
“How do we—?” I asked.
He put his fingers on the blade inside my elbow, then turned me to face away from him. He pulled me down onto his lap. Nothing harder than his zipper pressed into the back of my skirt, and I knew at least one answer.
Before I could ask anything else, he was rolling us backward in his chair. He reached out and pulled one of the longest knives off the case. He left the sheath on the blade and reached around me to run the tip against the inside of my thigh. The handle was white and brown, smoothed round bone. Seeing it made me shiver. I knew I was wetting through my skirt into his lap.
Holding the covered blade, he pressed the bone handle of the knife against me. It was cold, colder than the air outside, and hard. But the shape was smooth. When he rolled it from side to side across my clit, I sucked in my breath.
“Is this it?” he asked. “Is this what you do?”
In answer, I arched my hips forward, pressed myself against the rolling handle.
He turned the knife so the handle faced me. With one hand, he slid the first bit of the bone inside. My body resisted for a second, then stretched. I opened around the handle like a wound.
He rocked me on his lap, back and forth, the bone handle sliding deeper inside.
“Do what you do,” he said. “I want to watch.”
Hearing him say that, it was like permission. For a second, I thought the pleasure would go with the shame. But, no, it only honed it to a sharper need.
I put my right fingers to my clit, to the spot where it lengthened and hardened into a long edge, and I rubbed. I laid my left arm across the arm of his wheelchair, where we could both see her. She still glistened from his tongue and my own juices, and as he rocked me back and forth, she caught the light. I wondered if I could, finally and for once, see myself in her.
He fucked me with the bone, hard and fast, until he could bury it to the blade.
“Hold it there,” he said. And I closed my cunt, tried to squeeze it around the bone and hold it in. It slipped a little, but everything was slippery. Even my fingers on my clit were sliding around, trying to keep contact.
With his free hand, he stroked the knife inked on my arm, tip to hilt. The nerves tingled and tightened, in my arm, my cunt. And then, a pleasure so intense it was nearly pain, sliced me open, cunt to mouth, until my moans erupted as fast and steady as blood.
When I stood, I saw his jeans were soaked at the crotch. I assumed it was all from me, but I didn’t know. I almost hoped not—I hoped that there’d been something there for him.
I slipped my damp panties back on. Suddenly I realized how long we’d been in that room. “What if a customer came in?” I asked.
“So you’re not a customer?” He held out the knife, the sheathed blade, the glistening bone handle. I could barely look at it without my pulse speeding up. “Thought for sure you’d want this.”
The way he held the knife, I could see the whole underside of his arm. This time, the colored design wasn’t abstract. It was something I recognized. Not my face, but my desire maybe. My secret, no longer my own. I was surprised to find I didn’t miss it.
I took the knife from him. It was lighter than I expected. And, despite the fact that he’d just fucked me with it and it was still shone with my juices, my body didn’t react. Not a pulse beat. Nothing. Without his hands on it, the knife didn’t hold the same thrill for me. That had never happened before.
He waited, watching me with those dark eyes. I put the knife back in his hands, saw the way he held her, stroked her. There it was—the pulse the picked up in my neck, beat its way down between my thighs. He seemed to know what he was doing to me, because he watched me as he slid the sheath off, exposing the dark metal of the blade for the first time. He tilted it, and I really did see myself there: cheeks flushed, my lips parted slightly, my own fast breath.
“I do want it,” I admitted. “Do you deliver?”
He smiled, and the brown flecks came back into his eyes. “Only for regulars.”
Copyright © 2007 by Syrriah. All rights reserved.
Shanna Germain spends her days writing, drinking coffee and eavesdropping in Portland, Oregon. Her work has been published in places like Absinthe Literary Review, Best American Erotica 2007, Best Bondage Erotica, Cowboy Lover and Ruthie’s Club. For more about her and her work, please visit http://www.shannagermain.com.
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