Whatever expectations Isari had had of this day were obliterated by the clouds of dust that swirled around her and assaulted her senses. She scrunched up her face, mindful of the cosmetics that heavily layered her skin. She blinked, the grit of the sandstorm causing her eyes to water, and she quickly lifted a perfectly- manicured hand to her face, attempting to catch the bothersome tears that threatened to destroy all her mother’s hard work. She breathed in through her mouth and immediately regretted it when dirt found it’s way down her throat and she began coughing grotesquely. She bent over, aware of the fact that her bountiful cleavage was nearly falling out of her ridiculous costume. She looked on either side of her, trying to see if anyone else was having the same issues as she, and she made eye contact with a pretty boy that looked close to her own age. He grinned broadly as he shrugged and shielded his eyes from the airbourne grime.
“If they fall out, you might catch a higher price!” His eyes sparkled a brilliant green color, and Isari laughed, which only made her choke harder. She continued to hack until one of the handlers approached, looking anxious.
“The buyers will be here soon! You must maintain your disposition!” The handler laid an un-calloused hand on Isari’s back and began thumping her lightly. Her coughing fit ended quickly enough, and she stood up, let out a deep breath. The handler adjusted her crooked dress, and slid his hands on either side of her breasts, thrusting them upward before stepping back and nodding approvingly. He then moved away, continuing to fuss over the other human commodities. Isari glanced over at the green-eyed boy and rolled her eyes. He shook his head, a little bit sadly.
“We’re not people anymore, you know. Only bondservants for the next seven years.” He seemed distracted by his own thought momentarily, then brought his attention back to Isari. “I’m Nickoli.” He held out a pale, freckled hand, and Isari grasped it firmly.
“Isari. I’ve been trying to forget that fact for the last three years, thanks.” She smiled kindly at Nickoli, and realized by his handshake he would most likely be purchased by a man. She immediately liked this charming boy, and hoped that maybe their buyers would live near each other. She’d been feeling melancholy of late, thinking of her family, and her friends Rona and Mighera, and of the fact that she would never see them after this day. “A great opportunity” is what they all had said to her. Perhaps, she had replied, but at what price?
There was a loud, ear-piercing whistle then, and Isari shivered involuntarily.
And so it begins, she thought bitterly.
After the government had fallen to anarchy, a new way of life had taken over. The people who had once been celebrities in the old government became the highest class in a new caste system where self- indulgence and carnality reigned supreme. Those individuals gifted with such talents that stimulated the mind and body- actors, writers, artists, musicians, prostitutes- these were elevated above all others, as were those children born to such. These were called the Schon. The working class, those who were responsible solely for pleasuring the Schon were known as the Haaldus. The Haaldus consisted of beautiful people alone. Any child born to a member of the Haaldus who bore any imperfection were sent away to a lower caste- the Enw. The Enw were those who served the Schon, keeping them in their extravagance, and children deemed acceptably alluring were sold off at the age of seventeen to the Schon, where they remained for seven years, until they had earned the title of Haaldus. There existed another caste, though it was not acknowledged, one consisting of those who were disabled, or unseemly, or those considered devoid of any pleasure-imparting talent. The Forsaken, as these unfortunates were called, were displaced souls, forbidden to build homes, and so wandered the streets and roads, most of them meeting their deaths at the hands of the higher castes. Isari’s parents were Enw, and this was her Hocking Day.
She watched as gorgeous people decked out in shimmering fabrics entered the Emporium, intent on finding the most desirable of playthings. Several faces she recognized, an actor and actress couple who were known to purchase a considerable number of Enw every year, an artist who’s work had brought Isari to tears, and a well-known prostitute who owned a slew of pleasure houses across several provinces. The sea of beautiful faces in front of her began to blend together, and Isari realized her ridiculously-tight dress was making it hard for her to breathe. She felt a hand steady her, and gave Nickoli a grateful look. She closed her eyes and took as deep a breath as her bindings would allow. When she opened her eyes, she found herself face to face with Shaandi Necorian, the owner of the pleasure houses.
Shaandi eyed Isari intimately, starting from her feet, which were encased in absurdly high heels, continuing achingly slow all the way up to her chest, where Isari heard her make a sound low in her throat. Isari stood there miserably, trying not to reach out and pummel the woman, until Shanndi’s eyes met her own. An almost imperceptible smirk appeared on the woman’s face, and the slightest raise of one perfectly-shaped eyebrow as she assessed the malice burning in Isari’s eyes.
“Don’t be so hostile, love. The clients won’t enjoy it.” Long fingers with lacquered nails were placed on Isari’s chin, lifting as Shaandi appraised her skin and jawline.
Isari remained mute, openly showing her contempt as Shaandi noticed Nickoli standing nearby.
“You, too, love. There’s too much sadness in your eyes. Buck up! You’re lucky to have made the cut.” Nickoli smiled, remaining his charming self despite the barbarity of his situation.
“Yes, ma’am.” Isari noticed a Southern lilt to his response that she hadn’t noticed before.
Shaandi laughed, a pleasant and alluring sound. “Ma’am? Oh, love, do I look as old as all that?” She flirted as she touched Nickoli’s hand. Isari didn’t fail to notice how every action and movement the woman made was licentious.
Nickoli’s porcelain skin flushed a bright red, and Isari realized the effect Shaandi was having on him. “No, ma’- er, miss. No, not at all.” Isari narrowed her eyes at him, feeling betrayed by his reaction to this member of the Schon.
Shaandi laughed her golden laugh again, and turned her attention once again to Isari. “You see? You’re little friend accepts his circumstances, pretty bird. Perhaps I can teach you to welcome them as well, hmm?” Shaandi placed her hand once again on Isari’s face, this time cupping her cheek in a surprisingly comforting way.
Isari felt her heart sink, despite the reassurance. It had been bad enough when she knew she was being sold to a complete stranger to be used as she would, but to be sold into servitude at a pleasure house was more than she thought she could bear.