Fall 2022 Issue

Weekends at Madam’s Harem

 There are few places to hide when madam wants her nut. Every corner, every crevice, every paint drop, every square millimeter of tile in Tuynhuys is fitted with nanoreceptors, and every nanocircuit in our bloodstream transmits a signal that tells her where everyone is at any time. There’s nothing in this continent that her family doesn’t own; that her family hasn’t parceled out among themselves. When she turned thirteen, sixty years ago, her father bought the country from the last president and the rest of the legislature in exchange for islands he owns in the Pacific for her to run as she sees fit. Not that there’s any much running to do. Everywhere from here to where it once was, this land’s northern border is nothing but data center upon data center and every drop of groundwater is used to cool the many servers that dot this land. The stubborn bands of communities that refused to migrate north when the clouds no longer sliced themselves open to nourish the earth have long since died of thirst. That’s where I come from, the north, a small country cuddling snuggly with the Congo River that her nephew runs. It’s a modest country, no industry to speak of. All we do is grow opium that we send raw to a neighboring country to be processed before it’s shipped to Europe or Asia where it’s the shaft through which the world turns. I got here when I was seventeen. A year later than everyone else did.

When you turn sixteen, they put you in a row butt-naked, while freckled, white hands cup your nutsack and measure your shaft. Mine took long to grow. My twin brother left a year earlier. I had to wait a year for my requisite inches, and even then, I was sent down here and not up there by The Union Buildings where Madam says the choicest meats are. 

She spends most of her days there; only flies down to us occasionally. We’re her little treats she tells us, over the intercom while we stand naked by the hall waiting for her to choose which one of us will walk up to spend the night with her. A current flows inside the chosen, and their stomachs twist and turn and each muscle fiber tugs and tugs; they collapse and spend a few seconds in quick spurts of convulsions and wake up with a violent erection that refuses placation no matter how hard one tries – only she knows the buttons to calm it down – a hard veiny protrusion that throbs and throbs as though all blood flow is being directed there; that’s inflated to the point of near explosion. Tonight, it’s my turn. I walk up the stairs with a fella from a country on the east coast. Madam never fails to mention that she doesn’t usually go for the east coast boys. She says they’re too delicate and their limbs are too forlorn. The east coast fella tells me that the guy – one of madam’s relatives, obviously – who runs their country – a tiny country in the desolate lands that cup the Great Lakes (one of the few sources of fresh water in the continent; the lake water’s their main export) – private militia stands guard, encircling the lakes, ready to strike down anyone who walks near; everyone has to settle for nasty groundwater, that’s why they’re so thin! – offered him to madam in exchange for a lease to one of her servers. That’s how he came to work here with us. She only breathes the finest, crispiest air, imported straight from the Swiss Alps. We will find her supine on the hover bed, lowered and floating a height just below our waist. Her head will be in a bubble helmet, tubes running straight up through the ceiling, to the air tank on the roof guarded by two Nordic militiamen. The east coast fella will take a pair of tweezers and carefully pluck all strands of body hair sprouting from her cozy body. I will take a silk scarf, dip it in incense oil, and wipe out every sweat drop from the many folds and crevices on her pale skin. Then she’ll order us around for hours and get us to do whatever she wants done to her for the night. Once she’s done, she’ll press a button beneath the fold of her left breast, and we’ll be flaccid again. But don’t worry about me! In a few months I’ll be turning twenty. Too old for madam. The cook tells us once that happens, she’ll send us to one of her brothers’ luxury resorts in the archipelago somewhere off the coast of Guinea. He did ten years there. The work there is not as strenuous at all, he tells us. All you have to do is shove needles between his toenails and his pink toes while his warm and slimy ejaculate drips down your head.

Nzeru Aquilar

Nzeru Aquilar Nsaí lives in Soweto, Johannesburg.

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