Do you ever wonder where these stories come from?
Years ago, I read a story called "Helen's Night In" on another site, about a woman who achieved sexual gratification through self-torture. Having done that sort of thing myself (although not to the extent that Helen did), I felt I'd found a kindred spirit of sorts.
On that same site, there was a discussion about how bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism got bundled up into one category. (Short answer: New York newspaper and party fliers used the term BDSM in the late sixties and early seventies.)
Several people commented that you couldn't have true masochism without sadism, since by their definition, the pain couldn't be self-inflicted. Others, including me, disagreed. Then the whole discussion got derailed toward the "you don't think my views are valid because you don't share them and can't understand where I'm coming from" thing, the way many discussions on such forums degenerate.
But the discussion planted a seed in my twisted mind, and this story is the result. It's based on some needle play I shared with another woman many, many years ago, which started out as a truth-or-dare thing and got heavier and weirder. We were horny, slightly drunk and more than a little stoned. I'd put a needle into my arm, she'd put one into her leg, I'd put one into my breast, she'd put one through her nipple, I'd pierce my labia, she'd ... well, you get the idea. I was getting more aroused than she was, but only by what I was doing to myself, not by what she was doing to herself. And I absolutely did not want to put needles into her, or have her put needles into me. Anyway, we only had about a half dozen needles, and clean needles were harder to come by in those days, so the game ended at that point. I think she kind of scared herself. I scared myself, too, but not because I was scared of the pain. It was because I wasn't scared of it, I was welcoming it. It was a part of my psyche that I hadn't realized even existed.
So this story is a kind of extrapolation of that feeling, taken to limits I would never have reached in real life. It's intended to be as much a psychological study as an erotic tale. Elise is psychologically repressed and emotionally stunted with regard to her relationships with other people. She dislikes the company of other people, yet a part of her yearns to have them witness her mutilation as a form of self-validation. There is a suggestion that she wishes to be dominated, but cannot bear to turn that element of control over to anybody else. Indeed, control is what the story is all about. She is a perfectionist. She must have everything just so, the ritual must be followed exactly, no step omitted or skimped over. She is ruled by compulsions. She loves herself but only when she is torturing herself. Her mind is always considering ways to make the torture more extreme and more painful, yet she worries about taking it too far.
Although she realizes it only dimly, she is searching for the transcendental experience like that of the martyrs whose images she had seen in her childhood. Unable to find it in her regular life, she nevertheless believes it is out there somewhere, as her church assured her. Her church has failed her for reasons unexplained, so she has invented another religion to satisfy her yearning for spiritual release. She is looking for redemption in all the wrong places.
I should add that I obtained more needles and tried to re-create some of the sexual tension of that episode, but the effect wore off after a few tries, and I never pursued it further. There was a certain element of self-loathing in play, and as I got to like myself better, the attraction of the experiment wore off.