Claire returned to her table to find the check laying in its usual spot. She picked it up to look at it. There was a white business card concealed beneath the check. She turned it over.
Mock Rape, inc.
Dark Fantasies Fulfilled
There was a phone number and logo which pictured a pair of feminine hands bound at the wrists. Claire stared at the card for a few moments in shock and puzzlement, then laid it face down as she had found it. She flagged down the waitress.
"Janet, did you leave this here?"
"No, what is it?"
Claire turned the card over.
"Oh, my god! Where did that come from?"
"I don't know. It was under the check when I picked it up. I thought you might have put it there."
"No, I've never seen it before. It's sort of scary. You want me to call the manager?"
"No, don't. I'm not sure I want anyone else to see it. You didn't see who put it there?"
"I wasn't watching. This is lunch hour and it's pretty busy. I can't imagine who would have left it."
"Have you ever seen one before?"
"Never. You want me to throw it away for you?"
"I think I'd better keep it. I want to see if I can find out where it came from. Would you watch to see if any more turn up?"
"Sure, I'll keep an eye out. I'll let you know if I see anything."
"Thanks." Claire paid her tab and left. As she went out the door, she couldn't help the feeling that she was being watched. She scanned the room but no one was paying any attention to her and she didn't see any unfamiliar faces. She decided she was being paranoid and returned to work.
At work, she found it difficult to concentrate. On two occasions she took the card out of her purse and looked at it, then hurriedly put it back for fear someone else might notice. As the afternoon wore on, Claire's agitation increased. Finally, it was time to leave. Claire looked around as she left the building, but didn't see anything unusual.
Claire warmed up some leftovers when she got home and tried to sort out her feelings as she ate. She was annoyed at the impact the card had on her equanimity. She was in an emotional uproar although nothing had actually happened. If she looked at it logically, nothing was likely to happen. The import of the card was that the next move was hers.
Nonetheless, she was disturbed. How had the card come to her? Was it random, or had she been selected to receive it? Was someone watching her? If she was a specific rather than a random target, why had she been selected? She felt insulted, frightened, and intrigued all at the same time. What made 'them' (whoever 'they' were) think she was interested? .
Was she interested? That was perhaps the most disturbing question. She supposed that most women had some sort of rape fantasy. Of course, no one wanted to be raped, but the idea of a man taking control of her, having his way with her, did have it's erotic aspects. There was a reason for the popularity of the bodice ripper genre. She had even read a few herself. Nevertheless, Claire found these sorts of feelings embarrassing, although she had to admit to herself that suppressing them only increased her turmoil. Maybe she should call the number on the card. She could at least try to get some of her questions answered. But it was scary. Receiving such a card was not normal. It could be dangerous. And even scarier was the possibility that she might surrender herself to the sorts of feelings that the card inspired. She decided to ignore it. After a day or two she would forget the card and things would be normal again.
Claire's next day at work was even more miserable than the previous one. She had brought her lunch and ate at her desk. She was afraid to go out-well, not really afraid, she told herself, just appropriately cautious. The day dragged on. She tried to bury herself in her work, but all she could think about was the little white card. She felt her coworkers were becoming aware of her agitation. She got almost nothing done. Finally, she made an excuse and left a couple of hours early.
At home, Claire made some tea. This was driving her crazy. She was angry that her life had been taken over like this. It made her even angrier that she allowed it to happen. It was just a stupid white business card. It wasn't doing anything to her. She was doing it to herself.
"Stop it!", Claire shouted. Getting angry seemed to help. She knew she had to call the number. The shot of adrenalin provided the necessary resolve. It was the only way to take back control of her life. She didn't have to subscribe to or purchase whatever it was. What she needed was a confrontation with these people. She would tell these people what she thought of them. She dialed the phone.
"Hello, Ms. Dunbar. I'm glad to hear from you. My name is Malcolm."
"You know my name! Who are you? What do you want from me?" Malcolm had shattered Claire's aplomb before she had even spoken a word. She wanted to hang up, but that would only make things worse. She would have to talk to Malcolm.
"Relax, it's only caller ID. My phone tells me that I'm being called by 'Dunbar, C.'. You must be Claire."
"You do know who I am. Oh, god, I'm being stalked."
"Hardly. After all, you called me. So, what can I do for you?"
"I got your card. Where did it come from? Why did I get it? Was it random, or was I supposed to get it?"
"The card was intended for you. Targeted marketing is essential in our business. Soliciting the wrong person can be embarrassing for all concerned."
"But how...who...why me?"
"As I said before, you called. Someone who was uninterested would simply have thrown the card away. She would never have called. You called."
"But I just called to find out what this is all about. I didn't call to hire you to do whatever it is you do."
"So wouldn't you like to know about what it is we do? As long as you're on the phone, you might as well find out what it is you're so frightened of."
"I'm not frightened. I just want to know what's going on."
"As much as I hate to contradict a customer..."
"I'm not a customer."
"Well, potential customer. Regardless, right now you don't sound like a woman who's cool, calm, and collected."
"Who can be cool and calm when they're being harassed? You don't..."
"Claire...Claire, relax. Take a deep breath. Again. Once more. Good. I hate to keep repeating myself, but you called me."
"But you started it. You gave me that card."
"You could have thrown it away. You didn't have to call. Now, wouldn't you like to hear what we have to offer?"
"Alright. Tell me. Get it over with."
"As you wish. We provide a service. We will fulfill your darkest fantasies. All you have to do is fill out a form, outlining your fantasies in as much or as little detail as you like. We will make them come true with no real danger to yourself. You will survive the experience unharmed and free of any diseases you do not already have. Once you receive the form, just fill it out and send it in with your payment and we'll do the rest."
"I'm still not sure exactly what you do."
"You tell us. You're the customer. Shall I send you a form?"
"I don't think so. This doesn't sound like my sort of thing."
"If you say so, but it won't hurt to look over the form. There's no obligation and nothing will happen unless you send it in with payment."
"So what do you charge for this 'service'."
"The cost is $1500 with a $500 rebate if you complete the fantasy. You can cancel at any time, even during your experience"
"I don't understand. Why a rebate?"
"The rebate functions as coercion. You will be given a code word. If you say the word at any time, the fantasy is over in that instant. Many of our customers are turned on by the element of coercion. Since that's lost if they can stop any time they want, we have provided an incentive not to use the word. If you use the word, you lose your rebate. Use of the word will cost you $500."
"Either way, that's a lot of money."
"And what price would you put on fantasy? Think of it as a vacation. Surely you'd spend $1000 on a vacation."
"Yeah, but a vacation would be a week or more, not an hour or two."
"Typically, our fantasies take 24 to 48 hours. Consider it a weekend vacation. You couldn't get an individually tailored vacation for that amount of money anywhere."
"What if I didn't like it?"
"Just say the word and it stops. Shall I send you the forms?"
"OK. Send me the forms. You don't do anything unless I send them in-that's for sure isn't it?"
"That's for sure. This is a commercial enterprise. If you don't pay, you don't get a fantasy."
"I'll look at the forms, but there's no way I'm doing this."
"That's quite alright. It's your decision. Thank you for calling, Claire. Goodbye."
Claire felt better. She still had mixed emotions about the whole thing, but at least she had some idea what it was all about and felt reasonably sure nothing would happen unless she sent the forms back. She slept more soundly that night than she had since the card had first appeared.
The next day she came home to find an envelope in the mail with no return address. She opened it to find a cover letter and several pages of forms. She read the letter.
.... There is more of this story ...