I have a thing about ducking stools, and have for as long as I can recall. I remember watching re-enactments in the village I grew up in, where large men would carry sinful women through the crowds and submerge them into a pool of cold water strapped to a chair. This was a very formative early sexualised experience for me, and I quickly realised I was watching it for a much deeper reason than family entertainment.
Strikingly for me, however, is my fear for being underwater, especially being held by someone. I have only ever experimented with this sexually once and I am unsure whether my early sexual fascination with the ducking stool and the wench was a response to this fear, or a response to a dynamic where a restrained submissive and sinful woman, was at the mercy of a group of dominant, strong older men. In reality it is likely both, and I have written some flash fiction inspired by this.
Although not something which should be at the forefront of my mind, I am taken aback by how busy it is. Hoards of people have come to watch what is about to happen, and I forget that is it not just punishment, but entertainment for the masses- and in being so even more humiliating still. Perhaps I should be more focused on my mistakes, or the acts for which I am to be punished- I still don’t see what I did as a mistake- but instead I’m transfixed on the people.
My garments are lighter than those I’d usually be wearing, and are plain, white and modest, except for my bare arms. The signature colours of my usual clothing have vanished, and I become one of those women I’ve watched before who have, ironically, been dressed for the occasion. But our crimes lay firmly within the realms of the undressed.
I’m already bruised on my forearms from their grip before it even begins. Transporting me to the square from the cart only took two of them, and as they held each arm against me and lifted me my feet danced in the air- a feeing I imagine I’ll be used to soon enough.
The crown silences upon the arrival of the officials. I’ve seen this play a few times before, with my friends who live on Southside so I know it’s almost my moment. As the announcement begins I struggle to hear the words, as the larger of the two guys who lifted me out of the cart swings me over his shoulder in a single movement. It is then the fear kicks in, and when confronted with the choice between fight or flight, I decide on the former, kicking and punching my carrier. But I’m only small, and his step doesn’t even falter, and as we reach the stage I’m too tired to continue.
They ask me if I am sorry for what I did. Of course I’m not sorry, and if it is a question of morality it shouldn’t be me in this chair but them. If making a living is a mistake, then yes, I’ve made hundreds. I spit at him, the greasy man who shouts my name out to the crowd- who months before had his cock down my throat a mere three streets from here, and I swallowed his come like the greedy, desperate whore I am. The whore who has serviced at least three men on this stage, likely more, though some I can’t be certain. The issue of morality seems to disappear when you have money, and even more so when you cover your face.
It doesn’t take them long to force me into the chair. The same two men push down against my shoulders and I can do nothing but buckle under them. The iron bar is inserted across my torso, restraining my arms and my escape is made impossible. I scan the chair the thick wooden pole I’m attached to and the men I’ve fucked standing by, ready to exert themselves again but this time at my expense not theirs.
The movement across the water is slow, and is slowed further in comparison to my racing heart. My skin prickles with the fear, the same sensation as having my hair pulled back and slapped in the face, before they adorn my skin with their mess. My sweat is already cold, before I even hit the icy water, but I soon realise it is nothing in comparison.
The first submersion takes my breath away, and I almost don’t regain it in time for the second. My dress is no longer light, but waterlogged and hangs off me. I almost feel fortunate to be in the chair, knowing it will bring me back up to the surface regardless of the weight of my clothing.
It was then I registered the crowds, watching me. I know I’ve fucked many of them, and if I have not it is like I have fucked their husbands or sons, or on occasions their wives. But like my friends before me, I know it won’t be long before we dip back into them, and then the third submersion takes over.
By the end I’m exhausted and spluttering, and the shock of the water matched with the sodden material wrapped around me makes it almost impossible to move. They release me from the chair, and I stand in front of my audience as they make their judgements on my morality audibly clear. I’m then over his shoulder again, and he seems to care little for the water soaking into his jacket and they return me to the cart.
It is not long before I am back in the cell, and he pushes me inside. I fall to the floor and look up at him, and him back to me. But it’s an unmistakable look, the same look as when I was on my knees in the alleyway. And before I know it, it’s not just him. Each man responsible for pushing down on the oak ducking stool, for holding me in the icy water as punishment for my sins, files into the holding room. They all have that look smeared across their face.
‘Now’ he says, as he adjusts his belt loops, ‘let’s get you out of those wet clothes.’
Written as part of Smutathon 2018– a fundraiser for Abortion Support Network. Donate below, enter the raffle and follow the conversation on Twitter under the hashtags #Smutathon2018 and #SmutForChoice.