This is one of the winning entries in the November 2018 writing competition.
I knew we were in trouble when Lady Hanako’s screeches of pain became silent, a gasp steeped in guilt. I knew she was in trouble when her fabricated moans of pleasure slowly changed to loud merciless screams. Wood boards clacked and snapped together, signifying the customer was departing, finished with his immersive evening.
The rich master, still intoxicated, caressed the tarnished gold door handle. He finally tightened his grip and rotated it fully. The waves of humid heat caressed our cold and stiff faces, encouraging the sweat to ruin our pale faces. Paralysed with fear, I did not move, and neither did the eight other geishas of the Chaishitsu of Edo. The soft odour of soju lingered in the air, and there was a piercing glare from the Master, who brimmed with disgust and nobility. My curiosity tilted my head sideways to examine his expression, then I instinctively bowed as I felt the force of a hand upon my neck. This was mimicked by all the standing geishas, as they bid the rich heir a peaceful night, the rich heir who summoned Lady Hanako for his night of pleasure, who witnessed her last cries of submission.
His foot exited last, followed by the long sound of the blow of the redwood door closing and the soft whispers of wind chimes. As no master was present, I abandoned my submissive posture of grace and applied myself to investigating, as Hanako had not made a sound in the minutes it took the master to depart. Placing my heat deprived hands upon the rotting handle, I released the door. The redwood door creaked as it opened at full swing and exposed the scene within the chamber.
No sound escaped my lips, but my gushing tears overtook me, leaving streaks of bare skin shining from the bleached makeup of a sinful geisha. Involuntary echoes of my mournful sounds followed as the geishas behind me witnessed the same as I. In a corner, Lady Hanako perched against the window, sat lifeless, her endless grace printed upon her face.
My hands tightened their grip on my kimono as I walked towards the deceased lady, tense as the snapping of wood. Eventually my fingertips made contact with the smooth velvet textured face, and this provoked my suppressed weeping. Up close, it was evident she lacked both physical and mental nutrition. Bruises were patterned across her vast and sculpted neck and deep cuts along her fingers and arms. No physician would diagnose the cause of her death due to her sinful class, however I knew her tamed and captive heart could take no more.
“What are you whores doing standing around?”, a tall figure pushed through the crowd. “Did you hear me?”
Distracted by the sight of Lady Hanako, he asked, “Who is that?”.
I turned to face our master of Chaishitsu.
“Master,” I bowed, “Lady Hanako has passed…it was my negligence.”
“The whore who actually made me business in this dump, has died!?”
“Master i will face the punishment.” I bowed more deeply, yielding.
“Damn right you’re gonna pay.”
I heard his drunk, slurred footsteps approach my kneeling body and a cold breeze hit my exposed skin with force, knocking me to the ground. I started to wake when the lashing sound became louder, and I heard agonizing screams from my sisters, who faced unjustified punishment. My body began to wake but slowly and irrationally. The flowers of the Chaishitsu house were cornered and abused one by one with the lashing of a red-ambered whip. He beckoned them with his vulgar labels of what he made us become.
“Whores, what will become of my rotting business without the slut which was favoured by all drooling men?”
I could take it no longer, my thin legs struggled to rise and hold my stance. The youngest, Aiko, was next for her beating. My hand reached for the sharp pin embedded in my hair, and I and began to charge towards the master who possessed the leash to all our necks. He anticipated my attack and kicked me back towards the wall, causing the window to break and scatter above me. His rage had no limit. He was offended by my disobedience.
The floorboards screeched as he moved towards me, and the wood grew louder, as the wood boards broke, and plunged the master to the ground, devouring him. Splinters scattered as he fell, and his reign ended with a final scream, his heart pierced by the rotting wood, his pain comparable to the suffering we flowers felt. The room fell silent with an occasional moan from the dying man until there was silence.
“Akiko, is the bad man dead?” our poor little flower, Aiko, mumbled in the arms of a geisha.
“ Yes, Aiko….the bad man is gone.” I announced, as the final burning of tear flowed down my face. “Ladies, exit the room slowly, we must leave at once and get as far from here as possible”. I said, and hummed to myself as the thoughts of freedom flooded my mind.
The cicadas began their call, greeting the ascending sun. We stood outside as we bade farewell to the house where we had submitted and resided from the time we were innocent and pure flowers. We had all grown silent as the memories we had acquired played in our minds. And, with a single bow towards the house of suffering, we began our journey as free women. We began our journey as seedlings growing open in a forest of our own kind, and then we slowly began to decay as our soil began to spoil and rot. All the while we had waited patiently, suffocating and longing for the freedom to grow without any limitations. It agonises me that the cost of freedom to nine whores was another’s life, another who dreamt the same dreams, another with the same mind, who grew alongside us.