Sometimes I fantasise about being a slavegirl, but there are times when I just feel like I’m really a slavegirl.
I’ve spent the weekend engaged in a massive tidying operation in my study, which has seen me take out mountains of office stuff, dump in all in a heap in the middle of the floor, and then go through each item one by one, determining its fate. I’m still only about half-way done.
The only way I could get through this huge task was by picturing myself as a slave in a countryside villa, getting it ready for the arrival of the masters. When the masters are not in residence, there are only a few slaves living in the villa, and we are responsible for keeping it all in a state to receive a full household. I work hard dawn to dusk, and in the evenings I fall on my pallet, exhausted, only to rise with dawn to do more work.
Most of the time I’m left to my own devices, but every few hours the steward comes to check my progress and provide some motivation with his whip. The thoughts of the whip are never far away from my mind: it’s a narrow strip of leather attached to a polished wooden handle, and when it lashes down, it bites hard.
When my work is good, I get a nod and a pat on the head. When the steward thinks I haven’t done enough since his previous visit, I must go on my knees and elbows, shoulders down and bottom high in the air. He brushes my tunic up and out of the way, and delivers a methodical, precise whipping.
Sometimes, it’s just a few strokes, to let me know I’ve strayed from the right path. Sometimes, the whip continues to fall until I’m a broken, blubbering mess. Afterwards, I must scramble back to work, and make an effort to improve, because a recent whipping is no excuse for having slowed down.
I’m actually quite glad it’s only a fantasy, because, judging by my efficacy, I might just get flogged all the time.