“What is that?” Isabelle murmured as they approached the lit entrance of the grand house. Jonathan smirked at his friend, who was gaping at the ornate scene: other guests dressed in fluttering robes and polished masks, pouring through the front gate like a school of rainbow fish; the immaculate gardens aflame with twinkling pools of fairy lights; the house itself, a dark glittering keep of secrets, better suited to provincial mythology than its inner-urban surrounds.
“That, my dear, is the Gate of Ishtar. Let’s go meet the Gatekeepers, eh?” Jonathan winked at her before marching towards the glowing entrance.
Two figures, garbed in rustling gowns of black silk, faces hidden behind lion masks, stood like pillars either side of the main doorway. As Isabelle and Jonathan approached, the Gatekeepers covered their masks with one hand, holding out the other in mute expectation.
“What—” Isabelle started, but Jonathan untied his mask, the shining black visage of a rabbit, and handed it over.
“I thought this thing was supposed to be anonymous,” Isabelle grumbled, making no move to remove her mask of winged lace. Jonathan looked at his concerned friend. “It’s just a game, Is,” he said gently, “but we don’t have to go in if you don’t want to…” Isabelle paused, then smiled despite her initial hesitation. “No,” she said, untying her own mask and handing to the nearest robed figure, “let’s do this.”
Stepping forward into a dark hallway, they followed the dim light of candelabras in the near distance. The walls were lined with masks: tigers, bulls, butterflies, and more rabbits. Others were more abstract in their ornamentation. They arrived at a second doorway, manned by a new pair of Gatekeepers. They motioned to their necks. Isabelle watched as Jonathan unhooked a black strip of leather from his throat, before doing the same herself. They handed their collars to the Gatekeepers, who placed them in separate wood bowls which sat upon glass shelves in the room beyond. As they passed through, Isabelle guessed there to be about a hundred bowls, all different shapes and sizes. Jonathan took her hand and lead her towards the third doorway.
Here, they discarded their outer robes, leaving them standing in two-piece undergarments and soft slippers. Isabelle also wore a bracelet with a small diamond charm, while Jonathan wore a wristwatch his father had gifted him.
“Now I see why the dress code was so specific,” Isabelle whispered as they moved through the room beyond, a small lounge lined on either side with long hangers of robes. The silken garments brushed against Isabelle’s bare arms as she walked between them. They arrived at the next doorway.
Here, two more Gatekeepers bade them remove their slippers before entering a warm room with slate tiles. On further direction, Isabelle chose a seat from the many which lined the walls, each with a glass bowl of steaming water set by its foot. Jonathan chose the chair beside her. The Gatekeepers washed their feet with rough cloths in the hot water. Isabelle’s feet tingled from the scrubbing as she stood, walking with Jonathan towards the far side of the room and the next doorway. “Feels good, no?” Isabelle nodded and smiled, wriggling her toes against the cold slate.
Two more Gatekeepers stepped up and began unthreading their chest bindings. Jonathan’s smooth chest was bared first, then Isabelle’s breasts, nipples pert with exposure and nervous excitement.
They stepped through the doorway onto soft, red carpet. As they entered, Jonathan placed a comforting hand on the small of Isabelle’s back. Together they walked through the narrow red room towards the next door. Anticipating the next item to be removed, Isabelle felt emboldened rather than shy. Surprising herself, she strode ahead of Jonathan, stopping before the Gatekeepers. One Gatekeeper slowly unbound the ties about Isabelle’s waist, allowing the thin wrap of cloth to fall to the floor, leaving her naked but for the diamond on her wrist. She glanced over at Jonathan, who also stood naked but for his watch, penis half erect. His skin was luminescent in the dim, cold light. They smiled at each other and crossed the threshold.
The room they entered was constructed entirely of mirrors—the floor, walls and ceiling reflected their infinity in all directions. Isabelle glanced about her, able to see herself, and Jonathan, from every angle. Meeting each others’ gaze in the ceiling, they smiled and allowed their eyes to roam each other.
Finally, Jonathan gently nudged Isabelle forward. “After you, m’lady.” Isabelle laughed quietly and continued onward towards the final doorway. She could feel the deep throb of bass beyond. A Gatekeeper approached to unfasten Isabelle’s bracelet. However, she drew her hand back, hesitant to entrust this precious artefact to a stranger.
“It’ll be alright, Is. They’ll take good care of it,” Jonathan assured her, allowing the Gatekeeper to take his watch and smoothly fold it inside a velvet bag. Isabelle allowed her Gatekeeper to do the same, watching apprehensively as the sparkle of her mother’s diamond disappeared within black folds of cloth.
“You may enter,” the Gatekeepers intoned, allowing them to pass through the final doorway, into the room beyond.
Isabelle felt liberated in her nakedness as her eyes adjusted to the dark. She found her vulnerability arousing, her exposed labia tingling in the slight coolness of the room. She squinted through the heavy dark at the movement of other people within the room, skin of all shades glowing in the blue sheen of blacklights.
Jonathan wrapped his arms about her from behind, his erection pressing into her. Isabelle smiled at this new dynamic to their friendship, this playful intimacy, as she reached up behind her to stroke his cheek. “Let’s have some fun.”
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