Madeleine Warbeck wasn’t hard to track down. Rose had the information she needed before she ever left the library - but after giving in to her temptations, after taking a man she’d never met before back home and letting him do whatever he wanted, even looking for the woman slipped her mind.
She lost most of the weekend to the man in her apartment, and everything passed in a blissful haze; much more than she’d seen in the picture alone.
She let him bend her over her kitchen table and use her; she let him follow her into the shower and force her to her knees, opening her mouth eagerly in the steam and the spray to swallow him, eyes gazing up unblinkingly at him even as the water ran heavy down her face. She let him take her ass for the first time as she sprawled over the back of her sofa so he could watch Netflix as he pulled her hair and pounded her deep inside.
She didn’t object at all until she woke up the following morning, and even then it took her some time to usher him out of the apartment. After that she made her way back to her sofa and sat down, heedless of the staining left just beside her shoulder. She stared at the TV though its screen was blank.
Rose needed time to pull her mind back together. A part of her felt like he’d fucked her head apart, that the impact of his cock inside her had driven the pieces of her personality apart. Before she could act, before she could think, she needed enough peace to feel like herself again.
The first thing she thought when she started to think again was that her scalp was still too itchy, and she really should get that haircut. Her hand even went to the side of her head, picturing how she would look with that undercut, before she remembered that this was more from the photographs.
And then, remembering the photographs, she scurried back into her bedroom, raced to the wardrobe, and took down the box marked Treasures so fast she lost her grip and the box pivoted around the edge of the shelf. Photographs spilled from the lip, a few at first, and then a torrent as it tipped further over.
Rose found herself buffeted by prophetic pornography, baptised under a deluge of images of helpless women reduced to sex toys, herself among them.
The spells around the apartment continued to quicken. The first had been fuelled by the blood of the caretaker, the second by the presence of Rose’s mind.
The third spell was fuelled by the lusts of her visitor. Like the second, it had driven the changes that it fed off. Like the second, it required the power and quickening of the previous spells in the sequence to sustain.
And once complete, the fourth spell would start to draw fuel and to empower.
Rose crammed the photographs back into the box haphazardly, hurriedly, then headed back into the kitchen to sort through them.
As she’d half-expected when she came to her senses enough to remember them, there were now more photographs of her. More new images, more ideas yet to come. And in every single one of them, the undercut, the smoky, sensual make-up.
She could take a confident guess, even, at the chronology of these photographs; each one seemed just a little more out of control, a little more wanton, or a little more depraved than the one before. It was as if she was charting her own progress, even if that progress had yet to happen.
It made what was happening feel inevitable.
Rose didn’t have the energy or the determination necessary to go visit Madeleine Warbeck after all of that. She made herself lunch more out of a sense that it would be good self-care than anything else, and ate it without enthusiasm. The afternoon dragged on with nothing to distract her, and her scalp continued to itch.
As she stared into emptiness, time became disjointed. She was less and less aware of her scalp itch, somehow finding herself imagining the haircut already done, the new look accomplished. Without the inch, that empty quiet in the apartment seemed less threatening, more of a positive. For the first time since she’d moved in, Rose could feel what it would be like to love the place where she lived.
Her stare had been unfocused for some while. As Rose lost track of the time, her eyes slowly refocused, locked in on one of the pictures. It wasn’t one which had yet happened; her hair had already changed. The makeup showed… honestly, the makeup showed signs of improving skills, or more dedication. Not that Rose was looking at that. Mouth slightly open, lips dry, her eyes were on the picture as she felt a new heat rise among her, the heat that didn’t care that she’d felt on her way out of the library. Heat, desire, and need which felt like it was the future waiting to happen.
Rose saw herself by a pole fixed in place in her living room. Three men sat around her - in her own chairs - watching; one sat forward, elbows on knees, hands clasped, studying Rose as closely as he could. The others lounged on her seats, beers in hands, smirks on their faces.
Rose, meanwhile - future Rose - squatted on her haunches, thighs spread, one hand reaching up behind her, fingers gently caressing the pole. Her body was naked, her lips parted, her back arched to better display her chest. Her other hand was perched on her thigh, but it was clear that was just a factor of when the photograph had been taken; she was on her way to touch herself, stroke, pleasure these men with her own performance.
And the eyes of Rose in the photo seemed just as far out of it as Rose’s own, not that she could see that.
She held the photo steady in front of her, seeing it but not seeing it. Magic prickled across her spine, danced across her hindbrain. Magic took her, and the fingers of her other hand crept down from the desk, to her thigh, to her waist, and into her panties.
Staring at her future self, the slut she seemed destined to become, Rose’s fingers were an eager, needy blur. Her mind started to feel vague, fuzzy, and for a moment, Rose was looking out of the photo to herself. How naive I was, she found herself thinking. I still thought I could change this. I still thought changing this was best.
I didn’t know that this is my calling. I didn’t know this is what I’m for.
I still thought I was a person.
Rose came, crying out, shuddering in delight, more awake and alive than she had felt all week, and then she was again the person outside the photo, the Rose of this time. The picture slipped from suddenly nervous fingers, as if the spell had been broken - though it had not; far from it, as she was more deeply enchanted than before.
As she tried to catch her breath an aftershock of passion, an echo of the spell’s own pleasure, rocked through her again. Rose cried out and twisted, almost falling from her chair. She grabbed the edge of the table and held on tight, blinded by her own bliss, until the echoes subsided.
Only then, awake properly for the first time since she was leaving the library the day before, did Rose look properly at the men in the photograph.
Two of them were unknown to her; probably rich, to judge by the quality of what they were wearing and the sneers on their faces. The third, on the other hand, she recognised.
Matthews, the building superintendent. The man who’d first showed her the apartment. And, crucially, the man who’d refused to answer her questions earlier.
Rose had taken to loitering in the shadows under the stairs near Matthews’ own apartment. She wasn’t sure if the man was avoiding her or not, but he’d been hard to find and hadn’t answered her knock, even the times she’d managed to refrain from yelling at him and giving away who was calling.
She’d been down there for almost an hour on this particular occasion before the door opened. The moment it did, Rose went into overdrive, marching full steam ahead. Her outstretched arm caught him by the shoulder and pushed hard, forcing him back into his rooms.
She kicked the door shut behind her and fixed him with a glowering eye, not wanting him to have even a moment where he might feel in control. She waited for a moment for him to say something, expecting a minor stutter - she’d seen him nervous when she was first moving in - but when he did speak it was a lot less worried than she’d predicted.
“This is really no-”
“Shut. Up.” She cut across him, her voice wobbly but determined. The volume of her voice spiked, and she made a fist, seeking to get herself back under control.
Matthews shut up, anyway, so (she told herself) it wasn’t so bad. She pushed on, digging into her pocket and pulling out that photo. She held it up, arm straight, the image at arms’ length from here (which felt better). “Look what I found,” she snapped.
Matthews stared at the picture for a long moment, mouth open. Then, a trace of a smile on his lips, he closed his mouth again. “What am I supposed to be looking at here?” he asked, standing suddenly further upright.
Rose felt a flash of triumph, as Matthews reacting at all told her he was going to end up talking. If that was because he was smug now, for whatever reason, she didn’t mind that. It would be enough to get her started, surely.
In that giddy moment of confidence she felt that same itch on her scalp once again. The damn thing was driving her to distraction. She’d finish this conversation and then go get herself a haircut; she’d deserve it for cornering Matthews and getting the truth out of him. And as she’d be closer to saving herself, it wouldn’t even be a problem.
“See anyone you recognise?” she asked.
Matthews shrugged and, in obvious pantomime, leaned forward to inspect the image again. “Good heavens, that is you, isn’t it?” he asked. His eyes flicked back up to meet Rose’s, and there was a clear smirk to them. She growled in the back of her throat; couldn’t help it. “I should warn you,” he continued, “that if you’re doing that for your own pleasure, fair enough, but if you’re making money out of that, it is against the terms of your tenancy agreement.”
“And how about the asshole leaning forward staring at me?” If she’d been thinking a little more clearly, Rose might have jumped on his bluff and called it, if only to see how he’d wriggle out of it. Too angry, though, instead she was driving straight ahead, lashing out with her words.
…Why was she doing that? She needed to get information out of this jackass, not just get mad at him! That… just didn’t seem to be what was happening.
So much of the time now Rose wasn’t just out of control, she wasn’t even aware of it until she was already carried away. She marched another couple of steps forward, backing Matthews up against his hallway cupboard. “You recognise him, don’t you?”
Matthews didn’t even look at the picture. He met her eyes again. “Seems to me I’m not the only one enjoying it,” he offered.
Rose felt like she’d been punched in the stomach. The words stung, not least because she knew he was right. Not only could she still remember the simple, sensual satisfaction the Rose in the picture had seemed to feel (and which had felt so real, she hadn’t been able to persuade herself that experience was a hallucination), she’s actually made herself cum just staring at the picture.
But it wasn’t just that it hurt. It also left her reeling. She hadn’t been prepared for a counterattack.
“How many other women would I find photos of you staring at, if I started looking?” she demanded. “How many have you gone looking for? What’s your part in all this?”
She watched his eyes flick over her face a couple of times like he was trying to read her. Waited for his response, anything that would tell her she was about to get an answer.
What came in the end was another smirk.
“I have no idea how many pictures I’m in,” he said at last. “Doesn’t matter.” Or maybe he said “Does it matter?” Her heart was pounding loudly enough in her ears that she couldn’t tell.
“It matters a hell of a lot to me,” she said, feeling her conviction and her determination stumble in the face of his confidence. Matthews shrugged.
“That doesn’t matter,” he said. “Pretty soon you won’t matter either. I know you’ve already brought someone back, right?”
Rose felt like snarling. She’d written this guy off as an idiot who was somehow serving… whatever it was, the strange and sinister structure she vaguely imagined existed around her apartment, or possibly the building as a whole. He was a building supervisor, and that on its own had been enough for her to assume he wasn’t too smart.
And he still might not be, but he knew enough to needle her, to mess with her, and keep her off balance. He wasn’t stupid enough to be a pushover, and while he’d been a coward about their last conversation, this time he was confident.
Something had changed, and he knew what. She was still fumbling in the dark.
Her fists itched to punch him, but she knew that wouldn’t help. She was groping for a verbal response, a counter that would give her back the advantage, somehow, when she saw him shift his stance. His hands went down to his waist and she heard the soft tin rattle of his belt buckle. Her jaw dropped.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“There’s more than one way to end an unwanted conversation,” he said with a shrug. Rose took a deep breath and wondered if maybe punching him wouldn’t be the best solution after all.
Then he pulled down his fly and a hard cockhead peeped out of his boxers. Rose gave a whimper she had absolutely no control over, her mouth suddenly filling with saliva. She had the strange sense that it was no longer a machine for talking, but given over entirely to another purpose.
Still, she tried to speak - and found she just couldn’t; words wouldn’t form in her mouth.
Matthews sneered. “See?”
The lust coming over Rose shouldn’t be called lust. It was barely even arousal. It was an all-encompassing heat, a powerful sensation that was also a driving compulsion. Rose felt like a puppet conditioned to like dancing on her strings, and as much as she hated that, it still felt very true.
A strangled sound of frustration and arrival escaped her lips as the spell took over from thought. It wasn’t even that Rose stopped fighting; it was more like fighting wasn’t relevant anymore.
She took hold of Matthews by his cock, firm but gentle, and turned and headed toward the door. As she mounted the steps toward her own apartment, her free hand tugged savagely at her top, coaxing it most of the way off and leaving it dangling on the forearm occupied with her supervisor’s cock. Her bra was similarly unhooked and left hanging as she continued her way back up the stairs to her apartment.
Matthews was making noises that might be satisfaction, might be protest, might even be a combination. He had to hurry along behind her, and the tiny portion of Rose still watching her activities and not lost in the spell was privately delighted at his discomfort.
Still, she knew that once she was back in her own apartment, everything would be going Matthews’ way. Her bid to get information out of him was, it turned out, a terrible mistake.
The door to Rose’s room flew open. She got three steps further in before she seemed to hit a complete halt, about-facing, releasing his cock, and her knees hit the floor with an echoing thud against the woodwork.
Matthews stood there and smirked as her mouth welcomed him in. Rose felt a flutter along every nerve in her body, the pleasure flooding through her, the desire building. Her body was a puppet to the magic right now, but as it washed over her, her mind was buckling too.
A strange gurgle escaped her lips. Her head moved smoothly, pistoning back and forth enthusiastically. The cock she’d been compulsively kneading all the way up the stairs was as hard as any cock she’d had in her mouth, and there was almost nothing else she was thinking about. The photo, her drive to free herself from whatever this was, even her goal to understand it, all that was gone out of reach, sparkling emptiness in a mind that was almost entirely still.
Before too long even her name - and that of the man she serviced - were gone, along with their relationship. Nothing mattered but the act itself, the pleasure the man received becoming the bliss she craved.
She was dead to everything but sensation before Matthews ever came in her mouth, and didn’t recover into he’d long left her apartment. When Rose came to, the sky outside was lit only by streetlamps and business signs, and three ten-dollar bills lay on her bare chest, sticking as the cum he’d showered on her slowly dried.
She peeled the bills off as she sat up, and found herself smiling, against all reason. Some part of her felt happy with her violation; Rose couldn’t understand it, but had to acknowledge she could feel it.
She was feeling fulfilled, and it was a real problem.
Rose had vaguely assumed that if more from those pictures actually happened, she’d be broken, devastated. In actuality, she was on cloud nine for most of the day, walking around in a vague haze of endorphin-driven euphoria until it was too late to do anything but eat dinner (leftover pizza, ‘fresh’ from the fridge, grab a shower and go to bed.
All the same, by the time she woke up the next morning, she felt more or less in her right mind again - nursing a headache that felt a lot like a hangover, but back in her right mind.
The itch at the side of her head was still there, but felt almost like a comfortable friend now. The weight of her hair where the photos promised undercuts was all wrong, but the urge to transform felt familiar and welcome now.
Rose shuddered a little when she caught herself thinking that it was quite nice to have the urge on her, because she could always just give in to it, and when she was done resisting it would doubtless feel quite lovely to do. The revulsion running through her felt worse itself now; it wasn’t nearly as pleasant as the thoughts that had become more common. But revulsion was still a powerful emotion, and Rose channelled it into anger, anger that drove her out of the apartment and across town to finally catch up with Madeleine Warbeck.
On her way out, she took the three stained, drying ten-dollar bills, put them into an envelope, signed it, and put it through Matthews’ door where the money she made belonged. She was out of the building, into a cab, and most of the way across town before it occurred to her to question her decision.
Was she being trained as a whore without her knowledge or consent?
When she arrived at the small house Madeleine lived in, she loitered outside for a while before she was willing to make her way up the steps and ring the doorbell. This was it; this was what she’d pinned her hopes on. The place she’d not only learn her apartment’s secret, but she’d find a way to escape its effect.
It had to work. If it didn’t, she was trapped; that was unacceptable, so it had to.
The door opened, and an older woman, still beautiful but clearly marked by the passage of time and the weight of great stresses in her life, came face to face with Rose. Her eyes widened, and Rose immediately sensed the recognition in the other woman’s eyes - followed close behind by fear. Rose bit her lip; it hadn’t occurred to her that her presence might affect a survivor.
Silence reigned on the doorstep for a long moment, dragged out longer, second by second, as neither woman was sure what to say, how to feel, sure of anything really.
“Please tell me you haven’t come to drag me back there.” Warbeck was the one to break the silence, and her words hung starkly over them both. Rose started, shocked by the idea.
(And yet… was she really shocked?)
Her mouth hung open for a few moments. “I don’t think so,” was all she could truthfully offer, she realised. “I thought you could tell me how to break it.”
Madeleine’s eyes flickered as they studied her own face. Rose’s breath caught, nervous, as she thought about what this might mean. Eventually Madeleine sighed and looked away. “You’d better come in,” she said.
They didn’t talk until they were both sitting in the living room, Madeleine in a worn, much-loved armchair, Rose on a chintzy sofa. Madeleine began.
“I can’t help you,” she said. “At least, I don’t think so. I never worked out what I could do about the sigils. If you try and remove them you pass out.”
“…What sigils?” Rose asked.
“There are five, I think. They’re hidden around the place, and they all seem to be part of it. The caretaker told me not to worry about them when I found one, and that just made me more suspicious. But by that stage, it didn’t matter.”
Her voice sounded so vulnerable, but her eyes never left Rose’s. This was a woman who’d had time to come to terms with the tragedy that had taken over twenty years of her life.
“I don’t think it’s going to matter for you, either,” she said, and gestured to her face. “The makeup, the look, it’s starting to set in. And you probably didn’t even notice that a miniskirt and fishnet stockings is not the look for this conversation.” Rose flushed, but she nodded. Madeleine was completely right; Rose hadn’t even thought about what she was putting on. The thought pulsed through her with excitement, and she realised suddenly that even contact with this other victim had made her suddenly wet. She shifted position, praying Madeleine wouldn’t notice she’d also skipped panties today, as she had for most of the past week.
“I… yeah,” Rose conceded, her tone guilty.
“They’d already been doing this for years,” Madeleine told her. “I met the owner, once. Once I was properly making him money.” She didn’t flush, and the eye contact meant it didn’t feel like a euphemism either. Madeleine was too honest; the fact she never used the words ‘enthralled whore’ didn’t make it any less clear, especially for someone like Rose, who’d already seen the photographs.
Rose was the first to look away, but Madeleine continued. “That guy was getting old, and it’s probably someone else now. But he inherited it, too. I don’t even think our mutual address is the only one they own. I have no idea how many women they’ve used like this, but that becomes the problem. I’m absolutely sure, if it failed, things would have been shut down some way or another. A hereditary family of pimps? If we could break free, if we could resist, even if they got away with it they’d be an urban legend by now.”
That took a lot of processing. Rose sat in silence for a while, and Madeleine was gentle enough to let her process.
“I thought you’d escaped,” Rose said eventually, feebly. “I mean, you got away. You showed up again with a life of your own. You’ve even made a name for yourself. I was sure you had a way out.” Madeleine was already shaking her head, but Rose pressed on. “Everyone else just disappears, but you have a home and a life of your own. You were different. If you’re still not free, then what happened?”
“I got pregnant,” she answered, very quietly. “I assume the others must as well, sooner or later, but I think it wasn’t in the plan for me. They cut me loose, told me to get out. I had to give the baby up - there was an address I had to deliver her to as soon as I was able - but then I just… was out from under them.
“When I saw you I thought they’d finally changed their minds.” Her voice cracked, and for the first time, Madeleine couldn’t meet Rose’s eye. “I thought I was being called back, for… whatever they do with the older women. Train a new generation, for all I know.
“I’m sorry,” she continued. “I can’t help you. Nobody can.”
There was a roaring in Rose’s ears. Her vision seemed to fog as tears filled her eyes. Madeleine was still talking but she couldn’t make it out at all.
She got up and walked out of the house over what she assumed were protests. Walked down the street, fingers tugging her phone out from her bag shakily. Through her tears she searched for the nearest hairdressers, and let Google guide her feet.
She would get rid of the itch on her head. She would let go. She would find what contentment was allowed in the life of an enchanted whore. She would make her owner happy.
She couldn’t fight it. She knew that now. Embracing it was the best solution.
Rose was smiling when she crossed the threshold of the hairdresser. Letting go had let the magic wash over her completely. Gone was the career woman. All that remained was a happy, helpless whore.