For day eighteen I have had to wrangle with the rather devious topic of sex. Thank you for dropping me in a real challenge, Miss Abi Rose, I know you loved it. I’ve decided to use it to highlight a topic I feel quite passionately about, the plight of Human Trafficking and the use of a human body as a commodity that can be bought and sold (Human Trafficking you say? Yes, click here, because you should learn more.)
(If you are joining Emmeline’s story today, welcome! It might help for you to begin here.)
For sale. J R Manawa.
By night time the roads back into central London had been ploughed clear. They were fenced high on either side with mud-splattered walls of white snow.
Emmeline and Charon were in a cab, headed for Soho as it turned carefully down each new white walled road. Poppy and the two boys had stayed at Emmeline’s house, despite their protests. She knew Charon was right, they couldn’t come, and they couldn’t keep her safe. But they could keep Emmeline informed if anything happened at her grandfather’s house while she was gone, though she wasn’t too happy about that either.
Charon did not do much to comfort her, he was the kind of person, or monster, who accepted things as they were.
Emmeline however, was not. When her teacher asked her in year four to write down on a piece of paper what she wanted to do when she grew up, she wrote ‘Change the world’.
Strangely, she believed she had her father to thank for this intense belief and desire not to accept the status quo. She wondered how Charon had missed that same lesson from him. Guessing it had something to do with living for thousands of years and seeing lots of miserable activities take place on the surface of the earth, and most likely in his own world too, she chose not to ask any questions.
In her jacket pocket there were two things. The little iron box, which she was trying not to think about. Every time she put her hand in her pocket, she itched to play with the lock that held it shut. And there was also the scrap of paper, the photo of her father. She pulled this out of her pocket now and without thinking twice, handed it to Charon to see what he thought. It did occur to her that he may never have seen a photo of his own father.
He looked at it once and frowned. Suddenly the scrap of photo combusted in his hands and burst into flame. The cab driver saw this happen through the rear vision mirror, but notably chose to say nothing.
“Hey, that wasn’t yours to burn,” Emmeline said, upset.
“I didn’t mean to,” he said, staring at the black ash left in the palm of his hand. He brushed it off quickly and looked away, out of the window. He didn’t say anything further until they got out of the cab at Leicester Square.
When they arrived in front of the club with the neon lights flashing over the door, Emmeline hesitated. Now she knew why Charon had specifically wanted her to dress up, and why the ferryman had changed his own clothes via the aid of magic while they were in the cab on the way there.
At the tender age of twenty one, Emmeline had never been into a strip club. It wasn’t actually something she had particularly envisaged doing at any age of her life. But here she was, in black patent heels, a little black dress and mahogany red lipstick, hanging off the arm of a well dressed, and not very human, young man.
“I am not–” Emmeline began.
Rather sharply, Charon told her to shut up as they approached the bouncer.
The heavy man looked Charon up and down, and then Emmeline too, “Twenty quid mate, and for your missus,”
“Angula knows I am here.” Charon replied in a soft voice.
The bouncer stepped aside, and they walked through the door into darkness.
As they walked down the dimly lit hall toward the distant, grinding sounds of music, Charon spoke, “I have to forewarn you, most of our kind do not adapt so well to your world, as you saw last night. Once here, most do not really understand how truly they are stuck, and when they finally do, they go a little bit–”
Charon shrugged, and then nodded, “Amongst other things yes.”
At the end of the hall, another door was opened for them. The club was much what Emmeline would have expected, a lot of men, a lot of alcohol. There was a girl halfway up a pole the centre of the room, and one lying across the bar with a row of shot glasses balanced down her midriff. There were other women in the room too, some dancing, some pouring drinks, some tucking cash into what little pieces of clothing they were wearing.
A girl approached them, her movements slow but full of intent. She was used to her body doing the talking. She looked Charon up and down, “A dance for you and your lady?” she asked, her red lips pouting, “Or perhaps just for her?”
Emmeline blinked twice as Charon dragged her away. They crossed the room quickly, and he took her down a flight of stairs, past another bouncer. There was another hallway at the bottom, this one lit with a solitary red bulb. On either side, all the way down, there were doors in the wall. The floor was sticky, and the walls were black and stained.
As much as Emmeline had not trusted Charon, she clung to him now, pressing close enough that she could feel the strength of his body. He didn’t stop her.
One door opened, and a man came out, still buttoning up his shirt as he did so. He walked past them toward the stairs without making any eye contact. But the time they passed the door, it was shut again.
Emmeline’s eyes were burning, and she held even tighter to Charon’s arm until they finally reached the end of the hall and left it behind. Down a further flight of stairs they went, and she knew they had to be well below the streets of London by now. She could feel the tension of magic growing around her. It felt just like when she had come to the mansion in Highgate.
On the bottom stair, her killer-heels betrayed her. She twisted her ankle and fell. Charon caught her with both arms against his chest as a group of young men came through a curtain from the room beyond. They laughed and whistled at Emmeline, who amidst being scared and confused, now had the pleasure of feeling embarrassed and hot in the face.
They stepped around Charon and Emmeline, heading for the red lit corridor with the doors.
“Are you okay?” Charon asked, his voice barely audible above the throb of music. When she didn’t respond, he helped her stand up again, and simply said, “One more flight of stairs,” before turning to head deeper underground.
As they passed the curtain before the stairs, Emmeline caught a glimpse of the room beyond. A woman, tall and elegant despite her nakedness, stood upon a platform in the centre and danced with a snake to the slow, undulating rhythm of the music. The huge cobra twisted languidly about her body and wound its tail through the wild coils of her hair. While Emmeline watched through the curtain, one of the punters in the crowd reached out drunkenly to grasp the foot of the dancer, but before he could the cobra turned on him, coiling back and flaring his hood, ready to strike.
Emmeline thought, if only all the girls in here had that protection.
Charon was careful and slow with her as they descended the last set of stairs. They were so far below the ground now that Emmeline was sure the roaring she could hear so close was the sound of the Piccadilly line passing nearby.
The final room had two doormen guarding it, and each notably had a hand gun tucked into a holster at his waist.
Emmeline chewed her lip as Charon approached them, glad that the expression on her face was hard to read in the darkness.
“No entry,” the doorman on the right said.
“We are here to meet with Angula,” Charon replied, his password of choice that had gotten them this far.
“No. She is not here, she is busy,”
Charon sighed, “She will be here. We have an appointment with her at five minutes past midnight.”
The doorman gave his companion a quick glance.
“You must wait here then,” the one on the left said.
Charon shook his head, “We will wait inside.”
“You will wait here,” the one on the right confirmed, placing his hand on his hip and flicking back his dress coat to show off the gun.
“We will wait inside,”
“Look mate, I don’t know what part of wait here you don’t understand–” He reached for his holster, but stopped short when he realised his gun had turned into a huge tarantula that in the dark was climbing out of the holster and creeping up the front of his white shirt.
“I wouldn’t move,” Charon warned, as the man started to hyperventilate. His companion backed away in terror.
Emmeline ducked behind his back and watched in horror as Charon put out an open hand to the giant spider. It crawled forward tentatively, and as soon as it was in Charon’s palm, it turned back into a gun, which he pointed straight at the man’s face.
“We will wait inside,” he repeated.
They opened the door for him, and in the centre of the room beyond, rearing and bucking within its iron cage amidst a crowd of well dressed bidders, was a unicorn.