Last night, wonderful Kirsty Logan took on the 1,001 Nights challenge. And, as they say, she smashed it. We also smashed three cocktails each and some extremely cheesey chips. And this, this story here below, is the result.
First up, we asked Twitter for a character name. @PCDettman was in first with Dolly, but @nikeshshukla was in close second with Colin, and Kirsty was rather taken with them both. So our fictional couple was born.
Next, we needed a location. @katejwilson213 was quick off the mark with a Parisian opium den. All we needed was a first line, and @IanKEllard was quick to deliver. Periodically, we also asked Twitter for the next line, and you’ll see those and their contributors below in bold.
‘Dolly,’ said Colin. ‘I see you haven’t changed.’ (@IanKEllard)
‘Oh, this old thing?’ said Dolly. ‘I’ve been wearing it for days, darling. Who has time to change clothes when there are men to kiss, women to seduce, drinks to drink?’ She spoke in sighs, allowing a drip of absinthe to fall from her glass onto the green velvet of her skirts.
‘But don’t you work here?’
‘Flexible working policy, darling. We practice what we preach here at the Iniquity Den. Speaking of which, let me top you up.’ (@PCDettman)
Colin exhaled a sweet lungful of opium smoke. Contrary to the expectations of his rather non-opium-den-like name, Colin was quite the mogul. He owned half the opium dens in Paris, and held hefty stakes in the other half. Dolly, of course, knew this perfectly well – which was why, with the sleight of hand worthy of the finest magician, she swayed her wrist over Colin’s drink, allowing a cloud of white powder to drop from her bracelet and into the absinthe’s murky depths.
‘Here you are, darling,’ she cooed. ‘Consider yourself thoroughly topped, with my compliments.’ Her glittered green fingernails clicked against the glass as she pressed it into Colin’s hand.
Colin, eager to impress, downed the glass on one gulp. (@Rhys180) He sat back in the leather armchair, tapping his fingers against the fabric. It was no coincidence that he had bumped into Dolly this evening. If she wouldn’t give up Herta voluntarily, no matter – Colin had other methods. He would have Herta all to himself if he had to chase Dolly around every godforsaken opium pit in all of this fleabitten city.
He lurched forward in his seat, coughing so hard his throat burned. He gulped air and sat back.
‘Excuse me, Dolly. I don’t know what has –’ But his words were lost in another fit of coughing.
‘Oh, darling,’ whispered Dolly. ‘Whatever could the matter be? Little kitty caught in your throat?’
‘What – what have you – did she set me up to –’ But it was no good. Colin’s words could not make it past his convulsing throat.
Dolly sashayed into Colin’s lap, covering his body from the rest of the patrons.
‘Hush now,’ she said. ‘There’s no need to fight it.’
She hadn’t told the truth in the decade she’d known Colin: the feeling it provoked was oddly sexual. (@StuartEvers) But she never lied to Herta.
The den’s door opened as if kicked by a mule. (@Evapilotone) ‘Herta! My love!’ cried Dolly – or was it Colin?
Colin awoke to the sound of running water, drilling into his ears like the buzzing of wasps. (@Evapilotone) Shivers cramped his limbs. A smell filled his throat – stale rivers, damp stone. He tried to cough, but could not catch his breath. He knew without opening his eyes where he was. The opium dens, he now realised, were only the second most godforsaken place in Paris. Lower even that that lay the sewers – and there lay Colin.
‘Dolly,’ he managed to cough out. Where had she taken him? His eyes flickered open. He saw Dolly – but immediately his eyes widened in horror. Dolly was not strutting through the sewers, swinging a silk scarf through her fingers. She was not taunting him with chains and whips. She was not painting her lips red in preparation for revealing her nefarious plan.
Dolly looked much like Colin imagined he did. Rumpled, disgruntled, tossed into the untender sewers. Dolly’s eyes opened. They regarded one another.
‘Fuck,’ they said.
‘Later,’ said Herta. She slid out of the shadows, waiting for the moment that her lovers recognised her. They gasped, which was more dramatic than she had expected. Herta looked at their tortured faces and knew instinctively that the time for velvet had arrived. (@hushhour)
‘Well done my dear!’ came a snort from the shadows. A flash of scales from the dark reflecting into Colin’s eyes. (@Evapilotone) The sudden clang of a bell was deafening. It could only mean one thing. (@hushhour)
Herta dropped to her knees.
‘I did it for you!’ she said, her voice muffled against the damp stone. ‘I brought you these unworthy specimens. I hope it pleases you.’
Herta did not dare look over at Dolly and Colin. She could not stand to see the hurt in their eyes. How could she call them unworthy? This woman and this man whom she loved so much? But she could – because there was one thing that she loved even more.
From the corner of her eye, Herta saw her lovers cringe back as her one true love emerged. Elegant limbs stretched. Quicksilver scales caught each glimmer of light. Painted lips spread into a smile, revealing the gleam of blade-sharp teeth.
‘My dear, I do believe you have surpassed yourself. Such delectable delights to thrill my tastebuds. Now come here and I shall give you your reward.’
Herta stepped forward, as terrified as she was aroused. Her love bent to her, anointing her with a kiss. Herta did not flinch as the sharp teeth nipped her lips.
From Dolly, a low moan.
‘Ssssoon,’ hissed the creature. ‘You will have your turn soon.’
Herta turned to Dolly, stricken. She loved Dolly, and she loved Colin – but how could she ignore the needs of this true love? Just because love was split three ways, that did not mean it was lessened. And just because she had lured two of her loves into the Parisian sewers to be consumed by her third love – well, relationships were complicated.
But perhaps – Herta did not even dare to think it. Perhaps there was a way around this. In life, we never get exactly what we want. We never get to lurk in opium dens, or have three lovers, or construct elaborate plans which are then elaborated through lipsticked mouths in Parisian sewers. But then again, we are not Herta.
‘I know a way,’ she said, ‘that we can all be happy. It involves Colin’s network of opium dens, and Dolly’s seduction, and your appetite, and thousands of silly tourists.’
And that’s how Easyjet started. (@Evapilotone)
A tale that has everything; double-crossed lovers, serpentine sacrifices and corporate greed. HUGE thanks to the amazingly talented Kirsty, and to all our brilliant contributors. THAT WAS FUN. We’ll see you again soon – and in the meantime, keep your wits about you in your local opium den.