Friday, April 15, 2011

The Elphinstone Formula Part 1

Some of you may be familiar with the late great story site Pink Gladiolas written by Edith Bellamy.  Her site was the first that I ever found in the vein of Transgender Fiction.  Below is a portion of what is, in my opinion, one of her greatest stories.  I DID NOT WRITE THIS.  This is simply a re-post of a story I don't think should disappear forever.  Without further ado: I give you Edith Bellamy's Elphinstone Formula, Part 1.  Enjoy.


      Chapter 1

Dr. Sandeep Pradesh watched with satisfaction the majestic progress of a Royal Navy flotilla into Bombay Harbour. He stood in the crowd at the railing of the Victoria Observatory on Colaba Point, in the shade of a yellow awning festooned with gay nautical pennants, barely stirred by the hot breeze blowing in off the Arabian sea. Slim, elegant and immaculately dressed, his blue-black hair laced with a few silver threads, Dr. Pradesh stood almost a head taller than the assembled spectators. His regular features were so finely etched that they appeared almost painted; his was a face, which, once seen, would be rarely forgotten. And it was that unforgettable face that was turned towards the warships steaming single-file up the channel, the plumes of black coal smoke from their funnels languidly dissipating westward, towards the spectators on the promenade, in an almost imperceptible drizzle of soot.

Although the heat rising from the surface of the harbour made the column of ships shimmer and waver, Dr. Pradesh could still distinguish, plainly enough, the sailors in their dress whites, and the smaller number of officers, swords coruscating in the sun, as they assumed their parade positions on deck in time for each ship to steam in review past Ramilles, the Admiral's flagship, already at anchor a few hundred yards off Government Dock.

The arrival of a Royal Navy battle group into Bombay Harbour this bright March Wednesday in 1942 was a festive occasion, even though the war was going poorly for the Allies in Europe, Africa and the Pacific alike. Festive because the great city's merchants and hotel keepers, its owners of nightclubs and bars, its drivers of taxis and pedicabs, its street vendors and even its countless beggars, all drew sustenance from the infusion of cash a flotilla with a ten-day liberty after eighteen weeks at sea pumped into the city's commercial arteries.

Most festive of all, however, were the keepers of Bombay's famous – and infamous - brothels, brothels that offered up not only Indian girls (and boys), but Anglo-Indian girls (and boys) as well, the illegitimate offspring of colonial civil servants, abandoned when their bachelor fathers returned to England (as they always did). These offspring, rejected by their fathers and despised by the locals, survived in a sort of demi-monde interposed between the fringe of legitimate colonial society and the local culture. Those fairer of skin, and more adept at assuming the accents of London, Cardiff or Edinburgh, almost "passed," especially if they were pretty females light of skin. A few of them were fortunate enough to marry an Englishman, a sure ticket out of the fetid slums surrounding the Bhendi Bazaar, virtually the only district where they could find lodgings. But many girls of mixed blood, alas, found gainful employment only in the better whorehouses of the city
that catered to Europeans. And even these girls - or especially these girls - were festive at the fleet's arrival - for who could tell?  Perhaps this one time they would find a sailor (a gunner's mate, a cook or even a stoker) who would send for them when this hateful war was finally won, and spirit them off to England.

Dr. Pradesh stood at the railing only until he could be sure that a certain light cruiser, Intrepid, was still with the fleet. He had received dubious and unsettling intelligence that Intrepid had sustained two direct bomb strikes during recent action in the China Sea, and feared that it had been either sunk or diverted to Colombo for repairs. His heart leapt to discern Intrepid, her forward turret a tangled mass of blackened steel, but nonetheless steaming smartly, next to the last in the column of ships. His only worry now was that two members of her crew remained safe and unharmed. He was pretty sure that they were, now that he saw the extent of the damage, for Grainger and Davenport, he knew, would have been in the heavily armoured cipher room amidships during any action, well astern of the air strike.

With a tight smile of satisfaction, Dr. Pradesh abruptly turned from the railing, made his way through the crowd of excited spectators, and rapidly descended the Observatory's three tiers of broad marble steps that led to Colaba Causeway below. Once free of the crowd, an observer could not fail to be struck by the perfect cut and fit of his bespoke Saville Row suit of tropical worsted, and by his trim, active figure.  As Dr. Pradesh neared the bottom of the steps he slid a gold cigarette case from the inner pocket of his double-breasted jacket, extracted an American cigarette, placed it between his lips, snapped the case shut, and, as he replaced it in his pocket with one hand, simultaneously removed with his other hand from his trousers pocket a gold Ronson lighter, paused momentarily, cupping one hand, to light up, replaced the lighter, exhaled a long plume of smoke and reached the bottom of the steps - all in one unbroken manoeuvre as smoothly executed as a
dance step. His precise, economical movements were defined by a feline - almost feminine - grace.

Having gained the pavement, he glanced sharply about in the bleaching sunlight, shading his eyes with one hand to survey the line of vehicles at the kerb, and the little knots of chauffeurs standing about smoking and gossiping. Recognizing his man not too far down the line, Dr. Pradesh caught his attention, and signalled for him to drive up past the line of cars and fetch him. The chauffeur did as he was bade, skilfully manoeuvring the vehicle - an old, white Daimler with an open driver's section and huge, polished silver cabriolet hinges on each side of the passenger compartment - through the confusion of people, cars, bicycles and pedicabs that clogged Bombay's streets at all hours of the day. When he was level with his master, he stopped, sprang out of the car, held open the passenger door for the doctor, closed it behind him and drove off, making for the faster traffic towards the center of the broad causeway, sounding his horn to scatter pedestrians like so many barnyard fowl. Once in the main stream of cars, he
accelerated quickly and was lost to view.

      Chapter 2

Just as Dr. Pradesh was settling into the sumptuous leather upholstery of his Daimler, Intrepid, in its steady progress up the channel, drew abreast of where he had been standing at the Observatory railing. At about that moment, David Grainger and Ian Davenport, both lieutenants in His Majesty's Navy, both twenty-two years of age, both slight of build, blonde, blue-eyed and blessed with unusually clear skin for Englishmen (especially Englishmen on a Royal Navy diet), stood to attention, facing west towards the low-lying peninsula on which Bombay was situated. From no great distance, the two men, signals officers who had roomed together at cipher school in Bletchley Park, could have been taken for overgrown altar boys, or even for girls masquerading as boys. They did shave, but a blade lasted them three weeks, and they shared a single razor.

Indeed, their effeminate appearance, as well as their inseparability, had initially raised eyebrows in the officers' mess during their early Bletchley Park days, but within a very short time word got about that Grainger and Davenport could drink men twice their size under the table and still remain sober enough to ravish the prettiest Bletchley Park stenographers, using their innocent charm and boyish good looks to decoy the girls, whose first instinct was to mother them (until they learned otherwise).

The two worked in tandem, even in the bedroom, and pretty soon it was common knowledge in the typing pool that Grainger and Davenport were rather hot properties, so the two were never at a loss for dates. Their reputation as formidable cocksmen rapidly spread throughout the cipher service and was more than once the subject of encrypted gossip sent out to their Bletchley Park classmates already at sea. It was even rumoured that the two had had a London romp with a pair of Royals (adorable, twin viscomptesses in the Wrens), and that the young peeresses subsequently invited Grainger and Davenport for a wild weekend at their Hampshire estate. One ended up pregnant, and was summarily hustled off to Saskatchewan for her confinement even though she had not yet begun to show.

The absence of women at sea, however, put a serious crimp in the pair's amorous escapades, for they had no homosexual leanings whatever, despite their years at Harrow and Cambridge (where they had shared the prize in mathematics). By the end of a tour of duty, the two were as randy as any ordinary sex-starved sailors could be, and, as white girls were simply not to be found in foreign ports even at premium prices, they had to make do with brown ones.

Except in Bombay. In Bombay they had discovered a marvellous bordello, well out past Parel Station in the Elphinstone Road, where there was a Negro swing orchestra from Baltimore, the bar dispensed real pre-war single-malt scotch and the girls were all the lighter sort of Anglo-Indians, who wore nylons and expensive Parisian lingerie under their sarees, spoke reasonable English and could be had at ten Rupees the night.

And so, as Intrepid steamed up the channel and the two young officers stood at the railing, their thoughts were not of signals and ciphers, nor of anything whatever to do with the war, the Royal Navy or with their ship. They were thinking conjointly of Fiona and Sarah, the pearls of the Elphinstone Road bordello, and of what they would be doing with the two girls around midnight, and all the next day and the next night besides. They nudged each other in the ribs, and when their eyes met in simultaneous sidelong glances, each knew what the other was thinking, and each smiled as much as officers at attention may smile.

      Chapter 3

What Grainger and Davenport did not know was that the Elphinstone bordello was owned and personally managed by Dr. Sandeep Pradesh, F.R.C.O.G., [Fellow, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists], known familiarly as Sandy to his fellow-registrars at St. Thomas's Hospital, in London, where he had trained. Nor could they know that Dr. Pradesh was, in fact, the principal acolyte of a reclusive Punjabi Tantric sect, the Sakatis, who, from time immemorial had traded in concubines (and the eunuchs to guard them), had established harems for nawabs and maharajas, and had run them (and still did), just as other sects traded exclusively in diamonds, or exotic perfumes, or rare metals, or fine stringed instruments, each sect keeping strictly to its own product line. The Sakatis' product line was girlflesh, and anything they did not know about training girls to give sexual pleasure to men was probably not worth knowing. They also knew special secrets, passed on through the generations, of which we shall soon learn a great deal more.

To keep up with the times, Sandeep's family had sent him to London to learn the ways of Western medicine, thus supplementing the practical training he had received in the Tantric healing arts, starting at age four, at his father's side in the Maharaja of Pathankot's harem, then consisting (in the year 1905), of one hundred forty-two concubines, eight eunuchs and an all-female string orchestra that played only Strauss waltzes. Nor could the two know that Sandeep Pradesh was the direct descendent of Narayan Prad Prajapati, who had founded the sect in the year 832, and that Sandeep Pradesh, as the sect's reigning guru, presided over a vast network of bordellos, harems and whorehouses throughout the subcontinent.

In fact, the Sakati sect's interests extended beyond India, to the richest harems of the Middle East and beyond, reaching even to Monte Carlo and Biarritz. As for the present war, it, like all other wars over more than a millennium, had unfailingly filled the family's coffers to overflowing. The Sakatis never took sides in wars, which to them were much like weather is to farmers - one gets good crops some years and bad crops others - and wars generally produced good crops.

It was precisely on his sect's fortunes that Dr. Pradesh reflected as the Daimler, like a great white cat, smoothly negotiated the narrow streets of central Bombay, and on how Grainger and Davenport were destined to augment them. For, though Grainger and Davenport knew nothing of Dr. Pradesh, he knew quite a lot about them, having minutely debriefed Fiona and Sarah the morning after the two officers had departed the bordello, on their last liberty in Bombay some five months before. He had ascertained that the two were so pleased with the house that they had told the girls they would not fail to return at their next liberty.

Dr. Pradesh, you see, desperately needed blonde, blue-eyed English girls, ones who could speak the rich, plummy accents of Oxford and Cambridge. Such girls could fetch immense sums from general and flag officers at his posher establishments, and could be sent, in his private railway carriage, to any city or military base in the Raj where their services might be required. Grainger and Davenport, with their fair complexions, slight builds, perfect skin - and absence of naval tattoos - were ideal candidates.

Ideal candidates, you ask? Ideal candidates for what? Davenport and Grainger were ideal candidates to be transformed into girls, for Dr. Pradesh was adept in the black art of sexual transformation, a closely guarded Sakati secret, stolen more than a millennium earlier from the goatherds of Kashmir, who had discovered that, in some years, bucks feeding on a certain mountainside became docile, almost feminized, actually giving milk and yielding finer cashmere wool, as fine as that of the does.

Hearing of this apparent miracle, the Sakati dispatched their most accomplished herbalists to Kashmir, and within a few generations had isolated the responsible lichens and mosses, which elaborated their potent transmutagens only about once every twenty-three years. The Sakati were patient researchers: they carefully collected the mountainside's herbs and mosses over the course of two centuries, drying them or preserving them in myrrh. By careful experimentation, (and no little luck) they eventually perfected a fermented compound they called rashi-dharva, so potent that it not merely induced a bit of feminisation. No, it actually turned males into females anatomically indistinguishable from natal ones, and just as fertile.

When suitable girls could not be found for recruitment into a seraglio which the Sakati had contracted to fill in a hurry, they would buy boys on the cheap, feed them a bit of rashi-dharva, quickly transforming them into blushing maidens, fresh-faced and eager to please, all the more attractive because they lacked any annoying feminine habits, having had no time to acquire them. Such girls were highly marketable, as they were usually as keen to explore their new bodies as were the maharajas in whose harems they were destined to serve. In fact, many of the Sakati's clients found such girls particularly erotic, when one considered that only a few weeks earlier they had been boys.

Deflowering such girls as these was rare pleasure, indeed, particularly deflowering those who still remembered their masculinity (not all of them did). A transmute's reaction to being penetrated for the first time by a man was priceless to behold. Characteristically, her eyes would grow big as saucers to feel a stiff cock enter, then advance remorselessly into her body. She'd gasp, astonished at how anything so large and threatening could slide all the way into her and feel so divine. More often than not, she'd soften, moan, wrap her legs tightly round the man to pull him into her that last little bit, and start rolling her hips in time to his thrusting, like an accomplished whore, rarely wasting second thoughts on her lost masculinity then or in the future.

By altering the proportions of the various lichens, the Sakati learned how to produce docile servant girls, dancers, singers or concubines. The concubine strain of rashi-dharva had the interesting effect of producing girls who lacked all sense of modesty or shame: these transmuted girls simply lived to copulate, and actually had to be kept locked up away from all men lest they throw away their virginity before being sold. Nonetheless, even a concubine transmute would respond with momentary shock at her first penetration, but only minutes after she had been flooded with semen, would begin to beg, often tearfully, to be ravished again. Yes, indeed: nawabs and maharajas were willing to pay small fortunes for virgins like these.

      Chapter 4

The onset of the Second World War had put a serious strain on the supply of eligible girls, so, just as the Sakati had reverted to rashi-dhrava in other times of restricted supply, Dr. Pradesh decided to withdraw the necessary ingredients from his precious hoard, and with them to create a "real" English girl - a prototype, as it were.

His first attempt, early in 1941, did not meet with complete success. The subject, one Leonard Hynes, an AB who had unwisely patronised the sect's Calcutta bordello with insufficient funds in his pockets, was promising enough material: Hynes was a slight, brown-haired gunner's mate with an unblemished complexion and no tattoos. But something had gone wrong in the fermentation, and the resultant girl, though certainly pretty enough, turned out to be of the docile servant variety and could not be taught to copulate with convincing vigour. She was, as they say, frigid, (as well as quite small-breasted), and so Dr. Pradesh reluctantly decided to make Leona a hatcheck girl in his Elphinstone Road establishment, where she did her job tolerably well: as she really was quite pretty (and was made to wear a padded bra), she was soon attracting large tips -which the house, of course, appropriated.

Dr. Pradesh's next effort, later in the year, was somewhat of a failure, too. This time he selected George Perkins, radioman second-class on Intrepid, also slight, brown-haired, well-complected and free of tattoos. But something again went awry with the fermentation, and Georgia turned out to be a docile servant type as well, with no inclination to couple. But Georgia had large, shapely breasts, long legs and a gorgeous derriere that naturally twitched when she walked, especially when she was wearing high heels, (which she still hadn't quite mastered after six months). The poor, transmuted radioman second-class was made the bordello's official cigarette girl, assigned to the restaurant and having no other duties, though she was often clumsy and tended to knock over clients' drinks.

The lovely transmute was given a scanty, midriff-baring two-piece costume of shiny purple satin with a ludicrously tiny pleated skirt that barely concealed her plump rear. She was made to wear black, ribboned garters under her shiny satin briefs to hold up her net stockings, which set off her long legs to perfection. But the crowning touch of her costume was a darling little purple pill-box hat, like an organ-grinder monkey's, that fastened under the chin with a rhinestone-studded strap. As soon as Georgia learned to smile a bright, vacant smile, (no matter what she was feeling or thinking), and to thrust her ample breasts forward at every conceivable opportunity, her cigarette sales soared.

As for Grainger and Davenport, the stakes were much higher: with blue-eyed blondes, there was no room for error. So Dr. Pradesh had taken the unprecedented - and extremely expensive - step of preparing a dozen doses of the rashi-dharva concubine strain, which had been fermenting nicely in his basement laboratory in the Elphinstone Road for a month now, becoming more potent with each passing day. He had tested the potion a fortnight earlier on the laboratory's entire population of buck rabbits - save one.

He was gratified to see how, with minimal squealing, the bucks had been transformed into does, all of them within about thirty minutes, and how they then not only allowed themselves to be mounted by the untreated buck, but avidly jostled one another out of the way in an absolute frenzy to be serviced again and again until the poor buck was exhausted.

Dr. Pradesh had all but four of the does slaughtered and served up to the girls that very evening, figuring that a meal of transmuted rabbit curry could surely do them no harm. The girls were told it was chicken and had asked for second helpings. Dr. Pradesh learned with no great surprise that the house's clients that evening were particularly complimentary regarding the quality of the girls' services, and he resolved to serve up such a curry again soon as possible.

He spared the remaining transmuted does until Tuesday - the day before the flotilla's arrival - then sacrificed them, too, ecstatic to find that each doe held six to twelve little rabbit embryos in her uterus. The girls upstairs enjoyed another chicken curry, and the bordello's clients again went out of the way to praise the house for the quality of its services. So Dr. Pradesh was quite pleased with the potency of this final batch of rashi-dharva, altered from the ancient concubine formula only by the addition of a bit more of the distillate fraction known to stimulate the development of mammary glands. Dr. Pradesh named it the Elphinstone Formula.

      Chapter 5

The afternoon was by now well-advanced, threatening thunder-showers. Grainger and Davenport, still aboard Intrepid, were chafing to get to the northern end of the city by dinner-time: the bordello had a four-star French restaurant, with a chef who had worked at Maxim's as a sous-chef before the war, and was now "doing time" in Bombay, rather than in La Sante Prison, for stabbing his wife's lover with a filleting knife and letting out most, but not quite all, of his blood.

But chafe as they might, SOP demanded the usual intelligence debriefing required of all cipher officers whenever going ashore, the signing of forms in quadruplicate, then an interminable wait at the hack stand until they found a cab willing to take them so far out of the centre. The driver, a Bengali as thin as a pencil, with extraordinarily perfect teeth, was demanding ten Rupees, the price of a girl!

"It is the highly excellent taxicab fare, Sahibs," remonstrated the driver, casting his eyes heavenward as if seeking divine sanction for his egregious price gouging, "Because I shall get nothing else at that end of the island excepting the family of ten that is wanting to come into the town for the cinema, and they will be leaving me with the big mess of betel nut shells to be cleaning up and the babies will be leaving the upholstery wet and my taxicab will be smelling bad for a week. So you see it is the highly excellent taxicab fare I am respectfully asking, Sahibs."

The two young officers glanced at one another and shrugged; they were tired, hungry and impatient - and as randy as satyrs. What was another ten Rupees to them, really? Nonetheless, they perfunctorily bargained the Bengali down to eight (because it was expected), threw their kit bags in the front seat next to the driver, and entered the cab.

The taxi crawled up the De Lisle road, swerving erratically, in classic Indian vehicular fashion, to avoid unnecessary slaughter of pedestrians. After they passed the Victoria Gardens, traffic thinned out considerably and the taxi increased its speed.

"Naturally, Old Chap," Grainger began, now that the taxi had finally stopped lurching, "This time I get Fiona first. You can take Sarah. Remember? We agreed." (Fiona had a rather short fuse, whereas Sarah liked to come a bit more at her leisure.)

"Bloody hell!" Davenport objected, "We agreed to no such thing, Grainger! You had Fiona first the last time! You were pissed, and don't remember a thing, that's all!"

"Pissed! Pissed?" Grainger's neck veins stood out. "I've never been pissed enough to forget something like that!"

"Only the time in Suez, when you passed out for three days, and then whined to the CO it was dengue fever."

"It was dengue fever, dammit, if I've told you a hundred times!" Grainger was getting as red as a stop-light, a sure sign to back off.

"Look, Old Top," Davenport cajoled, "We're both tired and irritable. The simplest thing is for us both to have Fiona first. Don't you think? Then we could both have Sarah second, while Fiona watches. Fiona likes to watch. So why argue about it?"

"You're right, of course, Davenport," Grainger responded, mollified, "Our time'd be far better spent arguing about dinner. D'you suppose they've got any truffles?"

"Truffles, schmuffles, who cares? Anything's got to be ambrosia compared to the swill Intrepid's galley serves up in the officers' mess. Paying two pounds six a fortnight is bloody highway robbery, if you ask me," griped Davenport. [Editor's Note: Officers in the Royal Navy were charged for their meals.] "Steak and kidney pie'd suit me fine right now," he continued, "but if I can have chateaubriand with truffles, well, so much the better! Now, what do you suppose Sarah will be wearing under her saree to-night? Black? Vermilion? With frilly ruffles on her bottom? And Fiona?"

Thus did the two blonde officers beguile the time as their taxi negotiated the thinning traffic on the upper reaches of the De Lisle Road. At last, having passed Chinchpoogly Station, they reached the Elphinstone Road, turned left, and within two minutes drew up at an ugly and unprepossessing concrete building, five stories tall, not set back from the road by more than ten feet. One would have been hard-pressed to divine that it housed the most exotic bordello in all Bombay, except for the constant stream of taxis drawing up at the curb to disgorge men in groups of twos and three.

A growl of not-too-distant thunder greeted the two officers as they paid off the Bengali (leaving no tip). Slow, fat raindrops began to spatter as dully as lead shot, making soft craters in the dun-coloured dust that covered the road and the pavements. Grainger and Davenport entered the Elphinstone Road bordello, in joint expectation of† a wild evening of sexual frolic with two almost-white girls who could speak passable London English. But they had no inkling at all of what really
awaited them.

      Chapter 6

The inside of the Elphinstone Road bordello bore no resemblance whatever to the building's ugly exterior. Its main floor was devoted to an elegant nightclub and restaurant. One flight up were large, well-furnished suites, each with its own bar, where clients could relax after dinner and choose their consorts at leisure. Each suite was decorated according to a different scheme - one in heavy, ornate Victorian furnishings, another like a Japanese geisha house, still another like an Arabian seraglio, and so on. Above this floor were the working bedrooms. The top two floors were devoted to the girls' living quarters, their refectory and its kitchen, business offices, the doctor's private apartments, and storage and supply rooms.

The bordello also had two subterranean stories - one housed the laboratory previously mentioned, where the transmuted rabbits had met their bizarre fates; the deepest level held a number of secure and sound-proofed rooms as well as a dispensary with a couple of gynaecological examining tables and a small but well-equipped operating theatre which also served, when necessary, as a delivery room. Access to these lower levels was not by a stairway, but - most unusual for a building of this size anywhere in India - by elevator, the keys to which were held at all times by Dr. Pradesh and by a pair of enormous Punjabi eunuchs who guarded the elevator in shifts. Aside from Dr. Pradesh, few people used the elevator, or, if they did, it was at odd hours when no one, especially a curious customer, was likely to be stirring.

The restaurant-cum-night club was fitted out in high Art Deco style, with streamlined, sleek furniture of rosewood, black Morocco leather and chrome, the floor space broken up by several elegantly curved half-walls of glass brick softly illuminated from within by blue and green neon tubes. The tops of the walls held lush tropical ferns whose fronds were gently stirred by ten or twelve large, black-bladed ceiling fans rotating noiselessly, which stirred as well the odours of exotic perfumes, Turkish cigarettes, incense and coffee. At the center of the room was a small dance floor; the bandstand, which also served as the nightclub's stage, was up against the end wall, but when Grainger and Davenport were ushered in by the Maitre d', after having left their kit bags with the pretty hat-check girl, the band was on break. A Negro pianist was in the middle of a rendition of "I'm going to Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," sounding for all the world like Fats Waller himself. Only a few couples were dancing, as the hour was still somewhat early.

Lal Gupta, the Maitre D', dressed with the bleak formality of a funeral director, frowningly conducted the pair to a table at the edge of the dance floor, seated them, and whisked into their hands wine lists and menus.

"I am recommending breast of Muscovy duck with the plum glaze tonight, Sahibs," Lal Gupta mournfully intoned, bowing his head and placing his white gloved hands together at chest level, softly clasped, as if announcing the death of a close relative who had unexpectedly left an outlandishly large culinary estate to these two most fortunate diners. "Or else recommending the Boeuf Wellington en croute with the new potatoes. But first I am sending over the sommelier for your order of spirits. Your waiter tonight is Zafar, who shall† be coming presently after the sprits shall be served."

Thus expending his whole purse of English words for the evening, Lal Gupta withdrew like a spectre into the depths of the restaurant, leaving Grainger and Davenport in possession of the field. "Cor! If this is the Maitre D', what's this Zafar going to be like?" exclaimed Davenport. "We should really write this all down, you know, Grainger. The home folks would never believe how the Wogs rape the
Mother tongue."

But Grainger wasn't listening to Davenport at all. He was staring past him, in slack-jawed amazement, at the cigarette girl who was working the tables from the other end of the restaurant, slowly coming towards them. Davenport, seeing that his friend's eyes were intently fixed on something behind him, turned about and looked over his shoulder to see what Grainger was staring at so fixedly. When he saw the cigarette girl, his jaw dropped, too; he shifted his chair around so that he did not have to twist his neck. The wine list he had been holding slipped
from his fingers to the floor.

"Davenport, do you see what I see?" asked Grainger, enunciating each word interspaced with a pause, as if to emphasise the enormity of what they were both looking at.

"Yes. Of course I do. That cigarette girl looks exactly like Perkins. She could be his twin sister. But wasn't Perkins an only child?"

"An only child," repeated Grainger. "Perkins was an only child. Of course Perkins has no twin sister."

Both men stared, transfixed, as the full-figured brunette, her hair in a short bob, clad in a scanty, midriff-baring two-piece costume of purple satin, with a tiny pleated skirt that revealed, more than concealed, her lovely, satin-clad rump, and a little purple pill-box hat like an organ-grinder monkey's, slowly worked her way towards their table, her eyes curiously vacant, but smiling brightly at the patrons, making change, and lighting, with a black Zippo lighter, the cigarettes diners were buying from her. The skimpy halter top of her costume barely contained her full breasts; their nipples strained enticingly against the tautness of the satin. As the girl reached the third table from theirs, one of her spike heels turned; she stumbled, upsetting a full flute of champagne, but the spill missed the diner. The girl blushed crimson, apologising profusely. The diner merely laughed and patted her hand avuncularly.

"Don't you fret, little lady, it could happen to any girl," the two officers heard the man say. They both watched as the man proceeded to grope the girl's ample bottom, most un-avuncularly; they both heard her squeal and saw her go crimson again. A commonplace cabaret scene, perhaps, one most likely happening in a dozen places all over the city that very instant. But something in the scene wasn't quite right.

"Great Scott!" exclaimed Davenport under his breath, "If that wasn't so obviously a girl I'd swear it was Perkins!"

George Perkins, Intrepid's radioman second class, had disappeared during the ship's last liberty in Bombay some six months earlier. His disappearance was attributed to some typical Indian contretemps over money, girls, liquor or drugs. In such cases, the sailor's body sometimes ended up bobbing to the surface of the harbour some eight or ten months later, the rope lashing the body to the stone or tyre-rim having rotted through. But most bodies were never found; the shore patrol rarely searched for sailors who did not return from their liberties, as, on a practical basis, few of them, or their bodies, were ever found. The Royal Navy merely shrugged its official shoulders and signalled back to the Admiralty in London to add another name to the next draft of men.

The usual probabilities regarding Perkins' likely fate flashed through the two officers' minds, but neither of them could dismiss the uncanny resemblance this cigarette girl bore to the missing radioman.

"I say, Davenport. When she comes to our table, let's buy something," Grainger urgently whispered. "Let's talk to her."

"Right-o! Let's buy something," Davenport agreed. "Let's keep her here as long as we can. She may know what really happened to Perkins."

The shapely brunette soon reached their table. "Cigarettes? Cigars?" she sang out sweetly and softly, smiling brightly and showing her perfect white teeth - perfect except for a small gap between her upper incisors..... the same gap Perkins had had.

The men stared in disbelief at the girl's smile for a full thirty seconds. Her pupils dilated momentarily under their scrutiny and she seemed to be on the verge of saying something. One could almost say that tears were welling up in her eyes, but it may have been a trick of the light, which was† behind her. The girl looked down just as the men transferred their gaze to the cigarettes on her tray, which was suspended from her neck by a broad crimson strap. They were mostly expensive American brands, almost impossible to find in India, except on the black market, where, of course, anything could be had for a price.

"A pack of Camels," Grainger said, hoping the girl would raise her eyes again. She did not. She took the requested pack of cigarettes from her tray, and, as cigarette girls do all over the world, opened it, tapped out two of them, and, bending from the waist, placed them each between the lips of her patrons, still averting her large brown eyes from their gaze. But she fumbled when she reached for her Zippo lighter, which was at the far corner of her tray, and clumsily scattered most of her wares onto the floor.

Instantly mortified, she did not bend from her knees to lower herself within reaching distance of the scattered merchandise, as most girls, dressed as she was, would surely have done. Instead, she awkwardly bent over, tipping her tray and dumping the rest of her cigarettes all over the floor. By now she was in tears.

Grainger and Davenport gallantly abandoned their chairs and stooped over the carpet to retrieve the scattered cigarettes and matches, while speaking soothingly to the distraught girl, who, sitting on the floor in a most unladylike posture, knees splayed apart and her little organ-grinder monkey pillbox hat askance on her forehead, was sobbing uncontrollably, lip gloss smeared and mascara streaking her pretty cheeks in black rivulets.

"What's your name, miss?" Davenport asked, patting her knee and beginning to forget about Fiona and Sarah. For all her clumsiness, this girl was a delectable prize, and her uncanny resemblance to the vanished radioman was all the more stimulating, for reasons Davenport could not grasp. Davenport tried to imagine how soft and lovely she must be beneath her satin briefs, and wondered if she shaved.

"G...G...G...Georgia!" she finally stammered through her tears. Grainger and Davenport glanced sharply at one another, as the girl continued, sniffling loudly, "What's it to you anyway? Don't feel sorry for me - I'm always spilling my tray. It's not easy to carry it, you know! It's these bloody high heels! I don't know how girls can walk in them all night long! It's the third time I've spilled my tray this week. So tonight I'm gonna catch it for sure!"

The lovely girl began to blubber and wail, grasping her temples and rocking side to side, while scissoring her knees in and out, completely oblivious to the sensation she was creating, what with her long, shapely legs, encased in the taut net stockings held up by her sexy black garters. She looked utterly vulnerable, her little costume virtually bedroom attire, yet she had no consciousness of her sexuality. But before the two friends could really comfort the distraught girl, a large and beardless Punjabi, attracted by the commotion, suddenly materialised out of nowhere. Cooing softly to the girl, he gently coaxed her to her feet and escorted her out of the dining area, towards the rear of the building. The Negro band, off its break, struck up a loud swing number, two factotums rapidly cleaned up the spilled merchandise, and the happy sea of good times and fine dining immediately closed over the shipwreck that had just occurred before everyone's eyes, as if it had never happened.

      Chapter 7

After poor Georgia had been escorted away by the eunuch (for that is who the Punjabi was), Grainger and Davenport remained speechless for some time, their unlighted Camels still dangling from their lips.

Davenport spoke first.

"I suppose every person on earth has a doppelganger," he observed, "We just bumped into poor Perkins's, and she happens to be a girl."

"Yes, an odd coincidence, don't you know?" Grainger said, "...That Perkins should have gone missing in Bombay, and this gorgeous look-alike female shows up in the very same city just six months later? There's no other explanation, of course."

"Of course," said Davenport.

Neither man could seriously entertain for an instant the idea that the voluptuous, clumsy cigarette girl was actually Perkins himself - or herself, as she now was permanently constituted, having been transformed into Georgia some five months earlier. Such an idea was utterly contrary to science and nature, so they dismissed it without the least consideration. But the vague possibility that some sort of magic had been worked passed fleetingly through their subconscious minds (where magical thinking often fleetingly passes), unsettling them.

Davenport picked up the matches lying in the unused ashtray and lighted his Camel, then offered the light to Grainger, who bent over to reach it, the regular, almost feminine features of his face briefly illuminated from below by the match flame. Both men sat back and exhaled long jets of smoke.

"Consider for a moment that the girl really is Perkins," Davenport continued. "Haven't you heard of that Swedish surgeon, Gunnar Nordqvist? The one who operated on young Lord Ambrose Featherly back in '34, and he became the notorious Lady Ambrosia Featherly? Remember? She as in the tabloids for weeks. I was only fourteen at time; I found the story dashed exciting, actually."

"Yes," Grainger replied, "I do indeed remember Dr. Nordqvist and Lady Featherly. And I agree, as a fourteen-year-old I found the concept of a man being changed into a woman to be rather exciting, too. But this cigarette girl had a woman's facial bone structure and wide hips, a narrow waist, small hands and feet - quite unlike Perkins. Surgery can't do that...."

Further speculation on the limitations of state-of-the-art transsexual surgery was interrupted by Zafar, the waiter, and the sommelier, who took the officers' orders for oysters and brandy-and-sodas to start, followed by two orders of Muscovy duck and a bottle of the Third Reich's best Riesling wine - the politics of war having no place in the Elphinstone Road bordello: had the men wanted sake from Tokyo or Valpolicella from Rome they could have had it for the asking - at a price, to be sure.

As the attentive reader will no doubt have surmised, the plum sauce on the Muscovy duck was heavily laced with rashi-dharva, enough to transform an entire battle-hardened infantry platoon into a bevy of empty-headed chattering girls whose only immediate concern, besides dressing themselves in fine lingerie and painting their faces and nails and doing up their hair in the latest style, would be to find an entire platoon of battle-hardened infantrymen to service them.

The Reisling was laced, too, but with sodium pentothal, so that by the time the pudding came round, Grainger and Davenport were so groggy that they had real difficulty keeping their faces out of their plates. When they finally slumped face down in their pudding, two huge, beardless Punjabis noiselessly materialised, and fussing solicitously over the somnolent young men, proclaimed to the other patrons that the two Officer-Sahibs had had too much to drink, and that they would help them upstairs and put them to bed. Neighbouring diners made the usual bad jokes about how alcohol provokes the desire but takes away the performance, ordered up more rounds of drinks and promptly forgot about the two blonde naval men.

As the attentive reader will no doubt have also surmised, the two men - for they were still men, at least for the next little while - were not helped upstairs to bed, but were spirited downstairs in the elevator, then carried the dispensary, where they were stripped of their clothing, and placed, supine, on examining tables. The eunuchs bundled up their clothing and consigned it to the furnace, but their identity papers were carefully preserved and locked in a safe. At this point, Dr. Pradesh was summoned, for he always wanted to observe the details of his transformations.

By the time the doctor arrived, Grainger's hips had already begun to broaden noticeably and he was sprouting breasts. As for Davenport, his first sign of feminisation was the softening of his facial features, the thinning and arching of his eyebrows, a diminution in the size of his nose and lips, and in the prominence of his chin and Adam's apple: all of these became delicate and refined. But soon his hips expanded, too, and soon he, too, began to sprout breasts, while it was now Grainger's turn to have his face rearranged into feminine features. Their hands had become almost tiny, with slim, tapered fingers, their feet were now dainty and their abdomens - white, hairless and smooth - had softened and spread under the power of the rashi-dharva.

Thus were David Grainger and Ian Davenport, in stuttering and uneven fashion, inexorably and without remedy, transmuted into Daphne and Iris (Dr. Pradesh having chosen their feminine names well in advance). Lest we offend our readers' delicate sensibilities, we shall omit a detailed description of their genital changes. Suffice it say that, with an involuntary convulsion and almost at the same moment, like bizarre unclad marionettes, the two drew up their legs and spread wide their now-plump white thighs. In this most un-masculine of postures, that which had made them men quivered and shrank, became indistinct, then retracted erratically into their still-softening bellies with a faintly audible gurgling, such as the sound heavy syrup makes as it descends through a funnel into a bottle, and the air burbles upwards in slow expirations, causing the syrup to disappear jerkily into the throat of the funnel. When the gurgling ceased, each now displayed between his splayed thighs a textbook set of twin labia, the aperture between them glistening pinkly in the brilliant dispensary lights. Then, like a curtain going down after the final act, their legs came together and straightened out in a parody of feminine modesty. (This reflex always signalled that a transformation was nearly complete.)

While their internal female sexual organs were being formed in their bellies - fluttering and rippling, flowing and settling into standard anatomic positions - their limbs became yet rounder, their skin yet softer and more translucent, their deposits of subcutaneous adipose tissue migrated and assumed female contours, their breasts swelled like rising bread dough - soft, warm and elastic (with perhaps with a slight excess of yeast and with prominent brick-red nipples set in areolae as broad across as demitasse saucers) - so that by the end of an hour, Dr. Pradesh saw stretched out before him on his dispensary tables two of the most lovely blonde young women ever to grace the planet. Blonde even to their little tufts of golden pubic hair - silky and a bit springy, but not kinked - not so dense as to conceal the blunt-edged fleshy slits that now cleft their bodies from the base of their blunt love-mounds in front all the way to the crease of their ivory buttocks behind.

And still they slept peacefully, their little pink tongues unconsciously darting out every now and again to moisten their rosy cupid's-bow lips. Nor did they waken even when their ankles were placed into stirrup-slings and speculums introduced, allowing Dr. Pradesh to ascertain that his new concubines were properly formed within as well as without (they were, though Daphne's uterus was a bit retroverted). He took vaginal smears and cultures to send to the city health authorities, for all the bordellos in the British Raj, far from being illegal, were considered legitimate businesses and were closely regulated by the colonial health authorities, particularly during the present war, when bordellos, from the meanest whorehouse to the most opulent pleasure palace, had actually been classified as "vital wartime enterprises" essential for the morale of the Empire's troops and sailors. The doctor also drew a vial of blood from each girl's antecubital vein to send in for Wasserman testing, to make sure neither had syphilis. Such requirements were more for the protection of clients than of the girls, of course.

The other reason for the pelvic exams was to allow the insertion into the girls' wombs of an ancient Sakati invention - a small length of copper wire tied into a bow, no bigger than the doctor's fingernail, with a ripcord of soft black rayon, which protruded from the cervix, allowing the bow's easy removal if necessary. Ages ago the Sakati had discovered the contraceptive powers of a bit of intrauterine copper, and so Iris and Daphne were, for the present, at least, spared the risks (or rewards) of conception in the bordello's financial interests of securing their services uninterrupted by pregnancy.

One important task remained before the sodium pentothal wore off. Dr. Pradesh meticulously shaved, then prepped with iodine solution a small patch of each girl's right labium majorum, at the level of her superior commissure. Wielding a surgical crimping punch, he locked into place with a loud metallic snap, a smooth stainless steel ring no bigger around than a sixpence: the badge of a transmuted girl. The procedure drew forth a single drop of blood as large and as red as a ruby, but that was all.

The rings' purpose? Should a transmute become intractable or delinquent in her duties, the bordello had on hand several chain leashes of stainless steel for "training purposes," or for confining a recalcitrant girl. These girl-leashes could be fitted onto the labial ring with a miniature high-security lock. The rings alone proved a stark deterrent against bad behaviour: most girls never needed leashing. But there were always exceptions, so every transmute was given a labial ring as a standard precaution.

After confirming that the rings rotated easily without binding, Dr. Predesh stepped back, peeled off his gloves, and surveyed his handiwork with admiration while the two eunuchs. like skilled nurses, proceeded to give each girl a thorough sponge bath, then dress them in white cotton panties and bras.

Dr. Pradesh instructed the eunuchs to carry the girls to the secure suite of rooms at the end of the corridor, to put them to bed and to cover them with warm blankets. "Don't disturb them 'till noon," he directed, "By then, the initial shock will have worn off; they'll have explored themselves thoroughly and will have cried sufficiently so that they'll not cause too much of a disturbance when you bring them upstairs. We'll begin their training in the afternoon. Be sure to tell Vaudin to be ready, and be sure he understands that there are two new girls this time."

(Michel Vaudin was the restaurant's chef, the one who had worked at Maxim's. One of Vaudin's extra-culinary duties was to initiate all the new girls, which he did with great vigour and zeal, being one of those Frenchmen who instinctively knew how to pleasure a woman, and who was so well endowed that he rarely failed. It was well-known among the bordello's girls that Vaudin had a monstrously large cock. It was well-known because the Frenchman often made free with the girls - natal ones and transmutes alike - taking them whenever and wherever whim dictated: up against a corridor wall, in the pantry, under the stairs, in a broom closet. He especially liked to take girls on the roof of the bordello, where they would come on sunny days to hang out their intimate garments to dry. Of the few men at the Elphinestone bordello, Vaudin was the most hated. But he enjoyed the special protection of the doctor, so the girls could do nothing about it.)

"Yes, Doctor Sahib," replied the eunuchs, in unison. "Vaudin Sahib," began one, "already knows there will be two girls tomorrow," continued the other, "because we took the liberty," said the first, "to inform him his services would be," said the second, "doubly required," they both said, completing the sentence. The eunuchs always talked in tag-team fashion, so smoothly that they seemed to be one person speaking. Ghopal and Ghulam (for those were their names) were, in fact, twins. Their family had sold them at age eight to Dr. Pradesh's father for twenty Rupees apiece. As the little boys were too big-boned to have made attractive transmutes, they were castrated instead; they proved to be so loyal (and strong) that they were retained as house-eunuchs and never put up for sale.

As the eunuchs left the dispensary, each bearing a girl in his arms, Dr. Pradesh stretched, sighed contentedly, washed his hands, put on his jacket and went upstairs to bed, satisfied at a day's work well done.

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