Excerpts from Plague’s Embrace

A slightly desaturated close-up image of a rocky outcropping with many candles in reds, pastels, and whites, some textured and some not. Some of the the candles are burnt and wax has spread. Behind them, a small circular mirror in an ornate brass frame is visible, and small flat stones are arranged around the candles. A bone resembling a human femur is visible on the left side of the frame on a ceremonial plate, and natural green foliage is visible in the background.
Photograph by Jo Pollux.

 
Audio transcription.
 

 

Day 3

She was shivering like a baby unwrapped in the wind, adrenaline and espresso in her sweat. I wasn’t allowed fear until later — one price of her devotion. I saw in her a young pony, mistreated through neglect. So I did what the horsewomen do: a tie over her eyes, a carpet to kneel. The image of her groomed, knees and wrists enduring, and the cup of her rump relaxed towards its fate made me hungry. I kicked her down on her side, licked sweat turned sour electric and ripped into her inner thigh and throat at once like a wolf. She bucked and jolted, all reflex, while I gripped fast at her mane. She found me with ease, her needs herbivore, spread wide like open fields. We rode out the fear as horse and rider, all whirring, legs ceaseless will, rough speed in the stillness.

 

Day the 9th

With their fear, the citizens have turned vexations from the cursed pestilence against us who practice our craft beneath our skirts. I have heard it said from a Doctor, even as I was tending to his crooked manhood, that heat stoked within the body through pleasure or inflammatory herbs welcomes the illness. My sisters and I grow one hundred legs each night to squeeze the hips of Lords and merchants, but prefer the knowing lips of one another. Here, from our new home between the graves, we have seen and heard all manner of oddity grown from the stench of death as it twists men’s minds.

A group of wretches, limping towards the city walls with great commotion, lashed themselves as they walked. A tavernman told me these flagellants traveled thusly, seeking alms in exchange for their suffering. They claim their toil a cure to appease this angry God and remove the deadly buboes from the groins of our city.

 

Day 19 

Today, we woke up hating each other. The sirens bled into church bells against the pigeons’ pathetic trolling. These laments lured cold rage from my stomach.

“Today we do here what they do in the streets, 1.5 meters between us“

She returned to the doorway with my longest whip, a dead snake in her hands. The chill inside rose into my fingers then out the black leather and transformed into burns on her back. I didn’t come close to soothe them, I just striped her methodically, shoulders, ass, upper thighs.

“For safety”

“Si amore” 

The awful gong of the church began again and I sliced through its rhythm, the snake leaping from my hands, hissing through the air between us. I awoke from her moans. We kept distance all day but at midnight grasped the darkness and clung tight.

A slightly desaturated image of a person with light skin and long hair. They are outside but half in shadow, kneeling or close to the ground. They are looking up at the camera, their face bisected by the shadow, their hand in their mouth with a dominant sexual intensity. The movement of the image is slightly blurred.

Day the 47th

One sot stumbled directly from the funeral of his father into the overflowing cups of my bodice. After our business he told me this amusing tale:

One young sister of the cross was bid by the Abbess to enter her private chambers, only to find three of her companions disrobed and seizing each other with frightening force. As the young nun knelt upon the stones to pray for their souls, the Abbess lifted the hem of the girl’s frock and let the other nuns-turned-beastly ravage her maidenhood. The Abbess herself took a turn to defile the poor bride of God with the waxed staff of a crucifix, and so plundering did she bring forth from the girl a lusty scream like a tavern wife. It is said even God could not hear her unholy cries above the din of those writhing on their deathbeds.

 

Day 65

“Lick the milk.”

“Again.”

I gripped her hair, waiting for each inhaled gasp between dives. After the bowl was all spilt I sent her to clean her face. 

My phone flashed a message so fragrant that my body filled with pain and juice. When my girl saw my face all wrong she thought it was more death nestling itself into our lives. But this was reanimation, a ghost pulsing with warmth and confusion, my past sitting on my lap without invitation. My old love, who had wrapped my breasts in the brambles of blackberry bushes, wanted to know how I was, who had died, was I crazy, mourning, or triumphant.

My girl turned away to gather the bags for shopping, and left to tend to our next week of flavors. Once the door closed I filled our home with anger, desire, and mourning in time to sweep it all off the balcony before she came back with heels of parmigiano and the gritty greens we crave.

To honor the love that held us well within our stale walls, I planned our next play.

I’ll step into her aisle at the market. I’ll place our bodies apart. I’ll loop the knuckles of her fingers and hook them up under my skirt. We’ll stare at the cans of tomatoes, crushed or whole plum, peeled or cubed, straight juice or perfumed with basil as I let her find her way home within me. 

I read the message again, let myself hurt, be wet, then swept from the front door to the reckless sunshine, our balcony like the space between each bar of a cage.

 

Day the 131st 

A season of horrors has befallen us all, and neither crow-masked doctor nor man of cloth finds his way to the cemetery. My precious Lorelei fell ill a fortnight ago; we sheltered her within a mausoleum as she spat blood and curses, but with mercy, sweet-winged Death took her quick.

The church sweats flies like stacked rotting corpses, and visitors come to pray no longer. Some remaining townsfolk steal the bread from our mouths as they congregate between graves like nests of rats with their buttocks bared to the stars, groping whatever living flesh they may encounter. I fear for the fate of some of my bawdy sisters. I fear we will not fare well. Nevertheless I know that there will be those of us strolling hand in hand onward. We shall, as ever, work our trade through the cinders and bodies of families scattered thither like dung.

A slightly desaturated photograph of a pregnant person laying against an old, waterstained grey headstone in a cemetery. More cemetery scenery and some ivy on a wall are visible nearby. The person has long, dark hair and is wearing dark lipstick and makeup. They are wearing a black structured bra, and have a dragonfly tattoo on their side. Their eyes are closed, and they are slumped on their right side, with their left hand under their head and their left bra strap down on their arm. To the left of them, a fern grows.

Words by Sadie Lune
Photographs by Jo Pollux


Sadie Lune is an interdisciplinary artist, sex worker and parent. She has won awards for her short films and performances, appeared in feature films and queer porn, exhibited explicit whore-positive work in squats and the SFMOMA, and shown her cervix internationally. She writes, presents workshops, and speaks publicly on topics of sexuality, gender, intimacy, fertility, shame, feminism, kink, queer parenthood and sex work. Sadie is American but lives in Berlin with her child and baby. She is on Instagram @sadie_lune.