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Inferno XXXVIIDouglas, MI –- There is nothing quite like Inferno. In short, Inferno is the weeklong men's Sm run sponsored by the Chicago Hellfire Club (CHC), but it is much more than that... it is an exploration of the fraternal bonds created by sadomasochism. It is also the time and space that defines the nature of my relationship with Derek and marks the anniversary of our first meeting. It is the environment in which we thrive, surrounded by those more like us than anywhere else. The past week has been an escape from the norm into another world.

At this, the closing of my third Inferno, I can't help but think back to my first. I remember the trepidation and uncertainty that accompanied me to Inferno XXXV. I had no idea what to expect, if I'd fit or be accepted within the fold of this legendary event. I had just turned thirty-six and had only started topping in scene about five years earlier. My skills where modest at best... rough sex, fisting, water sports, sounds, light breath control, moderate impact play and intermediate bondage. Yeah, I know some of you reading might not consider that list too reserved, but in comparison to the men of Inferno I felt like a novice. Even with my passion for rope bondage I still hadn't topped my first solo suspension scene.

All that apprehension dissipated as soon as I arrived on site though. Actually, just before I entered the compound, while I was waiting for registration when I saw Derek for the first time. He was Hot. He's shorter than me and stocky. By stocky, I mean large for his size in a lean and muscular way. He has decent calves (he was wearing shorts), broad shoulders, rugged face and an amazing ass. He was oblivious to me as he rushed by and I noticed the patch sown to his Alpha flight jacket after checking out his back side. I get so distracted when a boy attracts my attention, I totally forgot about any insecurity I might have had.

I played like a kink starved sadomasochist on his first day in hell that Inferno. I had two scenes each day except Sunday during transition and at least one each night. I topped. I bottomed. And I kept my sights set on the boy I saw at registration even when I was told he was "out of my league" by one of the CHC members that caught me cruising Derek while in line for chow Friday morning. That comment must have set my resolve to a new level. I had two scenes with Derek that day and now consider the guy that made the comment among my closest friends in the club.

The following day I went to witness the group, hook ritual where participants are pierced with flesh hooks through the chest that are bound together with lengths of cord to facilitate a large group hook pull ritual. I watched Derek get pierced and knew I had to do it with him, so at the last moment I joined in. It was a perfect bonding moment for us. We kept to the side and played with the interchange of energy. I truly consider it the moment we bonded as a couple.

Last year, at Inferno XXXVI, we marked the anniversary with blood art. This year we returned to the hook pull, again keeping to the side and each other. It was so intense at one point I puked into my own mouth. It was beautiful and those of you reading that understand will know what I mean.

This year, like last year, Derek and I were focused mostly on each other and played, almost exclusively, together alone, with few exceptions. We closed our play at Inferno XXXVII the same way we closed our first together, with an inverted Shibari suspension and impact play. I topped the scene just as I had for my first solo rigging two years ago... this time without the safety strap.

Side Bar: Two years ago I decided to rig my first solo suspension, in full view of what could have been my most critical observers. I didn't make it easy on myself either. I chose one of the riskiest and most difficult suspensions to rig, inverted by the ankles. I didn't have the confidence in my rigging that I do now, so to reduce the risk of a serious falling injury if the rigging failed I set a safety strap. I can't help but smile when I think back on the scene.

This would become a foreshadowing of things come. Inferno and the men of the Chicago Hellfire Club, especially Derek, have been formative to my development as a practitioner. They have helped expand my skills, build my confidence, shape my character and take my play to new levels.

I'm sad to see this year's Inferno come to a close but I'm happy I had the chance to be here again with Derek and am already looking forward to Inferno XXXVIII.