I honed my considerable torture skills on my best friend Billy.
That's his real name and this is a true story (one among many). Either Billy was a pretty stupid kid or my persuasive powers bordered on the god-like. It really amazes me the number of times I had managed to trick him into one compromising position or another as we were growing up. One incident in particular stands out in my mind, and I still get a silly grin on my face when I recall it.
As kids growing up in the seventies, we didn't play cowboys and Indians. Spacemen and aliens were more our style in the post-Star Trek era. I don't remember the particulars of that day's fantasy but as usual, I was the villain and Billy the heroic starship captain (I learned at a VERY young age the advantages of playing the villain). The captain, as I recall, needed to escape from the evil Grungus' spaceship before the bomb he had planted went off. The only escape route from the fuel storage facility was an air vent, conveniently large enough for a man to crawl through. Our particular prop for this was an old cardboard barrel, taller and somewhat more narrow than average lying on its side.
Naturally the Grungus wasn't so stupid as to have air vents big enough to accommodate heroic starship captains running to and from sensitive areas of his battle fortress, so, yes, it was a trap of course. No sooner had Billy crawled into that barrel than I dashed out and tipped it back upright. Billy was now quite trapped. His arms were jammed into the bottom of the barrel over his head, his sneakered feet sticking up into the air. Billy was mildly claustrophobic but I don't believe he quite realized the seriousness of his situation until I began unlacing his left sneaker. "No Matthew ... don't ..." he began to whine, a hint of a giggle barely escaping. A helplessly ticklish kid like Billy knew me quite well enough to see he was in big trouble as I slipped the sneaker from his foot and began to pull his sock off. Giggling almost steadily now he whined and pleaded, "No .... don't .... hee hee, pleeeease ..."
"Don't what?" I said, just that bit of malevolent innocence I had cultivated tingeing my voice. "Whatever could you mean?" He was silent a moment, considering the remote possibility I wasn't intending to do what he feared most. He didn't want to give me any ideas after all. I calmly began unlacing the other sneaker.
"Just don't ... YOU know!"
By the time both feet were bare and I had the toes of his left foot gripped firmly in hand, slowly bending them backward, he knew he was doomed. He began to struggle frantically within his upside down barrel trap. But there simply was no room whatsoever. He was wedged in quite tightly and there really was no hope of escape for him.
As every tickler knows, there are rules and protocols to follow when tickling a bare sole. One must start by slowly and lightly dragging a single index finger down the sole from toe to heel, reversing course and slowly drawing it back up to the top again. Repeat as necessary. I found it quite necessary. Muffled sounds of helpless laughter seeped from the barrel as I continued my patient single-finger trek up and down his bare sole. Protocol demands the next step to be lightly tracing circles inside the arch, round and around, always being careful only to let the pad of the index finger contact flesh. Fingernails are for later.
Billy's laughter flowed freely and helplessly now. He no longer bothered to struggle. He had learned to simply endure the unendurable. Stifling the laughter or struggling was more than hopeless when I had him. Long experience had taught him that. He did all he could possibly do: he laughed heartily and helplessly. Gripping both his large toes in one hand now, I alternated the circle drawing first on one sole, and then the other. Now of course tickling custom allows a bit of improvisation at this point. Like the cadenza in a piano concerto, this is the point where the artist can show off his stuff. The more unusual or clever, or the greater the agonized laughter he can elicit from his victim, the more the artist leaves his mark on the creative world. But I simply chose to move right to the finale as I was eager to get to my surprise encore.
The finale is of course fingernails full speed ahead. NOW he began to really panic. "NOOOO !!!" he screamed in a shrill voice between gasps of laughter. Really applying a bit of pressure to his soles now, I scritch scritched his arches ruthlessly. "Matthew, NOOOO! AH HAA HAA HAA ... STOOOP!!!" he managed to scream before being transported completely to his own laughing hell.
"So you still won't reveal the secrets of your stardrive," I threatened. I was still in character although he had become poor helpless Billy long ago. I found it much easier to get away with further tickling if I stayed in character.
"What secret?? Let me out! I'll say anything you want!!"
"I am so very sorry you won't cooperate captain. I am forced to take ... unpleasant action."
"Matthew NOOOO, I'm gonna pee my pants!! STOOOP!"
I stooped down to the side of the barrel where I had cut two large holes in the side. Peering through one of the holes I saw that Billy's shirttails had become untucked and his shirt had fallen down around his head, leaving his soft tender sides and ribs wickedly exposed. Billy realized at that moment exactly what I intended and began a laughing scream for help, resuming his futile attempts at struggle. As I reached both hands into the holes he fought desperately to free his arms from where they had been wedged at the bottom of the barrel, and somehow pull them down to protect his sides. His sobbing pleading laughter began just before my whispery light finger strokes touched his sides and began their merciless stroking.
I used the famous "three fingers of death", thumb, index, and middle fingers of each hand to tickle, poke and goose his sides while he struggled vainly and screamed for help when he could catch a breath. I began a poking journey with my index fingers up and down his ribcage then resumed poking and squeezing his sides. I didn't do this for too long because I didn't want him dying of laughter before I reached my true goal.
You see, and apologies to you foot tickling fanatics out there, Billy's one great weakness, the one terrible torture he could not endure, the greatest of all things he feared the most in all the world ... was to be tickled under his arms! I may have said Billy was slow-witted, but if there was one thing he learned quickly enough after that first time I taught what would happen to him whenever I caught him wearing a tanktop, it was to never EVER give me an opportunity to get into his armpits! He guarded his armpits as if his life depended on it. Of all the times I had tricked him into enduring tickle torture, very rarely had it included access to his ticklish armpits. Now with his arms wedged tightly over his head and his shirt fallen down to expose his torso completely, now I had him at last.
This time, as I tickled my way from sides to ribs, I continued on up (or "down", seeing as he was upside down). He knew it as soon as I reached his top rib and slowly crawled further and further. He knew what was about to happen to him, his very worst nightmare, and at last his struggles became wild. He twisted and squirmed desperately in the barrel, trying to tip it over (no use, I had propped it!). He practically wrenched his shoulders out trying to pull his arms down (almost, but not quite enough room!). His laughter became frantic and panicky, he screamed desperately for help from ANYONE! Then I was there! My wriggling index fingers found their way snugly into the soft, exposed pits of his arms and I began to press into the flesh there, poking and wiggling and worming my way into the soft, sensitive flesh. Feeling about the wisps of black hair he had recently sprouted under his arms.
No mercy! I had been foiled at this for so long it was payback time in the cruelest way! His laughter took on that rare, "special" timbre we ticklers strive for all of our lives. Long, deep, drawn out draughts of hysteria, absolutely beyond the laugher's control. I didn't wander down to ribs or sides again, I stayed right there, pressing and tickling deep into his armpits nonstop for ten full minutes. He must have peed his pants the instant I reached them, but he never said a word, was incapable of speech or coherent thought as his armpits were tickled to death. I only saw the telltale stain after I had finally stopped and released him from his torture prison.
You would think I'd never have another chance at tickling Billy again after that. He made it harder, for sure, but I think as he seemed to grow even more ticklish as he matured, I became more and more diabolical in my plots to trap him. I did manage to tickle him several more times after that, and even had one, last, great, spectacular opportunity at his armpits when we were in college. It was without a doubt the pinnacle of my tickling career.