The woman was walking slowly across our parking lot, wearing nice workout clothes. Tall and athletic, with her dark hair pulled back in a messy ponytail, she looked nervous, like she'd ventured out to get in some steps but had become lost. She paused outside our office, took a breath, straightened her shoulders, then pushed the door instead of pulling.
Oh good. She was even more flustered than me, brand new at my job.
"Can I help you?" I said. "Can you help me?" she asked, simultaneously.
I paused to let her settle.
"Is this a hypnotist?" she asked.
"Yes, this is Deep Minds Hypnosis," I replied, handing over one of the business cards. "Dr. George has stepped out for a few minutes. How can I help you today?" I was unlikely to be much assistance, though. My previous job had evaporated, so he'd signed me on as his office manager just a week earlier. I was still, as he put it, learning the ropes.
"Yes! Please! I mean ... there’s nothing really wrong with me!" She was seriously agitated, speaking in staccato bursts. She took a deep breath. "That came out wrong. I mean ... I don’t need treatment for anything. But I am so interested in knowing about hypnosis. I live just up the road and walk past your building almost every day. I saw a show. On a cruise."
I figured this would start to make sense eventually. I just let her ramble.
She looked me in the eyes. "Can a hypnotist really make a person forget that they’re hypnotized? Or forget who other people are? Like, not even recognize their boyfriend?"
Did I blush? For an instant, I thought maybe she knew something about me. "Yes... um yes," I said. "All of those things."
Turned out that I did have the answer to her question. But I wasn't ready to share that information with anyone just yet because I hadn't quite processed it myself. Just a month earlier, I’d spent the evening trapped in a room with no doors, windows or phone, being assaulted over and over by a stranger who had lured me there on some pretext. It was humiliating but also somehow arousing. Only after hours of abuse had he called out, "Remember." And only then did I recognize the man in the room with me -- Dr. George! -- and abruptly recall the elaborate evil plans we’d made for what I'd see and experience. I was so relieved. He’d held my shaking body for another hour while I recovered.
I just summarized it for her: "You can forget almost anything, if you’re told to."
Her eyes widened. "That's ... that’s like mind control," she said, sounding frightened but possibly also excited.
You don't know the half of it, I thought.
To my relief, just then I spotted Dr. George's car turning in to the parking lot. "If you have questions about hypnosis, Dr. George just drove up," I said. "He has some free time before his next appointment." What I didn't share: She was asking about his favorite kink.
Her name was Colleen. I asked her to take a seat in the waiting area, and when Dr. George walked in I repeated the gist of her question to him. I tried to maintain a professional facial expression.
"Bring her back to the staff lounge," he directed me. Hmm, that was unusual. His face was hard to read. "And I'd like you to sit in on this as a training opportunity."
The lounge was well outfitted with comfy chairs, a couch and even a yoga mat. Colleen sat awkwardly on the couch, and each of us took one of the chairs.
"You don’t mind if Mrs. Watson sits in, do you." I noticed that it wasn't a question. He gestured at me and the notebook I was carrying. "She’s still in training, and I’ve suggested she take notes."
He didn’t pause for a reply. Instead he dove right in.
"Mrs. Watson says you’re curious about forgetting things. Tell me more about that." He’d already turned on the low hum in his voice, the vibration that I knew very well.
Perhaps in response, Colleen settled down, looked off into space, and finally told her story.
"My boyfriend and I were on a cruise last spring. One night I dragged him to the hypnotist’s performance. It was one of those R-rated shows, lots of suggestive silly stuff.
"But then he had a girl up there who seemed really out of it. He told her to forget that she was hypnotized, and to forget her husband for a few minutes. Then he had her husband come up, hug her, and kiss her.
"She flipped out! She almost decked her own husband! She didn’t recognize him at all, or the hypnotist, or the audience even. She thought a stranger was groping her in public. I've been wondering ever since. Was that for real?"
Dr. G. looked at her intently, pen hovering over the clipboard on his lap. "That moment really got to you, didn’t it?"
"Yes..." It sounded like a confession.
He marked something on his clipboard and lowered his voice still more. "Did it arouse you?"
Her eyes widened, and she gripped the side of the sofa. "What do you mean?"
He leaned in ever-so-slightly. "Well. You didn't walk in here with an academic question. You’ve been wrestling with these sexual feelings. Haven't you?"
"Oh god, my mind has been spinning ever since!"
Dr. George slid the clipboard off his lap and repositioned himself. "Tell me about your craving."
She leaned forward too, anxiously.
"You won’t tell anyone, will you? Especially my boyfriend?"
"Colleen, anything said here is completely confidential. We call this the No Rules Zone. There are no consequences. You are free to do or say whatever comes to mind, to share your thoughts without obligation." He glanced at me, as though seeking my confirmation.
I had to clear my throat first. "That's right, Colleen. It's all very private here," I said. "You can speak freely about, as you said, mind control. And the more open you are, the better Dr. George can help you."
She nodded. "Mind control. I don’t know why, but I ... think a lot about how that would feel. I always have. I know it’s like science fiction, but I love to imagine some evil person taking over my thoughts. "
"I see," Dr. George said. Apparently he already knew where she was heading. Or where he was leading her. "And your boyfriend doesn’t know?"
"He mustn’t know! He has no idea. He thinks I'm the strong one, the overachiever. He'd be horrified to hear this."
She pressed her palms to her pink cheeks and took a deep breath.
"I want to have no choice. I want to be taken. Used."
"Anyone. Everyone. Strangers. Different people, to see what they like."
"And what have you done about this?"
"Nothing! I can't! I want it so bad, but I know it's wrong. Oh, I'd feel so guilty!"
"So you want to give up control?"
"Yes! It’s not cheating if someone is controlling me, right?" I knew what she meant. Sometimes I feel like a fruitcake, for craving the same thing. But the need is deep.
He just looked at her. I could tell his gears were turning.
"Please, Dr. George! I know this makes me sound loony. But that woman on stage. She looked so convinced. So convincing. Just let me know. Was it real?"
He leaned back, and shifted into his expert lecture mode. I guessed this would be a good time for me to pretend to focus on my notebook. I started writing nonsense scribbles while I listened to him.
"Most of stage hypnosis is just for show," he said, "while they work through the line of volunteers who jumped up. Most are extroverts who enjoy an excuse to lose their inhibitions. It takes a while to weed them out.
"The last two or three people left on stage are likely very suggestible, and very deep in trance. What happens at that point ... is authentic hypnosis."
She whispered. "So it was real! A person really can be controlled like that!"
"Colleen. Every mind is different. Every hypnotist is different. So there’s no guarantee. But the subconscious is very clever. I expect that your subconscious can hide facts and memories from your conscious mind. And it can fuzz over the gap, so you don’t even know the memory is missing. Even the most powerful memories can be folded out of the way.
"What you saw is fairly simple. For a few minutes, your conscious mind just forgets to recognize the person you're with. Whatever they then do, you believe is being done by a stranger. It even has a name: consensual non-consent."
I interjected: "What's the ICD-10 code for that?" He ignored me.
"Can my subconscious do that?" Colleen asked. I couldn't tell if she was more excited or frightened.
"Let's find out," he said. "I'd like to talk with it. Is that OK?"
"Yes!" she said, a little louder than necessary.
I'd watched him hypnotize clients all week for anxiety, smoking, weight control and the like. This would be the first sexual one. I leaned in to pay attention.
Dr. George slid forward in his seat, with his left hand took up Colleen's right hand, and with his free hand commenced wiggling his fingers just above the level of her gaze.
"You were maybe expecting a pocket watch or a shiny crystal, but this works best," he assured her.
He soon had her eyes dancing in one random pattern and her arm bobbing in another, while he talked smoothly about letting her mind break free. She kept blinking her eyes and trying to shake off the drowsiness. But within 30 seconds, her eyelids were fluttering and her gaze losing focus. "Sleep," he commanded, while directing her arm and gaze swiftly downward. With a few further phrases, he had her off drifting somewhere else.
Colleen’s head was cocked over to the side, her face muscles limp, her eyes gently closed.
"Now while you drift, I'd like to talk with your subconscious. Subconscious say hello."
"... Hello," came a wispy, flat voice.
"It's good to meet you," he said. No response.
"Subconscious, I have a few questions. Tell me what role you play in Colleen’s life. "
"... I keep her safe." Her face was still expressionless.
"As part of keeping her safe, do you hide away some of her memories?"
"I know you work hard at that," he said. "I am not going to mess that up."
"But that same power, can you use it to hide memories for a few minutes? To help her have the fun she wants?"
"... I think so. I've never tried."
"Very good." He continued: "When I give instructions to her conscious mind, as long as they’re safe and comfortable, can you make them happen?"
A longer pause, like her subconscious was considering. "Yes. "
"After she’s awake again, when I tell her "Forget," can you hide her memory of who I am and what we’ve planned?"
Aha. Apparently he was going to play the role of the villain.
"I think so," the wispy voice said.
"And when I say "Remember," can you bring those memories back?"
"Very good. Thank you."
It struck me -- Is this how he plants ideas in my head too? It's weird to think he's conspiring with some hidden part of my mind. I never hear or feel it.
Dr. George brought Colleen back to awareness and gave her a chance to stretch and reconnect.
"Colleen, your subconscious will do its best to support the experience you have in mind. It will help you forget."
She just nodded, perhaps not yet fully back yet.
"Shall we find out how good you are at forgetting? We can start simple and see how far you can go."
"If you think I really can experience this," she said, looking at the two of us back and forth, "I'll do ... whatever you say."
"OK, then I'm going to just hold your shoulders like this, and remove your memory of me for 10 seconds. While your memory is hiding, I'll just, oh, kiss your cheek. Then I'll bring you back. OK?"
"Um, yes please!"
She immediately sat up straight, twisted to get away from his grip, and looked around desperately.
"What? What the hell? Get away from me! Who are you? "
"Wouldn't you like to know," he replied, calmly. That's when he planted a big smooch on her right cheek. She gave out a short scream.
"Remember," he said.
She slumped, and her eyes widened. He kept hold of her shoulders.
"Oh my, uh... Wow. Wow," she said, clearly struggling for words.
"Take your time," I said. "I know how you feel."
Finally: "I had no idea who you were," she said, eyes still wide, looking at Dr. George.
"Exactly. How did it feel?" Dr. George asked.
"Scary! Um, exciting?" Colleen said. She shook herself. Long pause. "Can... can we do it again? For longer?"
"Yes of course. Shall we make it 20 seconds?"
"A minute," Colleen said. She stood up, spun halfway around and backed into him. She pulled his arms across her chest. "Ready," she said.
"Forget," he said.
"What the fuck? Who the fuck are you? Get away from me!"
Dr. George slapped a hand across her mouth and with the other held her tight across her chest as she squirmed.
"No. No. No. No," she gasped. And when that failed: "Wait a sec, wait," she said, pulling his hand off her mouth. "I don’t know who you are. Let me go, and I won’t tell anyone. "
"You're not in a position to bargain," he replied, slipping his hand up under her top and squeezing. He was getting into this. "I’ve been watching you for a long time. Now I have you where I want you."
She kicked her legs uselessly. He had most of his minute left. He used it to maul her breasts. Eventually she tired out and gave up protesting.
"Aaaaaah!" She just slumped against him, shivering, disheveled and breathing heavily. Her eyes darted all around, seeking orientation. She looked over at me, looked up at him, just said "Um, um, um, um."
She looked at me again.
"I think what she's trying to say, doctor, is that it's exciting to be groped by a stranger. Especially when it's not your fault at all."
Colleen nodded and moaned.
"I'm going to do it again," Dr. George said to her. "I suggest you get in the position you want to be in when you forget."
She knelt in front of him and ... undid his belt.
She breathed in deep. "Ready," she said.
"Forget," he said.
Dr. George took her throat, both hands firmly gripping her hair and forcing her, squealing and writhing, to swallow his cock.
She wriggled, moaned, gagged and drooled. She shook her head like a fish trying to throw the hook.
"Take it," he said. "Take it." The look on his face was ... oh, I’d seen it a month ago in my own intro to CNC.
"Remember," he said, in mid-thrust. Colleen's eyes went wide and she stopped resisting. She threw herself into it now, moaning happily. Her hands went around his butt to pull him in deeper.
Finally his hip motions and her throat twitches told me he was done.
Colleen fell back, face covered with fluids, her mascara smeared. "Wow wow wow," she said. "That was so scary. Endless. I couldn't breathe. That was so hot."
I looked at my phone.
"Hate to interrupt the research, but Dr. George's next client is due in 10 minutes."
"Yikes," he said. "Thank you, Mrs. Watson."
I put my notebook down and leaned over delicately to lick him clean, careful not to mess up my own makeup.
Dr. George addressed Colleen, as he carefully zipped up, "So now you know. Your mind is quite adept at hiding someone’s identity, so you think they’re a stranger."
"I’m so grateful! I — wait! Oh. Wait! Wait! I can't go home knowing that I just did that! I mean, knowing that I arranged for you to attack me? I loved it, but don't you see, I mustn't remember it! Oh my god. Make it go away! I can't keep that memory!"
Dr. George looked surprised. "Just to be clear, by the time you get home, you want to entirely forget what you just learned and did here in our office?"
"Yes! I'm sorry! I loved it! But I can't keep that memory. Can you take it away again?"
"Yes," he said slowly. "I can do that." He leaned in and whispered a few instructions in her ear. "Make it so," I heard.
"I still remember," she said, still agitated.
"No problem," he said. "You'll feel the memory fading when you leave the office, and it will be gone by the time you get back on the main road. You can walk home with a cleansed conscience."
"Thank you so much," she said. "I'm so wound up. I don't know what to think!"
I showed Colleen to the restroom, fished in my purse to get her a makeup wipe and my compact, then made it back to my desk just in time to greet the next client.
A few minutes later, I knocked on the restroom door and peeked in. Colleen was tidied up, but sitting dazed on the toilet. "I brought you some tea," I said, showing her back into the lounge. My new job, I realized, would include providing occasional aftercare to the clients.
She took a few sips of her tea and stared off into space.
"That was so, so hot," she said. "But I really will forget all this, right?"
"Yes, it will melt away," I said.
"I gotta go," she replied, putting her drink down.
I saw her to the door and watched her walk back across the parking lot and out to the street. I imagined her mind emptying out with every step.
Later, Dr. George and I had a chance to catch up on the day's activities.
"Next time, she pays up front," he said.
"Oh, there will be many next times."
Sure enough. Two weeks later, Colleen walked nervously into the office in her leggings and sweatshirt.
"Um, hi? Do you do hypnosis here?"