Cleo felt nervous, the walk to the clinic was longer than she would have liked. Once more she would have to convince the affini that there was a good reason for keeping her around. Though this time it was as an individual with freedom, not as the ruler of a sector. She did not feel as confident about the plans she and Mertha had made now, as she had felt about the plan to keep the affini of Centhia. She had far less time so it was understandable, hopefully, it would be enough.
Mertha was moving beside her through the empty streets “Are you alright Cleo? You look worried.” Cleo… the new name felt good to hear. It was not until she had insisted upon the old name that she had felt how much it hurt to be called it. It felt a bit weird to use ‘Cleo’, almost like a sense of guilt.
If she was to make this work she needed to adopt as much of ‘Cleo’ as she could. The name felt like a natural start, it was also a nice name. Over the years she had used a lot of names, finally, she could use one that was hers.
Mertha was beginning to look worried “sorry…I just feel nervous.” Mertha still looked concerned.
The affini moved closer as they walked “you’re sure you’re not tired? There is no shame in letting me carry you.” Cleo winced a bit, after her last display there was plenty of reason to be concerned.
She tried to be as confident as possible “it’s okay, I won’t make that mistake twice. I feel fine, and walking helps me think. On that note…you might know about the documents, but I still feel like I am deceiving Serla and Vonzin.” Mertha smiled proudly, what kind of reaction was that?
Mertha spoke with confidence “it's good to hear that you feel bad about deceiving people. Don’t worry, I have already told them about the documents.” That was good….She had what?!
Any confidence and hope that Cleo had about the evaluation dried up like water on the surface of a sun. She felt afraid, her stomach was like a black hole.
Mertha must have seen her reaction “They are my friends Cleo, I trust them. If they did not believe that you deserved a chance you would be collared already. No matter what you have done, they want you to have the best life possible.” That did, surprisingly, make her feel slightly better. The clinic finally came into sight, it was do or die…perhaps not entirely, but still.
A few meters away from the clinic Cleo felt a primal fear rise in her, what if she met Ida? The fear continued to rise, her heart begin to race. Mertha noticed her state and stopped “ple..I…I can’t…I can’t meet Ida…if…I...I can’t...” She was losing control, not now! She had to keep it together.
A couple of vines lifted her up and Mertha placed her in a nock she made in her chest, it closed. It had only taken a second, the cocoon of vines was sealed, and Cleo could not see the outside world. Mertha’s voice came from all around her “slow breaths little one. Take the time you need to calm down. When you are ready I will take you to the office like this, there is no chance you will meet her. you are safe.” Cleo did as Mertha instructed, the breathing helped.
After a bit of time, when she felt ready “okay, I think we can enter now. You should probably let me out before we enter the office, might give them a better impression.” If she entered like this they might even think that she did not come voluntarily.
Cleo felt Mertha begin to move, it did not take long before the nock opened, and she was put down on the ground. In front of her was a large door, it was not the one to Vonzin’s office. Mertha put a vine on the old-time handle “ready?” Cleo nodded and they walked inside.
The room was more of a psychologist’s office than a doctor’s office, that made sense. The room was warm and cozy. Three affini-sized chairs and one human-sized one were placed around a small round table. The chairs were cushioned and looked quite comfortable, on the table, there was a bowl of lollipops. Vonzin and Serla were already there sitting in two of the chairs, they had been talking but stopped as she and Mertha entered the room.
Serla stood up, her relief obvious “you came! We were getting worried, you look much better Hendr-“
Mertha interrupted, “she uses Cleo now.” Serla’s face of relief turned into a big smile.
Vonzin had not stood up “that is good to hear. Sit down and we can begin the evaluation.” Getting to the point was nice, the faster they got into this the faster her nerves would subside.
They all sat down, at first Cleo was grateful that the chair was normal enough for her to get into on her own. Once she sat down she immediately felt the inbuilt power dynamic of affini design, the others were towering over her. This was not the time to feel intimidated.
Vonzin received a data pad “let's go over the medical evaluation first, answer completely and honestly. Have you slept and eaten enough?” Cleo had prepared for these questions
She knew what to say “though perhaps not by choice, I have gotten a good deal of rest. I have also eaten all that I can.” Vonzin looked at Mertha who gave an affirming nod.
Vonzin scribbled a bit on the pad “good, have you felt any pain in your hand or the side where you were injured?”
Cleo felt a bit calmer “no, my side feels normal. My hand is a bit stiff, but that is about it.” This was going well so far.
Vonzin scribbled a bit more “well then, hold still and let me check your levels.” The huge plant stood up and walked up to her. Stars, why were the affini so damn tall? Cleo rolled up the sleeve of the gray hoodie she was wearing. The thorn pricked her arm, and the data pad made a few beeping noises. After a few seconds, the vine retracted and Vonzin sat back down “at least it has stabilized, improved in a few areas as well. I’m satisfied, just know that health-wise this is the last slipup you can have. Serla, you can go ahead.” Cleo cleared her throat before Serla could speak.
As they planned, Mertha handed her the document they had written “actually I would like to present what I and Mertha have worked on. A plan for how to help me get over issues and improve my mental health.” Serla looked surprised but in a pleasant manner.
Serla nodded “well you have certainly changed your attitude, I am very interested in this plan. Please, go ahead.” She had her shot, now she had to be convincing.
Cleo began “we have identified some of the main problems that are central to overcome. For each, we have suggested strategies and solutions, some temporary and some more permanent in nature.” She just had to present this like it was a report, that she was used to.
Serla chuckled “that sounds…like one way of doing it. You are being quite vague, perhaps you could give an example?” She had the paper in front of her, all she had to do was read.
Best to just start at the top “overactive suspicion is one of the main problems, it will make progress slow and loss of progress more likely. Until it can be more permanently fixed, a suitable short-term solution is the use of xenodrugs, class-C-t specifically.” Cleo looked up, and Mertha looked simultaneously amused and unsatisfied.
The affini leaned a bit forward “I understand what you are doing Cleo. I need to know that you want this, not just the plan. Do you want to use C-t to lessen your suspicion?” Once again Serla saw right through her.
She felt her throat become choked, she had to keep it together. One of Mertha’s vines was laid on her back, she could do this “y…yes I would like that…please. Less than…before but…still a rather large dose.” Her voice was shaking, her mind did not want this at all. Removing the suspicion, the thing that kept her alive, went against every instinct in her body. She also knew that there was no other option, she had used a lot of chems on Centhia to accomplish her goals. Xenodrugs were far less harmful than suppressants, energizers, and the like. This was an obvious move to accomplish her goal.
Serla smiled and leaned back “good, that sounds like a wonderful idea. What more does your plan say?”
Serla wanted more? Of course, she would not be satisfied with only one concession “I will also need class-z to help me sleep. On a more general note, I think…it would be best with daily sessions with you.” Hopefully, that would be enough.
Serla nodded “good, good. Please continue, perhaps, about some of the specific problems you mentioned.” Fuck, she was going to drag it all out of her, wasn’t she?
Cleo looked down at the paper, none of the alternatives were tempting to dig into. If she could recite it from the document like it did not concern her it would be easy to disassociate from the words. Cleo doubted that Serla would appreciate her doing that again…
The vine that had stroked her back slithered over her shoulder and tapped on point nr. 4 “I think that one would be good to go through.” Cleo did not agree with Mertha on that. Part of her did not see it as a problem and wanted it to remain, it was vital. The solution was also rather…drastic, not something she wanted at all.
Cleo noticed that she had not been speaking for some time, the affini were waiting. There was no real way out of it, she could do this “dislike…sorry, fear of comfort is something I struggle with…a lot. I…could not come up with a solution, Mertha had an idea…But perhaps you have a solution?” Cleo did not want to do Mertha’s idea. It was scary, weird…. and what if it worked?
Serla smiled mischievously “I think I would like to hear Mertha’s suggestion first.” Right, like Serla would ever make anything easy on her.
Cleo felt trapped, there was no way out except forward “the solution…was to use class-H xenodrugs in combination with ‘affini techniques’ to ‘redevelop’ parts of my thought process.” Just saying it felt like a stab in the back against herself.
Serla’s eyes held a glint of predatory glee “so you want us to use hypnotics to change how you think?” Cleo wondered for a moment if the affini were as incapable of being subtle as they were incapable of being humble.
The answer was instinctively no, giving up the last control she had, that of her mind. It was one step toward death, her mind knew it. Still, she had no choice, trusting might be deadly but suspicion was a more lethal danger in this match. Cleo tried to calm herself “y…….yes. But I want to talk about and agree to what is going to change, and only small changes at a time.” The papers were rattling in her hands, she clenched them harder.
Vonzin spoke “I think that sounds like a wonderful idea. I will admit I was skeptical at first, but this plan seems to have something going for it. I’m sure you have more, I would love to hear it.” Hold it together, Hold it together!
She was already giving up so much, why not a bit more “point nr.6:…suppression of emotions. Long-term solution…is to focus on it during sessions with psychologist…” Mertha’s vine tapped the last part of the sentence “…in tandem….with class-D.” Control over herself was still control, another piece of power she had held onto for so long slipped out of her grasp.
Mertha finally spoke “I think that is enough for now. There is more, but Cleo is clearly tired.” Mertha was rescuing her, but she still needed to say one thing more.
It was not on the paper, only as a certainty in her mind. She had to do it, but it felt like signing her own death sentence. The more she thought about it, the less likely it was that she would say it. She had to say it now“I need you to be stricter with me….” The words felt like cold bitter steel in her mouth. What was she doing?
There was a surprised silence in the room, she had to continue before she could backtrack “I…I can’t be trusted to...make the right choices. If you see something that needs to be….done and I don’t agree…you should…..without my…..consent.” The air felt so heavy to breathe, it felt like she had made a massive mistake. The slight respect the affini had for her choices was some of the only power she had. She had just thrown it away, she was at the subject of their whims now. Reaching the goal requires sacrifice but this felt like far too much.
The affini all looked surprised for a few seconds before they composed themselves, Serla spoke “we will keep that in mind Cleo. I am more than convinced that the wardship should continue. I think we can end the evaluation now.” Cleo almost didn’t register what Serla was saying, it was good though. She had survived for another day, but at what cost?
The two other affini left the room, leaving only her and Mertha. Mertha gently took the paper out of her hands with a tiny vine. She was so tired “Mertha…this was harder than I expected….could you carry me home?” With familiar ease, she was picked up and soon in Mertha’s caring vines.
The smile on Mertha’s face almost made the whole experience worth it “I’m so very proud of you Cleo.” The words made the pain of all she had just given up sting a bit less “let’s get you home, I think you deserve some ice cream.” Cleo did not have the energy to protest, and she did not fully want to either. She did deserve some ice cream.
Just before they left Mertha released a few spores from one of the flowers next to Cleo’s face. The exhausted girl did not even notice as she drifted off to xenodrugs-induced sleep. It was a small dose, Cleo would wake in an hour or two. The human needed the rest and would also not need to contribute to the next part of the meeting. Mertha knocked on the door, and Vonzin and Serla walked back in.
Vonzin looked slightly concerned, Serla on the other hand was beaming. They sat back down again, Mertha felt confident that Cleo had passed. Serla spoke first with brimming enthusiasm “I must say, I did not come here expecting to be impressed. But I am, excellent worker, Mertha!” Mertha felt proud, she had done well.
Vons In almost looked pained “I agree that this is a significant turn around…but those documents. I felt horrible for just reading most of them and the girl ordered it. I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of guilt she is feeling. It does not sit right with me to let her suffer from that.” Vonzin’s look of compassion was more obvious than the affini usually showed.
Mertha cradled her human closer “I understand your concern. Cleo has so many problems weighing down on her. I’m afraid that if we try to rip them all out it will not go well. I think it's better to take them apart, one by one until we can deal with the guilt she is feeling.” Serla wiggled her vines in agreement.
Serla spoke with a gentle tone “I agree, I think Cleo can make her way through this. It is clear that she wants to get better, even if her delivery of that is in the form of something she is familiar with. I’m surprised how far she was willing to go. I just hope that fear of domestication is not her only motivating factor.” Mertha allowed herself to pet Cleo a bit.
Her ward was certainly afraid “I do believe that fear is a large part of it, but I know she also does want to improve. Her mind just needs a way to rationalize it, and that is fine as long as we help her move past it when the time comes. The fact that she is willing to give up so much of the control that she feels is vital to her survival speaks volumes.”
Serla took out the document that Mertha had sent in advance “it does, I am surprised about the last thing she said. It's not on the plan you two made, did she add it later?”
Mertha felt a pang of discord “no, she did not. She did not tell me so it must have been hard for her. I’m worried she doesn’t trust herself to be able to get better…”
Vonzin interjected “She is right. Cleo can’t be trusted to get better, not on her own, not without a firm hand. You have been too soft on her, and she recognizes that. Cleo understands that she can’t keep that control because she will use it to avoid improvement. You need to take that control away from her, stop her from getting away with those plots and plans. You are not negotiating as equals, she is your ward and should listen to what you say.” It stung to hear, but it was true. If she had been stricter, then Cleo would not have had the chance to overexert herself or slip into that depression.
Serla shook uncomfortably “I will also be a bit more ‘through’ in the future. It's clear that she wants some control over how she gives up the control. If we accommodate that I don’t think it will break the trust you two have built up.” Mertha hoped that Serla was right. Cleo was so sensitive to losing any type of control that Mertha was unsure about how she would react even if she had stated she needed it.
Vonzin pulled out a few glass containers of live flowers “this should be enough to supply your ward with the xenodrugs she needs. I need to get home, Ida is anxious enough and I want to tell her that Cleo is fine. It would be nice if Cleo could visit us soon, even if she requires some assistance.” With that, the vet left the room.
Serla stood up as well “I should get going as well, Nora and Darla can not be trusted for too long alone. I hope we can arrange a more…two-sided meeting between Cleo and Nora in the future, they both need it.” Mertha noticed the barely covert excitement emanating from Serla
Mertha smiled “how is Nora adjusting to being your floret? From the way your vines are wiggling in excitement, I would guess…pretty good?” the vines that Serla had been moving absentmindedly were calmed slightly, but not completely
Serla’s eyes and voice were filled with predatory intent “wonderfully, she is absolutely wonderful. She is so excitable and warm and tries to behave so well. and when she has problems with behavior…I love to help her to understand her new position. I will visit tomorrow, now I simply have to get home so I can cherish my two little darlings.” The overflowing warmth in Serla’s voice almost made her jealous. Hopefully, she could treat Cleo the same way….perhaps soon.
Serla left and Mertha stayed in the room to think for a few minutes. The prospect of what she had to do filled her with both worry and excitement. Worry that they were pushing too hard, that Cleo was not quite ready. Excitement about what Cleo had asked her to do, she would cherish cleaning out all those harmful thoughts. If Cleo stumbled then she trusted Mertha to firmly pick her back up again, a part of her could not wait to indulge in that. Mertha stood up and carried her ward home.
Cleo was looking down on her data pad, Mertha had repaired it while she was sleeping. She was reading and listening to the pronunciation of words, the written part of affini was not too much of an issue anymore. Her understanding was good, but her pronunciation was bad, perhaps because the language did not entirely accommodate her human speech capabilities. Despite the hang-ups, Cleo felt confident that with a bit more time she might be able to hold a short conversation.
Without warning a tick vine coiled around the data pad and snapped it away, Cleo tried to reach for it, but it was already out of range. She looked up at Mertha “what are you doing? I was working.” She did not try to hide her irritation, interrupting work was rude as fuck.
Mertha stored the data pad beneath her vine-made exterior “you have spent enough time on that for today, it's time you did something else.” Do something else? Like what?
Oh well, that was at least something “I can work more on the pla-“ a few vines stopped her as she tried to walk to the table.
Mertha sounded firm “no, no work. You should do something fun, and relaxing. Any hobbies that you have missed?” The last part was at least an invitation for her to make a choice. A hobby…
Was that something people had time for? “I guess I played chess...a bit…over 6 years ago.” Mertha did not look very impressed.
Mertha lifted her up “if you don’t have a preference we can watch TV.” TV? That sounded unimaginably unproductive. Mertha placed her on the couch and moved a few of the chairs so the usually hidden TV was visible. Mertha sat down next to her “do you have anything that you want to watch….I guess not. We can see some of my favorite programs.” Cleo had been tempted to ask for news, but affini news was probably even more insulting to her intelligence than the news she had made the ministry of information make.
Mertha tapped the remote and the TV turned on, Mertha flipped through a few channels. Eventually, Mertha landed on some sort of arts and crafts show. The show was currently about a human floret painting on a large canvas. The floret was surprisingly lucid and proficient in their work, it reminded Cleo a bit of Nora.
Nora would have liked to watch this, art was always much closer to her than being a bodyguard. Nora…their meeting in the park was embarrassing and shameful to think about. Not only had she acted like a fool because of the class-j but Nora was still under the belief that they should be friends. The fact that she had managed to manipulate Nora to that extent hurt to think about. It had been much better if Nora had rebuked her, and told her off for all the things she had done.
Mertha moved next to her “Cleo? Are you alright?” Fuck, she had let her emotions show again. Hearing Mertha worried made that guilt in her stomach grow. Could she not just allow Mertha one moment of peace without worrying her?
At least she could be honest “it’s okay…it just reminded me of Nora. She is a great artist, she would have been much happier doing that…than what I made her do.” It was one crime in a catalog of thousands, it still felt worse than most of the others.
A few vines coiled around her shoulder and arm, pushing her into Mertha’s side “I’m sorry Cleo, I should have known. Let’s watch something else, perhaps some old Terran programs?” Cleo did not bother responding. After a few uncomfortable seconds of silence, Mertha turned on some ancient, animated show “I have heard that Darla really likes this one.” Sure she did, colors and movement were probably all that was needed.
The show was passable as shows went. The animation was at least decent despite its age. Watching with fleeting disinterest Cleo noted that it was at least made by people. Not some computer program, like all the autogenerated slop in the accord. Some parts were obviously edited for being too violent or sending the wrong message to all the malleable and easily scared florets that watched this. Cleo continued to watch, she had nothing better to do. It was not like she could leave, the vines made sure of that.
After a few episodes, the plot really began to irk her “why would she do that? The cat person is obviously right. Taking over the evil empire or ‘horde’ or whatever from the inside is a much better strategy for securing peace than joining some rebellion. A rebellion that is not a rebellion at all, just enemy nations.” What naïve and cliché writing.
Mertha sounded a bit surprised “but the evil empire is well…evil.”
Cleo felt annoyed “the other side is feudal lords, I don’t think we can call them good. Also, the rebellion stands no chance of winning, the empire is industrialized.”
Mertha almost sounded amused. “The princesses have magic and friendship, I think they can win.”
Preposterous “mass production will defeat magic and friendship any day. Unless the magic develops from sparkles and water manipulation to let’s say, the destructive capabilities of a nuclear device, I don’t see them standing much chance.”
Mertha smiled “it's good to see that you are so invested, I'll make sure to set it up so you can see the rest of the episodes whenever you want. I heard the ending is very sweet.” Cleo was not invested, she was critiquing!
Yeah, she could guess the ending “right, can’t wait to see some evil tyrant be turned to dust for their crimes. a good reminder of what I deserve.” The vines tightened around her.
Mertha looked down “Cleo! I will not have you speak of yourself like that.” Like they didn’t both know it was true.
Cleo looked up defiantly “I will speak of myself however I –“ Mertha’s eyes were glowing.
The aquamarine orbs were sparkling, light cascading from them “you will not speak of yourself like that!” The words pierced through her mind like a spear, the eyes holding her in place
…no, she wouldn’t speak like that…
Her mind felt fuzzy, dizzy. What had happened? She looked around in confusion, Mertha looked worried “are you okay?” Yeah, she was. It was easier to nod than to speak. A few vines lowered her down on the couch “just lie there for a bit, it's time for your meds now.” There was a small sting in her arm. Over the course of several minutes, the fuzz in her mind slowly dissolved like spiderwebs under rain.
Cleo sat up “what did you do?” Her mind still felt incredibly adverse to talking negatively of itself. Whenever her mind ventured into the territory her thoughts found it best to turn around. It was still there but shielded from her reach.
Mertha still looked a bit concerned “I did what you asked for, I was a bit more…strict. Are you feeling fine?” what she had asked for…mind manipulation was not what she had thought about but did not fall outside of the request either. Cleo regretted the decision already, at least Mertha would not take it too far.
“Hi cutie, you got a visitor!” speaking of people who would take it too far.
Cleo sighed “I'm fine”, <come in!> The door opened to her command and Serla strode inside. She looked giddy with excitement, oh stars what had she gotten herself into?
Serla sat down on the chairs opposing her and Mertha, Cleo looked at Serla…something was missing, there was something different…The part of her mind that informed her of others' intentions and plans was unusually quiet. It was still there, just merely as a whisper. Even when she focused, it was hard to get a full read of the other person’s possible danger to her. The class-C-t, was the culprit.
Cleo felt slightly afraid, she felt more vulnerable. Without her suspicion, how would she discover if someone was trying to trick or harm her? at the same time it was a relief, like a weight on her shoulders had been removed. it was a conflicting dilemma, she needed the dose, but she didn’t like it, but she did like it. Perhaps best to just focus on the matter at hand.
Serla was looking at her with that analyzing gaze of hers, it did not feel as bad as before “adjusting to the xenodrugs?” How did she know? Instead of looking for a hundred different solutions…
Why didn’t she just ask? “How did you know?”
Serla smiled, amused “well you are no longer looking at me like you are trying to cut me in half. Is the dose appropriate?” That was actually…quite considerate of her. This felt strange.
Cleo did not feel naïve, she could still judge it was just it was not as pressing anymore “I think the dose is fine…thank you for being so considerate.” Cleo could feel Mertha smiling beside her.
Serla also seemed happy “no problem at all. I looked at the cute little plan you made. I think that the most pressing issue is this fear of comfort, I think that should be today's focus.” Cleo had hoped it would be any of the others, but she did not have a good counterargument. It was probably going to be fine…it's not like they would use the solution to that problem today…
Serla continued “while I do have a general understanding of the issue from our previous talks, I would still like to hear what your thoughts on it are.” Her first instinct was that she shouldn’t, talking about it would allow them to ‘fix’ it. At the same time, she could probably trust them. They would not go too far and change her beyond what she would agree to…
She had a job to do, best move forward and get it done “from my experience comfort makes you complacent, weak, and unaware. For me, being any of those things means…death. It stops one from being productive, removing myself from comfort is what has kept me alive.” Serla wrote on her data pad.
Serla looked at her data pad and then back at her “do you feel guilty when you are comfortable?”
Cleo thought about it “well…I’m not supposed to be comfortable, it’s just not something I’m supposed to allow myself. In that sense, I might feel some guilt.” It was strange how easy the words came out, maybe not considering every facet of how the other person might use the words against her was more taxing than she had realized.
Serla nodded “I understand, this all matches up with my understating. Mertha do you think there is anything to add?” Mertha shook her head lightly “now that we have a good understanding, I think we can try to find a way to help you. The stated solution on the plan is hypnotic therapy, I think that will be an effective method.” Right, they were going to fuck with her mind. At least effective did sound nice.
She wanted to know more “how will the hypnotic therapy work?” Hopefully, the explanation would be slightly less scary than what she was imagining.
Serla smiled in a far from reassuring way “we affini are quite well equipped to affect cute little sophont minds like yours.” Condescension aside she had gotten a pretty good demonstration of that earlier “the xenodrugs class-H makes cuties like yourself, even more, vuln-…easily affected. Once the drug is in effect I will put you in a sort of trance where my words will have a significant impact upon your mind.” yeah no, this was far scarier “usually the affini will implant some sort of trigger that when activated will have a certain effect.” This was straight-up mind control, once she was under they could do whatever they wanted.
Serla did not seem to notice her growing concern “you said you wanted to know what suggestions would be used. For this, I was thinking of two separate suggestions. The first is that whenever you are about to feel like comfort will lead to harm in the future, you will remind yourself that you are safe. the second one will activate whenever you feel that you shouldn’t be comfortable, and will remind you that you deserve it. How does that sound?” a very good question, that she had no good answer to.
On one hand, the suggestions seemed rather tame, instead of removing her thoughts they just added some. Serla was confident that the suggestions would probably work well. And then what? Was she going to begin indulging in comfort all the time, truly slip into complacency until it was too late? She could not say that to the affini, that was the whole point of the plan. Commit to future actions in a way that she could not back down, it was a chess game against herself.
So far it was working “…t...that sounds…acceptable.” There she had said it, one step closer. Even her mind would not stand in the way of her doing a good job.
Serla grinned wide “so shall we start? I promise that this will be a nice experience for you too.” The affini began to move towards her. Fuck! What was she doing?!
This felt far too sudden “wait.. wait just a moment.” Serla slowed down “perhaps….perhaps Mertha could do it instead.” That would not delay it at all! What was she thinking?!
Serla looked very disappointed, almost sulking “fine, I guess that works. I had looked forward to this, but I understand. Is it okay that I stay and observe?…to make sure it is done properly of course.” Cleo almost did not notice Serla’s words, Mertha had moved to look at her.
Mertha smiled, a spark of the same predatory nature was in her eyes “I would be happy to do it, is it okay that Serla stays and observes?” Cleo was sweating, she felt like prey trapped between two predators playing with their food. Why by all that was good had she accepted this?
They were waiting for her to answer “sure, sure I….I just…” There was a sting beneath her collar…a strange sensation began to spread from the point.
Mertha grabbed her in her vines “good, just breathe slowly….inn and out.” Her entire body seemed to be numb, it moved slowly. Everything became blurry and highly detailed at the same time, and colors became more vivid and started to bleed into each other. Her thoughts became slow, incoherent, and unfocused.
There was a voice “up here” She followed the sound and Mertha’s face came into view, Cleo looked into her eyes. They were always beautiful, but now they were beyond Terran words of description. Light danced from them in a chaotic and mesmerizing pattern. They seemed to swirl like the currents of an ocean planet, around, and around. Within the blue orbs, there were sparkles of white light appearing and disappearing just as fast.
Cleo felt her focus being unraveled and tied back together again, then unraveled once more. Each time her focus became more singular, the eyes were so mesmerizing…dragging her further and further in. The eyes saw straight through her, straight into her vulnerable and malleable mind. Whenever she tried to form thoughts the eyes would unravel them before it was fully formed and then formed them back again to focus on the eyes.
Then there was that voice again…the words were heavy, total, important. Her mind was too far away to understand what they were or what they meant. The words tingled over her mind like a pencil over clay. Not forming or touching, just testing the surface. Despite not understanding, she knew each word was important, they vibrated through her, into her mind.
In each of the words, just beneath them, there was a melody, a rhythm. Like the words were more notes in a beautiful song. The song was familiar, safe, important, and close. Each tone rippled through her mind, cascading, and echoing. For each word, the music seemed more all-encompassing. The beating of her heart, the flow of her breath, it all followed the rhythm of the song.
Then the words became more powerful, and the pencil began to push into the clay. The eyes held all her focus and the words held all of her mind. The pencil pushed and formed the clay with ease…she was safe. The words shifted slightly, from forming to commanding “I am safe when I’m comfortable.” Her mouth moved beyond her control to state the truth etched into her mind.
There was another voice, another song. It harmonized with the melody already in her head, the songs cascaded off each other. The words etched something new…..she was a good girl. The new voice ceased, and its melody was soon consumed by the other.
The old voice spoke, and the words sank into her mind with ease. Her mind held no thought of resistance, just pure submission to the eyes, the music, and the voice. the words began to etch a new truth into her mind…she deserved it. the words spoke a command again, she obeyed without question “I deserve to be comfortable.” The words felt right.
The voice became softer, less forceful. The words began to drag over her mind instead of into it. The strength of the melody and the light of the eyes began to lessen. She wanted to hold onto them, they were a part of her. losing them felt wrong.
There was one final command, to sleep. Cleo obeyed without hesitation.