As she walked through the crowd, Becky sighed happily. It was nice to be home, and it was nice to see that no matter how much time passed, some things didn't change. The County Fair was as busy as it was every year. It was the same mix of faded food stands and naff entertainment it had been since Becky was a baby.
"Oh!" squeaked Becky's Mom, pulling Becky from her thoughts. "We should head to the stage! I want to be there nice and early."
"Why?" asked Becky.
"The Women's Circle choir is performing. Lisa— you remember Lisa, right? She has a solo! I promised I would be right up front to make sure she was confident." Becky's Mom explained.
Becky grinned. "That is so sweet! Let's go!" she cheered as she started to move through the crowds. As they arrived at the stage, Becky realized that her Mom had been serious when she mentioned getting there early. There were over 90 minutes until the choir started to perform. In fact, there was one other act before them.
"Fantastic Felicia," mumbled Becky's Mom as she read the sign. "She's new." She walked to a seat right in front of the stage.
"Yeah, guess she is a magician," supposed Becky as she sat down. She had to admit, she felt bad for Felicia. The seating area was basically empty. That, and the few people that were sitting down were all looking away from the stage, obviously using this area to rest their feet for a few minutes.
The girls sat there for a few minutes. Several people left but no one else turned up, meaning that this performer would be playing to an audience of 6 people. Eventually, some music blared over the speakers as a woman skipped out onto the stage.
She had a very interesting look, as while she was short, all of her clothes were covered in sequins and glitter. Her fluffy red hair bounced with every step, and her eyes were framed by deep purple eyeshadow. As the music faded, the woman took a bow.
"Welcome, ladies and gentlemen! I'm Fantastic Felicia! Today, I'm going to show you magical wonders that go beyond what you think is possible!" With that, some confetti burst from her sleeves. While the effect was fun, the small and distracted audience meant that it only generated a tiny ripple of applause.
"She looks fun," whispered Becky's Mom.
"Yeah," agreed Becky, her pity only growing more intense. Felicia didn't seem phased, however. She continued her act with all the energy she started with. While she pulled each trick off well enough, they weren’t anything Becky hadn't seen before at countless birthday parties or cut-rate cabarets.
However, after a few tricks, Felicia turned and looked at the crowd. "And now for my signature trick! The power of the mind! Hypnotism!"
"Really?" mumbled Becky's Mom, obviously not impressed by the show so far.
"I'll need a volunteer from the audience!" continued Felicia as she looked around the sparse crowd. Becky could feel herself squeeze into a ball, hoping that if she became smaller, she wouldn't have to take part in what was sure to be a cringe-worthy trick.
After a few seconds of silence, Felicia jumped off the stage and started to wander around the chairs. Becky continued to make herself small, silently praying that the magician would simply move on to another trick. However, Felicia's eyes locked onto Becky's mom, and the woman quickly made her way over.
"Well, ma'am, looks like you're in the mood for some magic!" cheered Felicia.
"I. I guess?" mumbled Becky's mom. Becky was very familiar with the tone of her voice. It was the tone she used when she wanted to be polite but didn't really want to do whatever she was being asked to do.
"Excellent!" replied Felicia. "What is your name, sugar pie?"
"Mary," cringed Becky's Mom as she looked to Becky for help. Becky wanted to step in, but she didn't know what to do. The woman hadn't really done anything wrong. She was just annoying.
"Well, come on Mary! Let me show you the wonders of your mind!" giggled Felicia as she took Mary's hand and led her up onto the stage. Becky watched as her Mom's face changed from confused and embarrassed to serious. Felicia got Mary onto the stage and sat her down in a waiting chair.
"This isn't going to go well," mumbled Becky. While her mom was a team player, there was no way in hell she was going to go along with something as silly as hypnotism.
Mary looked around the stage with confusion as Felicia continued to talk. "Hypnosis is an amazing skill that can make you think or do super fun things, and Mary here is going to give you a demo, so give her a big hand!" said Felicia to the audience as the crowd remained totally silent.
Felicia then reached into her pocket and pulled out a pocket watch as Becky nearly burst into laughter. This proved without a shadow of a doubt that this magician was about to make a fool of herself. Becky knew her mom was always eager to help, but she wasn't going to pretend that such a hokey trick would work on her.
"So, Mary!" began Felicia as she stood next to Mary and dangled the watch in front of her eyes, "What do you think of my watch?"
"It's great. I guess?" mumbled Mary.
"Well, good! Just keep your eye on it!" giggled Felicia as she started to sway the watch. "Keep your eyes on it, watching it as it swings back and forth. Keeping your eyes just on the watch, unable to pull your eyes from it," cooed Felicia.
"I, really don't think," started Mary as she watched the watch. However, before she could finish her sentence, Felicia cut her off.
"You don't need to. You just need to watch the swinging watch. And as you watch the watch, you'll realize just how tired you feel. Just how sleepy you are. You're feeling so tired. It has been such a hot and long day. A long, hot day and you want to sleep, the watch is making your eyes tired, so very tired."
Becky bit down hard on her lip, doing her best to not giggle. The image was so dumb. It was like something ripped out of a film. However, as Mary continued to watch, something odd happened to her expression. It was like she was slowly zoning out, like her whole mind was being consumed by some odd confusion. A strange glaze took over her eyes as she continued to follow the swinging object. Becky thought that her mom was merely playing along, but after a few minutes of Felicia's rambling, Mary let out a yawn.
"No way," gasped Becky. Could this trick have actually worked?
"How do you feel, Mary?" asked Felicia.
"Strange, sleepy," gurgled Mary as her eyes remained glued to the watch.
"Good. And you know, Mary," started Felicia as she leaned closer to the woman's ear, "The sleepier you get, the more you want to sleep, and the more you want to sleep, the sleepier you become. And when you reach that point of being unable to keep yourself awake, your arm is going to raise up in front of you."
"Oh," sighed Mary, her glazed eyes fluttering as a little trickle of drool ran down her chin. Becky moved to the edge of her seat, a wave of anxiety washing over her. Was this actually going to work, or was her mom going to lose her cool and start laughing?
However, as Felicia continued to talk and swing the watch, Mary's expression gradually grew more and more blank. Her mouth dropped over as she started to slump forward. And as she did, her hand started to slowly twitch and rise from her lap.
"No," mumbled Becky as she looked on in awe.
Becky could hardly believe her eyes as her Mom's hand slowly rose up like there was a balloon tied to her wrist. Mary's eyes rolled up into her head as she let out a little moan.
Felicia lifted the watch and returned it to her pocket as she winked at the audience. She then grabbed Mary's hand and yanked it forward. "Night night," smirked Felicia as Mary collapsed forward, totally limp. Her eyes slammed shut as her arms dangled.
Becky was in complete and utter shock. It had worked. A magician had somehow gotten one over on her mom. She had no idea how, but somehow this stupid trick had worked.
"Now!" shouted Felicia, "A big hand for our volunteer!" she cheered as the crowd let out a ripple of applause. Becky looked around and realized that the crowd had grown in size a little bit. There were even some people Becky recognized milling around. Their eyes were fixed on Mary.
"This can't be happening," stuttered Becky as she gripped her thigh. She was unsure how to react to this, and all she could do was watch and hope that her Mom broke out of this situation.
"Okay! Let's start simple!" Felicia grinned as she started to walk around the stage. "When I snap my fingers, you're going to think you are a chicken! A big, stupid chicken!" she continued before snapping her fingers. Instantly, Mary balled her hands into fists before shoving them into her armpits.
She crouched down and started to hobble around the stage, making loud squawking noises as she did. Becky was mortified. Not only was this utterly cringeworthy, she knew that her mom would hate people seeing her like this. But, it didn't matter. There she was, acting like a farm animal as she clucked at the top of her lungs.
After several minutes of utter humiliation, Felicia clapped her hands and screamed, "Sleep!" Instantly, Mary crumpled to a heap on the stage as the audience laughed. This was the pattern for the next several minutes. Felicia would wake Mary up, make her perform some humiliating but stereotypical hypnosis trick, and Mary would comply without thought or care, seemingly oblivious to the laughs from the audience.
"How about some acting?" proposed Felicia as the crowd cheered, "Do you want to do some acting, Mary?"
"Acting," whispered Mary as she sat slumped over in the chair, her dress sporting a dark drool patch just under her chin. She looked oddly placid, like she wasn't even aware of the world around her.
"So when I snap my fingers, you're going to be convinced you are Dita Disgusta! You know, from Change Warriors!" cheered Felicia.
"That's a dated reference," groaned Becky. No wonder this woman was performing at a county fair if her act used references to shows that had finished when Becky was a teenager.
However, when Felicia snapped her fingers, Mary jumped from the chair. She instantly stood up straight, a smug grin forming on her face as she strutted towards the front of the stage. "So, I was thinking," began Felicia, obviously playing to the crowd while Mary got into character.
"Silence!" screamed Mary as she pushed Felicia back. "Humans have had their day! A new dawn of Disgusta has arrived, and I'll find those pesky Change Warriors! They'll be sorry they crossed me!" Mary cackled. Becky was impressed at how totally different her mom sounded. Her voice was more firm and nasal; she sounded exactly like the character from the show. Becky could only presume that Mary had picked up the details from overhearing it when Becky used to watch it.
Mary continued to parade around the stage, ranting and raving about how she was going to destroy the world and how her monsters were waiting for the right moment to invade the fair and take it over. After several minutes of ranting, Felicia walked over to Mary and tapped her on the shoulder.
"Miss Disgusta?" she giggled.
"What is it mortal?" demanded Mary, only for Felicia to tap her on the forehead and pull her forward.
"Sleep!" Felicia giggled as Mary crumpled to the floor in a heap. Her eyes rolled back up into her head as she gently twitched and shuffled on the wooden stage. The audience laughed once more as Felicia continued to take Mary through humiliating act after humiliating act.
"Please be over soon," Becky silently pleaded as she tried to work out how much longer was left in this act. Hopefully her mom would be able to escape with a shred of her dignity.
After several more minutes of humiliation, Felica posed next to a sleeping Mary. "And for my final trick!" she shouted. "Let's get things a little sexy up here! This one is for the husbands," she winked as a wave of pure fear ran through Becky's body. "Mary, when I snap my fingers, you're going to be the hottest dancer in the world, Erica Zaie! Remember, shake your booty just like she does!"
She snapped her fingers.
Music started to play as Mary jumped out of the chair and moved to the center of the stage, swinging her hips as she waved her arms around doing her best impression of a sexy dance. Becky couldn't bear to look. She never wanted to see her mom act like this, but at the same time, she couldn't look away. She needed to make sure her mom was okay.
As the beat changed, Mary spun around and started to clumsily shake her butt for the crowd. Becky felt her cheeks burn with second-hand embarrassment as she watched her Mom debase herself. Once the song ended, Felicia grabbed Mary by the shoulder and grinned. "Give her a hand, everyone!" she shouted as the crowd applauded. "Now, go back to your seat, and when I leave the stage you'll wake up, okay?"
"Okay," mumbled Mary as she stumbled off the stage and flopped limply into her seat. Becky watched with fear as Felicia basked in the crowd's adoration before walking behind the curtain. Instantly Mary sat up, expression returning to her face as she sat up and looked around.
"Hi," offered Becky, eyeing her mother’s expression. However, before she could get another word out, a deep look of shame formed on Mary's face as she visibly cringed.
"I can't believe I did that! It’s so disgusting," she stuttered.
"I'm sorry," whispered Becky as she hugged her Mom. "I'm sure no one cares." However, the look of embarrassment didn't leave Mary's face, even as they watched the choir perform.
Once the choir left, Mary stood up. "I'm going to give that hypnotist a piece of my mind. This is a family event!" she said firmly before storming off.
"Wait! Mom!" shouted Becky. However, her mom quickly disappeared into the crowd of people, forcing Becky to scramble to grab her stuff and try and follow.
Becky looked around frantically, trying to spot her mom in the crowd. However, it was totally hopeless. The fair was too big and far too busy to make out any particular person.
"Think," mumbled Becky as she tried to work out the best course of action. Suddenly, she remembered that the fair usually had storage and dressing rooms in the old admin building that sat at the back of the fairground. It was where Becky had to change whenever her school band performed at the festival. It would be the most logical place for both the hypnotist to be, and for her mom to check.
Becky pushed through her crowd, trying to get to the building as quickly as possible. However, the sheer mass of people made any movement difficult, forcing Becky to take a longer and more complex route than she had originally planned. As she walked through a small seating area, a voice caught Becky's attention.
"Beck! Beck!" shouted the voice as Becky spotted Kate running towards her. Kate had been her friend for years, and right now, Becky needed a friend.
"Hey, Kate!" responded Becky. "You haven't seen my Mom come past, have you?"
"No, what's up?" asked Kate as she looked around.
"We just got separated and I'm trying to find her. That's all," lied Becky, not wanting to embarrass her mom further by explaining what happened to her on stage.
"Nope, sorry, not seen her." replied Kate, "But I'll call you if I see her."
"Awesome, thanks!" Becky said as she restarted her push through the crowd. After several minutes of awkward walking and pushing, Becky arrived at the building. The front door was propped open with a brick, letting Becky see that the interior was mostly empty.
However, as Becky stepped inside, she spotted a room on the far side. Through the window, she could clearly make out her mom and Felicia. Felicia looked angry, but her Mom looked oddly blank, almost like she had zoned out.
Becky's feet started to move before she could think. She quickly pushed into the room with the pair. "I'm so sorry," she started, only for Felicia to jump in shock.
Felicia grabbed a suitcase from the floor and ran out of the room, almost knocking Becky over as she did. Becky tried to follow, but as Felicia exited the building's back entrance, Becky heard a car door open and then slam as an engine revved.
"Ugh," sighed Becky, realizing that it was pointless continuing to chase the woman. If she wanted to presume the worst, then that was her prerogative. Becky had only come to help her mom.
As Becky re-entered the room, her Mom was slowly shaking her head and blinking heavily. "Oh, Becky!" She smiled as the expression slowly came back to her face.
"What happened?" asked Becky.
"Nothing," smiled Mary. "I came to give her a piece of my mind, and she apologized."
"Well, that is good," Becky supposed with a shrug. "Shall we go back to the fair?"
"Sure," agreed Mary, and the pair walked back out of the building. As the day continued, Becky slowly forgot about the events involving Felicia and instead focused on the festivities.
Even once the fair was over, Felicia remained a memory. It seemed that no one really cared about what happened on stage. In fact, most of Mary's friends hadn't bothered to attend the show, spending their time doing other events.