"It must really be starting to hit you," Jan said, giving Audra a sympathetic look that she struggled for a moment to understand. The statuesque blonde must have seen the confusion on her face, because she hastily added, "The time difference, I mean," in a vaguely patronizing tone that Audra didn't try especially hard not to resent. She'd only been talking to Meadow's girlfriend for about twenty minutes, but she could already tell that Jan was the sort of woman who loved to spread her knowledge far and wide no matter how thinly scraped across the surface of her ignorance it became.
Still, Meadow was letting Audra stay in Los Angeles rent-free for a few months while she flung herself headlong into the world of casting calls, auditions, and heartbreaking dejection that would almost certainly greet a classically-trained British stage actress trying to break into Hollywood; it would be the absolute pinnacle of impoliteness to treat her loved ones--however undeserving they were of the title--with anything less than genteel courtesy. So she favored Jan with a gracious smile that only her family back home would have recognized as forced and said, "Really, it's not so bad. I've always been a bit of a night owl, and it's only about ten o'clock in London right now. I'd be out at the pubs if I were there, not snuggled up in my bed with a hot water bottle like some little old lady." Inwardly, she winced. That hadn't been quite as courteous as she'd intended.
Luckily, the general American immunity to sarcasm seemed to have extended to Jan, because she remained blissfully oblivious to Audra's cutting tone. "Well, but it's not really the same, is it? Your body thinks it's 'only' ten o'clock, sure--" She actually put her fingers in the air and made little quote gestures. Audra didn't think people did that anymore. "But there's all this bright sunshine like it's two o'clock--because it is," she added helpfully, just in case Audra had somehow forgotten to tell time over the course of her twelve-hour flight. "It really messes with your Circadian rhythms when you get this much light when your body is starting to get sleepy. Gives you that messed-up, mazy feeling."
Audra's smile became a little more fixed. Even a casual acquaintance would recognize it as fake now."I am familiar with the concept of jet lag, yes," she tried and failed not to snap, hoping Jan wouldn't become defensive about her own condescension. The last thing she wanted was to hear someone tell her not to get emotional. Not when she was just tense and tired enough after a long day of flying to give them all the outbursts they expected and then some.
But to her relief, Jan just chuckled and gestured at the dangling crystal windchimes hanging in front of the picture window. "No, but I mean... well, look at that sunshine," she effused, as though the oppressively dazzling environment outside was some sort of blessing and not a trial that the native Londoner would simply have to endure during her time in California. "Even refracted through the glass like that, it's beaming blue light into your eyes and straight down your optic nerve. You don't get that kind of light from most nighttime sources, at least not until recently. Only natural sunlight has those wavelengths, and they have a very specific effect on the brain."
The only specific effect any of this was having on Audra's brain was numbing boredom, but she was far too polite to say so. She ran her fingers through her wet brown hair, wishing like hell some of this godawful heat would dry it out so she could go take a nap without having to lie on a wet pillow... and also without having to mention to Jan that she was tired and risk her predictably smug reaction. "Let me guess," she sighed, struggling to contain her irritation. "Something to do with the Carpathian rhythm?"
"Circadian," Jan corrected. Because of course she would. "And yes, blue light is what tells your brain that it's time to be awake. You see, humans naturally want to sleep a lot more than we actually do in the real world--our brains are constantly expecting us to close our eyes, find somewhere warm and safe and cozy, and drift off into drowsy slumber." Good lord, she sounded like she was reading a bedtime story or something. Did she just assume Audra grew up watching Jackanory or something? It was mildly infuriating, although Audra acknowledged that some of her frustration was merely the residual stress of so many hours spent cooped up in a plane.
"But blue spectrum light--and you can see it in those rainbows coming off the crystals, there's plenty of it in sunlight--when it goes down the optic nerve and hits the brain, it reflexively gives off a chemical signal that we interpret as a wakener. The part of us that keeps yammering, 'Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep....'" Jan smiled patronizingly at Audra. Audra gave her a thin-lipped smile back. "It quiets down when it sees that light. That's why you shouldn't use your cell phone right before bed. It uses too much blue light, makes it hard to relax and sleep."
Audra frowned. Perhaps she was simply sensitive to intonation as an actress, but Jan was putting her emphasis in the strangest places when she spoke. She had an oddly monotonous vocal style, so it wasn't like she raised her voice, but she kept putting stress on the wrong words. 'Relax and sleep' surely wasn't the most important part of that last sentence, was it? "I'd heard that," she replied, despite her growing disinterest in pursuing the conversation, "but I always thought it was... you know, the kind of nonsense you always hear online. There's always something new to frighten people with, isn't there?"
Jan chuckled as if she'd just heard a very small child say something utterly foolish in an effort to sound grown up. "No, this is very real--and it's happening to us right now, in fact." She gestured again to the windchimes, as though she'd just put them up and was inordinately proud of their cheery, jangling presence in the window. "Right now, even as you watch those crystals gently turn in the breeze and fill up your eyes with rainbows, you're getting a dose of blue light. And normally, that would be good. That would be natural. The blue light would tell your body to wake up and enjoy the bright, sunshiny day." Lord. How did Meadow put up with this woman?
"But our bodies aren't really made to move so far and so fast that we wind up in the wrong time of day entirely," Jan continued, seemingly oblivious to Audra's mental retreat from the entire concept of social interaction. "Your brain is used to sunlight adjusting that mental clock and telling it to wake up, but not to resetting it this drastically with such a small amount of notice. Everything in your head is telling you to sleep, but everything in the outside world is telling you to try so hard to ignore that mazy, drowsy exhaustion and stay awake just a little while longer. And your mind can't handle that confusion. It gets fuzzy. It gets groggy. It gets so soft and befuddled that you don't even know whether you're properly asleep or awake anymore. Everything takes on that strange, dreamy quality, doesn't it, Audra?"
Certainly this felt like a bad dream, but perhaps not quite in the manner Jan described it. Audra nodded, hoping that a lack of verbal response and a lack of eye contact might give the dreadfully garrulous woman the hint that it was time to enjoy a companionable silence until Meadow got home from work, but it only seemed to encourage Jan's monologue. "Of course it does. The blue light wakes up your body, but all your mind wants to do is sleep, sleep, sleep. You're feeling so tired now, I can see it in that drowsy stare of yours. The more those crystals fill your brain up with rainbows, the more you fight yourself and the weaker you wind up being. It's only natural. Exhaustion is only natural, Audra."
Despite yearning for a nap just moments ago, Audra couldn't be more determined now to show how awake she was. She sat up a little straighter, blinking away the sunspots from her eyes, and said, "I'm sure I'll be alright for a while longer. Can't afford to sleep the day away, can I?" She'd actually scheduled three days with no appointments specifically to get over her jet lag, but wild horses wouldn't drag that admission out of her under the current circumstances. Not with Jan apparently so eager to prove her half-baked pseudo-science correct.
"It's not exactly sleep that's happening to you, though, is it, Audra?" Jan intoned, making the question sound like its own answer with her smooth, confident tones. "Your body doesn't want to sleep. It's only your mind that wants to rest, wants to drift off into dreamland and let your wide open eyes soak up the pretty rainbows so the rest of you can stay awake. Your mind is so drowsy, so fuzzy and foggy and barely even thinking at all, but your body is alive and alert and excited. It's that jet lagged combination that's making you feel so strange right now, isn't it? Making you want to stare and sink and gaze at the pretty lights without really falling asleep."
Audra blinked heavily, all too slow and sluggish to come to an awareness that should have been sudden. "Wha'... what's happening to me?" she mumbled, noticing a tiny trickle of saliva perched on her lower lip that she felt far too exhausted to wipe away. "What, um... what are you... doing to me?" Speech felt unexpectedly difficult, and even her thoughts seemed to be swimming against a thick tide of warm treacle. She knew something was wrong, wrong beyond the normal weirdness that she'd been told to anticipate when she crossed so many time zones at once, but she didn't have the energy to figure out what it was anymore. Not when she was so... so... so tired, Audra admitted. If only to herself.
But of course Jan wouldn't be drawn out by something as childishly petulant as that. "I'm not doing anything, dear," she said, reaching for Audra's hand and giving it a gentle pat. Audra found that she couldn't look away from the windchimes to see where the other woman's fingers rested. "This is just nature, just the way things happen when you're such a sleepy girl like this. Your mind drifts off into the rainbows, goes all muzzy and empty and blank, and your wide awake body finds... other things to occupy itself with." She lifted Audra's hand up and let it drop down between Audra's legs, her palm still pressed against the warm skin. Audra suddenly wished she'd put on something more than an oversized t-shirt and a pair of thin leggings after her shower.
"Your body knows what it enjoys, and it's happy to give in to that pleasure because your mind isn't there anymore to tell it what not to do. Your mind has succumbed to jet lag, given in to the surreal time travel experience and drifted off to sleep, and only your body is listening to me right now. And it wants more of this feeling, doesn't it? It wants to nod that pretty head while your mind floats in endless rainbows and forgets everything but sleep, sleep, sleep." Whatever resistance Audra had remaining simply deflated under the rolling surges of pleasure that pulsed through her slippery cunt. She'd been too preoccupied with planning for the trip even to masturbate these last few weeks, and Jan knew exactly how to guide her fingers into ever more intense feelings of euphoric rapture as they played with her pussy together.
"That's it," Jan purred, as Audra's head bobbed up and down in a slow, sleepy nod. "Jet lagged Audra is too sleepy to think, and her pretty pussy wants to keep rubbing for me and let everything else slip away. Audra's too tired to remember anything I say when she's jet lagged like this, just like she's too tired to look away from the rainbows, but her body is paying close and careful attention to everything that makes her feel this good. Audra's pussy is always going to listen to me, isn't it?" Another nod. Audra barely even noticed them happening anymore.
"That's a good cunt. That's a good cunt for Miss Jan." She slipped Audra's hand into the waistband of her leggings, still guiding the masturbatory experience in a way that felt intimate and lewd all at the same time, and Audra shuddered as they found her swollen clit together and began to tease it in slow, lazy circles that only intensified the foggy feeling in her empty head. Audra didn't know anymore whether it was exhaustion or arousal that left her sluggish and stupid and far too weak to consider her current state of mind. And as long as she could spread her legs a little wider and open up for that intense, sensual touch, she couldn't find a reason in her mazy, muzzy brain to care.
She felt hope stirring for a moment when she heard the sliding glass door open and shut in the distance; although Audra was now fully a prisoner of her own exhaustion and the nearly orgasmic pleasure between her thighs, she felt certain that she would wake if someone prompted her to. She only needed that tiny little push, that extra impetus that Jan wasn't giving her, and once Meadow came in and saw what was happening, surely Audra would snap out of this and stagger off to bed for a well-deserved rest that would shake off her exhaustion and leave her less vulnerable to Jan's manipulations. Even if Meadow kicked Audra out for having sex with Meadow's girlfriend, at least it would free her from this irresistible web of lethargy that kept her trapped in Jan's spell.
Meadow's footsteps sounded from behind her, promising salvation... and then she felt warm hands sliding under the collar of her shirt to tweak and fondle Audra's stiff pink nipples. "How's the pretty plaything coming along?" Meadow asked, her voice every bit as inexorably soft and soothing as Jan's was. Audra's body responded to it in exactly the same helplessly aroused manner.
"She's coming along very nicely, isn't she, pretty cunt?" Jen cooed, eliciting another nod from Audra that turned into a helpless, drooping slump forward as her neck muscles went limp like a puppet with cut strings. She kept trying to stare at the rainbow crystals through her fluttering eyelids, even as the pleasure grew and built to an orgasm that totally overwhelmed her drowsy and disengaged brain, but it was no good. Her eyes were too tired. Her mind was too tired. Audra's jaw went slack and a steady trickle of drool began to soak into the thin cotton fabric of her shirt.
At least, it did until Meadow removed it. Then she stopped noticing anything at all, save for the warm sea of pleasure that emptied out her mind and left her blank and obedient and open to the couple's hypnotic programming.