Harper scrunched up her face tighter and tighter as she stared intently at the mess of post-it notes and half-torn pieces of paper pinned to a bulletin board on her wall. Her face hurt from frowning at it so much, but she couldn’t stop. She needed to figure this out. Eventually, she sighed and let her head slump into her hands. She looked like a crazy person, and worse, she wasn’t getting anywhere. It was all just so hard to make sense of. Harper didn’t feel too angry at herself about that. It wasn’t like anyone ever told you how you were supposed to deal with an evil conspiracy to brainwash students into robotic drones. But still, she had to figure it out. She had to. For Lori’s sake.
The problem was, she had so little to go on. She knew that someone, or something, had hypnotized Lori in order to get her to wear latex and act like a drone. And that was all she could really be certain about. Harper figured it had to be connected to Lori’s tech classes in some way. The first time they’d found out about any of it was when Lori had been activated by her teacher, Professor Elbourne, had used. At first, that had seemed like a coincidence. According to Lori, Professor Elbourne had simply been throwing together pieces of jargon as a random example of something. But in the absence of any other leads, Harper really didn’t see any other possible avenue of investigation. Besides, now that she’d seen first-hand what kind of brainwashing had been done to Lexi, she had no doubt that they were dealing with some kind of advanced technology. It had to be something new, something secret. Some kind of new research being conducted, perhaps. Harper had done a little casual digging on Professor Elbourne and had discovered that even though she was a computing professor, in her student days she’d double-majored with psychology, and had even co-authored some papers on psychology and neuroscience. One of them was even a comparative study on the differences between how computer algorithms learn and how human brains learn. That had aroused Harper’s suspicions. She was being careful to remind herself that it was circumstantial evidence at best, and that there was probably a perfectly reasonable explanation for it. But perhaps Professor Elbourne’s experience across those different fields explained how she might have been able to create something like that brainwashing video Harper had seen.
Harper shifted uncomfortably on her bed. That video was something else Harper couldn’t stop thinking about. She could barely remember it beyond little snippets and echoes, like half-remembered dreams. But even those small fragments haunted her, like a song stuck in her head. She found herself replaying them obsessively over and over again in her head, and even though she cursed herself every time she caught herself doing it, she couldn’t stop. Even now. She couldn’t stop thinking about how fascinated she’d been with the spiral, and with all the strange glitching and flashing she remembered. She couldn’t stop thinking about how seductively relaxing it had been as she’d let her mind slip away into the heart of the spiral. The memories were so embarrassing. Harper wished she could stop ruminating on them so much. The worst part was the way that the fragments she remembered felt like pieces out of a jigsaw puzzle. There was enough of them that she could start to see how it was all meant to fit together, but not enough that she could tell what the final picture was supposed to be. It was maddening. What if she took another look at it? That was yet another thing Harper couldn’t stop thinking about. She couldn’t stop feeling as though all she needed was one more brief, harmless look at the brainwashing video, and then she’d be able to understand it and get it out of her head.
Harper pinched herself. She needed to stop thinking like that. Looking at that video again was obviously a terrible idea. It was designed to brainwash people, and if not for Lori, it would have been able to sink its claws into both of them, and god knows what it could have done to their heads. Anyway, Harper had told Lori to delete the video. She probably couldn’t look. Probably.
Making herself focus on her unhelpful, haphazard notes again, Harper sighed. What was she going to do? What could she do? Tell people? That was what Lori had wanted, but Harper was sure they’d simply be ridiculed. Even if she used Lori’s activation code on her right in front of people, they’d be more likely to think it was a weird prank than to believe them. Besides, they still didn’t know what they were dealing with. Who knew what kinds of dangers they might be exposing themselves to if they tried to go public? As far as Harper could see, one of the few things they had going for them was the fact that whoever had done this to Lori probably didn’t know that they knew about it.
But what other options did they have? Harper was struggling to think of anything. Above all, they needed more information. It was just wasn’t clear how they were supposed to get it. It’s not like “my roommate was brainwashed into a latex drone” was the kind of problem you could plug into Google to find help threads on. Harper knew that for sure; in a moment of desperation, she’d given it a go. Maybe they could poke around campus and see if anything turned up? The problem with that is they didn’t even know what they should be looking for, and it seemed like there was every chance they could find nothing and end up back at square one.
If she was being honest with herself, Harper wanted to simply confront Professor Elbourne. Tell her what was going on. Demand the truth. Grill her until she slipped up and admitted something. Harper knew she wasn’t good at all this secretive conspiracy stuff. Getting to the heart of the problem in the most direct way possible had always been her preferred method of dealing with thorny situations. It gave her a fleeting smile of satisfaction to imagine Professor Elbourne’s expression of shock as she revealed how much she knew about what was going on. But her smile faded as she reminded herself of all the reasons confronting Professor Elbourne was just another bad idea. Starting a confrontation when they didn’t know what they were really dealing with was just too much of a risk. What if Professor Elbourne was just the tip of the iceberg? What if there was something much, much bigger going on? If Professor Elbourne had allies, and subordinates, or even superiors, then incurring their attention and wrath before they were ready put them in incredible danger. And even if there wasn’t some kind of larger conspiracy, an open confrontation was a risk. Professor Elbourne might have brainwashing technology. Who knows what she could really do? Who knows what she might do if she was threatened?
Harper could easily imagine Professor Elbourne greeting her accusations and insinuations with nothing more than a confident smirk. She could imagine the professor misdirecting and confusing her with a few well-placed comments, and then directing her attention to a computer screen with a mesmerizing spiral just like the one that had almost captured her in Lori’s room. She could imagine a horrifying sense of vulnerability and defeat settling over her as, try as she might, she’d be unable to rip her gaze away from the spinning, spinning, spinning, spinning spiral. She’d struggle, only to feel her will, her resistance, sapping away, an irresistible, soporific sense of relaxation settling over her mind like a heavy blanket. Harper realized she’d been clawing at her bedsheets with her hand, and made herself stop. It felt so suffocatingly warm and uncomfortable in her room all of a sudden, but the story playing out in her mind continued unabated. She could imagine Professor Elbourne simply watching her, victory in her eyes, perhaps laughing a little, as the spiral ripped her mind wide open and prepared her for conditioning. The brainwashing video in Lori’s room had come close. Harper knew that she’d lose a second time around, especially if she was in a situation like that, so far out of her depth. What would come next? Harper was shuffling and shifting constantly as she thought about it. Her body felt so hot. She felt like she needed to move, to stretch in the right way, to let the heat out. After Professor Elbourne hypnotized her, she’d take away everything that truly made her Harper. She’d turn her personality into a costume, something to hide what she’d truly become: a drone. She’d give her a number. A designation. An activation code. She’d give her latex. A bodysuit and a mask, just like the one Lori had. Harper pictured herself, kneeling on the floor in a latex drone suit, responding only to her designation. Empty. Hollow. Obedient.
A lewd moan pierced the silence of Harper’s apartment. It took her a long moment to realize that it was her who had made the sound. With one hand, she clamped down on her mouth, even though mercifully there was no-one around to hear her. She had to whip her other hand away from where it had strayed, between her legs. A moment later, Harper balled up her hands into tight fists. What hollow-sounding denial was she going to use with herself this time? Sure, maybe she was just a little pent up right now. Sure, maybe it was something the video had done to her, meaning it wasn’t her fault. Those excuses didn’t make Harper feeling any better about the fact she couldn’t stop fantasizing about being brainwashed.
It had started after the incident in Lori’s room. That should have been a sign that it was a result of the brainwashing video’s influence, but Harper didn’t accept that. She couldn’t. She couldn’t accept the idea that just a few minutes spent staring at a spiral had had such a profound effect on her. It couldn’t have put ideas in her mind so quickly and so easily. Nothing could. Harper was in control of her own head. She knew that. She had to believe that. But then, why couldn’t she stop? Why couldn’t she stop thinking about it and squirming in her bed at night? Why her thoughts keep turning in that direction when she was trying to pleasure herself? And why did her hands keep straying over her body so needily when she was supposed to be focusing on figuring out what was going on? In a dark corner of her mind, Harper suspected a possibility that was, to her, even worse than than having been subtly brainwashed. Maybe the video had done nothing more than show her how good it could feel to switch off her mind and surrender. Maybe everything that had come afterwards was just her own inability to resist craving that feeling once more. Her own weakness. Wasn’t that what had happened to Lori? Harper didn’t consider her friend weak. Not with the way someone had so clearly messed with her head. But she increasingly suspected that Lori was becoming addicted to the feeling of being a drone. Recently she’d been showing less and less concern for finding out more about her situation, and more and more concern for persuading Lori to activate her as a drone. Did it really feel that good? On some level, Harper already knew it did. It must. She hated that she was too weak to completely disregard the promise of that empty-minded pleasure.
The fact that she was that weak was part of what turned her on.
No, Harper insisted to herself. She couldn’t give in. She couldn’t let herself think that way. She didn’t want to be fantasizing like this, and that was what mattered. She was in control. She was always in control. She relished it, and she had a reputation for it. She was a top. A dominant. When cute girls were looking for someone else to take control away from them for a little while, Harper was the person they came to. She loved making them squirm beneath her touch and whimper beneath her tongue. She was so good at it. That was even what she was doing for Lori, in a way. Taking control away. Showing her a good time. Harper felt guilty about the way she’d used Lori to satiate some of her own urges, but at least she’d still been in control, in a twisted kind of way. She’d been using Lori to get what she wanted. That made sense, to her. What didn’t make sense to her was the fact that all of a sudden, she couldn’t stop thinking about what it would be like to switch places and experience what Lori was going through.
What did it feel like for Lori when she was 7005? Why did she crave it so much? Contemplating it made Harper’s body warm again, but she was so fixated on the question she was barely aware of it. She knew what it felt like to touch Lori’s body when she was wearing that latex body suit. What would it feel like to wear the suit for herself, to feel her skin and all her features disappearing underneath smooth, shiny rubber, and to feel herself being touched, groped and used through her new second skin? Harper could try to imagine it, but she was sure nothing could compare to the real thing. 7005 was so blank. So empty. So non-responsive. What did that feel like? Before, Harper had imagined it being horrible. It had seemed awful to her, to lose your own thoughts and your own identity. But now, looking into the spiral just once, she understood differently. She understood how good clarity could feel. Until you really experienced it, it was hard to understand how good it felt to completely shed all the little anxieties, worries and insecurities that ate at you every moment of every day. Harper had merely had a taste, but it had haunted her dreams ever since. What would it feel like to go all the way?
The hardest thing for Harper to admit to herself was that she also couldn’t stop thinking about what it would feel like to serve. That was some thing Lori had emphasized to her, when she’d been trying to persuade Harper to activate her. How good and easy it felt to obey. Harper instinctively rebelled at the notion of placing herself under the control of another person. That was what other people did. Not her. But she couldn’t deny that the way Lori had explained it sounded good, especially after what she’d experienced staring at the spiral. She’d sensed something, some presence, invading her mind. Probing her. Redirecting her thoughts. Reprogramming her. It had been cut short before it could make any significant changes, she was reasonably sure, but once it had quashed her embarrassingly weak resistance there had been something incredibly, perfectly peaceful and satisfying about only having one thing she needed to focus on: obeying.
Harper’s hands started working over her body again, but she was too lost to her fantasy to notice. It felt good, to softly massage her breasts and to rhythmically rub herself between her legs, over her jeans. It wasn’t much, but it was some small measure of release for all the tension that had been knotted up inside her in recent days. She wanted it. She finally admitted it to herself, as the warm pleasure her body had been crying out for started to spread over her skin, out from her breasts and down across her hips. She wanted that feeling, the feeling she’d glimpsed when she’d been hypnotized by the spiral in Lori’s room. Deep down, part of her wished Lori had never managed to snap out of it. How much better would it have felt, if she’d been able to watch for a few seconds more, or a few minutes more, or a few hours more. Her muscles weakening, Harper let herself slip off the edge of her bed and onto her knees. Where would she be then? An image blossomed in her head, an image as impossibly irresistible as it was insidiously tempting. The image was of her, on her knees, much as she was now. The hand between her legs started working faster. She was on her knees, but she wasn’t wracked with guilt and tension and frustration. She was at peace. She was in a hypnotic trance. Beautiful black latex covered her skin from the soles of her feet up to her neck. Imagining herself like that turned Harper on so much. In her fantasy, the fact that her face was exposed barely gave her any more individuality, because her eyes were so blank and empty she seemed more like a robot than a person. She wouldn’t even be a person any more. That thought made Harper moan. In her fantasy, Lori was kneeling beside her, and was just as hypnotized as she was. And standing before them, looming over them, was a tall, shadowy figure. They were indistinct and she couldn’t discern any of their features, but there was one thing Lori knew for sure: this was their master. The one they obeyed. Their Administrator.
Letting out an anguished cry of frustration, Harper slumped forward, resting her hands on the floor in front of her. It was no use. Touching herself felt good, as guilty as she felt for it, but it wasn’t enough. It didn’t feel satisfying. Maybe she could make herself cum, given enough time, but her physical need wasn’t the itch she needed to scratch. She needed something more. Something deeper. Harper looked up at the bulletin board of notes she’d been staring at futilely all afternoon. Sure, she could pick herself up off the ground and try to make herself focus again, but there was no point. She wasn’t getting anywhere. She was just torturing herself. Maybe she needed to do something to clear her head first. Maybe she needed to get some of these urges out of her system first. Harper could only think of one way of doing that: the video.
It was a bad idea. Harper knew that. She’d already spent a long time reminding herself of all the reasons why. But she already felt pathetic and useless. Could it really be any worse of an idea than what she was already doing? Maybe it was the perfect thing. A little taste of what she was craving, just to take the edge off. That made sense to her. It made more sense than most of what had been going on in her head recently, at any rate. Harper knew she should resist temptation, but she might as well at least admit to herself that she was tempted. Yes, it was humiliating to face up to it, but she couldn’t really deny it any longer given the fact she’d been touching herself on her knees to fantasies of being brainwashed. Harper’s frustration had pushed her past the point of caring too much about her pride. She needed this. Even though it was a bad idea, she needed it.
Of course, it was all academic anyway. Lori had deleted the video. Harper couldn’t go look at it even if she wanted to. When she thought about that, a crafty thought popped into Harper’s head. Maybe she should go and check. Seeing, first-hand, that Lori didn’t have the file anymore, that she couldn’t get at it, might help her deal with the way her mind currently kept straying. Harper was sure Lori would have deleted it. What could be the harm? On some level, Harper knew she was bullshitting herself. She knew that if, somehow, Lori hadn’t deleted the video, the temptation would become that much harder to resist. But she couldn’t bring herself to care anymore.
Harper hauled herself clumsily up onto her feet and started heading for Lori’s room. She found herself moving slowly and carefully, almost like she was sneaking around even though there was no-one around to catch her. When she opened the door to Lori’s room, it was dark inside, except for the tell-tale glow of her computer monitor. Lori had left her computer on and logged-in. Her anticipation mounting, Harper crossed the room and sat down at Lori’s desk. It only took a moment of searching for her to see the video file of the brainwashing spiral sitting right there on Lori’s desktop. The sight of it sent a cold shiver running right through Harper. What was she going to do now? At the same time, she frowned. Lori was supposed to have deleted it. Harper wanted to scold her over it, although she realized that since she was now going through Lori’s computer, she didn’t really have a moral high ground to stand on - to say nothing of all the ways she’d already wronged her roommate by taking advantage of her brainwashing.
Instinctively, Harper’s hand went for the mouse. She moved the cursor to the video icon, and then froze for a long moment. Then, with a wordless, frustrated cry, Harper stood up and started pacing the room. What the hell was she doing? She knew how dangerous this was, and yet she’d been just one click away from potentially dooming herself. Harper cursed herself for being so stupid. She was letting her fantasies get the better of her. As absurd as everything that had happened with Lori and her was, this was real. It wasn’t a fantasy. She couldn’t forget that just because her head was stuck in a weird place. She had to be more careful. She had to do better.
Given that, she should just walk away. Shouldn’t she? She should walk out the door and do her best to forget about all the dumb ideas running through her head. Somehow, Harper couldn’t bring herself to do that. The thing she wanted, the thing she was craving, was right there in front of her. Knowing that, and knowing it was too dangerous to take, was pure torture. But what if it wasn’t too dangerous? Harper wracked her brains for a way to make it safe. It felt like the only way to get out of this dilemma. After a couple of a torturous minutes, she came up with something. All she wanted was a taste of the feeling the spiral could give her. Just a taste, she promised herself. Something to take the edge off, maybe even something that would give her a better idea of what they were dealing with. The problem was, there was no way she would be able to snap herself out of trance after “just a taste”. The spiral would have its teeth in her mind, and it would be able to do whatever it wanted with her. But what if she had a way of waking herself up? A sharp enough shock was clearly enough to snap her out of it. It was just like waking up each morning. So, maybe an alarm would work. One, normal alarm might not be enough, but Harper could easily set three or four if she needed to: one on Lori’s PC, one on her phone, one on her watch, and one on the alarm clock she had beside her bed. Surely that would be enough.
Once she had that plan in mind, Harper didn’t wait to weigh the pros and cons. She ran back to her own room, grabbed her alarm clock, and returned to sit in front of Lori’s computer. She set the alarms. How long was too long? How long wouldn’t be enough? Harper initially set the alarms for three minutes. That seemed safe enough. Clearly, it was smarter to start short and then slowly work her way up to longer and longer periods, if she needed. Not that she was going to do this again. That was the whole point: to get it out of her system once and for all. But if she was only going to do this once, she needed to make sure it worked. So, she re-set the alarms for five minutes. But when she thought about it a little more, five minutes seemed like hardly anything. Five minutes could pass in the blink of an eye. So, she re-set the alarms again, this time for seven minutes. Then, guiltily, she turned them up to eight.
With her alarms in place, she was ready. Harper realized there was now nothing stopping her. There was no reason to hold back. Even so, she hesitated. Was she really about to subject herself to brainwashing video voluntarily, just because she couldn’t stop thinking about it? It seemed insane. Still, though, there was something urging her onward. Something she didn’t understand, but couldn’t deny. For what felt like forever, Harper was paralyzed by indecision, a painful knot of anxiety and anticipation growing and tightening inside her stomach. In the end, her body made the decision for her. With a slight twitch, she clicked the mouse and opened the video.
Blackness filled her screen, and Harper’s breath caught in her throat as she experienced the most agonizing moment of anticipation yet, as she waited for the spiral to appear on the screen. When it did, an instant, soporific wave washed over her. It was quicker and more powerful than Harper had expected. All the tension she’d been holding in her body vanished, and her face relaxed into a vacant, happy smile. This was exactly what she’d needed. Why had she hesitated so much? Harper couldn’t really remember. With her alarms, she was perfectly safe. This was perfectly safe. The spiral was perfectly safe. Armed with that knowledge, Harper happily slumped into her chair, and as the flashing numbers started to blink in and out of existence along the arms of the hypnotic spiral, she allowed her mind to slip away into blackness.
The next thing Harper knew, she was on her knees. She felt unsteady, like she’d just been suddenly thrown back into her own body. Her head was throbbing uncomfortably, keeping time with the buzzing and beeping of several different devices. Two of them were loud - her phone and her watch, Harper realized. The other two were more muted. They must be Lori’s computer and Harper’s alarm clock, which she’d left on Lori’s desk. Why did they suddenly sound so muted and distant? Where the hell was she? Harper looked around. The room was spinning, almost as if the ghost of the spiral she’d been looking at was still hanging in the air in front of her. That thought made her shiver.
When the spinning faded and she was able to get her bearings, Harper realized she was in her own room again. She frowned. That was strange. She’d expected to wake up in the exact same spot she last remembered being in: sitting in Lori’s chair in front of her computer. Had something happened? Had something gone wrong? The more Harper thought about it, the more she realized it must have been the brainwashing video that had made her do this. If anything had gone wrong, if there had been any kind of interruption, wouldn’t she have simple woken up? But then, what was she doing on her knees? Harper thought about it for a moment before realizing that she was kneeling directly facing her bed, and that the comforter which usually draped over the sides of her bed had been tucked up a little. It looked like someone had been searching underneath her bed. It must have been her, while in trance.
But why would the brainwashing video have made her look under her bed? Harper had no idea. There was only one way to find out. Filled with trepidation, she stretched out one of her arms, reaching to explore the space under her bed. Her fingers touched something. It felt like a box. That was strange. Harper never stored anything underneath her bed. She managed to get a grip on it and start pulling it out. It wasn’t too heavy. But when she saw it, her whole body went cold. She’d seen a box like this before. Awful, terrifying possibilities filled her mind. She wanted to throw it across the room, to scream, to run away, but she couldn’t. She had to know for sure. Her hands trembling, she opened the box to reveal its contents. She froze. It was exactly what she’d expected, and exactly what she’d feared.
It was a latex bodysuit.