Amber’s heart raced as she stepped through the large convention hall doors to a sea of people. Nervously, she readjusted her bikini strap. A thousand eyes descended upon her as she trudged through the gathered masses towards the registration desk. The tired man at the counter looked her over, his posture straightening as he noticed her attire.
Amber couldn’t hold back a smile at how obviously the convention attendant’s mood rose just from seeing her. Just a few moments ago, he’d looked drab and lifeless, droning in monotone as he accepted payments and handed out passes.
“Love your costume,” he called as Amber began walking away, pass in hand. No doubt stealing glances at her backside. She smirked. Well, it was a good backside.
The next few hours were a blur. Amber had been asked for more photos than she’d seen taken in her life, and been interviewed by more ’internet personalities’ than she could count on one hand. Each one had complimented her on the detail and craftsmanship of her costume. Which was bullshit. Her Slave Lana costume was little more than a bra and panties with cardboard plating cut into the right shapes. But each time someone asked for her to do a small twirl, she knew they were staring at the curve of her waist and the thickness of her thighs, not the shoddy craftsmanship.
Around lunch time, her growling stomach forced her to start being more selective with who she let take photos and who she gave interviews to. She hadn’t packed a lunch, but one food-court-quality meal wouldn’t destroy her diet. She waited in the short line, swiped her card, and grabbed a slice of pizza. She looked around, trying to find a quiet place where she could eat without being disturbed. She found a little alcove underneath a staircase, and relaxed, ready to take a bite.
“Hey, any chance I could use that outlet?”
She swiveled on her heels, coming face to face with the bluest shock of neon hair she’d ever seen. The other woman was about half a foot shorter than Amber, but her blue wig—no, on closer inspection, she had dyed her hair—more than made up for it in demanding one’s attention. She took a step back, noting the other woman’s eyes darting up from her chest with some embarrassment.
“Uhh, no, go ahead,” Amber stuttered. She looked the neon nightmare in front of her over, who was fishing for a cord from her shoulder bag. She was wearing a frilly maid outfit with white stockings. She had a massive ball-and-chain slung over her other shoulder, but unless she was a superhuman athlete, it was probably just a styrofoam prop.
“Thanks,” she said offhandedly as she fiddled with the outlet. “I’m Clair.” She got up, holding out her hand.
Amber took it, only to be rattled by the frantic energy of Clair’s handshake.
“Looooooove your costume!” Clair continued, “You excited for the new movies?”
“God, no!” Amber exclaimed immediately, feigning horror. Clair nodded approvingly.
“Just had to make sure you were one of the sane ones,” the other girl laughed.
Clair had packed her lunch, and she sat down next to Amber, who welcomed the company. They spent the rest of the lunch gushing over movie theories, laughing at awful ones, and Clair explaining the premise of the anime her cosplay was from. They swapped stories about their convention experience, rolling their eyes at how completely idiotic most of the boys—and a couple girls, Clair had whispered, as though that was some grand secret—got around seeing a hot girl in revealing clothing.
Clair had spent the morning mostly attending panels and talks. She got to hear from some of her favorite voice actors—apparently including the english voice actress for her character, who had loved the costume—learnt some new cosplay techniques, and even had volunteered in a small hypnosis for cosplay panel. Something about helping you get into character? Well, Amber had little to share in that kind of conversation. She awkwardly deflected to the sheer number of photoshoots she had gotten in just one morning, which made Clair nearly spit out her food.
Several minutes later, they were both done, and Clair picked up her weird prison-ball.
“It was great meeting you, Amber. I’ll see you around!”
Amber waved as she walked away, but there was... something about the situation. She didn’t like it Throughout her life, she had never been the bold one. Most conversations were directed at her, not from her. But something now told Amber that things were about to change. She had already taken a massive step forward parading herself around half naked in front of strangers. So why shouldn’t I try to create a connection with someone I actually seem to like?
“Hey, wait up!” she called, running after Clair. “Hey... I was wondering. You really seem to know what you’re doing with this con thing. Any chance we could stick together for a little while?”
Clair grinned. “Girl, I thought you’d never ask!”
The ping of Amber’s phone reminded her to log another update. She knew it was important, but that didn’t make the constant reminders any less annoying.
I’m walking back to my dorm from the liquor store. It’s 7:00pm, and the last time I checked was 6:45pm.
“So, what are we watching tonight, Taskmistress?” Clair chimed in, that word Amber’s train of thought.
“Uhh... movies,” she stammered. Clair raised an eyebrow, glancing at her friend’s phone.
To anyone else, it probably looked like she was being rude. In a way, she was... but it was for a good reason
The large domed crest of the girls’ dorm room came into view as they rounded the corner. Amber had fought with herself over what to get dressed with that morning. The analytical part of her had argued that showing off sex appeal would hardly be smart considering the circumstances. The more primal part of Amber had replied that she had worked so hard to earn her body that it would be a waste to not show it off just because some stupid guys couldn’t keep it in their pants. So, she’d donned a pair of waist high blue jeans complimented by black boots. On top, she wore a crisp white dress shirt, with the top three buttons open to show off a healthy amount of cleavage.
Clair, for her part, sported a pair of ripped black jeans with a loose fitted t-shirt. The shirt hung over her left shoulder revealing the lace of her bra and featured a print of some anime character holding an oversized sword.
The chime of Amber’s phone drew her attention again. “Sorry, on sec,” she mumbled, swiping her fingers across the virtual keypad.
She stumbled back as she bumped into someone. Stepping back, she saw Clair blocking her path, arms folded and a knowing smirk on her lips.
“Soooo, what’s his name?”
Amber choked, putting away her phone. “It... It’s not a guy!”
“A girl, then? Wow! Didn’t know you swung that way.”
“Ha ha,” Amber groaned, staring mock daggers at her friend.
“So then, what’s got you so preoccupied that you almost walk into every pole we pass?”
Amber paused, trying to come up with the best lie she could on the spot. But... did she have to lie? She’d tested it multiple times since she’d ran into her at the boys’ dorm yesterday, and Clair never remembered anything anyone said that was even tangentially related to the blackouts. She’d change the subject immediately, so Amber couldn’t even bounce ideas off of the like-minded psych student. But... if she didn’t know what it was until after Amber had gotten her feedback... “It’s a tracking app I’ve been working on in my free time. It sends me a ping every so often, and asks me to put in what I’m doing, so I’m more mindful of how I plan my day.” Only slightly a lie, really.
Clair nodded slowly, considering it. “Huh. That’s... I can see that being useful. Although you’d be at risk of creating a negative operant association,” she mused. Amber stared at her blankly, and Clair smiled sheepishly. “Right, right, comp-sci major. Er... how to put it... I mean, someone learning something sucks, and then they don’t want to do it. And you’re checking it a lot. Surely it feels like a chore by now.”
“... yeah. It does. But how else would I do it, if I want it to be that detailed?”
Clair’s eyes lit up. “Oh, that’s easy. Make it quick and fun to do. Vocal input—your phone supports that, right? Or preset options. If it’s for you, just use shorthand. And you could just have a button for ‘same thing as last time,’ to save time. Even put that on the... the...” she pulled out her phone, gesturing to a notification bubble.
“The toast notification. That’s a really good idea.”
“Might as well pull in location data while you’re at it, and throw a bunch of stuff into each entry, since it’s only for you. It’d save you from having to do it manually, and you could probably get a decent idea of what you were doing from a half-minute long history of your position.”
Damn. Amber felt like an idiot. Those were all such obvious ideas. So why hadn’t she thought of them?
I was focused on... other problems, she reminded herself.
“This part of the app might actually interest you too, being a psych major and all,” Amber said carefully. If, somehow, this time proved the exception, and Clair remembered... she had to be ready to explain a lot. “You see, the reason I’m keeping track of the time is to make sure I’m not being controlled into having sex with any boys, which they can do at seemingly any time to us.”
Clair chuckled absently. “Funny...” she trailed off. “What were we talking about again?”
Amber shrugged, smiling. “Nothing important.” She’d gotten what she needed. And, with any luck, better and easier information would help her save Clair, too. She’d raised good points. Why did she need to say what she was doing, anyway? She could get the same effect with a rolling position log, which might be even better if she could jury-rig some vitals data. She made a note on her phone to check the bluetooth interface for her Fitbit, which was sitting unused in a drawer somewhere.
The familiarity of that tunnel-vision on a new idea was broken by a chill running down Amber’s spine. She cast her eyes around, instantly on guard, and saw what had caused it. Danger. Mind altering danger.
He was approaching her, with that cocky grin and exaggerated shoulder swing. The person who had started this whole ordeal in the first place. Matt.
Amber began to panic, remembering the scurried gathering of her clothes from yesterday morning. She had a sudden, vivid, horrifying image of herself and Clair dropping their belongings, staring ahead sightlessly as Matt began fondling their tits. Then, with just a few words, they would about-face and march off to Matt’s room.
She froze. Why wasn’t she moving? In the time it took to shake that vision, he’d nearly closed the distance. Did she have PTSD, or something like it? She certainly checked the trauma and stress boxes... She grimaced, forcefully wrenching her focus back to reality. She needed to run. Now. But she couldn’t leave Clair. Should she just grab her friend’s hand, and explain everything later? She’d rather Clair be angry at her than compliant for that asshole.
Her fear spiked when she noticed just how close he’d gotten. Too close. She didn’t have enough time to get away. He was close enough to touch her shoulder as she reached out for Clair’s hand. I’m so sorry. I can’t save you. She squeezed her eyes shut, knowing that the next time she opened them, she would be naked and wet.
“Uhh.... Amber?” Clair called, squeezing her hand. “Helloooo? Earth to Amber? Everything ok?”
She risked opening her eyes, to find... nothing. She looked behind her frantically, and saw Matt walking the other way.
I’m... not gone. I’m... safe? Am I safe? What just happened? What’s the time? Where am I?
Amber panted, her heartbeat thundering in her ears. She stared at her friend, stunned. She needed to get away. She needed to escape, and save Clair—save Clair from what? They were safe. The danger was passed? So why did she still need to run?
... shock. I’m in shock. Isn’t that supposed to be for physical pain? I mean, it doesn’t make sense, does it?
Fuck. Couldn’t even trust her own mind when it was her own.
“I... I just... need a minute,” she gasped, noting with detached clarity the fear in her voice. She focused, trying to run down a series of questions designed to center her. How long does it take to inhale? How long does it then take to exhale? What am I thinking of right now, and how is it affecting my breathing? Without realizing it, she had already closed her eyes, her chest steadily, rhythmically rising and falling. It was a technique one of her professors had taught in second year. The students, herself included, had laughed when he’d said he was going to teach them meditation. After all, how was that computer science? But he’d insisted, and the class, not having any other options, went along with it. But as he’d explained, being able to control the manic flow states where many people did their best work was an underrated skill, and that in his opinion, all STEM disciplines should teach mindfulness.
She silently thanked the crazy old man. Honestly one of the best teachers she’d ever had.
“Uh, Am?” Clair said hesitantly. “Do you need some water, girl? You look like you just saw a ghost.”
“I’m, uh... fine. I’m fine. Thank you. I... never mind. Let’s just head home.”
Amber inhaled sharply, grabbed Clair’s hand, and forced herself to continue down the path.
Amber’s dorm room was smaller than most of the other doubles in the building. The architect clearly hadn’t budgeted quite enough space for installing a corner room. But with her roommate gone, a one-and-a-half-person room was more than enough space, and definitely wasn’t cramped to have a couple of friends over in for a bit. Clair set to work, laying out the snacks and drinks they had purchased earlier, while Amber double checked the door’s locks. Clair raised an eyebrow as Amber shifted the dead-bolt into place.
She didn’t say anything, though. Her friend would open up once she was ready. All she could do in the meantime was help her feel safe to do so.
Amber continued to pace the room, helping out with the setup whenever something was right in front of her. Her mind was elsewhere. How am I still me? One question became ten. How do they do it? Why didn’t Matt try anything? Did he try something, but it didn’t work? If so, why, and why don’t I remember it? Was it because Clair was there, and he didn’t know how to ‘activate’ her?
She jumped in surprise as her phone pinged. It wasn’t her app, though, but a text from Sasha saying she was outside. Amber opened the door, and immediately locked Sasha in a hug.
“I’m really, really sorry about last week. I was an idiot. I didn’t realize how much this whole Matt and Steve thing had affected me.” It was technically true. But half truths are still half lies, as her mom had been fond of saying. Clair looked at her oddly as she mentioned Matt, but remained silent.
“We’re friends, girl. I could never stay mad at you,” Sasha grinned. “Honestly, I don’t even remember why I was upset in the first place.”
Amber felt a sharp spike of horror at that. Her nerves were still raw from earlier.
“More importantly,” Clair jumped in, eyes gleaming. “What’s this movie we’re going to watch?”
Amber smiled halfheartedly. This wasn’t a problem. She was just off her game.It actually helped towards the evening’s true goal—data collection.
“First,” Amber said, rummaging around in her purse. “I wanted to try something.” She showed them the cheap pendant she now held, her eyes darting to the library book on hypnotic inductions on the nearby table. “I’ve been doing some research the past few days, and I’m getting pretty good at this.”
“At what?” Sasha asked, bemused.
Clair grinned. “Ooh, I can take this one! We’ve heard about the theory a little, in class, although it was mostly a footnote when discussing other kinds of trance. But it’s hypnosis. Our girl here’s been studying how to pull people’s minds away and leave them hers for the taking,” she laughed.
Amber rolled her eyes. “It’s not all that, Clair. And I know you know that, or you’d be failing psych.”
Clair nodded, conceding the point.
Sasha raised an eyebrow. “Really? Hypnosis? What would you even want that for? Planning on turning me into a chicken?”
“Oh, Sasha, why do you doubt her?” Clair interrupted, a devious grin forming. “I think our Taskmistress has a bit more creative flair than that. Why not give her a chance to toy with your mind? She is a programmer, isn’t she?” Amber smiled back, although a pit formed in her stomach. Clair sounded like she knew a lot more than ‘footnotes’ would have told her. Why? How? She shook her head. Questions for another time. Maybe she could ask, once she got them both under.
“Hold on, wait. Why am I the guinea pig, now?” Sasha protested. “You’re the one who wanted to give her a chance.” She said that phrase with exaggerated air quotes.
“Because, history-girl. I’m the only one here who’s actually been hypnotized before.” If only, Amber thought ruefully. “Which means I’m the only one qualified to know if Amber, Hypnotist Extraordinaire here actually knows anything, or if she’s just talking shit.”
“That’s a stupid idea! We’ll know if it worked if I start listening to her every word, right?”
“Not how it works,” Clair and Amber replied in unison.
Amber wasn’t sure she liked how easily Clair had manipulated the conversation. What was her agenda?
“Fine, but when I’m done, you’re next,” Sasha huffed, pointing at Clair, who held up her hands in surrender.
A few moments of giggling and shifting about, and Amber and Sasha were sitting across from each other, Clair watching eagerly from the floor. Amber extended her arm, dangling the pendant just above Sasha’s eye level, so she’d have to look up to watch. Then, she began following the mental script she’d made from the bones of the inductions the book described. She found the examples stiff and awkward, and that cadence and rhythm flowed much more readily when she played it by ear.
“Now, Sasha, I want you to look at the pendant. It’s pretty, isn’t it? Catches the eye... and I want you to follow it, now.”
Amber held her breath as she started to swing the pendant side to side. The redhead obligingly stared at the pendant, eyes open and alert. Amber watched her eyes, looking for any change. She was following it, sure, but nothing else had changed. Well, nothing was supposed to change yet, so that was fine.
“That’s right, Sasha. It’s so pretty, and so easy to just keep staring at the pendant. It’s so lovely, isn’t it?” she continued, voice softening. Sasha nodded, almost imperceptibly. Amber had her.
“And as you continue to stare at the pendant, you can just let yourself get lost in the pretty colors. But you’re so tired, aren’t you? It’s so much effort to keep watching the pendant... to keep following as I swing it, back, and forth...”
Sasha’s face slackened slightly, and her eyes twitched.
“And as you sink, and relax, and drift along with the wonderful colors of the lovely pendant, you can find that you don’t need to keep watching, because you can still see the pendant, swinging back, and forth, in your mind. It’s such a pretty sight, one you can just focus on, letting everything else fall away... and since you have the pendant in your mind, there’s no need to keep watching, is there? So you can let those tired eyes close, and just listen to my words, because that’s all you need to do. All you need to do is listen to my wonderful, soft voice, carrying you along so gently, so peacefully. You can just let everything else fall away. Your worries, your stresses... they don’t matter here. You can just let them go, for a while, and just... relax.”
Sasha let out a sigh as her eyes closed, her posture loosening.
Amber gently grabbed her friend’s hand.
“You’re so relaxed, aren’t you, Sasha? So at peace, so able to just watch that pendant in your mind, as it swings, back, and forth... pulling you deeper into this wonderful peaceful calm. You can just let go. Relax completely. And just... listen.”
Sasha’s head dropped, hanging over her chest. Amber waited a few seconds, just to make sure that her subject wasn’t going to topple over.
“Not bad for a first timer,” Clair remarked.
“Huh? How could you tell?” Amber asked, louder than she’d meant to. Sasha, luckily, remained deeply entranced. “Although it felt... right. Easy, like it was natural.”
“I could tell,” Clair whispered back. “It’s subtle things, for you and for her. It’s the same things that mark a flow state, plus some eye movement patterns—and yes, you can see those even though her eyes are closed. Still, that was good work. You were in a flow state yourself, you know. That’s not uncommon, especially since you were improvising.” Amber opened her mouth to object, then realized... she had been improvising. Was it that obvious?
Clair stared at Sasha, deep in thought, for a moment. “You know, she’s deep. A lot deeper than I thought she’d go.”
“Uh... how do you even know about all this stuff, anyways?”
“Cons, mostly, but I’ve been dabbling in this stuff for the better part of two years or so. Pretty fascinating stuff. Shit like this is candy for a psych major, y’know? Like... what was it, cotton or something? You love to tell me how nice that is all the time, don’t you?”
“Kotlin,” Amber muttered. “And it is nice.”
“Yeah. That. Like that.” Clair rolled her eyes, motioning to the mass of red hair in front of her. “So, whatcha gonna do with her?”
“I mean...” Amber shrugged with a guilty smile. “Chicken?”
“Sure, if you want to be boring. Be funnier to go with something more exotic. A peacock? No, no, she’s full of herself already. Better idea. Emu. Can’t go wrong with them. They win wars and stuff. Gotta have their shit together for that, right?”
Amber chuckled, approaching her entranced friend. Ideally, hypnosis should let her, if not remove, circumvent whatever had been done to her friend’s mind. All literature pointed to hypnosis being a fantastic tool for relaxation or stage shows—blanket memory loss, or forcing you to spend the night with someone you loathe, were both far beyond its capabilities. Which meant she was in unexplored territory. Once again, she wished she could rely on Clair’s keen instincts for mapping and categorizing the unknown.
A passage from the book regarding hypnotic interrogation had given her the idea. A subject has greater memory retention and recollection while under hypnotic influence. Vivid details not remembered by the conscious mind can be accessed if the subject is in a deep enough state.
I can use this, she thought.
Of course, the book had then gone on to say that when probing the memories of the subject, the hypnotist must be careful with their wording, so as not to provide the subject with a leading question. Doing so could result in a fabricated memory, tailored to fit the answer the hypnotist unintentionally implied they want. So it wasn’t foolproof. But she was confident in her ability to navigate that pitfall.
“Sasha, I want you to think back to the last party we went to together. Do you remember that night?”
“Ysssssh,” she slurred back.
“I want you to hold those memories in your mind, letting them resurface. It’s so easy to just remember, as if you were watching a movie.” Clair stifled a giggle, whispering ‘movie night’ under her breath. “Where did you go after the party, Sasha?”
“Didn’t,” she whispered, shaking her head slightly. Clair sat upright, suddenly alert. Amber couldn’t blame her.
“You... did go somewhere, Sasha. Let yourself return to the party. You went to go get a drink. What happened next?”
“You saw Matt? And what then?”
Amber paused, locking eyes with Clair, who gestured for her to come closer.
“Hey, Am,” she whispered. “Do you think she was just drunk?”
A possibility, Amber supposed, from Clair’s point of view. But Amber knew what had happened. And it was not a drunken stupor. But she should ask, just to appease Clair.
“Sasha, how much had you drunk by that point?”
“Just a sip... I had just got my cup...” Amber gave a told-you-so look to Clair, who held up her hands in defeat, mouthing worth checking.
“Sasha, what is the last thing you remember someone saying to you at the party?” she asked, trying a different angle.
Sasha paused for a moment. “Hey, Sss.... Don’t remember,” she trailed off. Amber glanced at Clair, but she didn’t seem to have reacted. So either that was something normal, or it was part of whatever had been done to her. And Amber didn’t know which.
Damn, I should have known this wouldn’t help. Dejected, Amber moved to bring her up, then stopped as an idea occurred to her. She’s already done it once before. In theory, if it was hypnosis... which it probably wasn’t, but I should check. In any case, a data point’s a data point...
She grimaced. This is so I can help you, she promised silently.
“Sasha, I want you to stand up.”
The redhead slowly, methodically, moved. In a few moments, she was standing upright, her chin still touching her chest.
Ok, she responds to commands. That’s good. Expected, even.
“Sasha, raise your right arm.”
The hypnotized girl obeyed. “Now, slowly...” Amber paused, looking back at Clair. Her friend’s face was uncharacteristically neutral, her gleaming eyes at odds with the obviously deliberate composure. What does she know that I don’t?
Amber banished the thought, returning her attention to Sasha. “I... I want you to remove your top for me, Sasha. You’re finding that your body obeys without question. Automatically, without thinking.”
Amber’s heart sunk as Sasha tucked her fingers into the underside of her top, following orders like Amber had feared she would.
When her hands reached her midsection, Sasha reached deeper in, about to pull the shirt over her head... and then, she took her hands out, revealing twin middle fingers held high.
“Nice try,” Sasha snorted, eyes still closed.
Amber blinked in surprise. Did... Did it not work? Fuck. Wait... That’s good! It didn’t work!
Clair approached them, shaking her head. “Rookie mistake, girl. Hypnosis can’t make you do anything you don’t really wanna do. No matter how good you are with a pretty pendant. Although being convincing does help.”
“Yeah...” Sasha grunted, apparently fully out of her trance. “I mean, I’ve changed in front of you before. But that was when we were alone, and it was for a reason. This just feels... different, ya know?”
Well, it was good that Sasha was taking all of this in stride. Despite being hypnotized and commanded to strip, she wasn’t in a bad mood.
“Also,” Sasha rolled her eyes as memories started to come into focus. “An emu? Come on, really? And I am not full of myself, Clair.”
“Sorry, spur of the moment,” Clair chuckled. “Would you like some revenge?”
“You’re damn right I would! Just give me a minute. I’m still a little woozy. Damn, that feels weird.”
“That’s expected, don’t worry. You actually did go quite deep. Amber just forgot rule number one.”
“Rule number one is ‘there are no rules,’” Amber called out absently.
“Yeah, okay, girl. Anyway, otherwise, you’d still be slumped over on that chair for us.” Clair nodded towards where Sasha had been sitting. Then she spun, grinning, to face Amber, raising a hand for a high five. “Very nice work for your first trance session, Am. Give it here!”
Amber moved to meet her hand reluctantly. She didn’t feel like it had been that great...
Instead of a high five, though, Clair grabbed Amber’s hand and forcefully pressed it against her face. Amber’s eyes closed instinctively as Clair leaned her back, and said, in a tone that brooked no argument, “Sleep.”
Unprepared, and already in a bit of a trance—a flow state? She needed to learn the terms better—she crumpled, watching herself with detached fascination as Clair’s voice softened. She was good.
“That’s right, just like Sasha did. You guided her down so well, and it was such nice, nice work. You deserve a reward for that, don’t you? To relax for a change? You always think so much, Amber. Wouldn’t it be nice to just let me think for you, for the next little while? To just do the work while you relax, sinking into my lovely, soothing words...”
Amber didn’t feel gone. Her mind was... still hers? But Clair was right. It was so nice to just relax for a change. To follow along, fixating on those words...
“You can just listen to me. I’ll tell you what to do. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? To just listen to me this evening, not to have to think or worry?”
It does sound nice, she thought. But I won’t do everything she says. Just the stuff that I want to.
“Amber, I want you to stand up straight and open your eyes.”
That’s simple enough.
Amber shifted, standing straighter as Clair released her and stepped back. She opened her eyes, watching Clair, waiting for her words.
“Wonderful, Amber. You’re doing so well. Now, Sasha and I are going to have a little chat. You don’t need to worry about it, alright? You shouldn’t worry when you’re taking this break. Until I tell you otherwise, you can just drift, lost in your own thoughts for a moment, not worrying about what we’re saying. Maybe dream about a movie you like? It is movie night, after all.”
Yeah, okay. There’s nothing wrong with that.
“Yessss...” she breathed.
“Very good, Amber,” Clair smiled, turning away.
Amber was left to her own thoughts. She could hear Sasha and Clair very clearly. But what they were discussing wasn’t important. She didn’t have to worry about it. Instead, her mind started to play back a movie she’d seen so often she could recite by heart. Standard fare, a young daring space cadet had to rescue the macguffin or the universe would implode. She could track the flight of the alien ships, which she’d once spent an entire night trying to analyze for a theory she’d had. The words, the background noise, it just... wasn’t important. It didn’t matter that they were chuckling. Were they chuckling? It wasn’t anything she needed to worry about.
As she stood motionless, eyes blinking sightlessly, her breathing became more shallow, and her temperature rose. She distantly registered her panties becoming damp, and the movie in her mind twisted, flowing into something different. Something with a more sexual nature. The cadet had been captured. Placed in a metal chair, a small device attached to her forehead. No! I’ll never surrender! The cadet screamed, as a shadowy figure flipped a switch. Moments later, her expression was blank, compliant. Amber imagined the cadet standing at attention like she was, eyes unblinking, waiting for her captors to command her.
Amber felt a tap on her forehead. “You can listen again, Amber.”
Clair! I have to listen to Clair now. So long as she doesn’t make me do anything I don’t like. I have to listen to Clair.
“That’s very good, Amber. Coming back to me now. Paying attention to my words so wonderfully.”
Amber listened closely. Some part of her wondered if Clair would make her strip. Would I follow that command? Am I ok with following that? I don’t think I am, no. Maybe if we were alone? Or if we were changing, or some other good reason.
Clair pointed towards Sasha. “You feel bad for hurting Sasha’s feelings, don’t you?”
“Mhm...” Amber sighed.
“You want to make it up to Sasha, don’t you?”
“So, for the rest of the evening, you’re going to serve Sasha and me food and drinks, and do whatever we say. You’re going to make us feel better, and show us how good a friend you are.”
Amber chuckled silently. That was all they wanted? I would have done that anyways. There was something strangely exhilarating, though, about being ordered to be a good host.
“Good. And... ooh, that’s an idea. You’ll do it all while wearing a maid outfit.”
“Yes...” Amber responded automatically.
“Waking up on the count of three. One... two... three,” Clair intoned, snapping her fingers.
Amber blinked a few times, coming to her senses. Her mind jumped back to her time staring blankly at attention, trying to remember what her friends were talking about. They didn’t say anything that would make me worried. I still trust them. She didn’t need to remember their conversation.
“Well... that was sudden,” Amber said, shaking her head a few times.
“Some of the best trances are,” Clair giggled. “Surprise and confusion make for a great starting point. Now! Chop, chop! Maid outfit. I know you have one. We were going to go to that con in a couple weeks as Aries and Libra, those twins from Re:Done, remember?”
“Yeah, I have it. But I’m not going to wear a maid outfit, Clair. I agreed to be a good host. Nothing else.”
“Aww... no sexy maid?” Sasha giggled. “Well, there goes my idea.”
“Not so fast, mon ami,” Clair smirked, snapping her fingers. “Amber, either you go put on your maid outfit, or I’ll make you put it on.”
Amber raised an eyebrow, staring down her pink haired friend. A part of her, she had to admit, wanted to test just really how powerful Clair’s hypnosis was.
“Ok then, make me, pinky,” Amber said with her best shit-eating grin.
Clair’s eyes locked with hers, and the other girl’s mouth opened.
Amber blinked, feeling dizzy.
What just happened?
Nothing I didn’t like.
“Wow, looking good, Amber!” Sasha whistled.
Amber looked down to find herself wearing a frilly black and white dress, the same make as the one Clair had been wearing when they met. Amnesia, she thought, panic starting to set in, like with Matt and Steve. Suddenly, there was the memory, her being told to put on her maid outfit and to not remember doing it. So it wasn’t true amnesia, because it could break. It wasn’t like what happened to her. It was voluntary. It was safe. She let the memory fade again, and in a moment, she forgot what she’d just been thinking. But that was fine.
She spent the rest of the evening serving her friends, ensuring their drinks were always full, and generally making sure they felt comfortable. As the night progressed, and drinks began to flow, Sasha and Clair began to make more outlandish requests.
“My shoulders hurt. Give me a back massage,” Sasha ordered, snapping her fingers at Amber.
“I’m your maid, not your masseuse,” she scoffed.
Amber noticed she felt no real compulsion to obey the order. She could resist it. Even if Clair opened her mouth and used that commanding tone, she could resist it.
I don’t feel safe when they’re drunk. Sure, I don’t mind being their maid for the rest of the evening. That’s all in good fun. But I’m going to stop at that.
Amber mentally crossed hypnosis off the list of probable causes. There was no way that what Matt had done was just hypnosis. She was certain, in a strangely confident way, that no matter how deep she was, she could resist.
Well, certainly not hypnosis on its own, Amber mused. What about mixing it with something else? Like alcohol. She hadn’t drank much—there was no way she was going to let her mind be anything but her own, even if she was letting someone borrow it for a time—but what if she tried it on them? Would the effects be more powerful, more pronounced, or would it interfere? Would the effects remain after the subject returned to lucidity?
The screen flashed the words The End, and the intoxicated women cheered, reaching for their drinks.
“Amber! We’re out of beer!” Clair called. “Pop in the sequel and go get us another pack!”
Amber scampered over exchanging, Return from Planet X with the first movie. At a tap on her shoulder, she turned, and was met with Sasha’s beet red face.
“Here!” Sasha slurred, thrusting a $100 bill into Amber’s dress. Why did she even have one of those? They were hardly practical. “Keef te shange,” she moaned, collapsing into Amber’s arms. “I lerf u so mussh. Yur my beshh- my besh... Yur a good friend, Ammy. Th’ besh.”
Amber gently returned Sasha’s body to her chair, smiling. Clair, clearly possessing a far greater alcohol tolerance than her friend, called Amber over. “Maybe bring back some water instead,” she whispered. “I’ll stay here. Make sure she doesn’t puke on the carpet.”
Amber nodded, “Good idea. I’ll be right back.”
“I’ll be right back, Mistress,” Clair smirked.
Amber raised both middle fingers as she left. “I’ll be right back, Clair.”
Amber grabbed her keys as she went out the door, then out the door to the nearby convenience store. The night air was cool on her skin, and the walk gave her plenty of time to consider her next move in what was looking more and more like an impossible game. Although... she recalled a conversation she’d had with a friend. A review on the effects of weed vs other chemical inhalants. That sounds... useful... Hell, wasn’t I just thinking about that?
The reviewer in question was named Kelly. Amber had worked on a group project with her during her first semester. They weren’t close, but they were friends, and they kept each other updated on various developments in their lives. Kelly knew about Amber’s recent adventure into fitness, and Amber knew Kelly had spent the summer in Germany interning at a chemical research lab.
She pulled out her phone. The best way to compute an answer was to ask someone who already knew it.
Hey, Kelly! How was Germany?
Kelly immediately started typing a reply. A minute later, Amber was greeted with an essay of a reply. OMG!! It was so sweet! I got to see the most gorgeous of castles. Did you know there are almost 12000 castles in Germany alone! And I only saw like 10! Oh also, STAY AWAY from Club Trabant. There were like at least 15 different girls who told me I had to check it out. But guuurl, the pictures of this place! It looked fuggly, like just. Ew! Ya know? Whatever you do, do NOT go there.
How drunk was she? Ok got it, no Club Trababy lol
Trabant. I mean it, Amb. Place gives me the creeeeps.
uh, ok. Anyways! Any chance you could shoot me a link to that research paper you wrote a few months ago? The one on mind-altering substances.
Yeah, sure. Wanna go over my reference material again too? I got it in my dorm somewhere.
OMG!! That’d be great! Thanks Kelly. I’ll come pick it up
Amber stopped mid-message, having just remembered her attire. She had forgotten to change. Well, she wasn’t about going to meet Kelly dressed like this. I’ll come pick it up in the morning. That cool?
Sure thing! See you tomorrow :)
Amber cursed, picking up her pace. Her concern for her friend—and probably whatever Clair had done to her—had caused her to leave her dorm in an outfit literally made to serve. What, did she have a flashing target painted on her back, too? She was alone, in the middle of the night. Her only hope was the fact that the streets were often bare at this hour.
As the large neon eight sign of the Up Late at Eight came into view, Amber mentally prepared herself for the cashier and anyone else in the store to stare at her outfit.
But... wait. Surely she wasn’t the only one going there. There were cars parked outside. Cars which could be owned by boys, prowling, waiting to pass by someone they could activate... She stopped in her tracks, just moving suddenly a painful effort. She took ragged breaths, steadying herself against a lamppost. She was fine. She could do this.
She looked up, eyes burning with determination.
Matt walked out of the store.
Amber froze. It was happening again. There was nobody around. Nobody to save her. Nobody would worry, even. Matt’s face twisted into a devilish grin. Amber tried to run, tried to order her body to do something, but her legs wouldn’t move. It wasn’t that some programming prevented her—she was just too terrified. Post, traumatized, stressed, and I’m in disorder, a clinical part of her noted. Her pulse was deafening, her breath shallow and weak. She was burning and freezing, her body not her own. Shock. Again. Wonderful.
Matt drew closer, that horrible grin growing wider. Amber shook uncontrollably. As Matt stood before her, something deep inside Amber screamed.
Amber’s body reacted before her mind did. Dropping its center of mass, she prepared to bolt, her toned body reacting easily as she tensed up. As her mind caught up to the adrenaline rush, Amber felt a faint sense of relief. She could outrun him. She would be safe.
Matt placed a hand on her shoulder before she could.