“Alex, I got the good stuff!” Morgan was already waiting in my room. She was reclining proudly on my couch. On the table in front of her was a plate with three cookies. “Oh boy, cookies!” I threw my backpack down on the couch and slapped my jacket down next to it, then dove for the cookies.
Morgan snatched the plate and covered it like a wide receiver. “Alex!” I tried to reach around her defense and when that failed I started tickling her. She put a knee in my stomach and knocked me down on the couch. “ALEX.”
“Yeah, okay, what’s special about the cookies?”
“Well, they’re like, weed cookies.”
“You’re blowing my mind.”
“These are supposed to be the strongest.”
“I don’t know. People.”
“Usually that just means they put you to sleep the fastest.”
“Well, a lot of people use them for that, you know. It’s therapeutic.”
“More power to them.”
“These are supposed to be different from that. Jess made them herself. She said they’re made with cannabutter that her bohemian aunt makes with her own cows and her own pot.”
“Nice. I mean, I was gonna eat it. I’m just being cynical. Anyway, I’m guessing you have a plan with these? Hiking was fun last week.”
Hiking was really fun, actually. I would’ve had a cookie & gone hiking with Morgan every single weekend, but we wanted to keep up the pretense of having other friends.
“Well, this may be a bit dangerous, but my psychology class later is going to be just a guest speaker and a demonstration. So I wanted to see what it was like to have these, and then be around people. Since it’s going to be a brain-off kind of class, anyway.”
“Hot,” I picked up a cookie. “Sounds fun. You’re not worried about people noticing you like, acting weird?”
“I can handle myself. I mean, it’s just a guest lecture, if I feel funny I can leave.”
“True, So I’ll wait for you after? I could go for a movie later, I want like a huge soda and -
Actually, I was thinking you could just come to class with me. It’s a big class. No one would notice if you just came in with me.”
Huh. I said “Sure,” but I could tell she could tell I was curious.
“I just want someone there who I’m on the same wavelength as. Like just in case I start acting weird and don’t realize. You can tell me I should tap out. And if you start acting weird, that’s like, fine, because you don’t know anyone there.”
“Hmm. Seems fair. So that’s in like, an hour from now?”
“Yeah, it’s at 3. So I was going to eat this in a bit, at least my cookie anyway, because it takes a while to get flowing and all. Do you want to get some tea or coffee or something to have with these?”
“Sure. I am feeling like an *espresso* actually.” She punched me kinda hard.
We put on our jackets & walked across the snowy lawn to the library and got in line at the cafe behind twelve or thirteen very tired-looking undergraduates. It was the last week of class, after all. “So why do you want to get zooted for this lecture, anyway?”
“Alex,” she hissed.
“Okay, uh..Eye-way id-day oo-yay anted-way…oo-tay et-gay…ooted-zay.”
“Alex. It’s kind of serious.” I zipped it.
We were at the counter by then, so I ordered two “very big coffees.” As we stood waiting at the pickup counter, I waited with a distinctly non-goofy face for her to continue.
“I just wanted to do it because - like - this demo thing is just something that makes me nervous.”
Our two coffees appeared and we walked back outside. She didn’t say anything more, so I said, “Nervous how?’
“Like it makes me nervous! What else is there to say?”
“Like nervous like scared? What is it, like, a mock serial killing? Or is it clowns?”
“This is a social psychology class. It’s not about serial killers.”
“So it’s clowns then? I guess they’re pretty sociable.”
She opened the door to my building and kind of stomped to my room. I came in a bit warily but she closed the door behind me and just sat down on the couch with her coffee. She was kind of just staring at the plate of cookies like it was a crystal ball. This was getting kinda unusual.
“Hey are you like, sure you want to do this? I would be cool with just getting like three pizzas and watching anime.”
She threw a couch cushion. “Oh, right, you don’t ‘watch anime’, you are not an ‘anime fan’, you just have a ‘few shows’ that you ‘sometimes catch up on.’ Well I like it anyway.”
She kind of just went back to staring at the cookies.
“I feel like you’re kind of agonizing over this decision and I should be the shoulder angel here. Or I could just eat all of them myself. I’m fine with either.
She reached for one of the cookies and took an indignantly large bite. Then she drank about half her coffee. I sipped mine, and burnt the hell out of my tongue. How did she do that?
She looked at me and forced out, “The demo is a hypnosis show and I’ve been really afraid of hypnosis since before I can remember.”
I’d never heard her mention having a fear before.
“Like afraid of those guys in the purple dress shirts?”
“No. I mean, not really. I mean, I shouldn’t be. It’s stupid.”
“So you kind of are. I mean I get it. They are scary.”
“It’s not *mostly* them. It’s just like, mind control. The idea of mind control. Like it’s the one thing you can’t fight, because you don’t even know it’s happening. It works on Superman. There’s nothing you would be able to do. And really, it’s terrifying how many things could affect how you think without you being aware of it. I mean, that’s just what marketing is. And the scary thing is that it works even if you know it’s happening.”
“That sounds pretty reasonable to me. Like as something to be afraid of, not a good thing to do. But like, aren’t you studying marketing? Like, you actually do research in how to make marketing more effective?”
“Well yeah. I mean doesn’t it make sense to study the thing you find the most dangerous? Like the thing that scares you the most? Don’t you feel like that’s the thing you should want to know the most about, if you think it’s the most dangerous.”
“I don’t think that’s the perspective most people have on choosing a major.”
“I mean I do find it *interesting,* it’s just that it does scare me - the way people can be influenced by things they don’t even notice.”
“But this hypnosis thing scares you particularly, compared to normal classes on the subject?”
“Well, it’s…it’s just that it’s like, it’s all out in the open. And it’s so direct. Supposedly, anyway. Like he’s saying, ‘you will do this’ and then you just do. Supposedly even when you feel like you’re awake you just automatically do what he says. Or even things you don’t remember him saying, when he says something else. I just can’t imagine what that feels like.”
I thought for a minute. I decided I should have some of my cookie. It tasted fresh, and it had a heck of a lot of chocolate chips. Oddly, it didn’t taste very different at all from a regular chocolate chip cookie, but then again, my tongue was burnt.
“So… is the demonstration on the whole class, or just, like, a few people?”
“I don’t know, exactly. I’ve watched some videos on youtube. Sometimes it’s just one or two people, but sometimes, they start with the whole class for some things, and then they look for people who respond well and do more things with them.”
“So they do it just by talking to people?”
“Supposedly they can.”
“Wait, so why didn’t you get hypnotized from watching videos of it on youtube?”
She got a bit red. “...I watched them with the sound off.” She really did seem pretty scared of the idea.
“So I suppose you ‘believe in hypnosis’ then.” I had another bite of my cookie.
“I mean I know that marketing is a thing. So, yeah, people can be influenced without them knowing about it, and it can affect their behavior. It wouldn’t be magic.”
“I thought the clockwatch was supposedly magic.” I had not in fact heard such a thing.
“No, it’s just supposedly something that helps people focus. But the odd thing is that the eyestrain from doing something like that, or from rolling your eyes back, for example, does seem connected in a weird way to going into hypnosis. Which is puzzling, because hypnosis is supposedly a mental state, and eyestrain is just a minor physiological effect, So it’s odd that such a little thing seems to be important, although not necessarily required, for the induction of an apparently huge change in someone’s mental state. It’s like, you know, a Spock pinch, but real. Except it’s different because the pinch is just cutting off the blood to someone’s brain so they pass out. Eyestrain is not that significant, it shouldn’t have anything to do physically with some kind of mental state like hypnosis. So it’s more like if pulling someone’s pinky finger always made them hungry. But no one has really resolved, in anything that I’ve read, what the relationship is between eyestrain, which is just so common in all forms and depictions of hypnosis, and experiencing a trance state.”
“...so it sounds like you’re pretty well-read on the subject. I thought you were scared of it?”
“As I was just saying, it makes perfect sense to learn about the things you’re scared of.”
“Oh, right.” I took another bite of my cookie.
“And I guess the point is, you can’t know what it feels like unless it happens to you.”
I waited a minute, finishing my cookie. “That all makes sense to me. Suddenly she looked at me wide-eyed.
“Wait, you just ate the whole cookie?”
“Yes. I mean, I did last time.”
“The guy said these were really strong.”
“They didn’t really taste too concentrated or like…whatever you would call it. That was a nice….cookie.”
“No, exactly. That’s what he said. Because they don’t taste like anything but they’re really strong, people eat the whole thing and then like…well, you know. I feel like you’re talking kind of oddly already.”
“I’m feeling exquisitely fine.”
“That doesn’t seem like a good sign either.”
“I mean, you’ve eaten about half of yours.”
“Well I knew the dose I wanted, more or less. You kind of just like…ate it.”
“Like I said, I feel perfect.”
“Again, that makes me kind of nervous.”
“Well, if I fall asleep, they’ll all just think I got hypnotized.”
It was 2:45.
“So why did you want to get zooted before this thing that you’re terrified of?”
“I wouldn’t call myself terrified. Just anxious. This helps with that.”
“This kind of sounds like a textbook bad trip.”
“I assure you I will be fine. ” She did ask me to go with her, though.
“So I guess we should head over?”
She picked up her backpack and went straight out the door. I caught up with her just outside the building and we walked together through the snow and the cold breeze. I followed Morgan to the building & the hall where the lecture was. It was about half-full, but we were a bit early.
“Wait, was this your professor named Kegel?”
“You swear that’s her real name?”
“As far as I know.”
We were sitting about halfway up. On the stage were two women, one of whom was probably the professor apparently named Kegel. Then the other would be the hypnotist. They were both kinda hot.
By 3:03 the room was pretty well full. One of the two women left the stage and took a reserved seat in the front row. The other, who I realized was the professor, faced the room and clicked on her mic.
“Pretty good turnout for a Friday afternoon. I guess it’s cold out anyway. Might as well be indoors where it’s cozy. Alright, well, you’re here for the demonstration, and I like to give my guests as much time as I can, so all I’ll say is, as for our other guest speakers, “Notebooks not needed, but please pay attention’, and with that I’ll turn it over.”
The other woman stood & stepped up to the stage. Professor Kegel took the seat she vacated.
“Hello. I’m Sienna the Siren. I am a hypnotist.” Sienna paused.
“Let’s break that down. I’ve just introduced myself to you, but as a performer. That’s obviously not my real name, ‘Sienna the Siren.’ So why do I call myself that? Well, that’s kind of all tangled up with the entire lecture today, so we’ll leave it for now. What’s my real name? I have one, but I’m not telling you until after. For right now, this is the only name I have to you.
“That’s an unusual social relationship, right on its own. Typically, when you’re interacting with someone, both parties know each other’s name, or neither do. But you only know me as Sienna the Siren. That’s the only thing you have to work with. So that colors your impression of me, whether you want it to or not. That’s something that I’ve done in two seconds that changes how you think about me and how you process what I’m doing.
“So, what is hypnosis?” She waited a beat.I was about to raise my hand and try to answer but then she continued.
“You all have your own idea of what hypnosis is. It’s been constructed and affected by everything you’ve seen about hypnosis - in a movie, reading about it in a book, or seeing a stage hypnosis show like mine, or being up on stage hypnotized, that’s all affected your idea of hypnosis and what it would feel like to be hypnotized.
“So, you have certain expectations of what hypnosis involves. And I could further add to your expectations by hypnotizing a volunteer up here as an example. I could say that I’m looking for someone particularly in tune with hypnosis, and maybe I do have some ability to tell that. But I’m not always right - and that’s why, in many stage hypnosis shows, they use a “plant”, or someone who’s been hypnotized before, who can be hypnotized quickly again and used to show you what being hypnotized is like. But this also has the effect of influencing what each individual thinks hypnosis involves.
I think the most interesting experience of hypnosis is one of self-discovery. “So - I will hypnotize you in a different way. This is a performance, almost like a concert, and first we all have to be on the same wavelength, in the same groove, so now - take a deep breath in, if you want to be part of this.” I took a deep breath. I guess it was starting. I looked over at Morgan and she seemed to be doing okay. I took another deep breath in.
“And now I’d like you to clasp your hands together like this” - she laced her fingers together and held her hands out at shoulder level, “grab your one hand with the other and hold on tight. Tighter. Hold on so tight you won’t let it go, you can’t let it go. Your hands are like the hands of a steel statue, you can’t move any of your fingers even a tiny little bit and your hands are completely stuck together. Imagine that.”
The hypnotist snapped her fingers and I looked up at her. “And don’t they really feel stuck? If you can’t get them apart, isn’t that interesting? All I did was tell you to imagine they were stuck and if they’re stuck now, isn’t that fascinating? Your hands are stuck just from me telling you to imagine something. isn’t that funny?
“Really I’ve caused something else to happen as well. Think for a second, before I just snapped my fingers, weren’t you looking at your hands as they got turned into steel? It’s natural to look at your hands while I’m telling you to focus on them, so that’s what you did. And then I snapped my fingers, and you looked up at me. So you’re focusing where I’m directing you to focus. That’s the first part of being hypnotized. And now that I’ve been talking again about your hands and it feels so funny that they’re still locked together, have you gone back to looking at your hands?” She snapped her fingers again and I looked back up at her.
“You’ve seen examples of hypnosis, perhaps fictional, where someone snaps their fingers and the hypnotized subject closes their eyes instantly. This isn’t quite reality. It’s just that you naturally understand - when someone snaps their fingers, it’s meant to get attention. It’s not an on-off switch as you’ve seen it although it can look that way - it just redirects your attention to me when I snap my fingers, if you’d been sort of drifting away or looking somewhere else.” She snapped her fingers again and I looked back up.
“And again it would be perfectly natural to still be fascinated by your hands being locked together. In fact, who wouldn’t be fascinated by that? Are they really stuck together? Go ahead and try to move your hands. Do anything you like.”
I tried to get my hands apart but I couldn’t even get a single finger to move even a bit. I waved them up and down together but I couldn’t feel them moving even slightly. This was too weird. She snapped her fingers again and I looked back up at her.
“So the question is, why are your hands stuck together? What is the force you feel that is keeping your hands stuck together?”
What did she mean by a force? My hands couldn’t move because my hands were steel. Then again, thinking about it, my hands aren’t really steel. But I really can’t move them. So I guess there was something. An insurmountable force. “So I’d like you to think about that while I ask you to do something else just physically with your body.
“I’d like you to test for yourself how far back you can roll your eyes. This is a strange experience which I feature because it’s one of the oldest tests of someone’s hypnotic suggestibility. Early hypnotists said that being able to roll your eyes further back usually indicated increased ability for you to be in hypnosis.
“It is difficult, however, to actually achieve very much eyeroll by oneself, without some practice. This is because it’s a fatiguing position, and you naturally are inclined to get distracted and forget about what you’re doing. Try to roll your eyes back now and see how long you can last before you notice you’ve relaxed your efforts. Because this is difficult, a hypnotist will now and then tap his finger on the subject’s forehead during the eyeroll test if he notices they have drifted off, which reminds the subject to focus on the task of rolling back their eyes.
“I can accomplish the same thing from here with this sound - “ the hypnotist clicked her tongue sharply. “This sound will remind you to focus on the task of rolling your eyes back as far as you can.” The sound was sort of like a deep tock of a clock.
“So, now, you can try for as long as you last to stay focused on rolling back your eyes. And when you hear *click* you focus again on the task. Rolling your eyes back is fatiguing and it really inclines you to naturally get distracted even if you’re trying really hard to focus. And so you can focus on when I *click* again, if you were still focusing on rolling your eyes back or if you had gotten distracted. Because if you’re still consistently and fixedly focused on rolling your eyes back, refocusing on this *click* sound won’t surprise you at all, and on the other hand if you drifted off you’ll be surprised to realize that you weren’t trying to roll your eyes back anymore, that you’d gotten distracted until you heard the *click* sound. And you refocus yourself on the task and wait to hear the next *click* sound that tells you if you were distracted again from rolling your eyes back and you might even have drifted off someplace totally deep inside you.
“And while you’ve been rolling your eyes back as far as you can, trying your absolute hardest, something else has happened. *Click*. Your eyes are stuck shut. You can roll your eyes back, up & down & left to right but your eyes are stuck closed for some reason you can’t figure out. Did you tire them out completely rolling your eyes back all the way?
“So your eyes are stuck closed and your hands are stuck tight. Is this really happening? If you really can’t move them, trying your hardest right now to get your eyes open or maybe you can try again to get your hands apart, if they absolutely just won’t go, then yeah, this is really happening. What this means is that you’re hypnotized.
She snapped her fingers and I looked up at her.
“Now I’ve just done something unorthodox. Your eyes are stuck closed, and I snapped my fingers to call your attention. Some of you opened your eyes to look at me and some of you are imagining looking at me with your eyes closed. These are both equally correct hypnotic responses. The difference in subject response is an interesting insight into personality. And the funny thing is, I know which of you have your eyes open or closed, and you might think that you know too, but you don’t. Even if you think you’re looking at me with your eyes open, you could be merely imagining that, and in fact your eyes are closed. And if you think your eyes are closed, and you’re merely imagining me, your eyes might really be open and you’re merely disregarding what you’re seeing and replacing it with imagination, because you’re imagining your eyes are closed, even though they’re open. Either way, you think that you have your eyes open, and you focus on me when I *snap* my fingers.
“*click* and your eyes are rolling back again just like that. Doesn’t that response feel lightning quick? I could see it happen to you all at once.
“There’s more here than you might think. The dynamic I’ve created here is that when I make a *snap* sound, you focus on me, and when I make a *click* sound, you focus on rolling your eyes back and thereby focus on yourself. Because as we saw, quickly you drift from rolling your eyes back because it’s very difficult, and when you drift, you drift right to the next most interesting thing that’s happening. So I can just *click* and then talk about something else with you, and you’ll drift over to what I’m talking about before very long.
“And something I encourage you to experience is following that drift along for as long as you can, and letting it take you wherever it will without resisting it at all. In this way you can sort of see more of what’s happening with hypnosis and keep your attention fixated on rolling your eyes back. One technique for me to help you experience drifting all the way down and following consciously along while you drift, rather than drifting away from yourself, is to say something like *click* relax.
She waited so we could relax.
“What you might notice is that, when you’ve just started rolling your eyes back and I say a word like that, it affects you right away. That word is the only thing you have to cling to while you’re rolling your eyes back, because your eyes are locked closed and you don’t hear anyone but me right now. So a word like relax or warm or cold or sleep reverberates around inside you, sort of echoing in your mind. It gets stuck in your head. And because it’s the only other thing going on, when you forget to keep rolling your eyes back sooner or later, that word will be what fills your mind. And because you know that’s what’s going to happen, you can follow it as it happens by just letting that word totally overtake you, completely willingly.
She snapped her fingers and I looked up at her.
“*click* Relax. - Wonderful. Perfect. So let’s simplify things here. First we’re going to get your eyes open and that will happen in one, two, three, *snap* when you focus on me. Look down at your hands still locked together. Try one last time to get them apart. Do you feel anything funny when you stare at your hands again, like when they were locking up the first time? Can you almost feel them somehow getting *even tighter* while you’re staring amazed? Don’t they feel even heavier now that you’re looking at them? Your strength is just absolutely giving out by now. And *click* relax - and in just a second your hands will pop open suddenly and easily. I just one, two, three *^pop!^* and focus on me.” I opened my eyes and looked up.
“So how did that feel?” “Good,” I said out loud. For a moment I was embarrassed, but it sounded like basically everyone in the lecture responded out loud with me.
“I will now be collecting a few subjects who I think will be a lot of fun. Although I would love to explore hypnosis further with every single one of you, right now I’m looking for a few subjects who I expect can demonstrate some interesting techniques in hypnosis.”
The hypnotist stepped down off the stage, and I couldn’t really see what she was doing in the front rows, but there were excited sounds from the parts of the audience that could see. Then the hypnotist stepped up to the middle section of the hall, where we were sitting. She didn’t even look around, she looked right at me. She walked down our row. I looked over at Morgan and she looked at me. She was wide-eyed and pale and breathing a bit fast. I didn’t have time to say anything before the hypnotist reached out her hand for Morgan to shake.
“Hi! I’m Sienna, it’s so nice to meet you, what’s your name?”
“Morgan,” said Morgan. She looked absolutely petrified but resolved in a weird way. .
“Hi, you look nervous! Are you nervous?”
“Good! It’s good to be nervous because that means you’re really here, you’re going for it honestly and earnestly and that makes anyone nervous. So good! It’s perfect to be nervous. A lot of the time being nervous makes it easier for you to focus on something that’s shiny and distracting to avoid thinking about whatever it is that’s making you nervous. So here’s something that’s really distracting, I’m going to shine this little light, not right in your eyes, but right at your forehead. But if you look at it, even at this bit of an angle, it’s still really bright, right?”
“And if you focus on the light there and you take a deep breath in, good, and let it out all the way, do you feel a bit less nervous?”
Morgan nodded. She was nodding her head while keeping her eyes totally fixed on the light.
“And if I bring the light closer, and you follow it with your eyes just like that, that’s almost the same feeling as when you were rolling your eyes back right? The longer you look at the light, the more just totally exhausted your eyes get, but you can keep them open as long as you can last.
“And so as I bring the light closer, your eyes roll back further and further to follow it. That’s perfect. I can see you’re getting so relaxed and comfortable and that’s perfect to be hypnotized. Now while your eyes are watching the light I’d like you to focus on something else.” She started to slowly move the light away from Morgan’s eyes, which were looking glazed. “When I move the light toward you in a moment, take a deep breath in along with that movement.” Morgan did what the hypnotist said, and the hypnotist brought the light about halfway towards Morgan’s forehead, and Morgan took in a really big deep breath. “And…out.” The hypnotist pulled the light away again and Morgan let that really deep breath out. “In”, and the light went towards Morgan again, this time three-quarters of the way to her forehead. Her eyes were starting to look really tired, especially when the light got close and she had to strain to focus on it. “Out….and, In.” This time the light almost touched Morgan’s forehead and something kind of weird happened. When the light was so close to her forehead that her eyes couldn’t really focus on it anymore, her eyelids started fluttering in a really weird way. Weirdly, it reminded me of depictions of people having religious experiences.
“Out,” and she took the light even further back than she had started. Morgan let out more breath than it seemed like could be inside her. “and….In.” The hypnotist brought the light slowly & surely closer to Morgan’s forehead, past where her eyes started straining, past where she could keep it in sight and then her eyelids started fluttering again. The hypnotist paused for three or four seconds and Morgan seemed just absolutely still except for the faintest quick breaths and her eyelids fluttering like she was possessed. Then the hypnotist brought the light closer until it tapped Morgan’s forehead, and right then she said *click* sleep.
I couldn’t feel anything but a hand on my shoulder. I was trying to roll my eyes back so I wasn’t really paying attention. Then the hypnotist said, one two three *snap* and focus on me. And there she was in front of me. I looked in her eyes and she said *click* sleep. Then she said that I was deeply hypnotized, that I was in deep hypnotic trance and I was completely hypnotized very, very deeply. She said that I was a deeply hypnotized subject. Then she said that in a moment she would ask for her deeply hypnotized subject to come up to the stage and she needed me for something special on the stage. I was a deeply hypnotized subject, so I would come up to the stage when she asked for deeply hypnotized subjects.
Then she snapped her fingers and I opened my eyes but I felt kind of weird. It was like I couldn’t quite collect my thoughts for a few minutes. “Oh yeah,” I thought. “I’m high as shit. I forgot.”
Eventually I remembered to look over at Morgan. I did a double take when I realized she was totally passed out! She was like all the way slumped over so her head was on her knees. I shook her gently and she just slumped over even more. Her left arm slid off her lap and then just swung at her side like a pendulum. She looked utterly relaxed.
The hypnotist was back on the stage suddenly, and she said, “Now I’d like my deeply hypnotized subjects to come up to the stage.” I stood up from my seat because she needed me for something special. Morgan stood up too, rubbing her eyes. We made our way to the stage where the hypnotist took each of us by the hand, and positioned us spaced around the stage, standing up straight like a steel beam.
She said if we all closed our eyes we would have something strange happen. Our bodies would become all steel, totally solid steel, one hundred percent stiff like steel, and we wouldn’t be able to move them at all. It’s very simple for the body to turn into steel in hypnosis, the hypnotist simply says *click* steel and the deeply hypnotized subjects become stiff like steel. And they can’t move at all but the hypnotist can move their arms and legs around and bend them like it’s no problem. You can’t bend your arms or legs or anything at all right now but the hypnotist can do it really easily. Isn’t that funny?”
She tapped me on the forehead and my eyes popped open. “Hello, what’s your name?”
“Can you move, Alex? Can you move your arms or your legs.”
I tried but I couldn’t. It was like I was steel.
“Let me do that for you.” She took my right arm and swung it out straight in front of me. ‘Still can’t move it on your own, though, can you?” I couldn’t, of course.
She took my left arm and swung it out to the same height as my right. “Now there are other ways that I can move you, other than touching you.” She turned my palms so that they faced each other. “I could say, ‘Imagine there is a strong magnet between your hands,’ and because your hands are steel right now, the magnet is going to be pulling on them. And it might be very slight at first against how strong the steel is at your arms and shoulders, but it will build up quickly as soon as you feel it even a little bit, and as your hands start to move closer together, just like that, it will get exponentially stronger as they get closer. Focus right here between your palms - “ she snapped her fingers right in that spot and I focused right there.
The hypnotist stepped away from me. I focused on the spot between my palms and pretty soon I realized the magnet had almost pulled my hands right together. I tried to flex my muscles to see if I could resist the magnet if I tried, but it was way too strong. My hands touched together and then I guess I was just staring at them until I felt a tap on my forehead and everything just totally relaxed. I never felt so totally completely relaxed in my life. I don’t think there’s anything even close to how relaxed I felt as a deeply hypnotized subject.
She snapped her fingers and I looked up. All I saw was bright lights and then I realized I was lying on my back. The hypnotist pulled me up by the arm so I was sitting and turned me around to face the audience but I couldn’t really see them. It was like a really bright light was in my eyes so I couldn’t see anyone but the hypnotist. The hypnotist asked me if I thought I was hypnotized. I said I didn’t think so. Then the hypnotist asked me what would convince me that I was hypnotized. I said, if I were hypnotized, wouldn’t I be asleep? The hypnotist clicked her tongue and said sleep and I rolled my eyes back and just thought about sleep so I could focus on rolling my eyes as hard as I could. The hypnotist asked me if I was hypnotized and I said yes. Then the hypnotist asked how I knew, and I said because I was asleep. Then the hypnotist asked how i was hearing her and talking to her if I was asleep. That was a good question. I didn’t really know so I said it was probably because I was hypnotized. I heard some people laughing. Then the hypnotist said I could go to the deepest level of relaxation I had ever felt when she clicked three times and I wouldn’t wake up until she touched me on the shoulder and if I heard clicks while I was totally deeply relaxed like this they would take me even deeper and if I heard snaps they would lift me up toward the light a little and I would just rock back and forth like a wave totally lost on the ocean. Then she clicked her tongue three times and she tapped my forehead three times and I went to sleep, it felt really good. I knew when I was falling asleep that it was feeling amazing to be totally relaxed and floating on the waves.
The hypnotist touched my shoulder and said that it was morning, bright and early morning and it was warm in the blankets but it’s snowing outside. I stretched and yawned. It was really snowy outside. I almost couldn’t see anything with how thick the snow was blowing. Everything outside looked white. That was just perfect for snowboarding. It didn’t matter if I never did it before because today was a perfect day, everything I do will go perfect. I put on my thick winter jacket and zipped it up, and I put on my thick ski pants, and I put on the heavy snowboarding boots. The lift was just downhill from my cabin door so I just hand to stand up, stand sideways looking down the hill, and I would just start going, slowly at first but getting faster and faster. And the lift was just a little to my left so I leaned left to turn left. Then I leaned back hard to screech to a stop.
Then I sat down so I was on the lift. My feet in the heavy snowboard boots were resting on the safety bar. The wind was really cold and it was blowing the snow all over me. There was snow getting into my jacket, snow getting into my ski pants, even snow getting into my boots, just a bit. The wind was howling cold and it got colder as we went higher up in the air, higher up the mountain. I was shivering so I just held onto the chair as hard as I could. It was scary being up this high in the cold. I was actually kind of terrified if I looked down. The top of the lift was in sight, though, and we were at the top. Looking down the mountain slope, it wasn’t all that steep, but it was steep enough that I could get going fast. So I turned myself sideways and faced down the slope and started going, slowly at first, but getting faster and faster. I turned slowly to the left to follow the trail, then I turned slowly to the right. Then I turned left around a curve and suddenly there was a big moose right in the middle! I went HARD right to swerve around the big moose and I could even smell its moose musk, I went so close by it.
Then there was a nice, long, easy part of the trail that gently curved left, then gently curved right, then gently left. It was smooth sailing. But I was really going pretty fast. And the lodge was coming up in sight. I had to stop but there wasn’t much room. I leaned back to stop but it’s not stopping fast enough, I leaned back even more but there was a bump in the trail it was gonna knock me on my butt no matter what and then bam! I landed on my butt in a big soft pile of freezing snow. It hurt a little but not so much. But maybe that was because of the freezing wet ice soaking into my clothes already. It was soaking into my boots and my jacket and soaking right through my ski pants. I could feel cold wet melted ice water on my neck and running down my back and down my legs and to my toes. I was so so cold from the ice water that I couldn’t even move for a minute as I was just shocked by the fall and the icy cold snow.
Then I sat up, shook myself off and stood up. I had to get into the lodge. I never needed a hot chocolate more than now. I pushed open the door and felt warm air from a flaming fireplace rush me all over. I sat down on a couch by the fire and rubbed my hands and held them up to the warm flames. I took off my jacket and my boots so I could get all warmed up. I stretched out my legs and warmed the soles of my feet, that felt really good. Someone brought me hot chocolate that was incredible, it was steaming hot but I could drink it just like that and I never had tasted anything so rich and perfect. There was an old classical record playing quietly from an old record player and I just kind of zoned out listening to the music and getting warm.
She snapped her fingers and I looked up. Did I fall asleep in the ski lodge? Ski lodge? I blinked and there were a bunch of people looking at me like an audience, like I was on a stage. The hypnotist touched my shoulder and asked me where I was. I didn’t really know, though. The hypnotist asked me what my name was, and I didn’t really know. That was kind of funny, people should know their own name, right? I was laughing kind of hard and I tried to think of what my name was but I couldn’t come up with anything, I was drawing a total blank and the harder I tried to remember the harder I laughed because it was such a weird funny feeling, that no matter how hard I thought I couldn’t think of my name and it just got even funnier. The hypnotist asked me why I couldn’t think of my name and I said because I was high. The hypnotist laughed and said to the class that she hears that a lot - people feel so funny that they think they must be high. Then she snapped her fingers and I looked up and I said my name was Alex. It just came back to me.
Then the hypnotist asked me how I got up here. I didn’t really know that either but she said she would tell me. The hypnotist said that I was in the audience for the hypnosis show and I went into a deep hypnotic trance extremely quickly just from listening to the hypnotist. And when she asked for deeply hypnotized subjects to come to the stage, I came up, because I knew it was true that I was deeply hypnotized. That had to be what happened. Did that really happen? Then I was really deeply hypnotized.
The hypnotist said that I was so deeply hypnotized that she could make me do whatever she wanted just by snapping her fingers. When she snapped her fingers I would look up and focus on her and do what she said just like that. The hypnotist snapped and said, “Bark,” and I barked, then she said “Growl”, and I growled. Then the hypnotist said “Roar” and I was as loud as I could be. Then the hypnotist said I felt exactly like a lion because I was so good at making such a loud roar. I stretched out in the warm savannah sun and licked my paws. Being a lion felt incredible. I was so strong I felt like I could do anything. I clenched my paw to flick out my claws and I scratched the ground to see how sharp they were. They were razor sharp and they left such deep grooves, they were such long and sharp claws. There were twelve of us lions in the pride, we all hunted together. I looked around at the other lions and we were all so powerful. The eyes of the other lions glittered golden & black. Looking into the eyes of another lion was such a rush, because I was a lion too. My claws retracted - the sun was going down on the plains. I curled up around the lion next to me and licked her back. We all went to sleep as the sun went down with a *click* sound.
The hypnotist snapped her fingers and I looked up. I stretched out like I never stretched out before, I had been kind of curled up around Morgan to my surprise. We must have passed out and cuddled up in our sleep. I sat up & shook Morgan’s shoulder. She sort of jerked in place and then she got up slowly. She rubbed her eyes and blinked and looked around, Then she kind of started laughing and then she started laughing harder. She fell over laughing into my lap. I looked around and I saw some other people stretching out and some others starting to get up and walk down from the stage but Morgan was just laughing and laughing.
The hypnotist stepped over and leaned down over Morgan. She picked up Morgan’s hand and snapped her fingers. Morgan sort of jerked in place again and sat up straight, staring directly at the hypnotist. She was still kind of giggling between breaths. The hypnotist asked what she was feeling. “Just silly,” Morgan said. Then she started laughing harder and harder again. The hypnotist jerked her arm and snapped again and Morgan looked up, locking eyes with the hypnotist and still giggling and then - it was kind of weird - her eyes glazed over fast and she looked almost totally zoned out just staring at nothing but she was laughing again, just laughing and laughing. Morgan was being really goofy.
The hypnotist made a *click* sound and tapped Morgan’s forehead. She rolled her eyes back, her eyelids flickering, and she totally slumped over. Her head would’ve hit the ground hard if the hypnotist wasn’t holding her up by the arm. I felt kind of sleepy, because I was a deeply hypnotized subject too, but I didn’t roll my eyes at the *click* sound because it wasn’t time to be hypnotized yet.
The hypnotist lowered Morgan to the ground and leaned down to whisper in her ear. The hypnotist clicked off her mic. She said, “Morgan, you will forget all about being a deeply hypnotized subject for right now. You go instantly into trance focusing on me when I *snap* my fingers and you go instantly into trance rolling your eyes all the way beck when I *click* my tongue and you don’t know why because you totally forget that you’re a deeply hypnotized subject. You totally forget all about this hypnosis show, until I ask you, ‘Are you a deeply hypnotized subject?’ Then you’ll say ‘Yes’, right away, without thinking. And you won’t know why, not even a little - until I tap you on the forehead, like this, and all your memories of this show come rocketing right back into your mind, hitting you like lightning.
“When you think of what happened in this class you hit a blank. When you think of being hypnotized you hit a blank. You came to this show and it was so boring and tiring that you just don’t remember anything at all, you just hit a total blank when you think of being a deeply hypnotized subject. Since you forgot all about this hypnosis show you’re sure it was really boring and you’re sure that hypnosis didn’t work on you at all. When I ask you about the hypnosis show, all you remember is boring empty time and nothing happening at all. And then when I ask you, “Are you a deeply hypnotized subject?” And then you say ‘Yes”, it just pops out of your mouth and you don’t have a clue why you said that. And that might be just the funniest thing on earth.” I could see Morgan starting to giggle again. “And when I tap your forehead, you remember everything bright and clear as a bell.” Then the hypnotist said that Morgan would open her eyes on the count of three, and she would put on her shoes, go to her seat, take her bag, and walk out the door, and then she would go wherever she was going next. The hypnotist stood up, but then she leaned down to Morgan’s ear again and said, “You have an irrepressible urge to eat mangoes. Anything mango flavored will drive you absolutely out of your mind.” The hypnotist counted to three and Morgan sat up and did what the hypnotist said, with an odd, purposeful look in her eyes.
I sat up and realized I didn’t have shoes on either. Weird. I found them and then I followed Morgan as she headed out into the hall. As she went through the door, she kind of stopped as if she just remembered something. I came through the door and it closed behind me. Morgan jumped a bit, and turned around. She looked at me with a funny expression, like she was lost. “Alex?”
“How’re you doing?” I asked.
“The show is over?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Oh. Well, let’s head back, I guess.” She looked a little disappointed.
I was kind of conflicted. Morgan had obviously been really excited about the hypnosis show. She really wanted to be a deeply hypnotized subject. I think she did, anyway, because she was acting kind of funny about it. And I don’t know why the hypnotist told her that she would forget all about it. Wouldn’t other people tell Morgan anyway that she was a deeply hypnotized subject? But the hypnotist probably did it for a reason, so I didn’t say anything.
But I did ask one thing, just to see if she’d really forgotten being a deeply hypnotized subject. “Do you remember the part with the lions?”
She looked at me blankly. “The lions?”
“Yeah. The deeply hypnotized subjects thought they were lions in a pride.”
It really didn’t seem like she remembered anything.
“Yeah, the people who got hypnotized.”
“It didn’t seem like much to me. I wasn’t really that impressed.”
I shrugged. This was kind of crazy. Someone could be a deeply hypnotized subject and not even know it. They wouldn’t even remember it happening if the hypnotist told them to forget being hypnotized. Even someone like Morgan who was pretty well-read on hypnosis.
“Anyway, I’m still feeling kinda blitzed, how about you?”
“I guess,” she said. She was in a really odd mood. I said that I had the munchies, anyway, so we walked across campus through the snow to the street across from campus. I had a half-dozen donuts and a huge diet snapple in mind, but suddenly I realized Morgan wasn’t following me anymore. I looked around and saw her in the window of the frozen yogurt shop we’d just passed. She was filling up a size extra large to the brim with mango. Then she sat down and for a second it looked like she was about to eat it with her face. Then I guess she remembered to get a spoon.
“Morgan,” I whispered. She looked at me, spoon full of mango froyo. “You didn’t pay.”
She turned red and put back her spoon. “Oh my god.” She went and paid and then started eating mango froyo at an alarming pace. I didn’t even get anything for myself, I was just fascinated. She didn’t even get any toppings.
“Uhm..do you want some?” she asked. “It’s so good.” I said I’d be back after picking up a few things. I went and got my donuts at the little place around the corner. While I was waiting I noticed two cans of mango flavored drink - the kind that comes in a nice big can for a dollar.
When I got back to the frozen yogurt shop, Morgan was still eating mango froyo, but somehow it didn’t look like she’d made much of a dent in her cup. “Getting full?” I asked. She looked at me a bit embarrassed. “Third cup,” she whispered. Then she kept eating.
“I feel like I should cut you off.” She looked at me with daggers. I put the mango drinks on the table and her eyes lit up. She reached out for one but I grabbed them first. “These are for at home!” She looked annoyed for a moment, but then she finished her mango froyo. She looked caught in indecision for a moment with her empty cup, but then she decided the drinks were more appealing than more froyo.
We walked back over to my apartment and flopped down on the couch. I was pretty exhausted by this point, and really hungry. I took a bit of a coconut crunch donut and sipped my mango drink. Morgan was already somehow done with her mango drink.
“I’m going to order some stuff. You shouldn’t eat just donuts.” I admitted this was probably true. I finished my donut while Morgan filled her cart. “Okay, I’m done, do you want anything Alex?” She sounded kind of in a hurry. “I could go for a few apples. Fuji. Oh, and some green tea.” After a moment, she said “Thirty minutes.”
Morgan came over to the couch and wolfed a donut. She had a faraway look.
“This is weird.”
“I don’t know. The…show thing.”
“What about it?”
“I don’t know! That’s the weird thing, I was really excited about it and then I guess it was kind of disappointing. I just don’t even really remember anything from it. When I try to think about like, what kind of hypnosis it was, I just draw a blank. Did…was there hypnosis? Like did she hypnotize people? Do you remember?”
“Well, yeah, I guess.”
“Well what did she do? This is so weird, I can’t remember it at all. Maybe the cookies were a stupid idea.”
“Well…she asked people to hold out their hands like this.” I held out my hands and laced my fingers together. “Then the hypnotist said to imagine our hands were stuck together, that they were stiff like steel and we couldn’t get them apart no matter how hard we tried.” My hands felt almost like before. I tried to get them apart but I couldn’t. It was such a crazy feeling. I really really couldn’t get them apart even if I gave it everything.
“Uhm, my hands are stuck together.”
“Try snapping your fingers.”
Morgan rolled her eyes but she did *snap* her fingers. But it didn’t work. I tried even harder to get my hands apart but it still didn’t work.
“Oh. Hold on. Say ‘pop’ and snap your fingers.”
“Are you kidding?”
“Can you just do it?”
“Fine, whatever. *Pop!*”
My hands came apart like a popper went off in the middle.
“You can’t be serious. Is that something that happened in the show?”
“Yeah.” I shook my hands. That was honestly scary.
“So your hands got stuck together like that? While we were sitting in the audience?”
“What about mine? I don’t remember that happening at all.”
“I guess I don’t know. I was just focusing on my hands, I guess.”
Morgan leaned back on the couch. “I feel like it’s weird I can’t remember anything. I hope I don’t have like, brain damage.”
“Well, can you remember what we did before the show?”
“Yeah, we went to the library cafe and you ordered “two really big coffees,” or something. Then I burned my mouth really bad drinking it.”
“Right, and after?”
“We went to the frozen yogurt place and I had some mango frozen yogurt. It felt really good because I burned my mouth so I had kind of a lot. Then you came back with donuts and we came back here.”
“Right. Well, your memory seems fine other than the show.”
Morgan got a strange look in her eye. She sat up & crossed her langs and held out her hands like I had, and laced her fingers together. “Say it again. Say what the hypnotist said.”
“Hm. Hold your hands really tight, and tighter, and tighter. Imagine the hands of steel statue. Don’t they really feel stuck? *Snap* focus on me. Try to get your hands apart. Look at your hands and isn’t that crazy? They’re really stuck together. Try as hard as you can to get them apart.”
Morgan was staring fixedly at her hands. I could see the muscles in her hands flexing and I could see her jaw clenching. It really did look like she was trying to get them apart but they were stuck together. So I clicked my tongue just like the hypnotist had done. What happened was kind of scary. Morgan rolled her eyes back but her eyes didn’t close. All I could see was the white. I said “Pop” and snapped my fingers. Morgan’s hands shot apart and she looked at me with the most curious expression.
The doorbell rang. Morgan jumped up and went out the door & down the hall and was back with the delivered goods in her arms before I had time to react. She set them down on the coffee table and sat back on the couch with a sachet of dried mango and a carton of mango juice.
“I think I could’ve gotten my hands apart if I had more time.”
“That’s what I thought, too.”
“But I really don’t remember anything like that happening at the show.”
“Well, what do you remember happening?”
“Not really anything. Like I remember going in and sitting down but I’m just drawing a blank on what happened next.”
I was torn. “Maybe you blocked it out. Like if it was really stressful.”
“I don’t think I would do that.”
“You were really nervous before the show, though.”
“I wouldn’t call it nervous. Just weird.”
“What about just now?”
“What *about* just now?”
“Your hands got stuck together and were stuck together.”
“Well, only for a little bit.”
“Yeah, until I snapped my fingers and said pop. And before that when I clicked my tongue, you rolled your eyes back.”
“Well, why did you do that?”
“I don’t know, you were hypnotizing me.”
“Is that always something a deeply hypnotized subject does?”
“Yes. Everyone knows that.”
The doorbell rang again. Morgan came back with what I assumed was a mango smoothie. Her phone buzzed and she glanced at it and looked a bit shocked. “It’s my professor. She’s asking if I can come in and tell her what I thought of the show.”
“Yeah. And like quick because she wants to leave at 6.”
“And she says to bring the guy I was next to, if I knew him, because she didn’t recognize him.”
“Am I in trouble?” Or are you?”
“I doubt it. I feel like there were a lot more people there than in a normal class. There were probably a lot of people just there for the show.”
“Well, I guess I’ll go. I don’t want them going and tracking me down on the security tapes or something, geez. Do we like, look okay?”
“Do you get like red eyes or whatever from edibles?”
“I think so.” We put on our jackets & boots and looked at ourselves in the mirror on the back of the door. “I think we look great.”
“I look tired as fuck.” Morgan did, a bit, but not in an out-of-the-ordinary way.
We headed back across campus in the fading sunlight. I followed Morgan down a few hallways, and we came to an open door. Morgan knocked and I followed her in. The professor was sitting at her desk, and the hypnotist was sitting to her right. The only place for us to sit was on the couch at her left. I was a bit nervous to be sitting facing the hypnotist again. She could make deeply hypnotized subjects do anything she said and not even remember it afterward.
“Thanks for coming. So, what did you think?”
“I mean, I don’t know. Somehow I’m drawing a blank on most of it, so I think it must have been kind of underwhelming.
“You were paying attention, weren’t you? Not on your phone?”
“No, I was! I was watching the whole time. I just, when I think of what I remember from the show, I just draw a blank.”
The hypnotist spoke up. “It’s nice to meet you in person. Out of character. My actual name is Gracik. Jessica Gracik.”
The hypnotist sipped a mug of coffee then set it down on the professor’s desk.
“I apologize that you can’t seem to recall any of my show. I must not be very interesting.”
“No, it’s not that. I must just have not been very interested. It was like, cool, overall, but I’m just drawing a blank on the details.”
“Are you a deeply hypnotized subject?”
“Yes.” Morgan blinked.
“Give me your hand. Let me try something.”
Morgan held out her hand toward the hypnotist..She looked utterly confused. The hypnotist shook her hand but instead of letting go she pulled herself toward Morgan and tapped her on the forehead. Morgan’s eyes went wide and she started giggling like a loon.
“What the fuck?” Morgan gasped, and went red. The hypnotist was still shaking her hand, then she tugged it and *clicked* her tongue. I wanted to roll my eyes back but I also wanted to see what Morgan did. Her eyes were totally rolled back so I could see the whites again and she was laughing like she was really drunk. The hypnotist didn’t say anything but kept shaking Morgan’s hand. Then the hypnotist said, “Relax.” I had to let my eyes roll back and I relaxed completely. The last thing I saw was the hypnotist dropping Morgan’s hand on her lap while Morgan slumped over to the side. The hypnotist touched my shoulder and told me that I would be totally out of hypnosis when she let go of my shoulder, wouldn’t do anything at a snap or a click or anything else, unless the hypnotist was touching my shoulder, and then I would be a deeply hypnotized subject just like before.
Then the hypnotist snapped her fingers and I looked up. Then the hypnotist let go of my shoulder. The hypnotist asked Morgan if she thought she was hypnotized right now. Morgan said, “Not really.”
“What happens if you take a deep breath in, *click* - do you feel any different right now.”
Morgan’s eyes were rolled back white again. “I suppose a little.” Morgan’s voice sounded distant.
“*click* Relax - do you feel any different now?”
Morgan’s eyes were closed and fluttering. It looked like she was fighting to wake up from a dream. The hypnotist took Morgan’s hand and held it in the air.
The hypnotist clicked her tongue and said “Sleep.” At the same time she tapped Morgan on the forehead and tugged her arm. Morgan’s head rolled back on the couch. She was facing me and she looked absolutely zonked, like completely passed out.
The hypnotist said to Morgan that she would instantly be ready to be a deeply hpnotized subject whenever she said to someone, “Hypnotize me.” Morgan was such a perfect deeply hypnotized subject that anyone could hypnotize her if she said to them, “Hypnotize me.” If a deeply hypnotized subject like Morgan says to someone, “Hypnotize me,” Morgan would respond to snap and click sounds just the same as right here and right now. And anyone that Morgan thought would be a good hypnotist, that she trusted, she would really want to say to them, “Hypnotize me,” and be ready to be a deeply hypnotized subject.
Then the hypnotist put her hand on my shoulder. The hypnotist said that Morgan needed to be hypnotized deeply by someone she trusted. When Morgan asked me to hypnotize her, I would click my tongue and say sleep. It would be wonderful for Morgan to be hypnotized by someone she really trusted, so there was no way I would break that trust or do anything that could make her upset. I would just hypnotize her and have her do something silly, anything silly I got the idea to. Then the hypnotist snapped my fingers and I looked up. Then she took her hand off my shoulder.
“Thank you both,” the professor cut in. Morgan was blinking next to me. “I have to head out and I really appreciate you coming.”
We walked back down the halls. “That was interesting.”
“I’m still processing. So…I was hypnotized?”
“I think we were both hypnotized.”
“Yeah, no, I remember that now. Jesus, I was really on stage hypnotized in front of the whole class? Oh my god.”
“I thought it was fun.”
“Well yeah but oh my god! Everyone is going to roast me. And I never thought, like, I mean I knew hypnosis could work on everybody. But I didn’t know how fast it would be. Like If I think about the start of the show I was hypnotized so fast. I didn’t even realize it was happening. And at the end she told me to forget everything and I did just like that. And I’ve been eating all this mango stuff because she told me mango is really good. I mean she’s totally right. Mango is delicious.”
We went inside my room and sat down. I didn’t say anything and Morgan started eating a mango popsicle from the freezer. “Mango is really good. I mean I always liked mango.”
“Yeah, but like, this much? You’ve been eating mango things like crazy.”
“I’m hungry. We’re stoned. I’m just saying, I don’t think it’s *all* what she said. I was going to be craving something and just ended up fixating on mango because she happened to mention it.”
“I’m not really seeing the distinction here.”
“I suppose it’s subtle.”
Morgan finished her mango popsicle.
“Alex, I want you to hypnotize me.”
“To do what?”
“I mean, whatever. Something silly. Or just something to prove to me that I am hypnotized. Because I still don’t - like, I remember it, but I sort of can’t believe that it really happened. So will you - “ I clicked my tongue and said, “Sleep.” Morgan’s eyes rolled back and she collapsed over sideways into the couch.
This was interesting. How could I prove to Morgan that she was hypnotized? With the mangoes, she wouldn’t really admit that the hypnotic suggestion was working. And to be fair, she was sort of right - she was probably going to get the munchies one way or another, and the suggestion just gave her something to fixate on in that regard. It wasn’t like she’d hated mangoes before or anything.
“I’m going to count to three, and you’ll sit up, totally awake, but you won’t be able to open your eyes. No matter how hard you try, your eyes are stuck closed. I’m welding them shut right now - make sure your eyes are closed tight!” I traced my finger over each of Morgan’s eyelids and made a “bzzzzzht” sound. As I made the sound, I felt her eyelids twitch rapidly under my finger. “One, two, three.”
Morgan sat up with her eyes closed. “Morgan, can you open your eyes?”
“I’m really tired. I think I’m kind of crashing.”
“Just try to open your eyes.” I could see her working the little muscles of her eyelids and clenching her jaw. “So you can’t open them, right?”
“I’m just really tired.”
I looked in the basket of groceries that Morgan had ordered for something to tempt her.
“If you can open your eyes, I’ll give you this mango cream cake.” I could see Morgan working her eyelids even harder, but getting no further. “Don’t you want this delicious mango cream cake? You just have to open your eyes. Try pulling your eyelids up with your fingers.”
Using her fingertips, Morgan managed to pull her eyelids up a little bit, but all I could see was the whites. After she tried a couple different directions, she said, “I’m just really fucking tired dude. Just give me the cake.”
“How are you going to eat it with your eyes closed?”
“I’ll smell it, I don’t know. I eat in the dark all the time. Gimme!” She reached searchingly in my approximate direction, feeling blindly around on the table. I took her left arm by the wrist, clicked my tongue, and said “Sleep,” and I watched Morgan slump over on the couch again, totally out.
I pulled her arm out straight and told her that her arm was locked in place. It was totally stiff like steel, frozen rigid and solid until the next time I said “Relax.” Then I took her right arm and pulled it up next to her left and repeated myself. I put the mango cream cake in her hands and closed her fingers around it.
“One, two, and three. Wake up and open your eyes.” Morgan blinked awake and sat up.
“Hey, you opened your eyes!”
“I just needed a nap, I guess.” Morgan’s arms were locked in place, holding the mango cake out in front of her.
“Why are you holding that cake?”
“No, why are you holding it like that?”
Morgan blinked. “I’m going to eat it.”
I watched as she craned her neck toward the cake, and when that failed, she waved it up & down and back & forth. “Are you?”
“Yes.” She sat there for a couple moments staring at the cake. “Can you get it for me?”
“Sure,” I said. I took the cake from her hands, opened the package, and took a bite.
“Would you like some?”
“Well, here you go.” I held the cake out toward her, but she couldn’t open her hands to take it.
“Morgan, something seems to be wrong with your arms.”
“I’m just tired.”
“Your arms go stiff when you’re tired?”
“I’ve heard of it happening. When someone is extremely tired out, their muscles can spasm or go rigid or do all sorts of things.”
“Sure, but…has that happened to you before?”
“I don’t think so. But I am really tired.”
“I think you need to relax.” Morgan blinked as her arms suddenly flexed. She looked at her hands in confusion and then snatched the mango cake.
“See? I’m fine.” I couldn’t tell if she was goofing or not. Obviously the things she was experiencing were out of the ordinary. But maybe that was part of hypnosis - everything seemed totally normal to a deeply hypnotized subject, no matter how strange things really were. Or Morgan was having a laugh. Or, for some reason, she wanted me to prove undeniably that she was a deeply hypnotized subject who would follow hypnotic suggestions whether or not she was aware of them.
First I had to make sure that Morgan was deeply and completely hypnotized - so deep in hypnosis that she wouldn’t consciously remember any suggestions. I wasn’t exactly sure how to accomplish this with certainty, though. After Morgan finished her cake, I clicked my tongue. Her eyes rolled back and I just let her hang there. I wondered how long she would sit there, eyes rolled back & fluttering, waiting for me to say something.
I stepped around behind Morgan and put my hands on her shoulders and said, “Relax.”
Then I asked, “Morgan, are you a deeply hypnotized subject?”
“Morgan, are you hypnotized right now?”
“...hypnotized? I don’t know.”
“Morgan, in a moment, I’ll tap you on the forehead like this.” I tapped her in the center of her forehead. “When I do, your thoughts will go completely blank. You won’t be able to think of a single word. When I ask you a question, your head will nod automatically to answer the question before you can think anything at all, because your thoughts are totally blank. And when you are totally blank like this, anything that I suggest to you fills your mind completely and becomes absolute truth for you instantly. When you’re totally blank like this, you are too blank to write down anything in your memory. When I wake you up, you’ll just draw a complete blank on what happened after I tapped you. When I ask you if you remember being hypnotized, it will be like there’s a thick white cloud filling the inside of your head, and you won’t be able to think of anything at all. One, two, three, and - “ I tapped her forehead - “Blank.
“Morgan, are you a deeply hypnotized subject?”
She nodded her head yes.
“Morgan, does hypnosis make you nervous?”
After a moment, she nodded yes.
“Morgan, do you like to be a deeply hypnotized subject?”
She nodded yes.
“Morgan, right now you’re in a classroom, and there’s going to be a hypnosis demonstration. My name is Alex the hypnotist. Would you like to experience hypnosis? Raise your hand if you want to be hypnotized.” Morgan raised her hand.
“I can hypnotize you with just a snap of my fingers. Right now I want you to think of a very handsome and proud lioness. She’s the queen of the savannah. Her fur is golden and radiant in the sun, her claws are long and sharp, and she’s rippling with strength and power. She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” Morgan nodded yes.
“When I snap my fingers, that’s who you’ll be. You’ll be a lion. You’ll stretch out your terribly strong arms and you’ll yawn like you’ve never yawned before, because you’ve just been napping in the hot savannah sun. And do you know what lions like the most?” Morgan shook her head no.
“Lions love to get scratched behind the years. When a lion gets scratched behind the ears, she turns into a big pussycat, even though she’s terribly big and strong. It’s a good thing I know that, or I might be in a lot of trouble. Doesn’t it seem nice to be a lion?” Morgan nodded yes.
I snapped my fingers and Morgan opened her eyes and stretched out as far as she could and yawned a huge yawn. She looked around with a glazed look and ran her tongue over her teeth. She fixed her eyes on me, behind her, with a confident & hungry look. I moved my hand from her shoulder and scratched her behind her ear. Her eyes half-closed, and I think she tried to purr, although it sounded more like a deep “hhhhhhhhh.”
I stepped around the couch & sat down next to Morgan. She stretched out into my lap and languidly licked her paws. I mean, her hands. I kept scratching her. “Hhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” Then, “grmlgrmlgrmlgrml.” Not wanting a hungry lion on my hands, I texted my friend Max.
Hey, I’ve got a craving for a fat Reuben. You want to put anything on my order? Carlson’s Diner.
Really, I was hoping I could get Max to pick up the delivery. I was concerned that if I left Morgan by herself she might scratch her fingers raw on the table legs.
My phone pinged. Damn, fucking nice timing. I need a fucking big ass bacon burger. And Jessica wants a turkey club on pumpernickel with no mayo, no tomato and two pickles.
Get on over here then. It’ll be here in 20.
I ordered a Reuben for myself, plus a New York strip, rare, with no sides. My phone pinged. Sweet omw.
I kept scratching Morgan until the door buzzer rang. I eased out from under Morgan & buzzed Max in. As soon as I stopped scratching her, she got a scary look in her eye. I sat back down on the couch next to her but didn’t scratch her. Max knocked and I told him to come in. He had the delivery in his hand. “Met the dude at the door. Smells like steak.”
Morgan raised up on her front paws and looked at Max with a hungry curiosity. Her nostrils flared. She could smell the steak too. In one impressively athletic movement she coiled back on her legs and launched herself off the couch. She got Max right in the chest and knocked him on his butt in the hallway. “Jesus! Morgan, what the hell?” Morgan just ran her tongue over her teeth and eyed Max all over.
I hurried over and reached around to Morgan’s forehead and tapped her and clicked my tongue. She went totally loose and collapsed onto Max. “Morgan, lions love steak.” I snapped my fingers. Morgan opened her eyes and raised herself up on her paws again, looking right at Max’s neck. She raked her not-so-sharp claws down the front of Max’s shirt.
I found the container labeled “Steak and nothing” and opened it just next to Max’s throat where Morgan would see it. Her eyes lit up and she grabbed it with both paws and started gnawing. Max looked stunned. “You guys are into some freaky shit.”
“We were at this hypnosis thing today. Morgan got hypnotized.”
“So now she’s a lion?”
“Well, I did that. The hypnotist showed me how to do hypnosis on her.”
“Okay, so you’re into some freaky shit, like I said.”
“If you say so. It’s pretty fun.”
Steak juice was dripping on Max’s shirt. I scratched Morgan gently behind the ear and eased her off Max so she could curl up with her steak on the rug. The rest of us ate like regular humans. Jessica hadn’t said anything the entire time - she just watched Morgan gnaw at the rather large steak, wide-eyed.
Max finished first. “So, like…how long is she a lion for?”
“You know, I don’t really know. That’s an interesting question.”
“Is she, like, really hypnotized or whatever though? Or is she just pretending?”
“That’s - well, that’s a hard question to answer. But I experienced hypnosis during the thing too, so I can say that it does feel pretty weird. Like, different from pretending. But I can’t really prove it to you.”
“I mean, unless you hypnotized me, I guess.”
“I guess. But I don’t know how to do it. I’m just doing what the hypnotist did, after we were already hypnotized to start with. There was a lot of stuff at the beginning of the show that I don’t remember all that well.”
“You’ve got me curious now. It seems fun to be a lion. Like, to really believe that. At least it seems weird. Like being on drugs, but for free.”
“Yeah, it’s wild.”
Morgan had finished her steak and was lounging on the rug. How long would she stay a lion? I clicked my tongue and said, “The sun’s really warm, and lions love napping in the sun.” Then I snapped my fingers.
Morgan stretched all the way out, yawned a huge yawn, curled up, and closed her eyes. It seemed like she was asleep, but her tongue was still running over her fangs. I mean, her teeth. And her hands were curling & uncurling slightly, in the weirdest way, like she thought she was sheathing & unsheathing claws. Was…was she having lion dreams?
I thought back to the class show where I’d been hypnotized. It didn’t seem like it had taken very long at all, but I didn’t remember enough specifics to start from scratch with someone. If only I’d recorded audio during the first part. I wondered if Morgan remembered it better. She was usually sharper at that, and don’t people sometimes go under hypnosis to improve their memories? I clicked my tongue.
“Morgan, you’re talking in your sleep, and you’re having a dream where you’re back at the hypnosis show from earlier. We just went into class and sat down. Can you tell me how the show started?” Morgan nodded yes, but didn’t say anything.
“It’s okay if you don’t remember, I just wanted to know.” Morgan shook her head no. “So you do remember?” She nodded yes. “But you can’t say it?” After a pause, Morgan stretched in her sleep, and cupped her hands to her lips like she was about to whisper a secret. “I recorded it.”
“On your phone?”
“Mmhmm.” she nodded. “Secret app.”
I really wanted to hear it, but having her unlock her phone seemed like crossing a line. I already felt kind of bad for drawing this out of her, since she hadn’t told me before about a recording. I had only asked if she remembered the show, though. I’d have to ask her about it later.
I’d forgotten Jessica was on the other end of the couch. “Wiat, so, like, hypnosis is real?”
“Maybe. I went into hypnosis too. It felt pretty real. But then again, we were kinda high.”
“I think that makes you kind of an unreliable source.”
“Maybe so. But most of the people on stage weren’t. Probably.”
“They could’ve been just going along with it.”
“Sure. I mean, I can’t really prove anything to you like this.”
“So you’re saying I have to try it.”
“Well, sure. But I don’t really know how.”
“But Morgan has a recording.”
“I’m not sure if that’s going to work. The hypnotist was like, asking us to look at her hands and stuff a lot of the time.”
“So we just have to put on the recording, and then you do what the hypnotist did.”
“...Sure, but I don’t know if I’ll get it quite right.”
“Come on. It’s not a demonic ritual. Satan’s not gonna come through the mirror if you say the magic words wrong.”
“That’s not…whatever. I guess we could try it.”
Jessica clapped her hands. “Morgan! Wake up or whatever!”
Morgan stretched, yawned scarily wide, and rolled over. I clicked my tongue. “Morgan, take a deep breath right now and get ready to wake up. Eyes open on the count of three - one, two, and three.” I snapped my fingers.
Morgan blinked and sat up. She looked at me, then at Max & Jessica. She blinked again. I guess she didn’t remember them coming it. Then she looked down at her hands, which were still bloody with steak juice. Then she looked up at me again, scared, like she thought she must’ve stabbed someone. I was dying inside but kept from laughing. “What’s up? We had lunch. You had steak. You ate with your hands.”
Jessica cut in. “So Morgan, you recorded the hypnosis show? I wanna try it!”
Morgan blinked and went a bit white. “I uhm. That’s, I don’t remember.” She glanced nervously at me and I knew something was wrong. “I feel sick.”
“Probably the whole dripping steak you ate,” said Max.
“Yeah. That sounds right. I’m uhm, I think I need to lie down, like with the lights off.”
I looked at Max, then looked at the door, and he got the hint. “...Well, we’ll see you guys. Thanks for lunch. Well, unless I get sick too.” Jessica said to call her if Morgan needed any help, and they left. Morgan went into the bathroom.
“Are you alright?” No answer. After a minute or so I knocked on the door. “Morgan?”
The door flew open. “Alex, that wasn’t fucking okay. Do not fucking do that ever again.”
“I - we were doing hypnosis. I thought we were in private. I didn’t know anyone else was here. Then I open my eyes and those two assholes are staring at me like I’m a freakshow. Jesus christ. I was about to puke.”
“Wait, Max and Jessica?”
“I don’t mean they’re assholes. But you are.”
“Morgan, I didn’t - “ the door slammed again.
I sat down on the couch. I guess it was kind of rude to make Morgan look goofy. But we’d just been at a show where we did basically that in front of a hundred people. The bathroom door jerked open again. Morgan pointedly didn’t look at me while she picked up her jacket and backpack and headed for the door as I stood up. “Morgan, I’m sorry that I - “
“Do not fucking follow me or I will cut you.” I sat down again.
“I didn’t know that you - “ the door slammed.
I fucked everything up. For a few hours I tried to distract myself with some assignments but it didn’t take. At least I had vodka. I practiced guitar until my fingers bled and I couldn’t read the tabs. I was so shit, and the vodka wasn’t helping. “Shplendid isholation, I don’t need no one…” Fucking fuck.