"Ok, that's new," Webster spoke aloud to his friend who'd just offered the challenge to him. They stood in the middle of a grocery store aisle, shopping for an upcoming party.
"So your interest is piqued?" Nino said, half-asking, half-confirming.
"Yeah, consider me interested," he said in reaction to her self-imposed word challenge.
"Nino, come on man. No one wants the cream-spinach dip, just put it back."
His friend looked at him slightly cross for working another male reference towards her. "I want it, and you didn't even ask them about it."
"Because I, we know it's not wanted."
"When's the last time you even tried it?"
"When I was a kid; tasted really nasty to me."
"And now that you're a grown-up, don't y-actually, never mind. Scratch that last statement."
The duo made it out to the closest grocery super-store off-campus. Unfortunately it was an hour-drive away, but it had the best stuff; no one would come to a party filled with stuff they could get at the local corner store. The duo volunteered to make the drive out; it was a given as they got along the best among their group of friends/party planners. They were both wordsmiths and could challenge and keep each other entertained for hours. With a name like Webster, the college sophomore was dubbed a geek from day 1 of grade school, and proudly took on the role of brainiest kid in school, using words even some teachers didn't know. Nino the junior, or Ninochka as she was called in Yugoslavia, inexplicably gravitated toward English in her upbringing, and combined that with her social, chatty nature to become fluent well before she emigrated to America for an English-language degree, which was also Webster's major of course.
"So is there a minimum word count this time, or timed?"
"Timed this time," she sweetly chimed in her accent.
"Awfully confident aren't we?"
"Why shouldn't I be? I was always great with homonyms."
"This coming from the girl who had trouble spelling the word two nights ago. Would you like some humus with your homonyms?"
He showed her a package of his favorite dip.
"Sure on the humus. You know, even the brightest minds can slip when they come close to burning themselves out on finals, finals I aced in case you've forgotten. How did that Biology test go?"
"Two words that always say more than enough. More tortilla chips?"
"Nah, we've got like three bags already, and I know the others bought more earlier. I'd stick to worrying about this challenge you've got going. You've lost the last three challenges, which I remember were because of your missteps."
"Well, prepare to have that inadvertent winning streak broken as I regale you with a lovely story."
Pushing their shopping cart through the store, other than picking out things they thought would be good for the party, the wordsmiths kept their focus on each other.
"This is the story of a girl who shone like no other, shown early how bright she was. One day, she met a boy who was weak... every day of the week. He was a male who rarely got, heh, mail, a him barely worthy of a hymn. Except for his talent with words where he would accept no defeat. Then he met the girl and was left in a daze for days. Her looks-"
"Didn't she die after using so much dye, while her locks still looked liked lox?" he jokingly interrupted, pointing at her salmon-colored curls.
"You'd do well to not interrupt when a girl can wield..uh...a wheeled weapon." Nino turned the cart abruptly to clip the side of Webster's leg a little.
"Witch," he spat in mock-anger.
"And you ought to be careful, for this girl really is a witch which you have much to learn about. A lesson to lessen your grave misconceptions. These locks hold the beauty of a view of...heh, Scottish Lochs. She is constantly amused at his err of possessing an air of confidence. His skills about as impressive as being able to pare a pear, yet believing he and the girl are an equal pair. The subtly of a boar that bore little significance. Try as he might..."
"Why do I get the feeling you're going to confuse homonyms with homophones more than you expe-?" he tried interrupting.
"The word witch which stands before the weakly boy of a weekly basis shone her wisdom upon he whom was shown the value of listening."
She'd moved past the cart to bring their faces only inches apart from each other, returning her own interruption in such a rapid-fire pace that both were momentarily confused. Unlike her occasional pausing to parse and find the right words she wanted to use, there was no hesitation in unleashing that statement. And without thinking, Nino had intoned 'listening' almost as an emphasized command, a suggestion that replaced any new significant ideas to be had in his mind. Webster's disorientation lasted longer while Nino took advantage of her more attentive audience to immerse him fully into her story she continued smoothly from her thought-breaking assertion.
"Try as he might, every session was another form of cession. On his own, any rematch was a seeding that grew into yet another inevitable ceding. He needed to birth a new strategy, to berth himself to victory. But he had no council to speak to, no one to counsel him. Left for days in a daze of comprehending her dominance. In the end, there was no denying that he had to know her better. He could no longer feign his own strength and was fain to study her. The course he'd chosen left him in disgust as he endlessly discussed alternatives until his mental voice became coarse. His pride forcibly pried from within, taking an ax to any acts of resisting his path. His ascent was an assent to becoming her shadow, a guest in her life of which she guessed was a new strategy of his. But she spoke aloud that she allowed his company. He would watch her raptly, still like wood, unaware of time or watch on his wrist. Her prose like riding a smooth ferry, exceptional amongst pros, wearing the impish smile of a magical fairy. The girl gave him peace of mind, in exchange for a piece of his mind."
At that point she'd happily given up the facade of coming up with a story about conditional story-telling on the fly, and let her practiced, earnest story carry him off into her imagination. Nino wished that Webster was small enough to fit in the child's seat, just so he could be off his feet and staring at and listening to her entirely. Despite not having that ideal emplacement, things were still workable for what she wanted. It was evening where they were, yet surprisingly only a few people roamed the aisles. She'd brought both his hands to rest on the shopping cart's handle where she could keep up with his pace and help set it for her needs, as their pace would eventually slow down. She could grab things quietly off the shelves while keep him occupied. Most importantly was the fact that he was still focused on her words, to make sure that she was staying within the bounds of her challenge, while she could make sure that he was in the bounds of her engrossing story.
"The girl never told him exactly how she tolled on his mind, but the odd realization awed him thoroughly. She was a bard that barred willpower, prolonged exposure meant the boy became a baron only to his barren mind. She loved homonyms, orally repeated sounds heard aurally that would herd through him, becoming too influential to ignore. His auricle was an oracle, revealing his aural thrown to her oral throne. The girl was the principal of the boy's principle."
Webster and Nino took slow steps through the store aisles, mostly forgoing the groceries for a nice bout of clever story-telling. Every homonym she used per sentence was spoken like a rhythmic drum-beat. Sounds around them were ignored except for the pleasant muzak in the background, which actually helped things along. Her beat didn't follow any specific measure, yet it was constant enough that he subconsciously anticipated every next repetitive sound she made. Nino's slightly accented voice occasionally emphasized certain words that allowed his subconscious to expect the repetition, and other times he was caught off-guard as pronunciations he didn't expect to hear twice hit him. Either way, the promise of being influenced from the tenet of her story was kept. The Yugoslavian word-witch loved to be able to share her story with one of the few people she knew would understand every word and take them to heart, and also deeper in his mind than he ever expected.
"Thoughts of her would vary, until they became something very different. The sight of her made him cite different feelings, at any site she wished. Girls often alter boys thoughts, making anyplace near them an altar. The weakly boy of a weekly basis found himself idle before his word-witch of an idol. A overpowering symbol, like a crashing percussive cymbal."
An acquaintance between the pair, Allison, was a friend to both of them. Webster knew her from high school as they briefly dated. Allison tutored Nino with her psych homework, and they became fast friends. Nino's obvious love of wordplay got Allison to introduce her to Webster, from which a competitive sort of friendship started almost immediately. Allison thought it would go further, but Webster never caught on to Nino being interested in more than friends. After talking about it in-depth, Allison was happy to help Nino out, relaying times she practiced hypnosis on him, and what he responded to. Visualizations of idols, things or people to look up to, seemed particularly appealing to him and helped him go deeper into his own led subconscious. Nino was happy to lead him in her own way with such imagery. It also helped that Allison allowed Nino to sample some trances for herself; as she watched Webster slowly succumb to the story, she had a good sense of what he was feeling and understood the placated, peaceful look on his face as they slowly strolled through the aisles.
"Taking in the girl's magnificence was a mountain to climb, worth braving through its lower clime. The weather would not determine whether he would scale it. An assent to ascent her heights. Stifled objections he did not heed for the journey he'd chosen. His lone journey wasn't as such, given a loan in the form of whispers. It spoke like a prophet, allowing him to profit by advancing. His mind in a mist, but he never missed a correct step. Body like lead, but still helplessly, easily led. A small voice would warn him to not tire himself, like a tire becomes worn. But the feat was completed as her voice kept his feet moving."
She eyed Mountain Dew in the beverage aisle with her peripheral vision, half-inspired by her story, but decided against it. She knew someone else would pick it up in town, as much as her friends loved it.
"The mountain's peak was merely a peek at her power. The breadth of her tier brought a tear to his eye. There was no ceiling to the word-witch, whom sealing boy's fates was second nature. Ere she was done with him, the weakly boy of a weekly basis would become an heir to knowing her glory, a prophet whose profit was to know and be near her. His auricle was an oracle, revealing his aural thrown to her oral throne. The girl was the principal of the boy's principle."
Nino repeated the last bit from earlier with an un-erasable smile as she knew what it was doing to Webster, knowing she'd use that phrasing again. Her smile was infected more and more by his own dreamy one, just imagining what he was seeing in his head.
"Rays of radiance seemed to raise him above the clouds. A census might say his senses were overtaken. So high from merely facing the girl and hearing her say..."
Nino stopped the cart by pulling it back from forward motion with one hand, and guiding his face to look at her.
"'Hi,'" she spoke in a breathy tone of voice, channeling the girl she'd created for her story. He looked at her and just saw the Nino he was used to at first, but with a clarity contrasting the haze surrounding her. She wasted no time in imprinting his idea of this girl into his perception of his friend.
"The word witch which stands before the weakly boy of a weekly basis shone her wisdom upon he whom was shown the value of listening. And he should listen, hearing no lies as to where he lies now."
She'd maneuvered the pair so by the time they stopped, she filled his eyes and ears. They were in the back of the store, away from as many people as possible. Of anyone that did happen to see them or get close, no one gave them a second thought.
"The boy wondered 'how could this be?', mind buzzing like the pollinating bee. Thoughts fuzzy, sleepy, bare, not dissimilar from the hibernating bear. A feeling as sweet as honey, deeply wanting to be called 'honey'. He would whine near her as if drunk on wine, swimming in a current of red currant, a melodious groan reflecting how she'd grown on him. There was no filter for the philter swimming through every vein, from then on resisting her in vain. But her effect was bound to affect more than just one silly boy."
"If she really wanted, there would be teeming masses teaming up for subservience, her soles propped up atop love-sick souls. But she desired only one, the boy too stubborn to realize he hadn't lost, but really won. What holds you back, you won't have to wait any longer for that weight to be lifted from you. A bolder step, to unchain yourself from the boulder known as willpower. What good is it when your 'steel' resolve was such a steal for my bedazzling wit? Let me be the vial to those vile, resistant thoughts. Your timid ego can heal, just from my command for you to 'heel,' granted the sweet privilege of remaining in my verbal suite. This is the hour where our fates meet, with no mete in our way. Do you want to be the bald, old man who bawled his eyes out at night, missing the chance to be my knight? Or would you move forward with me, letting me write the foreword of a new beginning for you? I mean, you wouldn't mind your mind being used, do you? Stationary while used like stationery. It's my right to write something special in you, your rite of passage into a new, budding relationship."
As Webster blankly stared at the story-teller, lost in her own dialog, she had realized that she'd stopped using indirect pronouns and was talking specifically about them. He didn't seem to notice; his mind was still paying attention to her words, reacting to them instead of analyzing them. Though she posed a question, she already had an answer in that wordless, still-infectious smile of his. With all the rest of the pretenses out of the way, she held his face and primed his mind for the kill.
"The word witch which stands before the weakly boy of a weekly basis shone her wisdom upon he whom is shown the value of listening. His auricle was an oracle, revealing his aural thrown to her oral throne. The girl was the principal of the boy's principle. Ninochka, the word witch which stands before the weakly Webster of a weekly basis shone her wisdom upon he whom is shown the value of listening. His auricle was an oracle, revealing his aural thrown to her oral throne. I am the word witch which stands before you, weakly Webster of a weekly basis, and shone my wisdom upon you whom are shown the value of listening. Your auricle is an oracle, revealing your aural thrown to my oral throne. I am the principal of your principle, Webster."
"Who is the boy, Webster?"
"M..me," he nearly slurred.
"And who is your word witch Webster? Who is the principal of your principle, the one you must listen to?"
"N..n.." it was harder for him to speak than she anticipated. Remembering a few tips from Allison, she responded to his difficulty.
"Webster, just relax and listen to me. What I want you to say, you can say, easily and clearly for me. Do you understand?"
"Good. Who is your word witch Webster."
"You," he sighed.
"And what's my name?"
"No Webster, my full name."
"Who is your word witch? The principal of your principle?"
It gave her a warm feeling to hear him of all people say that name. She warmed up to her nickname used among friends easily, but preferred her full name to not be forgotten. Webster especially preferred her nickname instead, partly because he could tease her about having a predominantly guy's name. But having him in her grasp, hanging on her every word, speaking her full, native name with reverence, it was like Christmas had come early, and she was given a present she could use all-year long.
"One more time boy, who must you listen to?"
"Yes, that right. And you will listen to Ninochka, as she's going to tell you some things to you need to remember, to forget...."
"Huh, what?" he asked, shaking his head.
"Got lost in my story?"
"Can't...tell. Might've gotten bored out of my mind."
"You seemed awake for all of it though. From what you remember, I didn't fail this challenge, did I?"
He wanted to reply with something smarmy, to dispute her claim, but all that could come out of him was "No, you passed with flying colors."
"Awesome. What do I win?"
"We didn't bet on anything."
"But I want something," Nino whined a little.
"How about my respect?"
"I already have that; you never seem to ask for it back."
Not giving him a chance to fire a shot back, something came to mind.
"Wait! I got it."
Nino pushed the cart down a few aisles and Webster followed her, wondering how they got their shopping done already during her story, and wondering why he didn't argue with her after noticing two jars of spinach-cream dip in the cart. He got to the liquor aisle to see what she had in her hand.
"Are you kidding me? You want a $75 bottle of wine?"
"We'll share it, and I know you really want to buy this for me."
"I'm not sure you really know me then. Just because I have the money doesn't..."
Nino set the bottle of red currant atop a few cushioned bags of chips in the cart, next to the impulse-bought honey, and crept up to his ear to whisper mercilessly over his objections.
"I am the word witch which stands before you, weakly Webster of a weekly basis, and shone my wisdom upon you whom are shown the value of listening. Your auricle is an oracle, revealing your aural thrown to my oral throne. I am the principal of your principle, Webster."
The effect hit him nearly all at once where his speech stopped, his shoulders and other muscles sagged, and he just looked at her, waiting to hear what she'd say next. His ears were happy to take in every word, especially every homonym she could come up with. Webster barely heard his own voice saying "of course Ninochka, anything for you."
On the store's PA, she heard "You Spin Me Round," the classic version begin to play, and immediately chuckled, looking at her weakly boy.
"I love this song; reminds me of your name a little. Webster, the long way of saying web, something that gets spun. You, Web, have clearly been spun, into something intricate and beautiful."
After making him appear awake and sober, they finally made it to the cashier. He paid while she bagged everything up. As they reached the car, she whispered sweetly into his ear again, admiring how easy that smile came the more he was exposed to her words. It would be a fun trip back to campus, to have him recline back and just listen to her the whole way, an encore of the story, or just speaking random thoughts. He'd be happy either way as long as it was her voice.
Fishing the keys out of his pocket, she was surprised to feel more than his pants revealed at first. She smirked at him.
"If you're a good boy later on, maybe what's happening below the waist won't go to waste."