“This means nothing to me
“Planet Earth calling Susan...” said a sharp, woman’s voice. “Can you hear me?”
“Huh… what?” Susan Hawthorne blinked, a bit startled as she escaped her realm of daydream delusions and returned, once again, to the coldness of the real world.
“You were singing again….” retorted the voice from the cubicle next to hers. Marjorie’s aubergine hair peeked above the metal divider, followed by her equally piercing eyes. “You wouldn’t happen to be thinking about that trip you made to Austria last Christmas, right? You know, the one you didn’t tell me anything about, despite the fact you say I’m your best friend and all….” she continued in a more than obvious accusatory tone.
“Marge, please, not that story again!” Susan said in dismay and threw a paper clip at her.
Marjorie's fingers tapped on the wall. “What? I’m merely pointing out the facts. You haven’t been the same ever since you went on that ‘adventure’ of yours and whatever is bothering you, seems to be getting worse day after day. You’re always moody and distracted and your productivity levels have been going downhill! I’m worried about you. Is there anything I can do to help?”
Susan avoided her gaze. “No. I don’t need any help. Everything’s fine.”
“You've always been a terrible liar, but fine… Forget I said anything!” Marjorie exploded, before disappearing out of sight.
Susan left it at that and waited impatiently for the end of her shift. When it finally came, she exited the workplace in a hurry. The call center routine had always been frantic but now it was getting unbearable. Pausing at the nearest corner, she tried to catch a breath. Despite the warm sunset bathing the streets all around, the beautiful city of Edinburgh appeared to her as nothing but a series of gray outlines, devoid of life. The air tasted like dirt as it reached her lungs. She felt like shit.
Marjorie was right in her assumptions. That trip to Vienna had changed everything in her life. She had found someone special and certain promises had been made on account of fantasies that could never come true. The week she spent there, by the banks of the Danube, had been one of the most enticing of her entire existence, but also a source of great sadness, one that now accompanied her wherever she went, like a shadow of death with its scythe ready to strike.
“This means nothing to me….” She repeated to herself on her way home, seeking solace in the well-known lyrics of Ultravox’s song, yet finding none.
It was already dark when she reached her apartment and found the front door slightly ajar. The smell of incense candles filled the air, a scent she would recognize anywhere.
“No, it can’t be!” She thought as she walked in.
Her inner voice was wrong because the thing she had believed impossible was in fact happening. There she was, sitting on her favorite sofa, enticingly beautiful in a black mini rubber dress: icy blonde Astrid, the woman who claimed she could make all her dreams come true.
The two of them had first ‘met’ two years ago on a forum destined for those who had kinky skeletons in their closets. For Susan, everything started as a joke but, as time went by, and she started to ‘talk’ more and more with Astrid, sharing things she never thought she would do, especially with a stranger from a foreign country, something grew between them. The initial curiosity of early posts gave birth to an uncanny fascination, an attraction to each other’s energies that culminated on a trip in search of understanding, love, and erotic bliss of both body and mind.
“What are you doing here, Astrid?” Susan asked, bewildered. Part of her was angry that she had appeared out of nowhere and broken into her house, yet the rest was glad she had done so, for she had missed her so much ever since she had declined her offer.
“I couldn’t take it anymore, Susan! I had to see you in the flesh and understand why you ran away when I told you I was willing to fulfill your innermost desires!” The Austrian blonde goddess responded in a perfect English, with almost no accent whatsoever.
“You were just playing games with me, Astrid! We both know it can’t be done!”
“That’s not true! It can and I came here to convince you of that. I’ve been lonely ever since you left and I don’t want to feel this way ever again…. That’s why I’m here. I have come for you!”
“What are you trying to say?”
Astrid got up and slid towards her. Almost immediately, synth-pop music from the 80’s started playing in the background.
“Dance with me, sweetie.” She replied and insinuated herself against her breasts, which made Susan fluster and tingle.
“Uh… This is hardly the right type of music for that…” Susan muttered while Astrid grabbed her hands and had them scour every inch of her rubber-clad body.
“Actually, this is the perfect music for what I have in mind….”. All around them, these words echoed:
“Native these words seem to me
All speech directed to me
I’ve heard them once before
I know that feeling
Stranger emotions in mind
Changing the contours I find
I’ve seen them once before
Someone cries to me
The look and the sound of The Voice
They try, they try
The shape and the power of the voice
In strong low tones”
Susan knew the song by heart as it was another hit of one of her favorite bands. The beat made her feel alive despite the warning present within the words and she started dancing. Astrid smiled and danced as well, shaking her ass as seductively as possible despite the constraints of her outfit.
It was only after a while that Susan realized that there was something off in the sound reverberating in her ears. Sometimes, a small buzzing sound could be heard from deep within the electronic rhythm, some sort of alien sequence that, when triggered, made her body move faster and faster and, as she spent her precious energy trying to keep up with it, she became progressively weaker, and tired.
“Astrid… something’s wrong… I…” She mumbled.
“Everything is perfect, dear. Just let go for me….”
Susan blinked and held onto her arms. As her vision became cloudy, she noticed for the first time that her friend and lover was wearing almost invisible ear plugs which meant that she wasn’t listening to the music at all or even hearing her words, but rather reading her lips from the start.
“This is your song, Susan, the one that will help you fulfill your fantasies.” The beautiful Austrian said upon perceiving that she was starting to figure everything out. Caught in a mix of frustration and joy she was unable to understand, Susan couldn’t do a thing except continue to dance with tears in her eyes until her strength abandoned her and she sank to the floor, in a semi-catatonic state. Everything went black.
When she finally came to her senses, she had no idea how much time had elapsed. She was no longer in Scotland but back at Astrid’s place in the center of Vienna, more specifically in the basement of her house, that had been reconverted into a high-tech laboratory. It was the same strange, aseptic, white and silver room she had seen the year before, and that had made her walk away from the other woman’s seductive embrace.
As she came to learn on the last day of her trip, Astrid was a prominent researcher in the fields of neurophysiology and she had a fascinating theory about how to properly manipulate one person’s synaptic arrays to change habits, ways of thinking, and even control thoughts. When Susan had told her about her fantasy of having her personality rewritten as if she were nothing more than an automaton, Astrid had realized that the woman she was so fond of could be the key to her project’s success and offered her the chance to participate in the experience, willingly. Her refusal broke them both.
Now, everything was different. After months of intensive research, Astrid had finally reached the turning point of her brainwashing techniques and Susan was about to be the first subject to undergo the whole procedure. In the end, everyone would be happy: She would have a mindless lover to keep her pleased and the certainty of her genius being recognized in a near future. As for the Scottish woman, she would get to live her inner fantasies to the fullest, something only few are capable of in their lifetime.
Trapped in a cold chair, large headphones firmly pressed against her ears, Susan looked at Astrid standing across the room. The mid-thirties woman was now wearing a lab coat instead of her tantalizing dress. She wanted to say something, but the muscle relaxant she had been administered didn’t allow her to articulate a proper sentence, but only random, meaningless sounds.
“Time for another treatment, my love.” Astrid cooed as she pressed some buttons and turned a couple of knobs on a shiny console. Susan squirmed in her seat as, once again, the powerful music she adored, laced with subliminal commands, ransacked her ears and began working its magic inside her mind:
“One day where I didn’t die a thousand times
Where I could satisfy this life of mine
One small day…
One day where every hour could be a joy to me
And live a life the way it’s meant to be
One small day…”
That day was coming soon.