“Look,” Nina said. “We’ve done your thing. And I didn’t think I’d like it, but it was fun!”
It had definitely been fun. Jamie actually lost track of the thread of the argument for a few moments as he blissfully contemplated Nina sitting cross-legged before him, wearing loose, soft clothing, and wrapping her up in the rough hemp rope he’d bought with his ex. He remembered the smile on her lips and the light in her eyes as she found herself exploring the strange mental place practitioners call ‘ropespace’.
He remembered the contrast between the light cord of the rope and the dark skin beneath it, and her satisfied noise of surprise and excitement when he switched up his pace and drew the rope tight fast.
Nina always looked stunning - it was the eyes that did it, Jamie thought privately, but when he complimented her he’d talk about her makeup, her hairstyle (especially since he’d been told that a hot oil treatment could take all day to complete), something she’d either created herself or had a say in. Same way he preferred to be complimented on things he’d achieved or done rather than been born with. Nina was a self-made woman, and part of that had been developing and maintaining a personal style that outright worked for her.
He’d seen those eyes go somewhere completely different when he tied her, when she put her trust in his hands enough that she let herself be restrained.
What he hadn’t realised was that she’d also wanted to do a ‘kink exchange’.
“I’m not saying no,” Jamie said. “I mean, I can’t. I basically know nothing about how this is supposed to work. So I’m gonna have to figure that out before I can give any kind of answer.”
Nina nodded. “There’s plenty of online tutorials and files and-”
He held his hand up. Looked her in those stunning eyes. Smiled gently. “I’ll do my research,” he said. “If I think I can do this, then…” He trailed off, stopping short of giving an actual promise, and winced at the dismay in her eyes. “This conversation isn’t over, and this isn’t a no,” he said gently. “Just give me a bit to think it through, okay?”
She nodded, being responsible and reasonable even though he could see she didn’t want to.
“…feel like such an arsehole for not being able to give an answer,” he said. “I mean, she’s great. She wants to do something it’s probably a yes. But…” He made an inarticulate noise of frustration and buried his face in one arm, leaning down on the bartop, hugging his beer bottle close to him with his free hand.
Oh, the melodrama. Marcus rolled his eyes. He was probably Jamie’s best friend by sheer number of years together. They’d met in school, they’d grown up together, and while they’d gone to university in separate cities, halfway across the country, they’d both come home to find work in a big city, and they’d picked up where they’d left off.
“I’d love to give you some advice, man, but I’m gonna need specifics,” Marcus said. “All I really know so far is you’ve done something to upset Nina and you’re not sure what.”
Jamie sat up again, threw his head back, and exhaled long and hard. “She wants me to hypnotise her,” he said.
“It’s some kind of sex thing.”
Marcus blinked, then laughed. “Okay. Yeah. I don’t know that I can help out with that, man. I don’t even think that shit’s real.”
“But hey, if it isn’t real, you’ve got a perfect excuse for it to fall apart.” Marcus grinned. “And if it isn’t real, you can’t get it wrong.”
“There is that…”
Their burgers arrived. Marcus turned the topic to other things - mostly the RPG they’d been playing for the last year, nearing its conclusion - and Jamie joined in cheerfully, laughing along. From time to time, though, he stopped talking and seemed mostly to stare into space, lost in thought.
More friends had dropped by that night, the conversation had become more general, and the alcohol had flowed freely. By the time Jamie got home he was still pretty merry, even if he was starting to sober.
As was his habit after nights like that, he made some hot buttered toast, poured out a pint of water, and went into his living room to kill time on the computer until he’d finished both. Hangover insurance, he called it.
He clicked on to YouTube and started watching a sitcom comedy clip from his recommendations, but after staring for a few seconds, he shook his head and typed something else into the search box.
The results wee surprisingly wide-ranging. Youtube movies, TED talks, some weirdos had clipped moments from TV shows with hypnosis, but there were also a couple of short pop-science explainers. He watched one, or half-watched it… then, halfway through, went from mild attention to total attention, as they showed a clip of a female volunteer’s eyelids flickering and the character of her eyes changing.
The flicker was different and the glaze was different, but something about it reminded him of that ropespace look.
From the explainer, he clicked on to some of the other videos that seemed to have real hypnosis. Most of them were vloggers, headphones in, with a ‘file’, whatever that was, filming their own reactions. Jamie was looking for that reaction he’d seen. That moment close to ropespace.
There were a few. Jamie watched what came after that. People made to think they weren’t who they were. To forget their own name, or to skip over the number six when counting. Watching someone’s confusion as they got to 11 on their fingers every time, but knew there were only ten fingers, set his scalp tingling. What was that all about?
Then he found someone posting extended streams, with chat boxes, and captions that made it clear to Jamie that these were fetish streams; censored and tame to fit within YouTube’s rules, of course, but fetish streams all the same.
He started watching one without noticing how long the video ran, and he heard the hypnotist say “So you’re my slavegirl?”
“Yes, Master,” she replied, her tone somehow flat and perky at the same time.
Jamie began to get a sense of the shape hypnosis play could take.
The rest of his toast grew cold, and Jamie went to bed much later than intended. But throughout it all, his mind was working away.
Sunday was usually a day to be spent with Nina anyway, but Jamie wasn’t sure how much of this he was ready for, so instead of trying anything he suggested they head out for a late breakfast in town. The chance to clear out the rest of his hangover was a side benefit.
They sat across the table, waiting for their food, smiling politely at each other. Jamie decided to break the ice and the awkwardness.
“So I’ve been looking into, you know.” He glanced around, checking nobody was in earshot. Licked his lips. “Your thing.”
“Oh.” Nina leaned forward, lowered her voice, bought into the new mood of the table in an instant. “What do you think?” she asked, clearly still nervous.
“I don’t know. But…” He burst into a grin despite himself. “There’s a lot.”
There was relief in her laugh. “Yeah, that’s very true.”
“So… uh…” He looked down at his hands. Telling her he was into rope had been easy. He knew enough to be an expert about it. Asking questions and not knowing how to interpret the answers was harder. “Are you into all of it, or…?”
“I’m not sure anyone’s into all of it. I’m definitely not into the thing where someone makes you piss yourself. I mean, trying not to kinkshame, but no.”
Jamie was discovering that there are sentences out there that are like someone dropping a spanner into the smoothly turning cogs of your brain.
“I missed that… that… was a thing,” he managed feebly. Nina patted his hand. “People seem to be into all kinds of parts. I’ve only really played with a few files, so I don’t have much experience. Not like you and the rope.”
Jamie felt his cheeks get hot, and he looked away, but mostly he hoped he didn’t show it.
“Maybe this isn’t how I should be asking, then,” he said. “What do you like?”
A moment’s hesitation. “I don’t know if I can even say for sure,” she said. “I’ve only tried a couple of files…” She took a deep breath. “OK, it’s like this. When I was a kid, I saw this movie. The villain, he was some sort of sorceror, and when he realised he was under threat from the hero, he had his people kidnap the love interest.
“So I’m watching this, and here’s this character who’s got some better lines than usual, and she was someone I thought was really cool.” Nina’s eyes were distant as she remembered. “But she’s brought in front of the villain and she’s in the middle of her big speech and then he just starts moving his hand in front of her eyes, and…” She smiled dreamily. “For all it was acting, you could totally see the thoughts just - whoosh! out of her head. She completely stopped, and then she told him anything he wanted to know… he used her to threaten the hero…” Nina was having difficulty meeting Jamie’s eyes.
“And that’s what you’re after?”
“Not exactly. But it’s what got me interested. And the idea of letting go like that, finding myself out of my own control… that’s kind of cool… but mostly, I want to find out what it’s like. I want to play with the idea. And I wouldn’t mind it if…”
Their food arrived. There was a short pause, not wanting the server to hear, and then they set to their food. Jamie decided to try finishing her thought. “You wouldn’t mind it if maybe you had to follow a few orders?”
“Right. So long as it’s nothing too big.”
Jamie nodded thoughtfully. “With the rope, I pretty much jumped you in at a strong point. Not a basic tie, but not suspensions. You’re thinking we start out with beginner stuff together, right?”
He nodded. “Okay. So one thing I’ve seen is a lot of these online videos, they maybe cut out the parts where they’re agreeing safe words. But I think we’d better do better.”
Nina took a big bite of her food, reached out with one hand and squeezed his own. “Thank you.”
“For doing this… and for taking it seriously.” She smiled.
“I’m not going to half-arse this,” Jamie replied. “I did find a place talking about hard limits, and I don’t think I know enough to know mine yet.”
Nina nodded thoughtfully as she chewed. “Yeah,” she said eventually, “I think that’s where I am, too. I don’t like the idea of being humiliated, and calling a white guy Master is right out. But beyond that I just know I want to explore. So if we stay at kind of the shallow end…”
“Right. I think we’re going to be best off planning out our first session. Have some check-ins and a safe word, but plan it out. We can figure out where to go from there.”
“You think there’ll be more than one, huh?” She was grinning now.
“I think…” He paused. “I think we’re probably going to do the first one and we’re just going to be focused on doing the first one. I don’t think the fun’s really going to kick in until at least the second. But we’re doing this to have fun, so… I think we’ve gotta do two.” He grinned. “Which means I’m going to ask to tie you up again, if that’s OK.”
“Oh, that was never off the table.”
“You figure out how you’re handling Nina on this thing?” Marcus asked. Jamie exhaled. “I think I’m going to try and figure it out,” he said.
“You’re going to try learning to hypnotise people?”
Jamie shrugged. “Hey, if I fuck it up, at least I tried, you know? At least I know I tried.”
Marcus smiled, and Jamie blinked. “You were… you were expecting this, weren’t you?”
“Kind of,” Marcus said. “You’d do anything for that girl. It’s pretty sweet, actually.”
Jamie nodded thoughtfully, then blinked. “So I only just realised you haven’t mentioned Sophie in, like, a month.”
“Yeah…” Marcus chuckled quietly to himself. “It went sour, man. We didn’t fit. Or if we did I stopped seeing how.” He shrugged. “I dunno, man. I’m hoping the next one will be the one I’d do anything for.”
Jamie reached out and rested a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “You deserve it,” he said sincerely.
“So do you have a feel for how this is going to work?”
Jamie laughed. “Not at all. I’m just watching people do it on Youtube and trying to figure out what the important bits are.”
“See,” Marcus said, raising a finger, “that’s how you know it’s true love. If you’re prepared to look like a complete twat and make an idiot of yourself, it’s real.”
Both men were laughing now.
“Right,” Jamie said. “I might be about to make an idiot of myself, but I feel like this might work.”
“Aren’t hypnotists supposed to be super confident?”
“Next time,” Jamie said, grinning. And that on its own seemed to bolster his confidence. “This time I just know enough.” Nina grinned.
They were in her room in her flat, and Nina had taken the bed, lying back on her pastel green comforter, among her plushie collection. Jamie was perched on the slightly-too-small stool Nina only ever used when doing her makeup. His coat was hung on the back of the door, dripping after walking through the rain from the nearest bus stop. The storms lately…
“So…” He exhaled slowly, trying to decide what he was going to do. Wandering eyes stared out of the window while he reached for inspiration - then realised he had it. “OK,” he said. “Same agreement we set up last night?”
Nina nodded. Her eyes were a little wider than usual, her lips parted; there was interest and excitement there, and it looked like she didn’t want to speak in case it would ruin the mood.
“And your safe word, you’re happy using the traffic lights?”
Nina nodded again.
“Alright. Then I want you to lie back, and I want you to listen to the rain… on the window…” He started to slow his speech. Tried to imitate the low, lulling cadence most male hypnotists posting their video seemed to go for. “Listen to that rain, drumming steadily away… beating on the window in a rhythm… but for all that… you know it can’t reach you here…
“You’re safe here, on your bed, with your boyfriend… safe and warm… but the rain keeps drumming away… and the more you listen to it… the more you’re feeling safe and warm… the more you listen to the rain… the less you listen to my voice… and you find yourself focused on the sound of the rain… focused on the sound, letting the rest drift away… and my words? My words stay with you…”
He was watching Nina closely as he continued. Saw her eyes turn past him to the window, to watch the rain run down the glass. Saw her lids begin to flutter. Saw her breathing steady, and slow, and grow deeper, the rise and fall of her chest becoming an indicator of how relaxed she was. He was still nervous, though, and he wanted to check he was going in the right direction.
“So I’m going to ask you a question now, and you’re not going to think too much about answering it, you’re just going to let the answer bubble up and happen, without disturbing you. But you can feel your world shrinking down to the rain and my words, isn’t that right?”
One second. Two. Silence. Jamie’s heart was beginning to sink. Then, “Yes.”
It was soft, quiet, something she could say without disturbing herself, and he had to strain to hear it. But once he was sure he had, it felt like everything changed. Adrenaline and endorphins flooded his system. “That’s good. You’re going to find that you start drifting deeper now. I want you to pick a raindrop at the top of a window pane, and I want you to follow it down… and as you follow it down… you’re going to sink down with it… and you’re not going to wonder if you are, not going to question if you are… you’re just going to let it happen… so pick that raindrop… and get ready… to drop… with it.”
He fell silent for a moment, just watching, and so he saw her eyes begin to track down with a raindrop, slowly at first, but as the drop picked up more water its pace picked up, and she went from halfway up the window to the bottom in sudden seconds - and Jamie saw her eyes begin to roll upward before her eyelids closed in response.
“How do you feel, honey?” he asked softly. There were a few moments again, and then a breathy “Good.”
“Okay, that’s good. Now, we’re gonna talk about safety. I want you to just set part of the back of your mind aside that won’t be affected by what we do after this, okay? And its job is just going to be to watch what I say, and watch what you do, and if you don’t like what I say or if it goes wrong, that part of your brain is going to speak up. You remember the traffic lights system, how it works?” The ‘yes’ this time came a little quicker.
“That’s good. That’s what you can use, okay?”
“Now, if you go amber, I want to be able to pause things so we can talk. So I’m going to set up a trigger here. You know what a hypnotic trigger is, right?”
“So, if I say “OOC”, whatever we were doing will pause, and you’ll be aware enough to discuss it. If I make some changes, you’ll be able to adjust to them. And when I say “IC”, whatever we were doing will re-start, with any changes we need. Alright?”
Jamie smiled. “If you go red, I’ll say “Reset”. And when you hear that, you’ll come out of the scene, and you’ll be able to tell me if you want a hug or if physical space would help. You’ll have your self awareness back, and your control, and any other suggestions will cancel. Alright?”
He wasn’t sure whether he’d done enough to set up safety. But there wasn’t anything else he could think of, and this was one reason that the traffic lights system existed.
“Okay, so, I’m going to just do a couple things for right now. Enough to give you some idea what’s going on, and we’ll figure out some stuff after that. So first, are you comfortable with your top coming off?”
Jamie grinned. “So the first thing I want to do, I want to let you convince yourself you’ve been under. So before I wake you up, you’re going to find that your arms can move freely, and don’t need you to be awake to do it. In fact, you can move without waking yourself up… and you’re going to find yourself sitting up, taking off your top, and handing it over to me. Alright?”
His breath caught in his throat as she actually did exactly as he’d described. Her eyes were still closed, her head lolled slightly, but the top came off leaving her skin showing dark around a lacy white bra. He reached out and plucked her T-shirt from her unresisting hands. “You can lie down again now,” he said.
“After you wake up,” he continued, as she settled back into place, “if I want to put you back under, I can do that with another trigger, just for today. And the trigger is…” He suddenly realised he hadn’t come up with anything, flailed around mentally, “Night night, Nina.” He rolled his eyes, irritated with himself. “What’s the trigger?”
“Night night Nina,” she said peacefully, blithely accepting it.
“That’s… that’s good,” he managed. He had to catch his breath again, watching the reaction. “There’s just a couple of other suggestions, really simple things…”
Jamie snapped his fingers and watched Nina wake. Her eyes went wide, then fluttered, then opened properly as she began to return to awareness of the world around her. She looked up at him and met his smile down upon her with a sheepish smile of her own.
“Hi,” she said, pushing up on her elbows to adjust her position on the bed.
“How’re you feeling?” he asked.
“…good, I think? Like I just had a lie-in. Cosy.”
“Cosy and warm?”
“Yeah. I think you were talking about how the rain didn’t stop me being warm?”
Jamie nodded. “I mean, that makes sense,” he said. “But I’m surprised you’re still so warm, considering…” He held up her top. She looked at it for a moment, puzzled, and he got to see recognition, then realisation, then awareness all dawn over her face. Her mouth opened into a wide O of astonishment.
“You weren’t sure it had actually worked, were you?” he asked, and Nina nodded with a grin.
“So when I say ‘clap’…”
He left the sentence hanging, and instead watched his girlfriend go through shock and delight as her hands rose without her telling them to, clapped together… and became stuck.
She watched her hands for a moment as she tugged, and they stayed sealed. Jamie couldn’t help but snicker, and with a pout, Nina pulled her hands free of each other. “Ha!” she exulted, then frowned. “Wow, I really felt like I was going to hurt myself pulling those apart…”
Jamie smiled. “But you did it,” he pointed out.
Nina beamed. “Damn right I did.”
Her hands swung together and bound themselves again. Nina shot him an irked look, but Jamie was beginning to feel more confident in what he’d achieved. “And this time,” he said, his voice still low and firm, “you won’t be able to.”
Nina stuck her tongue out at him, then set to trying to separate her hands. Tongue protruding from her lips, she tried everything she could, including hooking them over her knee for leverage - but eventually, she gave up. Sitting back comfortably, she settled her locked hands in her lap. “That’s pretty cool,” she said. “But I think the fact I have to clap when you do that hits me harder than the fact they get stuck.”
“Release,” Jamie said, and her hands parted for a second. Nina clasped them together more comfortably. “So it’s the fact some words just skip straight past your brain but talk to your body?”
“Yeah. At least for now.” She smiled. “Like we talked about, there’s too much out there to try it all at once.”
“Yep.” Jamie nodded. “Want to try one of the other ideas?”
“Definitely.” The smile became the grin of a woman who knows she’s getting away with something.
“Do you mind which?”
Jamie had been trying to decide what order he thought would be best, and he hadn’t made up his mind yet. So it was an impulse to not just take things in ascending order and to surprise her that had him blurting out “Kiss.”
This instruction took longer to follow and as she rolled toward him on her bed, reached out, and pulled his head in for a kiss, he saw her eyes enter that delicious haze that was something like ropespace, but not quite, before they both closed their eyes. Her lips met his and their mouths opened and, as always seemed to happen, they both smiled into the kiss. Jamie was pretty sure he could tell the moment her mind considered the trigger satisfied and gave her back control; something about the way the kiss felt changed in that instant.
They parted, and without hesitation, he followed up with the third agreed trigger. “What’s my name?”
He watched Nina’s eyes, still dancing from how much she’d enjoyed the kiss, blink as she tried to answer the question and found the answer had changed.
Jamie grinned. After a moment, as Nina realised that wasn’t what she’d always called him, she grinned too. “Holy fuck, that’s so hot,” she said. A moment later she added “Sir.”
He ducked his head slightly, grinning bashfully, and the two rested their foreheads together for a moment. Even without seeing each other’s faces they could feel the delight pouring off each other. “I think we’re doing this again,” he said.
“Kiss,” he said again, and she pushed further against him, kissing autonomically until her conscious control returned and she slithered off the bed onto his lap, still kissing.
“OK, OK,” he said when he managed to get some air. “That’s good for now. What’s my real name?”
“Jamie,” she answered, her eyes getting that lovely daze to them again, before she blinked it away and realised she’d remembered. “Whew. OK. Yeah.”
Jamie smiled. “I think we need to draw a line under this before we plan anything else.”
“Yes, Sir,” she said, and she met his look of concern with a broad grin. “Kidding,” she reassured him. “I promise. Jamie.”
He exhaled. “I want to get to planning the next one…”
“You can. You can even run ideas by me. Just don’t forget to check I still like them when I’ve had a chance to think, later.”
Jamie nodded. “Alright. Let’s get your head clear for now, and we can figure out what we’re doing later.”
Marcus had the two beer bottles lined up on the bar when Jamie got there this time. The two of them clinked, then drank.
“I needed that,” Jamie said. “Yesterday put me through it.”
“I bullshitted my way through this hypnosis thing with Nina.”
“Right, right.” Marcus took a thoughtful pull of his beer. “So is it?”
“Some kind of sex thing.”
“Oh, right. No, not yet.” He grinned. “But it will be.”
Marcus smiled to himself, and went back to contemplating his beer. At least one of them was having fun.
TO BE CONTINUED?