“The test measures your ability to retain key information, when you’re not aware you’re taking it in,” they were told. “It’s all about subconscious recall.”
“You don’t have to try to remember more,” they were told. “We just want to figure out what an average person’s retention would be. But you do need to keep your eyes on the screen throughout.”
Most of them had volunteered for the study simply because they’d be paid for three hours of their time; one for the test, one for recall a week later, and the last for recall a month later.
None of them understood what the study claimed to be, let alone what it actually was.
Abigail settled herself into one of the big chairs in the test room. There were five, each in front of a computer screen. Dividers kept people in one chair from seeing the screens to their sides.
It honestly felt like kind of a big industrial test; the five women who’d been tested just before her five were filing into another room for initial debriefs. There would be another five people in after Abigail’s group.
That was probably when the men would come in. It wouldn’t make much sense to leave men out of a study like this entirely, but she guessed if they were dealing with this many people, breaking it along gender group lines might make tracking data easier. Although, admittedly, ‘they’ wasn’t really as impressive. ‘They’ were a pair of postgrad students working on a doctoral project; they’d just managed to get some surprising funding.
Honestly, they both seemed kinda dorky, but that was fine. Only the shorter one with the bottle-thick glasses had stared at her awkwardly in the pre-talk. The taller, chubbier one had been a lot more personable. And the idea - studying effective recall - sounded interesting. Scoring some extra money for her next club night while also helping a project that seemed like it might be useful was cool enough to make up for a lot of things.
The screen in front of her prompted her to settle a pair of headphones into place. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the girls next to her doing the same thing.
On the end of the line of five, Beatrice put her own headphones on in a significantly grouchier mood than Abigail. (Not that they’d met before. She wasn’t comparing. She was just annoyed - annoyed she’d have to squander the full hour here, annoyed some of the payment depended on follow-up appointments, and most of all, annoyed with the boss who’d fired her three days earlier.)
For Beatrice, this wasn’t pin money. This was a way to keep food in her cupboard while she figured out what her new job was going to be. Her anger was mostly directed at her former boss, who had completely misunderstood why she’d stepped away from the till while there was a queue - they were about to run out of frozen burgers - or just hadn’t cared. But there was enough left over for the people organising this event, for the people around her…
She’d been angry for three days solid, a low, simmering rage stoked in no small part by frustration that she was relying on this sort of thing when her roommate had cash for days.
The voice of Joey - the short, giggly little one from the experiment’s designers - started up in her ear. “OK, ladies,” he began in what he probably fondly imagined was the drawl of a babe magnet, “we’re about to begin. Remember, you’re going to need to watch the screen. You’ll hear a variety of sounds from these headphones, and that’s part of how we’re collecting data on recall. Don’t worry about them.”
Frustratedly, Beatrice rolled her eyes, staring exaggeratedly at the screen.
The screens displayed a countdown from five. A pip sounded in the headphones as each new number came up, just as with a regular countdown. As Abigail steadily looked on, and as Beatrice stared furiously, the numbers gave way to a shimmering, distorted pink display. A pastel yellow swirl turned behind fluffy pink clouds. Patches of a soft, blurred white flickered in and out of the display; words, maybe?
Abigail thought it was cute and wondered if the colours would be different for the men in the test. Beatrice thought it was sickening. The difference was largely in their moods at the time.
A smooth, soft double beat, like a heartbeat, sounded in the ears of the five women at the screens. It was peaceful, quiet, and seemed steady, although it wasn’t; it was slowing, almost imperceptibly, with each double beat.
In the next room, Joey and Nick looked up from their monitor station, met each others eyes, and smiled.
Just like the first batch, everything was working perfectly.
“You’re the man,” Joey said excitedly. “I still can’t believe this works.”
“Yeah, well,” Nick returned mildly. “I don’t think it would have without your fix. Anyway, it hasn’t yet.”
“It will, though.”
Nick nodded, watching carefully. “Let’s hope so. One of them looked kind of pissed. She might power through it.”
Joey blinked, his eyes owlish behind his glasses. “Which one?”
Nick had to remind himself sometimes that his friend really was that bad at reading people. He pointed to the fifth seat, where Beatrice’ back was still ramrod-straight. “Did you say something to her?”
The pause that followed reminded Nick why he’d started looking into recall in the first place. It still amazed him how often people couldn’t remember key aspects of a conversation they’d had not ten minutes earlier.
Beatrice’ frustration was ebbing away. Even Abigail’s curiosity was fading. As the double beat slowed over the first five minutes, all five of the women became calm, peaceful, their own internal rhythms slowing to a calm, restful pace, barely faster than they’ve achieve while sleeping. Along with that, strong emotion seemed to be lost in the pastel clouds and bright spiral swirls. And then, gradually, other emotion was lost, too. Beatrice’ shoulders slumped, heads tilted, and the women lapsed into a half-dozing, drifting existence, in which thoughts were sluggish and slow, in which emotion didn’t seem to matter.
At around the five-minute mark the pink clouds deepened and flushed, becoming purple; the yellow swirls gradually shaded themselves pink in turn. But the white flickers, words so fuzzy and briefly there that they could not be read, remained. The double beat remained in the background of soft muzak that faded in with the pinkening swirls, but gradually the beat was lost. The five women sat before their screens, listening to the muzak, shifted position again.
They were still, now, effectively thoughtless, without ideas of their own; still, now, stripped of honest emotion, feelings come by through experience and input. But there was a common theme coursing through their bodies now, one which was rising and intensifying moment by moment, minute by minute.
Abigail was the first to make a sound, a moan of euphoria escaping listless lips as arousal continued to build. If she’d been able to remember this moment later, she would have said it felt like being a passenger in her body as a new driver moved the chair, changed the radio, and adjusted the mirrors to suit themselves, not her. But memories were not forming, or at least not in her conscious mind.
Abigail was the first to make a sound, but the last wisps of frustration and impatience in Beatrice drove her to be the first to move, even if only slightly. Seven minutes and twenty seconds exactly into the experiment, her right arm began to move. It rose languidly up her body to her chest, fumbling and stroking at her breasts through T-shirt and padded bra. Eyes half-lidded but kept open, locked onto the screen, her lower lip crept under her teeth as she instinctively kept herself quiet.
Her left arm slid off the chair’s armrest down to her lap as the other four women began to cup and caress their breasts. There was a growing passion, and as the screens told them to respond to it, their arousal started to wash their minds clean of the last traces of other thoughts and ideas. Of the state their brains had been in when the experiment begun.
By ten minutes into the experiment, each and every woman was squirming in their seat. Zips and buttons had been fumbled open, tops and bras that had kept them from proper contact had been tugged awkwardly and needfully aside. Their hands worked feverishly to bring them to the brink of orgasm - and -
The brink was where they stayed. Without enough conscious awareness to be frustrated at the lack of climax, they brought themselves to the edge, and there they stayed.
By the fifteenth minute, as they sat there whimpering and moaning, the door from the monitor room opened and Nick and Joey made their way into the room.
The two men pulled their phones out and opened up their checklist app. They started at opposite ends of the line.
Nick plugged a microphone into the second audio socket on Abigail’s headphones. “Name?” he asked.
The response was, again, all but instant. Numbers spilled out of her and he had to scramble to keep up with them.
“So far, which word is uppermost in your mind?”
A pause. Nick had panicked the first time a test subject paused, worrying that they were pushing too far, but by now he was used to it, and confident with it - this pause was the subconscious mind evaluating the answer to the first tough question.
Nick grinned. That was very definitely a go-sign.
“Favourite sex position?”
Another minor pause as options were weighed. “Uh.. Missionary.”
Nick looked her over, pondering. “Incorrect,” he said after a few moments. “Your favourite is a blowjob into a cowgirl.”
There was a moment of no response from her, so Nick said again, “Favourite sex position?”
Hesitation was gone. “Blowjob into cowgirl.”
Abigail told him. Nick patted her on the shoulder approvingly.
Joey had his microphone connected to Beatrice’ headphones. “Name?”
She answered swiftly, no objections. Joey peered at her through his glasses, liking what he saw (which was very reasonable - although if you were looking for words to describe Joey, probably none of them would be ‘picky’. “Do you know you’re a hottie?”
The question met with a slow response. “Sure?”
He grinned. “See, if you know you’re a hottie, you shouldn’t be so mad.”
Joey checked back in his script. “Which word do you like most?”
Another considerate pause. Joey was much less patient over evaluation time than Nick, but he’d learned during the first batch not to hurry them along. Eventually, Beatrice spoke. “Rampant.”
Joey laughed. Observers might not have used the word ‘laughed’. They would probably have preferred a word like ‘giggled’. There was that kind of nervous energy to Joey’s laugh. There was that kind of nervous energy to everything that Joey did. “Oh, man, you are so going on my list…” He shook his head.
“Favourite sex position?”
“Cunnilingus,” she said simply, with almost no hesitation.
“Oh, I think you should learn to give while you receive,” Joey said. “Uh, Incorrect. The answer is sixty-nine. What’s the answer?”
“Sixty-nine,” she answered mechanically.
Beatrice told him. Joey hurriedly copied it down into his checklist, and moved on.
An experiment like this one needed funding, and officially, the use of sex as part of their testing was because it was an accessible, rewarding state of mind, but also something where barriers were in place. Officially, this was a test case that could be used by the intelligence community if it worked.
Privately, Nick and Joey had their own ideas on how useful it would be to have three hundred brainwashed students in their database, in terms of income potential four or five years down the line.
After their quick checklist, the women were left to further marinate in the hypnotic signals from their headphones and screens. They had not stopped edging. They had not been allowed reward nor release.
As the last ten minutes began, all five mouths opened to Os almost simultaneously. After a few moments in which it appeared the masturbating row were all shocked by the same moment in a movie, their bodies became more animated. Heads began to bob forward and backward. Tongues came into play. And from the monitor room, Nick and Joey reviewed techniques.
The standouts were Beatrice (cupping and caressing imaginary balls as she sucked and edged) and Abigail (uncertainly reaching out to brace her hands on nonexistent hips). So not necessarily even technique - more a willingness, mentally, to surrender to the image and the assignment.
They decided to test all five, but their priority order was set now.
They watched the five girls reach a programmed, orgasmic climax in unison, then close mouths, re-arrange clothing and make themselves ready to leave, then they left the monitor room and waited for the girls to wake up.
Abigail blinked a few times as she looked away from the screen. She must have been so focused she barely blinked, and now her eyes were slightly watering. Well, that all made some sense. Inwardly she congratulated herself on achieving that level of focus. She bet the others hadn’t managed that.
She set the headphones down and stood up, then frowned quietly to herself. She had explained away her dry, watering eyes, but as she stood, she became very aware that… um…
That apparently, with that focus, had come an intense level of arousal. It was now past, but it had, ah, left its mark, and when she moved her legs, that became very clear.
The other women were all avoiding each other’s gaze, but as the experiment’s leaders approached, all five looked up and smiled, some warmly, others softly, but every smile was genuine.
Joey practically basked in what felt like adoration.
“So, ladies,” Nick said, “thank you for showing up here. We’ve got some quick exit interviews, some of you will be out very quickly but we’re aiming for all of you to be back out there living your lives inside half an hour. Don’t worry too much if you can’t remember a word right now - the experiment is subconscious recall, remember, and in our exit interviews we’ll provide subconscious cues for you to respond to.”
He glanced over the group and smiled warmly. They smiled back. “Shall we say… seat order?”
With only five minutes to play with, Beatrice had definitely expected to remember her exit interview, but she guessed her mind must have wandered. Joey had offered her some of his chewing gum as she left, though, which meant they couldn’t have been too annoyed… well, or maybe the little rodent wanted to get into her pants. But he couldn’t really have believed he had a chance, could he?
Either way, she left the hall feeling happier than she had in days. There was an actual spring in her step, and she even noticed.
Her positive mood was slightly spoiled when she got home that afternoon, decided to take a shower, and discovered that she must not have worn panties that day.
Abigail got through the exit interview in an embarrassed blur. Honestly, it made total sense to her that she barely remembered anything afterward - she must have been cringing so hard that her mind just pro-actively blotted it all out. She was pretty sure that by crossing her legs at the right time and sitting at the right angle she’d kept them from noticing, but the moment she got out of the room she scrambled for the bus, and promptly sat there wishing she owned a car.
The distinct memory of her jeans shifting against wet panties clashed, once she tried to rectify matters, with the fact she demonstrably wasn’t wearing panties. She found herself staring at her bare legs and bare crotch, wondering how this could possibly make sense.
It was about half an hour before she finally admitted to herself that, clearly, she’d just managed to convince herself she’d had panties on, but hadn’t actually put them on.
Which raised a lot of questions, but she had no answers, and so she just tried to put them out of mind.
Nick watched Joey carefully stow away his trophies from the interview round and shook his head. “I don’t understand you, man,” he says. “Those five are almost ripe for picking anyway. You don’t need a memento.”
“No,” Joey replied. “But I want one.”
Try as he might, Nick couldn’t find a great response to that.
Nick waited until the evening to make the first tests. Sitting down in front of his computer at home, he double-checked his VPN before launching his internet phone software. There would probably be no trace attempt, and any there was would probably not get past the fact his phone number was virtual, but why take the chance?
As the software autodialled the first number in his database, he engaged his voice modulation software and double-checked the girl’s favourite word.
Maybe ten minutes later, Abigail’s phone rang. Unknown number, which usually meant she’d hang up without answering and get on with her life. In fact, in circumstances like that she might not really even register she’d had a call. Hanging up was practically automatic.
For whatever reason, this time she answered.
“Keep your mind pliant.”
The voice was distorted, like some schtick out of a bad thriller. She had enough time to register that but not really to draw any conclusions before her world started dropping away from under her. Her head whirled, spinning so fast her thoughts seemed to fly away out of her reach. She felt herself flush, heard herself moan with a delight she only then realised she was feeling.
“Are you still listening?”
“Are you alone?”
“Do you have a laptop?”
“Get it. Take it over to your bed.”
She complied, moving with a strange, listless grace, the phone glued to her ear.
“Alright. Open up Paypal.”
Nick walked her through creating a Paypal friend with the name Pliant, then had her send him a $5 donation as a test.
“Good girl. Roll onto your back.”
“Hold your phone in front of you and go to speaker.”
Nick switched her over from his line to another feed of the screen and the sounds. Abigail’s mind seemed to go still suddenly. She stared at her phone screen, glassy-eyed, and her free hand crept down between her legs. By then, Nick was already calling the next number on his list.
Beatrice had hesitated for so long over the test donation that Nick thought he might be about to lose her, but repeating ‘rampant’ had gotten her over the hurdle. She had simply become so aroused, so horny, that there was nothing of her left to resist a command from seeping into her brain.
She was just starting to emerge from something that had been half trance, half animal heat, when the doorbell rang. Her consciousness came the rest of the way back to reality as quickly as if she’d been hit in the face with a bucket of cold water. She sat up violently from her bed, then scrambled to the door. She was almost there before she realised she didn’t look presentable. Her t-shirt had been pulled at, wrenched, stretched, and hung on her oddly; her pajama shorts had a rip in them now from the height of her arousal.
She debated making herself more presentable, but the bell rang again. “Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke,” she muttered to herself, then wrenched the door open…
…to find the bottle-glasses nerd from the experiment at her door.
She was paralysed for a moment, caught between outrage that he had the fucking nerve to show up on her doorstep and confusion that he even knew where to find it. He seemed shocked at the speed and fury with which the door had been opened, and took a moment, pushing his glasses back up his nose. Coming out of her paralysis, she demanded “WHAT?”
Joey looked visibly unsettled. “Are - um - are you-”
“Spit it out.” Oh, great, she thought. Now he’s going to ask me out, I’m going to tell him to get fucked, and bang goes the other payments for this experiment.
“Are you rampant?”
Her face went slack as her eyes took on an almost animal light. The lust that had filled her twice already today came upon her again, to her total bewilderment. She needed to be fucked. She needed a man to fuck her.
Or this pasty-faced boy in front of her would do.
She grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him inside with a frustrated growl.
Joey found himself hustled along the corridor and into her room. The door slammed behind him.
“Get those trousers off,” he was told. He wasn’t sure what was going on. This wasn’t what had happened with ‘docile’ Katya. “Look, I think I’ve-”
She grabbed at him, grabbed at his belt, and half-fumbled, half-tore it open. “Less talk,” she said, yanking at his fly. “More action.”
“Okay, okay, easy-”
She pulled his trousers down to his knees and pushed him backward. He went flying, arms windmilling, and landed on the bed.
Beatrice took a moment to pull off her shorts, and Joey took a breath. “Are you obedient?”
Her eyes flickered. He saw her expression change. It wasn’t her favourite word, but it had now been added to the instructions running through her empty mind.
Before he could give an instruction, she was in motion, planting a hand on the bed next to his waist and springing forward, pivoting around her hand. She landed atop him, her pussy almost in his face, and a quick adjustment later she had a hand on his cock, which, having received the same nervous shock as the rest of him, still responded to her touch, springing back to life.
Joey remembered changing her favourite sex act to sixty-nine just as she swallowed him, her hips sinking closer as she did so.
A phrase from one of his favourite smutty fanfics floated into his mind: It would be churlish to refuse.
But before he did, he decided to plant something in a receptive mind. “You’re my girlfriend.”
There was a moment’s pause, then her mouth came off his shaft with an audible pop. “I’m your girlfriend.” Her acknowledgement of this fact complete, she went back to what she perceived as her work.
“You won’t mind my other girlfriends.”
There was no pause this time. “I won’t mind your other girlfriends.”
Like he’ll have any other girlfriends, Beatrice thought, and as she went happily back to his cock, she felt her boyfriend Joey lick his lips, then finally hold up his end of the bargain.