There had been times when Austin had felt like a real winner. When he’d felt like he had real potential, and could have become a top-tier businessman.
Now here he was, twenty-eight, his company dead after the market zigged when he was sure they’d zag, and his marriage somehow still strong despite the fact they’d both had to move back in with her mother.
He had a real talent with technology, but he’d learned there were things to business he just couldn’t do. In hindsight, if he’d listened to Sharon, he could have kept the company afloat, and they might have saved the house - but he didn’t realise she had a better sense of these things than him.
There was certainly no chance to rebuild the business any time soon, but even if he had Sharon in to handle the business side, Austin wasn’t sure he’d want to. Before they declared bankruptcy, he’d worked sixteen hour plus days almost every day for three years, and because everything had gone wrong, he’d made less out of it than if he’d put on a red polo shirt and worked tech support - like he was now.
It was shift based and he lost far too many evenings, but he and Sharon were both making money again and in another year or two they might have done enough repair work that a landlord would overlook the foreclosure on their credit record and lease to them.
The Monday morning that it all started, Austin was folding laundry morosely and trying to avoid a conversation any longer than five minutes with Bonnie, Sharon’s mother. She’d been very kind to let them into her home when there’d been nowhere else reasonable to go, and she was by and large a lovely woman, but if you talked to her for ten minutes or more her politics were likely to come up and that was, really, never a positive thing.
Ultimately, when Bonnie had divorced Sharon’s father she’d come into enough money that she’d been able to tell the world to go fuck itself. Coming face to face with casualties of capitalism wasn’t easy for her to process, and she didn’t react to that well.
There was a loud, impatient knocking at the front door. Austin set down the trousers he’d started folding and headed for the door, only to find that Bonnie had gotten there ahead of him. Stood at the door was a salesman in a suit with a briefcase, the kind of door-to-door canvasser Austin had thought was a thing of the past.
Still, Bonnie had the door; he went back to his laundry.
Twenty minutes later Bonnie rapped on the doorframe for his attention. His gaze traced along the floor to her feet then trailed up her, as it always did when he looked up to meet her.
Austin had a number of very complicated feelings about how attractive he found his wife’s mother, and he was trying to deal with all those feelings by burying them deep and not examining them in any way. The thing he would tell himself was that it was good to know that, twenty years on, his wife would still be stunning, just in a different way, and that so long as he didn’t fantasise about her mother, it wasn’t weird.
Austin was an expert in denial, although he’d dispute that if you suggested it.
“What’s up, Bonnie?” he asked.
“Catch.” Her hand came up in an underhand pitch that would have been the envy of many a Little League coach; Austin had to drop one of his wife’s bras and scramble a pace or two forward to catch the small black cylinder she’d tossed to him. He caught his hip on the edge of the table, stumbled, and almost fell.
He could practically hear the eyeroll Bonnie made.
“What’s this?” he asked.
She shrugged. “It’s run off the phone. Idea is it goes in the living room and when people are stressed, it does things to help cut the stress down. But it works that out through a phone app.”
He looked down at the black cylinder, then back up to his mother in law. “So?”
“So now I’ve bought it, I want you to figure it out and get it running.”
“Okay,” he nodded. “Surprised you bought it, though. I’d kind of assumed he’d get nothing from you.” Bonnie flapped a hand dismissively.
“It sounded like a good idea, so I bought it,” she said. Austin blinked. This was not at all in character. “It’s some new technology, he said. I figured I’d get in on it.”
Well, that was obviously bullshit, but Bonnie, in her late forties, wasn’t the sort of person who’d realised how new technology arrived nowadays. Austin shrugged. “Sure, I can take a look after I finish this.”
“As soon as you can,” she said abruptly. “I’ve got a feeling this is important.”
“Sure,” he said slowly. He was watching Bonnie’s face thoughtfully now. It was like she’d just gone through a mood swing in a couple of sentences and, now he came to think of it, she had again when she flapped her hand. Like she had a purpose to her actions but didn’t really believe in them. “So you bought this because you’re stressed?”
“What?” Bonnie blinked. “Of course not. Look, the guy came to the door, he wasn’t going away, he went away when I bought the thing. Just make it work, OK?” And so saying, she turned around and marched back out of the laundry room.
Austin stared at the space where she’d been, open mouthed, trying to make sense of the contradictory mess of ideas Bonnie seemed to see nothing weird in now.
Once the clothes were folded and put away Austin sat down and synced the device to his phone. After a few moments, it let out a light, low chime, and then another thirty or forty seconds later. It should have been irritating, but something about the softness of the noise and the sweetness of the chime made him smile.
It seemed to be working, so he took it through into the living room where Bonnie was watching daytime TV and idly poking at a Sudoku booklet.
He plugged it in and set it up. Bonnie looked up at the first chime, startled, and glanced across at him with a puzzled expression. “You got it working?” Austin smiled and shrugged. A few moments later, when it chimed again, she smiled, and Austin retreated from the room, deep in thought. He made a coffee as he tried to get his questions in order.
It was weird that the device could make people smile in a little under a minute. He tried looking for an explanation on the app, but there wasn’t anything. He was honestly surprised this had managed to get approval to be on an app store; it didn’t seem like UX had any effort put into it.
In fact aside from turning the thing on or off, there wasn’t much you could do. This was less like a regular app and more like one of those dummy front ends you’d put on software which…
…which was getting its instructions elsewhere.
So the device was getting information from somewhere else. There wasn’t a publically available API or an SDK he could find. Which made this ‘high tech device’ being sold the way it was even weirder.
He dug out his laptop and went looking for any traces of the company he could find anywhere else. It wasn’t easy - they had a corporate website full of boilerplate (and not really that full, either) which didn’t say much. He quickly wrote it off as existing as a box-ticking exercise for the app. Their social media was close to nonexistent; a welcome post everywhere you’d expect, but nothing else.
All very weird.
Austin shrugged it off. It was time he went to work, anyway.
Sharon had been bearing up well since they’d had to move back in with her mother, but like her husband she had a number of objections to some of her mother’s opinions. It wasn’t too bad on any given day, but there was always that sense that you were just waiting for a bad day.
For whatever reason, though, once she’d come home and found herself alone with her mother, it wasn’t at all frustrating. The pair of them sat companionably in the living room watching absolute trash TV, saying very little, and smiling. From time to time some new thing in the room chimed, and every time it did, she felt her lips twitch back up, renewing the smile, and a warm sensation of happiness trickled from the top of her brain down to the base of her spine, soaking her in a pleasant, numb syrup.
The longer she sat there, the less she wanted to move, but around eight pm she realised Austin would be finishing up and driving home soon. She stirred slowly and headed into the kitchen to throw something into the microwave and make sure he could eat, knowing exactly how tired he always was after a late shift.
Outside earshot of the chimes Sharon still felt that lovely, blissful calm, but it didn’t have the same sensation of growing and deepening as when she could hear the chimes.
Once he was in, they sat at the kitchen table and ate together. Sharon was quieter than usual, and gave simple answers to each of her husband’s questions, not feeling the need as she usually did to complain about the things that had gone wrong at work. The stress she normally had to vent just wasn’t there.
Austin seemed to be asking all sorts of questions about the evening, and she answered in the same peaceful, dreamily smiling way. He let it drop and, unusually, suggested they spend a last hour or so in the living room watching TV instead of turning in immediately.
Before too long he was smiling just as she and her mother were, but he seemed still to be watching them more than the show.
She went off to work the following day wondering what was on his mind to have him acting so strangely.
Tuesday morning, Austin dumped the app onto his laptop and pulled up his tools, the goal being to analyse the code. It was, as he’d believed, pretty basic; there were some monitoring tools which might instruct the app to change chime in the event of raised voices or other things, and some signals would only come out with the chime at certain times of day as measured by the phone. But the main thing he found was an open channel to receive data from another source.
Austin opened up that source and found it wasn’t much more than someone using a website for file hosting. It didn’t even have a password; he wasn’t sure whether they expected hiding it to be enough or if they wanted people to find it.
Either way, it had an app he could download - much bigger than the other one - and some kind of data processing system that connected the two apps together. It looked like geographical data was a big part of how the two worked.
He loaded the second app on his laptop rather than his phone. Once he opened it, what he got was a black screen with two lines in green.
ENTER BEHAVIORAL PROMPT
Austin stared at that for a long time. A cold, unsettled feeling settled on his spine.
But Bonnie was in the living room. He typed in Drink a black coffee, three sugars and sent it. Bonnie never took sugar - said it was fattening - but loaded her coffee down in so much cream it was almost pure white.
He made his way to the kitchen and loitered. In under a minute, Bonnie came through, smiling but with the vaguest, most confused expression. She proceeded to pour coffee from the maker, add three spoons of sugar and no milk, then wander back into the living room.
Austin followed her through and hung out by the door. He watched her take a sip of her coffee and make an almost nauseated fact, look at it as if she was trying to see something wrong, then take another drink. By the time she’d been seated a minute she’d drained the mug.
Austin was already smiling from the chimes but he was satisfied with his first experiment. His curiosity sated, he idly sauntered back into the kitchen and made his own black coffee with three sugars. He’d halfway finished drinking it before he realised he’d been affected himself. Despite his own best efforts, he finished the mug.
On the way into work that day he picked up a couple of unobtrusive earplugs.
Sharon came in worn out from her shift that afternoon. Around about lunch, less than halfway into her shift, her thoughts had turned to the peace of the living room the night before, and by three o’clock it had been something she was promising herself.
She knew it had likely been some kind of fluke, but the moment she got back into the house, she was going to take a seat in the living room and hope to recover the same peace. It wouldn’t get any of her chores done but it would definitely make it easier once she came to do them.
She beelined directly for the sofa she usually shared with her husband. Her mother was sitting there with a food show on the TV. Sharon sat down and found herself relaxing almost immediately - but inside two minutes she was back on her feet and in the kitchen, where she took the last of the coffee in the pot, black, with three sugars. Back on the sofa, despite her desire to relax, she found herself gulping down hot java, so long brewed it was practically tar in her mouth.
Not sure why she’d done that, she set her mug down and resumed watching TV. She only got up again an hour or so before Austin would be back, when she barrelled through her share of the chores, then got some headway on a quick pasta dish. Austin actually volunteered to finish it off for her, though; Sharon didn’t take much persuading, being more than happy to head back to the living room and chill out for a while.
Before he properly tended to the sauce, Austin opened up his laptop and loaded the app. It was too good an opportunity to test what the app could do on some more receptive ears.
He typed Feel frisky tonight and sent it to the app, then closed the laptop and tucked it out of site. In the meantime he turned back to the stove and tended to their meal.
It was nice to see Austin go beyond his normal share of the chores, Sharon decided. Feeling a flush on her cheeks and a sudden, vague warmth between her thighs, she smiled dreamily. Austin working hard was as good an excuse as any, she decided; she’d give him something special tonight when they got to bed together.
Across from the sofa, in her armchair, Bonnie thought idly not of her abandoned husband but of the teacher she’d enjoyed herself with while Sharon was still at school, finding excuse after excuse for highly-stimulating parent-teacher conferences. She licked suddenly dry lips and shifted position so her daughter was in no risk of seeing her excitement.
She’d get the big wand out, she decided, the one she hadn’t used since her daughter had come back home, and to hell with them both if they heard it in action and recognised the noise. She had needs too.
Austin had barely enough sleep that night, so busy was Sharon, but he was happy enough with it. He woke a little late to see her tiptoe out of the room, which meant she was off to work and would usually mean Bonnie was grumpy that he hadn’t been awake when she was.
That was a chance to do some testing. He took his time showering and dressing and sauntered downstairs to find Bonnie in the living room, not at all upset with him but smiling benevolently instead.
Austin decided to steer clear of the living room for the morning. He wanted into the laundry room and set up his laptop, then opened the app. This time he noticed a small italicised i in the bottom right of the screen, and clicked on it. The app changed such that the black display gave what looked like a set of co-ordinates and, below, the sentence Feel frisky tonight.
The co-ordinates presumably pointed at the house, he thought. The sentence was the last instruction entered for that system. Which gave him some idea what the capacity of this system was. One command at a time.
But he needed more data. He shifted back to the main input and pondered. Then, with a smirk, he typed Fix breakfast and forget it in the kitchen.
If this system could persuade people to forget things, he had a much more useful tool…
He tiptoed to the doorway into the kitchen and watched Bonnie, seeming completely unaware of him, scramble some eggs, grill some bacon, and fry a slice of sausage then set it all out on a plate.
Then she turned away, facing toward the living room, and blinked four times. Her expression seemed somehow more vacant each time, until her face cleared back into a smile and she wandered into the living room.
Austin waited another minute or two before taking the breakfast for himself. He skirted near to the living room door. “Hey, Bonnie? Thanks for breakfast,” he called.
“I don’t fix anyone breakfast but me nowadays,” she retorted tartly. “My daughter must have done that. You be sure and thank her tonight.”
Austin silently punched the air in delight. “I will,” he called, and headed back to the bedroom he shared with his wife. The next important step was going to be to clear that instruction so he didn’t come home to find another plate of breakfast sitting stone cold in the kitchen after Sharon heard it.
Instead he input You like Austin more than you used to. That, he figured, should give him some benefit with both women who lived under the same roof, in different ways.
He was back at work before the thought occurred that there was more than just playing with them to be done; that he could really benefit from this. Of course he couldn’t just make Sharon do things without Bonnie being affected too, as his mother in law was at home all day. So he couldn’t just tell Sharon to suck his cock whenever he wanted to, because…
…because if he did…
The image of Bonnie’s head bobbing up and down between his legs, impeccably ruby lipstick coasted in drool as she slurped and sucked, was hard to get out of his head once it got in there.
But he couldn’t do that, of course.
He told himself that over and over again through the afternoon shift and into the evening.
He couldn’t just set the chimes to tell Bonnie to suck him off then forget while he was alone with his mother in law through the morning.
Well. He could. He shouldn’t.
Austin spent the drive home asking himself how moral a man he was prepared to be.
He didn’t touch the app for the rest of the week. Not a day went by when he wasn’t tempted - to take from Bonnie’s beautiful body, or to get her to write a check they could cash in on their way out of the house. But he told himself no, that it was too much, that a little light nudge was fine but something more was wrong. He reminded himself on Thursday. He lectured himself on Friday morning.
But on Saturday he and his wife woke up to find that her mother had gone shopping. She sometimes ran short errands but usually, with the money settled on her by Sharon’s father, these were all-day trips as she stopped somewhere to be pampered for hours on end.
Which meant, Austin decided, that it was time to receive a husbandly privilege he rarely did. He stepped away from the living room ‘to get us both coffee’ and found his earplugs, then opened up the laptop while still in the kitchen and typed in A blowjob is the best gift you can give.
He sauntered back into the living room expecting that the prompt would have done its job and she would easily open her mouth to him, but she was simply happy to get her coffee and stayed sat on the sofa, feet tucked up beneath her, rather than kneeling on the floor.
Right, he told himself firmly, he’d need to be more specific. So at lunch, when the two of them drifted together into the kitchen, he flipped his laptop open and set a new status:
You need to suck Austin’s cock.
With lunch done, Sharon headed back into the living room - Austin was frankly wondering if she had started to find the effect of the chimes addictive. He loitered outside, not wanting to find out what that suggestion might do if it took root in his own head.
The doorbell rang, and he went through to answer it. Outside was Mae, one of Bonnie’s closest friends and a woman of around her age, a matronly, warm figure somewhere between chubby and curvy - Rubenesque, Sharon had called her in her characteristic attempts to be fair - and very much not dressed to be out - red-and-blue striped lounge pants and a fluffy pink bathrobe fastened loosely across her chest.
The impracticality of her outfit and the conflicted expression on her face led Austin to the conclusion that warm, affectionate Mae was calling for help with some disaster, and he was not at all prepared for her to thud to her knees, grab his belt with one surprisingly strong hand, and start fumbling at his fly.
What the hell was going on?
She had his fly open and his boxers jerked down to reveal his cock in a twinkling, and the easy grip and smooth motion of her hand teasing him to full hardness clued him in that Mae had led more of a life than he’d ever pictured. The pale pink of her lipstick engulfed his cock and to his surprise, Austin realised he was enjoying this, realised how much beauty there was in the devoted, cocksucking face of someone he had overlooked.
He heard a sudden stumbling approach from behind and tried not to jump while he could feel Mae’s teeth teasingly against him. A feeling of blind panic that his wife was about to find him with his dick in another woman’s mouth engulfed him - but when Sharon appeared her only response was to shoulder past him and drop to her knees beside Mae. As she leaned in against Mae’s head the older woman gave ground until both of them were effectively taking a side of his cock each, lips and tongues and teeth all questing for his pleasure, for his need, leaving him harder than he could remember feeling, an exquisite agony that delighted him.
He grabbed hold of the doorframe with both hands to keep himself upright and, when the two women were finished, he watched their heads move together as they competed to wolf down more of his cum. Then both of them rose and Austin watched a vagueness appear in their eyes for a few moments, before Mae gave him a polite, almost apologetic smile and sauntered off, wiping her mouth. Sharon licked her lips, stretched up on tiptoe and kissed his cheek, then ducked under his arm and sauntered back toward the living room.
Austin was spent, and he staggered backward and gave ground back to the chair in the hallway, where he sat down, cock still protruding limply from his boxer shorts, the door open, heedless of both facts as he tried to make sense of what had happened.
He didn’t actually notice Winter approaching the house - lovely, rebellious, chaotic Winter, recently kicked out of the college her parents had sent her to and returned to the street - until she was past the door. Looking up at the slender, athletic redhead, Austin’s eyes widened as he realised what was coming. He opened his mouth, seeking some kind of explanation, apology, or refusal - he wasn’t sure which - but her hand had already come down on his cock, and what Mae could teach her in terms of technique she made up for with youthful enthusiasm.
He should have been considering any number of things. He could have been asking why it was effecting people from other households. But he was drained, he was shocked, and his mind was still reeling from Mae, even as Winter coaxed his protesting cock back into full activity.
She looked up directly at him, meeting his gaze with needy, hungry eyes, then opened her mouth wide and bowed her head down upon him, swallowing him. An excited squeak of self-discovery emerged, muffled, around his cock.
The world seemed to be whirling around Austin. He was scrambling to catch up, which would have been hard enough even if his mind wasn’t split between thought and the glorious sensation of an enthusiastic if unskilled blowjob - one which came hot on the heels of a much, much more skillful and longer-lasting session with his wife and the kind of experienced older woman he’d thought of as only the stuff of drunken boasts, never considering that women older than himself would have urges of their own.
One thing he had to accept, even if he didn’t understand it - the app was having an effect well beyond the walls of the home he shared with his wife and his mother-in-law. Mae lived three doors down; Winter was across the street, if he remembered correctly, and from even further away.
He vaguely remembered the co-ordinates he’d seen on the interface. He would now admit to himself - holy fuck, but Winter wasn’t as unskilled as all that, her tongue obviously had knowledge and practice to swirl around the tip of his cock, teasing him back to full activity even before he’d had anything like time to recover - that he’d had no idea the size of the area indicated by them.
The auburn head of the teenager between his thighs moved smoothly, efficiently, determined to suck his cock. He was seized for a moment by the mad impulse to ask her why she was doing this. Would she answer? Would she remember answering? What would she know?
But he remembered in time the occasions he’d been affected himself; he had accepted it as natural until afterwards, and - it seemed to him - he had been the only one to notice the impulse. He thought back to when Bonnie had handed him the gadget. Three times she’d changed her tack in the conversation. Each had happened when he’d asked her why she’d bought it.
Put another way: why she’d acted out of character. Austin thought that if he asked Winter what she was doing, even if she had an answer for him, it would be nothing but a vague deflection. She wouldn’t mean it.
He tensed despite himself and grabbed a handful of her red hair as her teeth grazed upward along his shaft, sending all kinds of sensation right down his spine. Winter’s parents described her as troubled, but Austin had privately thought she was the trouble. Wilful, determined, and utterly heedless of consequences was his judgement on the chain of events that had seen her kicked out of college. And yet she accepted the guidance of his hand in her hair almost automatically.
Was that her? Was that the app? Was there some strange combination, and if there was, was there any way she could reproduce it?
He came in her mouth, hearing her splutter and cough, and released her hair. She withdrew from him, tongue whipping around his cock in a dramatic flourish on her way out, and as she did her eyes were on him, almost daring him to say something.
And then she swallowed and blinked, and as she rose from her knees and turned back toward the still open front door her whole face seemed to change, muscles relaxing or tightening into a completely different expression.
She was on her way out through the door when Austin saw Simone and Tara making their way across the road toward the house. His eyes widened; here were wife and wife and, so far as he knew, completely self-sufficient to one another, the lesbian couple the rest of the street had adopted in the believe it showed they were diverse and inclusive. And yet the same vague, abstracted, purposeful attitude was in everything about their expressions, the way the held themselves, the way they walked. Behind them followed Colin, Winter’s father.
Already drained, exhausted, his cock complaining from so much sudden use, he bolted up from the chair where he’d rested, shut the door in their faces, and turned the lock. He spun and put his back to it, shutting his eyes to drown out the world, and caught his breath.
There was a polite knock from the door behind him; after a few moments it came again, and then again. Simone and Tara had the same need, he realised, as his wife, as Mae, as Winter, and he didn’t have cum enough in his body to satisfy them.
He stumbled away from the door and up the stairs to the bedroom he shared with his wife, now his solitary refuge for much of the day. Once there he lay down on the bed and began to think and wonder.
Was it possible the salesman had sold every home on the street the same device? The instructions only seemed to sink in if you were in the same room, so it would make sense. And the delay between Mae, Winter, and the wives might be easy to explain if they’d simply entered the rooms where they had it set up at different times.
How many others would come to knock on the door? How many women? How many men?
This was nearly a nightmare, but it was the most pleasant nightmare he’d ever encountered. If Sharon didn’t come to wonder how she’d shared her husband’s cock with another woman, it could be the making of something wonderful.
His head still reeling with ideas, Austin made the cardinal error men often make after they cum, and let the whirl of pressing questions become a comforting blankness. Safe from everyone locked outside, he slept, dreaming disjointed, delicious snatches of sensation, different mouths around his cock, different empty pairs of eyes gazing up at him as they gauged his pleasure.
How long he slept he wasn’t entirely sure. When he woke he was not alone in his room; the shifting of the mattress as someone else put pressure on it had woken him. His trousers were once again unfastened, and a warm, loving mouth enveloped his shaft before he could raise his head. When he did, though, he saw Bonnie’s face looking steadily up at him, eyes wide and watching, alert for the reaction she was causing.
Austin gasped in shock, gripping the quilt on which he lay in both hands. He hadn’t changed the instruction. How could he have forgotten to - dammit.
Bonnie’s makeup was impeccable, though it would soon be smudged, and he knew that after her spa treat she’d gone for a professional treatment as she sometimes did - not because there was any event coming but simply because she enjoyed it.
By the light in those experienced, knowing eyes she was enjoying this, too. That had to be just how much she enjoyed her own sexuality in general, though - nothing to do with him - didn’t it?
Bonnie seemed much more at home sucking cock than Sharon. She and Sharon’s father had clearly been a little more adventurous than the younger couple.
Austin closed his eyes again, moaning audibly. Bonnie responded to that, her intensity and speed picking up. His hips started to twitch in little thrusts, humping the air in response to her affections. This was a power he’d never had before, and he could be almost confident that when she was finished she’d leave the room and never think of it again.
There was so much potential to the app, so much power, so many possibilities, if he could just figure out the troubleshooting. He had to keep trying. It would be such a failure not to. He just had to be smarter. As smart as he’d always thought he was before.