Monica and Claire were the only guests left in the dining area when I finally got there. Both fixed annoyed looks at me. "Some of these people would like to go home," Monica noted, "and we're keeping them from doing it."
"My fault," I allowed. "I was accosted in the green room."
Claire made a show of looking me over. "I don't see any sign of broken bones, so I guess it wasn't that blonde guy from the buffet."
"Oh, no," I assured them. "This was something totally different. A little hypnotic barter." I explained in quick terms about Will's request.
Monica eyed me suspiciously. "And what service will you get from him in exchange?"
I grinned. "A fresh volunteer for the two of you. He's meeting us after breakfast tomorrow and has agreed to let you both practice on him."
We left the dining room before the staff felt the need to throw us out. Claire pushed the buttons for both 9 and 12, looking slyly my way. I just watched and waited.
The door opened at 9 and Monica stepped out. "Goodnight, Jack."
Claire started to follow her, then stepped back with a mischievous grin on her face and allowed the doors to close. "Maybe later," she said, coming closer and taking my hand loosely. "First, let's see what else your imagination can come up with tonight."
Truth to tell, my imagination was pretty much shot. But I did have one trick up my sleeve - something I'd seen another hypnotist do in a video but never tried myself. Claire, I figured, would be great for this.
Taking a firmer grip on her hand with mine, I pulled her toward me and said, "Sleep, Claire." A surprised look tried to come out, but the trigger worked too quickly. Her eyes closed and she slumped against me. I pulled the STOP button on the elevator and briefly remembered the camera in the ceiling. This'll just take a moment, I promised it silently.
"That's right, Claire," I intoned, "letting go completely. Wonderfully deep now. In a moment or two, I'm going to count to three. When I reach three you'll come out of hypnosis and your conscious mind will have no idea that you were in hypnosis. Your conscious mind will only know that seeing my show tonight has put you in the mood for some really hot, passionate sex and you want it with me, right away. You will also know that I'm tired and might not have enough energy to really please you the way you want to be pleased. So when we get to my room, you'll decide to hypnotize me into having sex with you. You'll use whatever induction you like, and give me any suggestions you want, but everything you say to me will actually affect you instead of me. Every suggestion will affect you instead of me, but you'll keep giving me suggestions anyway because you'll think they are affecting me when they are actually only affecting you. One, two, three."
On three I also pressed the STOP button back in, restarting the elevator. Claire blinked and stepped back just as the chime sounded and the doors opened on the twelfth floor. "Here we are," she said, tugging at my hand to get me to follow more quickly. A seductive smile and a wink flashed across her face as well.
I opened the door to my suite and put on a show of tiredness: kicking my shoes off, tossing the jacket over the back of a chair, and plopping on the couch with a heavy sigh.
"Poor baby," Claire cooed, folding herself onto the couch next to and slightly above me. "Are you too tired to play tonight?"
"Could be," I admitted, looking up into her face.
Claire took my face in her hands and began to gently massage my temples. "I know that feeling," she said to me, dropping her voice gradually into a smooth, soft tone. "It's okay, Jack, to just relax now. You can let your mind clear and just focus on my eyes. Feeling our eyes locking together, unable to look away now, and just relaxing ... more and more ... as my fingers slowly caress you. Noticing, perhaps, how with each circle I trace your eyes become heavier and heavier ... sleepy ... so sleepy ..."
I felt fine, of course, but Claire's words had a strong and profound effect on herself. She began to blink heavily, struggling to keep her own eyes open even as she encouraged mine to close. "You can barely keep your eyes open now," she continued with half-closed lids, "but you won't let them close until I count to three. On the count of three, Jack, your eyes will become so heavy they close by themselves as you fall into a deep, wonderful trance for me. One, eyes getting sooo heavy now ... two, you can barely keep them open now, fighting so hard, and now letting go all the way at ... three ."
Her eyes closed and Claire's body collapsed on top of me. "That's it," she murmured softly, "Deeper and deeper. So deep you'll do anything I tell you to do without thinking. Trusting me completely."
"Completely," I responded in a monotone. "What do you want me to do?"
She remained slumped against me, her body totally relaxed. "You feel hot," she told me. "Both warm and increasingly aroused. Your clothes are becoming very uncomfortable. They need to come off. With each breath you take, your clothes are becoming more and more uncomfortable." Her body began to wiggle, responding to her own suggestions of discomfort. Then her legs unfolded and she slowly stood up. I kept a hand on her to steady her until I was sure she was standing well. "That's right, standing up now. With every piece of clothing you take off, you become more comfortable and also more aroused. More and more aroused, thinking only of how great it will feel to be naked and ready for hot, passionate sex."
As Claire kept compounding the suggestion, her body moved on its own to shed her clothing. Her skin flushed pink from the neck down to her thatch and her nipples stood out, begging for action.
"That's right," she said as the last piece of her clothing hit the floor. "Totally aroused now, thinking only of how much you want sex. Wondering just how good it will feel to walk over to the bed and lie down on your back, right now." She stretched her arms outward, then glided over to the bed and followed her own instruction. "Very good, Jack," she continued. "You're so aroused, so eager for sex, but there's only one problem: your hands and feet are tied to the bed, Jack. Ropes go around your wrists and ankles and pull them toward the corners of the bed." As she spoke, her arms and legs spread wide toward the corners. "Tied up now, the ropes comfortable but absolutely holding your hands and feet firmly to the bed. The more you try to pull them free, the more strongly they are held in place and the more aroused you become. Try and pull yourself free and as you feel the ropes holding you down, you become ten times more aroused."
It was quite a spectacle. Claire lay on the bed, spread eagle, her arms and legs twitching against imaginary ropes of her own creation while her body responded to the escalating arousal. Her voice grew raspy and soft moans began to interrupt the flow of her speech as Claire continued.
"You're so aroused now," she moaned, "more aroused than you've ever been before without having an orgasm. But you won't orgasm until I tell you to, Jack. Only when I say, 'Come now' will you have the strongest orgasm you've ever had. And now, Jack, I'm going to give you a little massage. As you feel my hands roaming over your body, you'll realize that your entire body is now an erogenous zone, as sensitive and arousing to the touch as your most erotic spot is normally. Feeling my touch, growing more and more aroused, until you beg me to let you come."
I stood there, fascinated, watching Claire, until urgent signals from my groin reached my brain: Major orgasm imminent, the message said, get your clothes off and get in the saddle!
I stripped down in a hurry while Claire moaned and gasped with intense pleasure. From the way her body moved, I figured she was feeling her own imaginary touch. So I added my own to the mix, running my hands softly up and down her thighs in a sensual caress that sent her into a long, sustained sigh. "That's good," she told me, "give in to the feelings, Jack. Beg me to let you come. Beg me, please. Please."
Her voice, and her scent, almost put me over the edge right there. I eased myself into her, holding her hips and tilting for maximum penetration. Claire's back arched deeply, pressing her breasts up to the sky. I put my hand on one and squeezed it gently. "Beg me, Jack," she pleaded. "Bed me to make you come. Please!"
She needed to hear it, and I wasn't going to hold out more than a few seconds anyway. "Please," I said, "make me come. Please, Claire, make me come."
"Come now," she replied. The words were barely out of her mouth when every muscle in her body clamped down, including - especially - the ones locked around my penis. For a good minute and a half Claire rocked and moaned and panted. I didn't last three seconds into her orgasm before mine hit, putting spots in front of my eyes. It was all I could do to hold the position while Claire rode it out.
Finally, the rocking subsided and her breathing began to slow. "Very good, Jack," she sighed contentedly. "You are no longer tied to the bed. And now, at the count of three, you'll come out of hypnosis and directly into a deep, satisfying, natural sleep. Nothing will bother or disturb you until it's time to wake up in the morning. One ... two ..."
Neither of us heard her say three.
I awoke in the morning to a loud pop and a sudden sting against my bare buttock. I flipped over quickly to find a naked Claire standing over me, prepping her towel for another shot. "You're beautiful when you're angry," I said, grabbing a pillow for self defense.
She took another shot, which I deflected using my pillow. For her next shot she leaned forward off balance. I caught the towel and pulled her down with it. She landed on top of me in an exquisite pile of freshly-showered, sweet-smelling woman. I did a quick roll and pinned her to the bed. "Let me go," she pouted. "After what you did last night, you deserve it."
"What I did?" I challenged, pretending surprise. "I seem to recall that you tried to hypnotize and take advantage of me, my dear. And you got what you wanted in the end, so to speak."
She took my pillow and swatted me with it. "That's for the bad pun. And for the reverse whammy, which was evil."
"Come on," I protested, seeing how her nipples perked up at the memory of last night's session. "Don't try to tell me you didn't enjoy that."
"Of course I did," she admitted. "That's not the point."
"Then what is the point?"
She looked me straight in the eye. "This vacation is going to end soon, Jack. And I have no illusions about what's going to happen when it does. As much as I love what we do together, I wanted to know what having sex with you feels like when I'm not in a trance at the time. To see if it's real, I guess. Does that make sense?"
I had to agree, it did. So I let go of her wrists and slid my hand softly down to her chest, where I found a breast and caressed it gently. "Does this feel real?"
She closed her eyes and smiled as her nipple responded to my touch. "That's nice," she said. "It might feel even more real if you used your mouth instead of your hand."
Always willing to oblige, I let my lips and tongue pay homage as my hand swept further down, enjoying the soft feel of her skin. Her legs parted and my fingers found their way between them.
"It's getting more real by the minute," she sighed contentedly. Her right hand found something it could lock on to and started caressing back, getting me hard and ready.
"Keep doing that," I warned, "and it's going to be real quick."
"You say that as if it's a bad thing," she joked. Then, as I tried to switch to the other breast, she hooked a leg and managed to roll us both over. Her mouth met mine as her hand moved around my shaft. In a moment her tongue pressed into my mouth while her hand somehow managed to stroke the base of my penis and gently rub my balls at the same time.
All that stimulation in one place was more than my conscious mind could handle. I gave up and relaxed, resigning myself to a fast and sloppy, but extremely pleasurable, ending.
Claire sensed my surrender and mounted me easily. "No pressure," she said, "no tricks. Just come whenever you're ready, and so will I."
It didn't take long of Claire riding me before all of my bodily energy gathered in my groin. My eyes rolled back and everything else went limp as I came. Claire kept with me, rocking her hips and clutching her own breasts. Just as I was starting to soften she heaved a couple of huge gasps and pressed down against me. Her hands shot out to my chest to hold herself up as she bucked on top of me. Finally she swung a leg over and flopped down next to me, letting her fingers play with the hairs on my chest. An elfin grin came over her face as she asked, "Was it real for you, too?"
Monica sat at our usual table, a half-empty glass of apple juice in front her, when Claire and I arrived for breakfast. We were twenty minutes late, and I felt sure the color in Claire's cheeks would reveal the reason. Monica, thankfully, was discreet enough not to make a point of it.
We got food at the buffet and sat down to start eating. More to break the silence than anything else, I addressed Monica. "You never did say what you thought of the show last night."
"I'm not entirely sure," she said thoughtfully. "It had a very different feel from what I saw of the first show. Do you always dwell so much on pornography?"
That was not the reaction I was hoping for. I reran the show in my mind for a second or two, though, and saw her point. "I see what you mean. No, not usually. I think a lot of the porno references came from having a porn actress in the group."
"You were pandering to her?"
"Not really, no. But remember, the show is heavily improvised. I don't know what I'm going to be doing until I get up there and see who I've got to work with. It may be that knowing I had Roxy there made porno-related ideas more likely to occur to me. Was that a bad thing?"
Monica shrugged. "It made the show seem a bit one-dimensional."
"The audience didn't seem to mind," I insisted. Then I wondered why I was getting so defensive about it.
"I'm sure they didn't," she hastened to agree. "My expectations were just higher than that, maybe."
The user was getting annoyed but the teacher had to agree with her. "You're right, though. It's better not to let one idea dominate the show like that." Then, sensing something in Monica's face, I probed further. "Anything else?"
She contorted her face, searching for words, looking anywhere but at me. "It's hard to pin down," she told me. "Something about the tone of the show. It seemed ... a little malicious."
"Oh?" I waited quietly to hear more.
"The first show -- what I saw of it, anyway -- felt more like everyone was playing together. People having fun, and maybe getting a little out of hand. Last night it felt to me more like you were making fun of the people on stage, especially that blonde guy. It seemed like an elaborate practical joke."
It was hard to argue with Monica's assessment. "You're probably right," I admitted. "That guy was badmouthing hypnosis earlier in the day, and I was trying to make him eat his words. I'll try to keep things light and fun for the last show."
We ate in relative silence, the user seething quietly both at Monica's critique and my own easy acquiescence with it. I knew she was right; in retrospect, it was pretty obvious that I'd let my desire to humiliate Theo Kane color the show. The best part had been finding a date for Warren, thanks largely to the surprising spontaneity of Liz and Tammy. You owe them one, I told myself.
I snapped back to reality to see both girls looking at me. "Sorry. What did I miss?"
Claire scolded me with a look. "Only the complete battle plans for our shopping excursion to San Juan. Can we take it from your lack of attention that you won't be joining us?"
"You mean, schlep all the way to the other side of the island in order to wander through the tourist traps and boost the local economy? It's tempting, but I'll pass."
"Predictable male response," Monica said with a smile. "Will there be a lecture before our volunteer arrives, Professor?"
I pushed my empty plate aside to join theirs. "Overload inductions," I announced.
"An overload induction," I explained, "works by overwhelming the conscious mind with different inputs or things to consider, to the point where it gives up and cedes control to the subconscious. Most people are able to consciously attend to between five and nine things at one time; exceed that threshold and you can induce a trance very quickly and easily. For example, right now you are mostly just aware of the sound of my voice as I explain to you about overload inductions. But at the same time, while you listen to my voice, you can also concentrate for a moment on your breathing. Breathing slowly and steadily, just as if you were already in a trance, or pretending to be. And you can also imagine, at the same time, just how you might look to someone passing by while you're relaxing in the chair, and then doing whatever needs doing to make yourself appear even more relaxed. All the while, still thinking about your breathing, making sure that each breath in lasts just as long as each breath out. Really, of course, each breath in will probably be a little shorter than each breath out, but you can focus on that nonetheless, and perhaps at the same time notice the weight of your shoulders against the back of the chair, and still listening to my voice as you relax more and more.
"And while you're listening quietly to the sound of my voice, it may be that you'll notice you've forgotten to think about your breathing. That's all right; you can just start thinking about it again now while you listen to the sound of my voice and imagine what you look like from the outside and notice the weight of your shoulders against the back of the chair. And since that's only four things, you should be able to also listen to the background music playing from the ceiling speakers. That's five things now to think about. And I wonder if you can think of all five of those things and then, at the same time, notice how your feet feel on the floor, and perhaps how your arms feel as they rest in your lap. That's seven things now: the sound of my voice ... your shoulders pressing against the back of the chair ... the way you look as you relax more and more deeply ... the music in the background ... your breathing ... your arms ... your feet on the floor."
I could see the concentration in their faces as they struggled to retain awareness of each sensation. Monica's eyes had closed on their own, while Claire's stared blankly in my general direction. "I wonder if your mind is powerful enough to think of an additional thing - adding in an awareness of the temperature of the room, and then just testing to see whether you can add yet another input to your senses, so that you're thinking of NINE things all at once. Thinking about all those eight inputs and then maybe adding an awareness of how your eyes feel while you're thinking of all those other things: the feel of your shoulders against the chair ... your breathing ... the music in the background ... how you look from the outside ... the temperature of the room ... your feet on the floor ... your arms ... the sound of my voice ... and how your eyes feel.
"Your shoulders ... your breathing ... the music ... how you look from the outside ... the temperature ... your feet ... your arms ... the sound of my voice ... your eyes. Of course when anybody thinks of all these things, what they are really doing is scanning through them, one after another, so quickly that it feels as if you're thinking of all of them at once. Using your mind like a computer, sharing its available resources between the different tasks you are attempting to perform all at once. And that's why some people can only think of five things - that's the limit of their mental resources. Others can actually think of nine things. And I wonder how well your memory is working now as you struggle to remember those nine things: the feel of your shoulders ... your breathing ... the music ... how you look ... the temperature ... your feet ... your arms ... my voice ... and how your eyes feel."
They were both straining. The effort of concentration was plain on their faces; they hadn't even realized they were already in trance. "And now you can think of how good it will feel to simply allow yourself to think of only one thing, the most important thing. It will be so easy, now, to think of just one thing instead of nine things. And that one thing, that most important thing, is to think about how deeply, wonderfully relaxed you can be right now."
Both heads dropped on cue, landing softly on their chests. I had to smile; they were so easy.
"Another form of overload induction," I continued, lecturing to their subconscious minds, "is the multi-evocation, or dual induction. In a dual induction you have two hypnotists working together to induce trance in a third person. The technique takes advantage of the organization of the brain and of the brain's innate inability to pay full attention to two sources of input simultaneously.
"Here's how it works: one hypnotist sits or stands on the person's left side. That hypnotist will be speaking to the left brain and will use a standard induction. Pacing and leading, progressive relaxation, counting down ... any of those inductions speak primarily to the left brain.
"The other hypnotist sits or stands on the person's right side. That hypnotist will be speaking to the right brain, which is the creative center. That hypnotist will give suggestions about imagery, getting the right brain to imagine sensations, images, sounds, or whatever comes to mind that is relaxing and distracting."
As I spoke I became aware of a presence behind me. A quick peek revealed Will standing back watching my entranced students. I motioned him to a chair. He took the chair and sat carefully, as if trying not to disturb the women. I held up an index finger and mouthed, "Just one minute," then continued.
"As the two hypnotists speak, they need to be watching the person and also each other. They should borrow words and phrases from each other as much as possible, taking advantage of multiple meanings and puns, to further confuse the conscious mind of the volunteer. When the hypnotists see that their volunteer is surrendering, they should coordinate their speech so that they are both telling him to go deep, and then end together on the word 'now'. It's a highly effective technique that will work for anyone except the unwilling and tends to produce a profound trance state very quickly.
"And now," I concluded, "I'd like both of you to take a deep breath and count yourselves up from one to five, coming completely out of hypnosis at the count of five feeling refreshed, energetic, and ready to do a dual induction on the volunteer who's just joined our table."
I think Will was too distracted watching them to notice what I'd said. In a few seconds Monica's eyes opened, then Claire's. Both blushed slightly and smiled when they saw Will staring at them.
I introduced everyone, then exchanged seats with Claire so that Will sat between the women. "Will," I explained, "has kindly agreed to be your practice volunteer for this morning. I'd like the two of you to do a dual induction on him. Claire, since you're sitting on his left you'll use direct suggestion and a standard induction. Monica, you'll have to ad lib more because you have the right side: watch Will's reactions to your suggestions and see if you can determine which sensory input he responds best to, then emphasize that sense."
Monica nodded. "So if I say to see himself lying on a beach and his eyes move, then I should stress images?"
"That's the idea, yes. Visual is the most common orientation, but use at least sight, sound, and body feeling at first until you get an idea of how he responds."
Will looked back and forth between the two, then at me. "What do you want me to do?"
I smiled. "Just relax and enjoy the ride."
Both women looked to me. I gave them a nod. Claire started immediately. "Pick a spot somewhere," she told him, "and focus all of your attention there. Notice the colors, the textures, the shapes that make up that spot. And as you focus all of your attention on that spot, take a deep breath and begin to relax."
Monica joined in on the word relax, only she used it to start a sentence. "Relax and imagine, perhaps, that you are actually looking so intently at a picture of that spot hanging in a museum. Look closer and see the brush marks left by the painter's brush, and notice how the colors seem to break apart into smaller sections of color. You can hear, perhaps, the soft hum of air conditioning and the droning voice of a curator in the next room ..."
They spoke at the same time, making it very hard to follow both - which is the point in a dual induction, of course. Claire gave him straight directions to relax, focus, breathe, while Monica's images included the same ideas of relaxation, stepping back, disassociating him from the here and now. I could see in Will's face the struggle to listen to both. That lasted less than a minute, then his face went blank as he gave up the battle and just let both sides bombard him. The hypnotic flush came over his face and his eyes glazed over. The girls looked to me, got the thumbs up sign, and wound up their inductions with suggestions for eye closure. Their voices came together for the final instruction: "... and as they close, letting go and going deep now."
Will almost fell out of the chair. His body slumped forward like a crash dummy at the moment of impact. Monica and Claire each took an arm and sat him back up, both giving him deepening suggestions at the same time. I let them go for a minute or so, until it looked as though Will would melt through the mesh seat bottom. "That's enough now. Someone tell him to just drift and ignore everything he hears until someone touches his knee."
Monica took the lead and gave him the suggestion, adding that no matter how relaxed he might become he would always remain safely and comfortably seated. A nice touch.
A spit-eating grin lit up Claire's elfin face. "How'd we do?"
"Outstanding," I praised. "He never saw it coming. Excellent coordination, both of you."
"Thank you," Monica said. "But what do we do with him now?"
It was my turn to grin. "We call his girlfriend over." I looked around and spotted Amy watching us from another table. All it took was a wave to bring her over to us, dragging a spare chair with her.
"Wow," she said, nodding at Will. "He's really out of it."
"They did well," I agreed. "And now you have a rare opportunity, Amy. Last night, I hypnotized you and left a posthypnotic suggestion that Will can trigger whenever he likes."
Amy blushed and nodded. "It works," she affirmed. "Several times already."
I smiled at her. "So now it's your turn. Is there something you'd like to be able to get Will to do on command? Something you would both enjoy, maybe?"
She looked up, and we could all see the mental wheels turning. "He's got an easy way to get me all sexed up whenever he wants," she remarked. "I suppose it's only fair to make it work both ways, right?"
"Sounds reasonable to me," I said. "So you'd like us to give Will a trigger that will turn him on the way yours does?"
"Hmmm." She thought about it for another few seconds. "Maybe not exactly like mine. I can always get Will into bed just by flashing a little skin his way. What I can't seem to do is get him to pay attention to me when I just want to talk. Sometimes it's like if I'm not naked I'm not interesting. Does that make sense?"
Both girls were nodding emphatically. "Absolutely," said Monica.
"I have an idea," Claire said. "Every time you touch him a certain way, he becomes fixated on you and will ignore anything else that tries to get his attention."
"There needs to be an end signal, though," Monica added. "Could the same signal be the start and the end?"
"Sure," I replied. "As long as the suggestion is worded clearly. It should be something unlikely to happen by accident, though - something like your trigger, Amy. A deliberate squeeze on the shoulder." To illustrate, I reached over to Amy and squeezed her shoulder. Her eyes widened for a split second, then a puzzled look came over her. "Relax," I explained. "The trigger only works when it's Will doing the squeezing. Helps to avoid embarrassing accidents. Will that work for you?"
Amy nodded, and all three women exchanged a knowing grin.
The user felt a little like he was betraying a fellow man, but I knew better than to argue. "Make it so," I told them.
Monica touched Will on the knee. "Your mind is totally open to our suggestions, Will, is it not?" Will murmured something unintelligible through mostly closed lips. "You can speak to us clearly without disturbing your relaxation, Will. In fact, you'll find that speaking clearly helps your mind to relax even more with each word you say. Your mind is totally open to our suggestions, Will, is it not?"
"Yes," he replied.
"You love Amy, don't you?"
"Yes." A faint smile came over his lips.
"And you'd do anything to show Amy how much you love her, wouldn't you?"
She had a great rhythm going; Will's positive answers were coming faster with each question.
"And when we love someone, it's important to pay attention to them, isn't it?"
"So will you accept a suggestion that will help you give Amy the attention she needs to feel loved by you?"
No hesitation. "Yes."
Monica motioned Amy to come closer to Will. "From now on Will, Amy will sometimes squeeze your shoulder like this." She nodded to Amy, who put a nice gentle squeeze on Will's right shoulder. "Whenever Amy touches you that way, Will, it will remind you that Amy is the most interesting person you've ever met in your life. You'll want to pay full attention to everything she says and does. It will be extremely important to you to give Amy your full attention. Anything else that might try to distract you from her will be less important, and you'll be able to easily ignore those distractions and focus all of your attention on Amy. This will be a perfectly natural, normal thing for you to do and you'll enjoy doing it. You'll continue to give Amy your full, undivided attention until she squeezes your shoulder again. It will always be okay to pay attention to Amy, even if she hasn't squeezed your shoulder, but when she does squeeze your shoulder you will always make sure to pay complete and total attention to her until she squeezes your shoulder a second time. You can do this without ever consciously thinking about it, can't you, Will?"
"That's very good. It will make you feel so good to respond to Amy's touch and to pay attention to her." She looked at me, got a nod, and continued. "And now ..."
Claire waved a hand and got Monica's attention. Monica stopped and let Claire take over.
"And now, Will," Claire said, "I'm going to count from one to five. When I reach the count of five you will wake up feeling refreshed, alert, and absolutely wonderful in every way." Her eyes darted over to me for a moment, and I saw mischief in them. Curiosity kept me silent. "And from now on, whenever you squeeze Amy's shoulder to use her posthypnotic trigger, you'll find that the same suggestions Jack gave to Amy last night also affect you just as strongly as they affect her. Every suggestion Jack gave to Amy last night will affect you as well." She paused while Amy giggled.
All I did was shake my head and smile ruefully while she counted Will out of trance. The poor guy was in for one hell of a surprise. And, probably, a long and happy relationship.
It occurred to me as I watched Claire and Monica board a resort shuttle to do their tourist thing that my vacation was more than half over and I'd done precious little relaxing. With my students headed for the other side of the island, this seemed the ideal opportunity to make up for that.
The beach beckoned to me, so I changed into trunks and a T-shirt, grabbed a towel and headed out. On my way I hit the gift shop and picked up John Sandford's latest. I found myself a quiet, sparsely-populated corner of the beach and settled in for some serious goofing off.
As I read, I would occasionally glance up at the people passing by on their way on or off the beach. In a more or less steady stream of young bodies in various states of undress, none stood out in particular.
Except one, that is. Midway through Chapter Five she strolled through my field of vision. I noticed the flowing mane of honey-colored hair and well-toned body showcased in a gold metallic bikini. What intrigued me more was the pair of men who followed her like native bearers, loaded down with seemingly enough paraphernalia for a family of four. The woman pointed to a spot nearby and instantly the men jumped ahead to prepare it. They spread out blankets and set up two folding chaise lounges with a small resin table between them. She contemplated both chairs before choosing one, settling into it with a seductive wriggle. She leaned forward and both men practically leapt to untie her bikini top. One hand stretched out imperiously and was instantly filled with a small squeeze bottle. She applied the oil to her breasts with fluid, sensuous movements as the men sat on the blanket at her feet like well-trained pets.
I realized I was staring, which was not only impolite but unnecessary. At Uninhibited, after all, topless women are as common as Catholics in Rome. I went back to my book.
A few minutes later a shadow eclipsed the book. I looked up to see one of the bearers standing at my feet. "Excuse me, sir," he said, making eye contact and then looking immediately down. "The Mistress has sent me to convey her greetings, and to invite you to join her for a drink."
The idea of meeting "the Mistress" intrigued me enough that I slipped a bookmark into my novel and followed him back to the blanket. My escort dropped to his knees beside the occupied lounge and bowed. "He is here, Mistress."
"Well done, Jared." Her voice flowed smoothly with a richness that commanded respect.
Then her eyes turned to me and her right hand lifted. I took her hand in mine, bent over and kissed it - she seemed so regal that the gesture felt natural. "Jack Torrance," I said, meeting her gaze. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Thank you, Jack." Her smile conveyed both approval and a sense of shared amusement. "I am Mistress Angelica. Please, be seated." Her wave indicated the empty chaise to her left. I settled into it just in time for her other lackey to place two glasses filled with pink slush on the table between us. Mistress Angelica took a sip from hers and smiled at him. "Well done as usual, Henry. Now you boys go for a swim so Jack and I can speak."
They replied, "Yes, Mistress" in perfect unison and headed for the water.
The first thing that struck me about Mistress Angelica was the absolute comfort and assurance with which she carried herself. She sipped her drink and watched her boys run without any outward sign of awkwardness at being topless with a stranger. The second was that she was clearly older than I'd first thought - much closer to 45 than 35, judging from the skin around her eyes and hands. But she was a spectacular 45 to be sure.
I blinked. "I'm sorry?"
"Ann," she repeated, smiling over her sunglasses. "My name. You're not one of my pets, so there's no need to stand on formality."
I nodded. "Thank you. I haven't called anyone 'Mistress' since, well, ever."
"I didn't think so. You seem like one of those who like to be in control."
"Is that why I'm here?" I asked. "To be re-educated?"
Another genuine smile. "It did cross my mind to seduce you," she confessed, "but from the way you're not staring at my chest I have to conclude that your needs in that area have already been met. Perhaps by those young ladies who are so often in your company?"
"You'll understand if I don't answer that."
"Of course I will. My apologies, Jack. Anyway, as you seem impervious to my feminine charms and I don't happen to have a pocket watch on me, it would seem that enthralling you is out of the question."
"Not that you aren't quite tempting," I assured her. "But I'm not sure I would compare favorably to your pet studs anyway."
"Now you're being modest," she teased. "I saw that girl with the tattoo proposition you on stage, Jack. Look me in the eye and tell me you didn't go to her room that night."
Ah, Laurel. I chuckled softly. "Actually, I did. So did half the men who saw that show. Unlike them, I was just checking to see if she was all right. She was, aside from being stalked by people wanting to take my place. I helped her go to sleep and ignore the phone and door until morning, and left the lady with her honor intact."
Her eyebrows rose, and her expression turned to one of intense curiosity. "Did you really? How unexpectedly noble of you."
I wasn't quite sure how to respond to that. Some of my ambivalence must have shown on my face, because Ann backed off quickly.
"I'm offending you again. Please don't be irritated, Jack. I'm impressed, really. If that had been me giving the show, and a young man making that offer, I would have made him mine for the rest of his vacation."
Now I was beginning to understand. "Management frowns on that sort of thing," I pointed out, keeping my voice light.
She sighed. "They do at that. But human nature is what it is, yes?"
I left Ann soaking in the sun, drinking daiquiris, and took my book back to my room. From there I looked out at the beach from my balcony for a while, contemplating the people. I could still make out the Mistress and her minions. I even watched them spread lotion on her back while she rested.
That had been an interesting conversation. A predator learns to recognize potential competitors, evaluate them, and if necessary neutralize them. Ann had seen the user on stage and felt the need for a closer look. I'd find out soon enough, I reasoned, if she thought I was a threat.
I had a few quiet hours to enjoy my book. Just as I was beginning to think about dinner, the phone rang.
Claire's voice had a breathless tone. "Miss us?"
"I was beside myself with longing," I joked. "Couldn't concentrate for anything."
"I'm sure. Have you done anything about dinner yet?"
"Nothing. I was waiting to see when you two got back."
"Well, we're back, but we're in no fit state for socializing. Monica's in the tub now, and when she recovers enough to get out I'm next. Then I think we're both going to crash."
I pushed aside the mental image of Monica in the bathtub. "Shopped yourselves into exhaustion, did you?"
"Total exhaustion. Physical and financial."
"Here's an idea for you, then. Why don't you come up here and borrow my tub? Tell Monica to join us when she's ready and I'll order room service for the three of us."
"That does sound nice," she replied thoughtfully. "We haven't eaten since lunch, so we'd be hungry if we weren't so tired. Okay, you're on. I'll drag myself to the elevator in a minute or two."
I left the door ajar and finished my current chapter. It was more like ten minutes before Claire shuffled in looking spent. "It's only fair to warn you," she said, "if this was just a ploy to get me up here and naked, you wasted it. I'm too bushed to boogie tonight."
I had to laugh. "If I'd had any ulterior motives," I assured her, "they're gone now." I pointed to the bathroom. "Go. Enjoy. Relax."
She turned on the water and stood in the bathroom doorway, peeling off clothes. "If I fall asleep in here, don't let me get all wrinkly, okay?"
I gave her the Boy Scout salute. "I will inspect you for wrinkliness carefully and often," I promised with a joking leer. She stuck her tongue out and threw her bunched-up panties at me.
While Claire was getting settled into the bath, I opened the minibar and pulled out a bottle of local rum. It was a pale amber color, the kind you can sip straight or on ice without being a hardcore drinker. I poured some over ice and brought the glass to Claire.
She was lying in the tub with her eyes closed, luxuriating in the warmth of the water. "No wrinkles yet," I quipped.
She started at my voice. "You shouldn't sneak up on people like that," she admonished me.
"Sorry. I brought you this." I set the glass on the flat edge of the tub in easy reach.
"Mmmmmm," she said, taking a sip of the booze. "That hits the spot." She waited a moment while I enjoyed the view. "Thank you, Jack."
I kept looking. "You're welcome."
She gave me another five seconds and then cleared her throat. "You can go now, Jack."
I grinned at her until she had to smile back, then left her in peace. Back in the sitting area I found the room service menu and ordered enough arroz con pollo and sides for three with plenty of bottled water. It would take half an hour, by which time I figured I'd have some hungry ladies on my hands.
A knock sounded on the door about fifteen minutes later. I started to answer, then had a thought and detoured long enough to close the bathroom door first.
Monica wore a pink satin robe, slippers, and probably very little else. She set a paper shopping bag on the floor and settled gracefully into an easy chair. "I should probably have worn more," she noted, adjusting the robe.
"I'm not complaining."
"I noticed that." With a twinkle in her eye she added, "I also noticed that Claire left our room empty-handed, so I may still be overdressed by comparison."
Monica shared some of her impressions of San Juan while we waited for Claire and dinner. "The people were incredibly nice," she said. "Not just the ones that wanted to sell us things, either - everyone from the policeman we met in the park to the other people in the café where we had lunch to the children on the street. And the city is so colorful, Jack! Splashes of color everywhere, on the buildings and in the people's clothes and on the everyday things all around. It's beautiful."
She went into more detail on some of the places they'd been. I listened closely, trying not to notice the way the opening in her robe was beginning to plunge a little further south with each excited movement of her arms.
Room service saved me by showing up early. Two waiters brought in trays and set them on the coffee table. A small bucket held six bottles of water in ice. I signed for the meal and a healthy tip.
I was about to knock on the bathroom door when it opened. Claire stood there, sopping wet and naked with a towel clutched to her front and her nose sniffing the air. "Food?"
I grinned. "It'll still be here when you're decent."
"No guarantees!" Monica called out with a laugh as she moved to the couch and took a plate.
Claire joined us in a matter of seconds wearing one of the hotel's soft terry robes from the bathroom. "I'm jealous," Monica remarked. "All we got in our bathroom was towels."
"That's because our bathroom isn't in the penthouse," Claire reminded her. "Jack rates the VIP treatment."
"Ownership has its privileges," I joked. "But I think they sell those in the gift shop, too."
Claire lit up and looked at Monica. "Speaking of which: you didn't give it to him yet, did you?"
"Of course not," she protested. "I wouldn't do that without you."
"Did you bring it?"
Monica patted the right hand pocket of her robe. "Shall we give it to him now?"
"Let's eat first."
My curiosity was aroused, but they refused to provide any further hints until we had eaten most of our food. The girls stretched, sat back from the table, and looked at each other. "That was very nice, Jack," Monica said. "Thank you."
I shrugged. "The least I could do."
Monica reached into her pocket and pulled out a small gift-wrapped box. "Claire and I got you something in town. A small thanks for spending so much time working with us."
"You didn't have to do that," I began.
"Shh!" Claire admonished me. "We wanted to. Now say 'thank you' and open it."
"Thank you," I parroted. Inside the colorful wrapping was a white cardboard box. I lifted the lid and found, nestled in tissue paper, a shiny brass pocket watch on a chain. The cover was a round magnifying glass, and the back bore an engraving of the Puerto Rican flag.
"We know it's a horrible cliché," Monica said. "But it's also about the only hypnotic tool we haven't seen you use on anyone."
"It's beautiful," I told them, holding the watch aloft. "I love it. Thank you."
"Go ahead," Claire urged me. "You know you want to."
With a short chuckle, I held the watch higher and started it slowly swinging back and forth. "It's the perfect size and weight for this," I told them as all three of us watched it sway back and forth. "See how smoothly it swings? How it catches the light and reflects it back in all different directions? It would be so easy to just watch it swing and drift off so easily into trance ."
I hadn't really intended to start doing an induction with it; I was simply trying it on for size, seeing how well it would work for that purpose. But as I spoke I had unconsciously dropped into voice, and the girls were responding. Their eyes followed the watch in unison while their bodies sat still and quiet. They weren't in trance yet, but they were headed that way.
"That's right," the user continued. "Feeling your eyes growing sleepy, tired, drowsy, droopy. Noticing that with each blink, your eyelids want more and more to just close down and stay down. So hard to keep opening them again. It would be so easy to just let them close and let your mind and body relax as I count from five down to one. Your eyelids become more and more heavy with each count, but not until I reach the count of one will you close your eyes and let yourself go completely into the deepest trance you've experienced yet. Five, eyes becoming so heavy; four, heavier and heavier, wanting so much to just close; three, feeling your mind drifting away, blank and open; two, eyes so heavy now it's almost impossible to keep them open, impossible not to let them close down as I reach ... one. Sleep now."
Their eyes closed and their bodies dropped back against the couch cushions. Both robes gaped open, showing me plenty of cleavage and deep, easy chest movement. "Deeper and deeper still," I coached them. "Letting your mind go completely blank, empty and relaxed. And when you are deeper than you've ever been before, letting your hand just rise up into the air and stay there as if held up by a hundred helium balloons."
I had no idea even as I talked them down what I was going to do with them once their hands went up. I wasn't even sure why I was hypnotizing them - the user had just come forward and done that in response to Claire's prodding. Then my eye fell on the bucket, which still held those bottles of cold water, and I remembered something I'd done a long time ago on stage.
Both women had a hand floating in the air. "You can let your hand sink slowly and gently back to your lap now," I said, "and when you feel your hand return to your lap you can sit up straight, exactly the way you were sitting when I first started swinging the pocket watch, but with your eyes remaining closed and your mind remaining in trance."
In a few moments they were back in their original postures, eyes closed, awaiting my next suggestion. "In a few moments I will count to three. When I reach three you will wake up feeling exactly as you did when you first began to watch the watch. You will believe that I have just started to hypnotize you but haven't done it yet. Your conscious mind will firmly and completely believe that you have not been hypnotized tonight, while your subconscious obeys the rest of my suggestion. When I stop swinging the watch, you'll notice that you feel thirsty and would like a bottle of water. When you drink the water, you will find that you only take one mouthful at a time and that it's the best-tasting water you've ever had. You'll want to keep drinking the water, one mouthful at a time, until the bottle is empty. Aside from being the best-tasting water ever, this water will have one other effect: your body finds this water extremely sexually arousing. Each mouthful you swallow will cause you to become more aroused, as if you were being subtly fondled by an expert lover. When half of the bottle is gone, your inhibitions will disappear and you'll want to let your free hand wander all over your body, touching yourself anywhere that it feels good to be touched, and it will seem normal to you. When the bottle is three quarters gone you'll begin to feel as if you are receiving incredibly skillful oral sex and you'll be even more open about fondling and touching yourself. That feeling will intensify with each drink of water until the bottle is empty. When you take the last swallow from the bottle, and only then, you will experience the strongest, most intense orgasm of your life. It won't matter who may hear you or see you, you'll just relax and enjoy the orgasm to its fullest. When the orgasm is over, you will no longer be thirsty and no longer feel compelled to drink more water - but if you decide to have another bottle tonight, it will affect you exactly the way the first one did."
I reinforced the suggestion a few times, then counted them up. As I counted I began to swing the watch again. "Yes," I said, continuing the earlier thread, "It would be so easy to just drop into trance now ." With a jerk, I dropped the watch into my other hand and saw them blink awake with a start. "But that's not what we wanted to do tonight, is it? We're still having dinner."
"It would have been okay with me," Claire assured me. "After all, we haven't been hypnotized today. I wouldn't want to go cold turkey."
"Trance junkies," Monica quipped. "Maybe we should check into Betty Ford after this trip."
"That's normal," I said. "People learning hypnosis spend a lot of time in trance. And why not? It feels good, doesn't it?"
"Absolutely," Claire agreed. "But what would really feel good right now is some of that water."
The bucket contained six of the sixteen-ounce bottles. I pulled out two and handed one to each of my companions. They twisted the caps off eagerly and gulped down the first swallow.
"Wow," Claire said. "This is amazing water. Is this something different from what they usually have?"
"Mm-mmm" Monica hummed, taking her second swig. "It's the same bottle they have in the restaurant and all the vending machines. Maybe we've just never had it this cold before." She took another swig and continued. "This is so weird. Part of me wants to just drain the bottle it's so good, but I keep stopping."
"Savoring it?" I suggested.
"Exactly," Claire agreed between swallows. "After a day like ours, good food and cold water is like great sex."
"Yes," Monica concurred. "That's exactly what it feels like. Hot, passionate sex." As she took another swallow, her free hand clenched the satin robe and rubbed against her stomach.
I grabbed a bottle for myself while they continued to extol the virtues of the hotel water. It wasn't long before both ladies were reaching inside their robes.
Monica was the first to notice. "Claire, you're feeling yourself up!"
"Am not," she shot back as her free hand roamed inside the robe. "I'm just adjusting my robe." And she pulled a handful of terry cloth upward, opening a gap in the robe that exposed as much skin than Elvira's favorite gown. "You're the one fondling your own boob."
Monica tried to look shocked as she swallowed more water. "No, I'm not." Then she looked down at herself. "Okay, I am. You shouldn't have made that 'like great sex' remark in front of someone who hasn't had any in ages." Her hand flew to her mouth. "Oops - you didn't hear that, Jack."
"It's affecting him, too," Claire pointed out. "Look at his crotch."
All three of us looked, though I didn't have to. I already knew I was visibly aroused. "What can I say? It's really good water."
"There's more to it than that," Monica said. "Oh, Jesus!" Her bottle was below half empty and her hand was now below the waist, where the robe was open enough for me to see the white triangle of shimmering cloth between her legs. Her eyes locked accusingly onto me as she took another swig. "You did something." With her next sip she dribbled some onto her chest. Her hand automatically swung into action, rubbing the water into her breasts. The robe barely held on.
Claire, meanwhile, was no longer even trying to fight it. Her robe lay wide open as she unabashedly fingered herself. "I am so going to get you for this, Jack," she promised.
"Aren't you enjoying yourself?" I asked innocently.
"That's not ... the point," she panted, taking the gulp that brought her bottle below three quarters gone. Her eyes opened wide at the sudden change in sensation. "Holy shit!"
Monica was holding her mostly-empty bottle against her exposed breast between sips while the other hand wriggled inside her panties. Her eyes were closed and her head lay back against the couch. My penis begged me to put it inside of her and hold it there while she came. Instead I relaxed and let myself enter a light trance, knowing it would help quiet the urgings of my groin.
Monica finished her bottle first. As the last mouthful ran down her throat she threw the bottle aside and grasped the couch as if holding on for dear life. Her back arched, her legs spread wide and her breath came in loud, furious bursts. I admired her body as it quivered with the power of her release.
A gasp and a shriek from Claire got my attention. Her bottle was now empty as well, crushed by the power of her grip. Her grunts became synchronized with Monica's, creating an odd sort of erotic stereo effect.
Monica was the first to speak afterwards. "I should be very upset with you, Jack," she sighed, "but I just don't have the energy right now." Slowly, she stood up and gathered the robe together.
"Come on," I cajoled as she belted the robe. "You know that felt damned good."
"Oh, yes," she agreed, nodding emphatically. "Great. Stunning. Magnificent, even. But in the future, Jack, I'd like you to ask me before you seduce my mind. Fair enough?"
"Okay," I agreed grudgingly.
"And now," she announced, "I think I'll go to bed."
"Here," I said, grabbing another bottle from the bucket. "Have one for the road."
She regarded the bottle suspiciously, shook her head, and opened the door. I watched as she stopped in the doorway and looked back. Her eyes met mine, then dropped to the bottle in my hand. I could see the wheels turning in her mind. All of a sudden she darted back into the room, took the bottle from my hand, and caught the door before it closed.
"Enjoy," I said.
She paused long enough to shoot me a sly smile. "I intend to."
"We're corrupting her," Claire remarked lazily. She was still draped over her end of the couch, robe mostly off, contemplating the empty water bottle. "A week ago she'd have been mortified at the idea of someone watching her come by herself. Hell, she'd have freaked at the idea of ME watching her and we've been friends for years."
"It may not be us," I replied. "I'm told this place has that effect on people. The anonymity, the warm weather, the lack of any kids around, all contribute to an insidious hedonistic vibe. The normal rules definitely do not apply here."
"So it seems." Gingerly, she pulled herself back upright and slipped the robe back onto her shoulders. "I can't believe I didn't pass out on the couch."
I set the bucket, with its two remaining bottles in front of her and took one for myself. "No, sir," she declared, pushing the bucket away. "I think I've had enough."
I shrugged and took a pull from mine. "You sure? It is good water. Be a shame to waste it."
Her eyes narrowed into a glare. "What's the matter, Jack, wasn't the first show enough?" I sat back, startled at the sudden edge in her manner. "Don't give me the innocent look," she continued. "I saw you staring at her. You couldn't take your eyes off her. I might as well have been part of the furniture for all you noticed."
Oh, shit. She had a point -- I'd been so fixated on Monica's responses, Monica's body, that I'd paid very little attention to Claire. "I'm sorry," I began.
"No you're not," she spit back. "I knew from the start it was Monica you really wanted. You're so transparent, Jack. I just hoped that after all we've done together, maybe I'd rate a little higher." She sniffled and used the lapel of the robe to dab at her eyes.
She resisted at first, but then let me pull her over into my arms. "I never meant to hurt you," I told her. Now there's an original thought, my inner demon taunted. "It may not seem like it, but I really am sorry."
"I don't know why you bother with me," she muttered into my chest. "You could've had her tonight, or even last night, if you had half tried. She wants you so much it's pathetic."
As big a revelation as that was, this was clearly not the time to pursue it. I gave it one more try. "Claire, you are one of the most exciting women I've ever known. I love ... love spending time with you." What the fuck were you about to say? the demon screamed. "I don't know how I can make this up to you, but I hope you'll give me the chance to."
I held her sobbing figure for a while longer until she quieted down. Without a word she got up and went to the bathroom. She emerged a few minutes later still flushed, with her robe firmly belted around her and closed all the way to the throat. I dared not say a word. She marched around the couch, grabbed the last water bottle and strode toward the bedroom area. "You stay right there," she warned me before disappearing behind the dividing wall.
You couldn't have paid me to go into that bedroom just then. I did, however, shift my position on the couch enough that I could use the mirrored closet door to peek in on her.
Claire was sitting on the edge of the bed with her robe open. One hand held the water while the other roamed her body. Every few seconds she'd take another swig from the bottle and the roaming hand would become more insistent and intimate. Then she spied the closet door and caught me peeking. She stormed back into the sitting area, robe falling off, and stared me down accusingly. "So now you want to look, do you? Now that nobody else is here to gawk at, you're willing to pay attention to me? Is that how it works, Jack?" She drained it to the three-quarters-gone level and braced herself against the wall as the sensations hit. "Jesus!"
I jumped up to keep her from falling as she took another swig. She folded into my arms and immediately grabbed for my crotch. "If you don't take me back there and fuck me senseless," she warned, "I'll never forgive you."
An impish impulse hit me. "Does that mean you will if I do?"
She groaned loudly and clunked me over the head with the water bottle. I lifted her up and carried her back to my bed, laying her down gently and taking the water bottle from her. "That's mine!" she cried out.
"I know," I replied, shucking off my clothes. "You're not going to need it for a while."
For the next twenty minutes I supplemented Claire's imaginary oral sex with the real thing, kissing and licking and sucking all of her pleasure points. She writhed and moaned in ecstasy, unable to climax but too far gone into bliss to really notice. Finally, when her voice was becoming hoarse, I gave her the bottle and held her close while she shuddered through the ensuing orgasm.
"Hey," she breathed some time later. "We didn't take care of you. You should have slipped inside me before I came."
"This wasn't about me," I said quietly. "Sleep, Claire."
Friday morning I woke up groggy to a strange silence. The clock's red letters said 9:20.
"Hey," I grunted, reaching around for Claire. "We forgot to set the alarm." But my arm flailed weakly against empty space -- she wasn't in the bed. She wasn't in the sitting area or the bathroom either. Her clothes were gone and her borrowed bathrobe hung from a hook.
With only ten minutes before our normal breakfast time, I didn't pause long to reflect on it. A fast shower and a faster dressing left little time for that sort of thing.
I needn't have rushed. When I reached the dining room, our usual table was empty and still marked with a discreet little "Reserved" sign. A waitress greeted me with a warm smile and removed the sign. "Your companions are late this morning," she observed.
"So it seems." I ordered coffee and settled in to wait.
It was nearly ten when they finally came down. Claire was in a tank and shorts, Monica in a casual sundress. "You've been waiting a while," Monica noted, nodding to my empty coffee cup.
"Somebody turned off my alarm clock," I remarked, glaring mildly at Claire. "By pure fluke I woke up early enough to be down here at the usual time anyway."
"Sorry about that," Claire said. "What do you say we attack the buffet before they close it down?"
It seemed like a good idea. We got our food and focused on that more than conversation. With the plates emptied and pushed aside, we sipped from our juice glasses and finally started to talk.
"Tonight is your last show of the week, isn't it?" Monica asked me.
"That's right. Tomorrow afternoon I go back to the real world."
She nodded. "Our shuttle leaves in the morning. Which means we are going to be very busy today getting our things together."
"Yes," Claire agreed. "We have a lot to work out." A tension crept into her voice as she spoke. Monica's face had also tightened a hair.
I chose to play the obtuse male and pretend I didn't notice. "Then I'll make the final lesson a short one." They turned their attention to me and I assumed lecture mode.
"This week you've learned a lot of ways to induce a trance, how to formulate direct and indirect suggestions to get the result that's wanted, and how to bring someone out of trance with suggestions for wellness. It may seem to you that with all you've learned it should be no problem to get someone to quit smoking, lose weight, stop being afraid of heights, or whatever. Wrong. All we've done this week has been a series of parlor tricks -- using hypnosis to lower inhibitions or get people to behave in a certain way for a short, immediate period. To help people make lasting changes you have to know hypnoanalysis, which is the process of finding out why people adopted the behavior in the first place. There is a reason why smokers smoke -- sometimes more than one -- and until that reason is addressed and dealt with, the smoker will continue to smoke no matter how many times you suggest that he stop.
"Aside from training, there is a legal issue you need to remember. You both live in Indiana, which happens to be a state that closely regulates the practice of hypnotism. It is illegal for you to practice hypnotism in Indiana without a state-issued certification, which you can only get by completing a state-approved training program. Monica, that means that if a student comes to you in an emotional state and you decide to do a quick induction to calm her down, you have just committed a crime. Claire, if you run into a stressed-out colleague and teach her self-hypnosis, that's a crime. What we did last night would technically be illegal if we did it at either of your homes because I'm not certified in Indiana."
Claire giggled. "So what you're saying is, use this power only for ... nothing?"
"That's right. You can probably get away with it in the privacy of your home, for your own entertainment. Or, take the 500 hours of training and get certified. Then you can use this power for whatever you like, within reason."
"It's going to be harder than I thought," Monica offered, "not using this as a counseling tool. So many of my seniors are suffering with stress over their grades, their relationships, their life after high school."
"I think my office partner knows someone in Indianapolis," I volunteered. "When we get back, I'll ask and send you the information. You can refer out when you need to."
I felt pretty confident that they had that message. "One more thing," I told them. "Even though you're not going to run around hypnotizing people at random because it's wrong and will get you into legal trouble, I want to make sure you know how to deal with an abreaction.
"An abreaction is a release of strongly emotional material that can occur during trance," I explained. "In therapy it is usually an essential part of the process, but in a casual environment an abreaction can scare people. For example, I once saw an amateur hypnotist tell someone that at the snap of his fingers she would smell peanut butter. When he snapped his fingers, the poor lady he was doing this with screamed and ran from the room. It turned out she was extremely allergic to peanuts, to the point that getting a good whiff of them was enough to cause a reaction. I found her huddled in a corner covered with hives.
"Now that was an extreme case. Most abreactions take the form of a major crying jag. You can tell by watching someone's face: if their nose turns red and they are not looking very relaxed, an abreaction is coming. Since you're not doing therapy, your best response to an impending abreaction is probably to try and head it off. You might tell the peanut lady, 'When I snap my fingers you realize that all peanut scent is completely gone and you are totally safe' and then snap immediately. Cancel the suggestion that seems to be causing the problem and make sure you tell the person that they are safe.
"Another approach is to use a very minor, reassuring type of touch, like putting your hand over their hand and pressing down just a bit. Accompany that touch with a suggestion like, 'As you feel the warmth of my hand on yours, you can take a deep breath and clear your mind of all unpleasant thoughts. You are safe and secure with me and nothing can bother or disturb you here.' Same idea, making them feel safe and negating the upsetting suggestion."
"Why not just wake them up right away?" Claire asked.
"That's a very bad idea. An abreaction is a strong emotional response. You can't just shut that off and pretend it didn't happen. If you simply end the trance right then, the person will still be feeling that emotion and may be very distressed. If someone is going to trust you to take them into trance, you owe it to them to make it a pleasant experience. As a hypnotist it's your responsibility to provide comfort and have them come out of trance feeling calm and positive about the experience."
They were both nodding quietly. "Lecture over," I announced. "Any questions?"
"One," Claire spoke up. "What are you going to do in the show tonight?"
I laughed. "Haven't a clue. I'll figure that out when I see who comes up to play and how good they are."
"Or how bad they want to be?" she grinned back.
Monica rose. "I hate to break up the class, but we do have a lot to do before tomorrow morning, Claire. See you at dinner, Jack?"
I nodded. "Wouldn't miss it."
With a sigh, I watched them walk away from what had become our table. By this time the next day we'd be heading home. For the first time it really began to sink in that my busman's holiday was almost over.