Sunlight was streaming into the room. I opened my eyes to find a naked blonde bending over me, nudging my shoulder and talking. Her body smelled of soap and shampoo and her skin had that pink glow that comes from a hot shower. "Huh?" I grunted, buying time.
She signed, and a pair of erect nipples wiggled before my face. "My clothes, Jack. Where did you put my clothes?"
For a long moment my mind was blank. Then I remembered a mint green dress and cream-colored thong. "The closet," I mumbled. "Hanging up in the closet."
Claire giggled. "A sex fiend with a neat streak -- who knew?"
I was awake enough to laugh with her now. "By the way," I said to her retreating backside. "You have a homework assignment." And while I watched her dress I told her about the need to come up with three suggestions to give Monica. "Sorry for the short notice, but it's due after breakfast."
"That's okay," she replied, fitting her breasts into the support shelf in the dress. "I think I can come up with something. When's breakfast -- the usual time?"
I squinted at the clock: 8:52. The usual time was half past nine. "That's fine."
The dining room staff had noticed us, it seemed -- when I got down there at 9:25, our usual table was already set for three and had an elegant RESERVED sign standing in the middle. The hostess greeted me by name and ushered me to the table, removing the sign as she left me.
Stu Redman's crew had been active as well. A large sign at the main entrance announced to everyone walking by that tonight's featured show was JACK TRANCER, MASTER HYPNOTIST. Several more signs, adorned with spirals and sketches of slack-faced people staring blankly ahead, decorated the walls inside.
Beneath one such sign sat Barbie and Ken and their companions from the previous morning. Ken was holding forth on the subject, apparently inspired by the poster. "It's all hooey," he assured his small audience. "They plant people in the audience to go up and pretend to be in the guy's power."
Barbie nodded enthusiastically. "Real people won't do those kinds of things," she asserted. "My uncle uses hypnosis in his psychology practice, and he says stage hypnotists are charlatans."
Their friends were skeptical. "So you're saying that nobody really gets hypnotized in these shows?"
Ken shrugged. "Oh, sometimes they do -- if you get a big enough crowd, you're bound to find a few weak-minded people who'll get taken in. But it's just a show."
Oh, yeah? I thought, struggling to maintain my poker face. Come up on stage tonight, and we'll see how much of a charlatan I am! Then my students arrived, driving thoughts of the stuffed-shirt couple to the background.
"Good morning," Monica said, her smile broad and slightly teasing. "I see you're doing a bit of advertising now."
I threw up my hands in mock protest. "Not my doing. I may have mentioned to the tech crew that building up anticipation helps a lot, but all these signs were their idea."
"But you approve."
"Sure," I admitted. "If people come in here tonight expecting to be hypnotized, my job becomes a lot easier." Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ken stand up and make for the buffet. I rose up as well, a naughty idea forming in my brain. "Shall we eat?"
Ken was standing in front of the omelet chef's station, watching the preparation of his breakfast. Motioning to the girls to stand back, I deliberately backed into him, causing him to drop his empty plate.
"What the f---" He wheeled around at the same time I did.
"I'm sorry," I said, with all the fake sincerity I could muster. "I was looking somewhere else."
He looked me over and apparently decided I wasn't a threat. "No biggie," he replied, and started to turn back to the chef.
"I don't think we've met," I continued. "My name is Jack." And I extended my hand in the classic gesture.
He responded automatically by reaching his hand out for mine, as I intended. I grasped his wrist gently but firmly with my free left hand and lifted it up to within about eighteen inches of his face. Ken's face blanked as his mind tried to deal with the unexpected break of the ritual pattern. "That's right," I said quickly, lifting my right hand to point to his. "Keep watching that hand, focus on that hand, and as it moves slowly toward your face, you'll be able to notice the change in focus and the way your eyes want to close down now." As I spoke, rapidly but softly, I pushed his hand a little closer toward his face and let it go. At the words "close down now" I swept my right hand down, causing his eyes to follow it and close on command. "That's right," I continued, noting that his arm was now cataleptic and moving on its own. "And now you can allow your hand to slowly creep in and touch your face no faster than you can let your entire body relax and your mind float free. And I don't know which will happen first, whether your hand will touch your face first or your mind will drift off into a deep state of profound relaxation and peace, or maybe they'll happen at the same time, I don't know. But I do know that you can experience deep hypnosis as easily as you can allow your hand to drift closer and touch your face now."
Ken was mine. His body stood motionless, except for the gentle drift of his right hand toward his face. I kept up a barrage of indirect suggestions to get him deeper, tying his physical experiences to deepening trance, until his hand touched his cheek. "And now that you have experienced hypnosis yourself," I told him, "you know that your unconscious mind can remember what your conscious mind can forget, and that's that you are in hypnosis now and you can be hypnotized easily any time you wish to be hypnotized again. But like the series of movements you make when you shake hands, you can just let your unconscious remember that and make it happen, and your conscious mind can just remember that you made a new friend at the buffet. Just as I know your unconscious mind can remember to be interested in hypnosis, and you may even find that you want to come to the hypnosis show tonight and volunteer to be hypnotized, even though your conscious mind may forget to remember why. And now you can allow your hand to drop down to your side only as fast as you can decide to participate in the hypnosis show tonight and return to your normal waking state."
Ken's eyes moved rapidly under closed lids, and his hand began to sink toward his side. When his eyes began to open I grabbed his hand and finished the handshake. "Jack Torrance."
His eyes snapped back to full alertness and he completed pumping my hand, putting too much pressure on it. "Theo Kane," he responded. "Pleased to meet you."
I needed a distraction to help cement amnesia for the trance; the unnecessary squeeze seemed gave me an idea, so I took a guess. "You played ball, didn't you?"
He grinned broadly. "Tight end for USC, until I broke an ankle and missed my whole senior year. You follow the team?"
"Not as much as I used to," I lied. "Hey, your omelet's ready."
"Oh, yeah. Nice seeing you." He took his omelet from the chef and lumbered back to his table.
The chef grinned at me and started making my usual. Monica and Claire looked a dozen questions at me, but asked none until we got back to the table. There, Monica nodded her head toward the other group. "Are you going to tell us what that was about?"
I tried on an innocent shrug. "I thought that for today's lesson I'd show you some other ways of inducing trance. The handshake induction I did with him is a famous technique that Erickson used a lot. It got so that at conventions, nobody wanted to shake his hand because they knew what he would do."
Claire looked puzzled. "But how does it work?"
"The unconscious mind is the seat of all learning," I explained. "Everything you've ever seen, sensed, or experienced is in there. It also coordinates all of our habitual actions -- those things that we do automatically, that if we actually stopped to think about them would be too complicated to explain. Like steering a car in a straight line. When we first start to drive, we have to think about that consciously, making all the little adjustments needed to keep the car on a straight course; later, that activity filters down to the unconscious level and we do it automatically, freeing up our conscious mind to think about where we're going and how to get there."
"Or to fiddle with the radio and watch for speed traps," Claire injected.
I chuckled. "That, too. Each of us has a number of complex tasks that we've learned and installed into our unconscious minds. Each is a pattern of physical responses to external stimuli, and the unconscious plays out the pattern every time it perceives the stimulus. For example, the handshake: it's almost universal among North Americans that when someone puts out their right hand, you extend yours and shake it.
"But if something happens to interrupt that pattern -- for example, my taking his wrist in my left hand and manipulating his arm in a different way from the expected -- then the learned pattern is broken. That sends the person's mind into a trans-derivational search: the unconscious mind doesn't know what to do, so the conscious mind has to think of an appropriate response. That state is a form of trance, and the unconscious will accept just about any suggestion that it hears during the second or so that it takes to recover. The suggestion could be as simple as sleep, which usually results in a light to medium trance state and the ability to give more suggestions. With that guy, I gave him a series of suggestions designed to overload his conscious thought process. With too many things to think about at once, his unconscious took over and he did what I told him to do."
Monica raised a finger. "Isn't the unconscious the same as the subconscious?"
"Sure. They're both just words for that inner mind we all have, the part that stores all of our memories and experiences. I tend to use both because I've had teachers that used both, but it's all the same thing."
She lowered her voice for the follow-up question. "And why did you give him those suggestions to come to the show tonight and volunteer? I thought you didn't pick volunteers ahead of time."
"Duly admonished," I allowed. "Before you came down, he was holding forth for his little group over there, telling them how stage hypnosis is always fake and the people in the audience are shills planted there to be entertaining. When the handshake induction worked on him so easily, I knew he'd be good on stage. I may have him eating some crow later tonight."
Monica gave me kind of an odd look, but didn't pursue whatever she was thinking.
By the time we were through eating, the dining crowd had thinned out as usual. Monica wiped her mouth, set the napkin aside, and put her hands in her lap. "Is it time to review our homework now?"
I thought about it for a second or two. "No," I said, surprising them both. "I'd like to change the venue, and Claire hasn't had much time to work on hers because she got a late start. How about if we meet in the lobby in, say, an hour and do today's lesson on the beach? And bring your suggestions in written form."
"The beach?" Claire looked puzzled. "Why?"
"Why not?" I countered. "It's a comfortable place with people around, but where nobody really pays any attention to what you do. Besides, this is my fourth day here and I've yet to set foot on it. You don't want me to go home looking like I stayed indoors the entire time, do you?"
Laughing, they agreed to my plan. The user smiled.
When we met in the lobby an hour later, the girls were in terry cloth jumpers, sandals and shades. Monica had a beach blanket with her, and Claire a small cooler. Both had large canvas bags as well. "You brought that with you from Indiana?" I asked, pointing to the cooler.
She giggled. "No, silly -- I borrowed it from the front desk. They have all kinds of things if you just ask them."
"Oversized beach blankets, for instance," Monica added.
"You two think too much."
A smooth clay path took us away from the hotel, past the tennis courts, and down to the beach. As the grass gave way to sand, the clay was replaced by a wooden boardwalk lined with kiosks. Shades, beach balls, sun block, cold drinks, folding chairs ... anything you might want on the beach could be bought or rented right there on the way.
We found ourselves a semi-secluded spot high on the beach near the bluff and spread out our blanket there. Rolled into the blanket was another surprise: three contraptions that looked like they might once have been part of a folding deck chair. It took me a few minutes to figure out how they worked, but in the end we got it. They were backrests for sitting up while relaxing on the beach. Smaller and easier to carry than a chaise lounge, but by varying the angle you could get pretty much the same comfortable positions.
I plopped down in the middle of the blanket and watched while the girls stripped off their jumpers. Monica was in her black triangle bikini. Claire wore a sky blue bikini with a very brief bottom, almost but not quite a thong. Both of their bodies glimmered with applied sunscreen. "You planned ahead," I remarked, rubbing some of the oil on my own arms and chest.
"You don't know the half of it," Claire assured me. "We put on extra sun block before getting dressed, just in case our bathing suits mysteriously dissolve while we're out here."
"I'm shocked," I jokingly protested. "Do you really think I'd do something like that?"
"You'd try," Monica teased. "And after yesterday, we're taking no chances."
The user, of course, was thrilled -- if they were prepared for the possibility of ending up nude, then they were convinced on some level that it could happen. Therefore, a well-worded suggestion could make it so. Pleasant as the thought was, though, that wasn't why I'd brought them to the beach.
I got up and turned around, sitting with my back to the water so I could face both of them. Monica sat on my left, Claire on my right, both looking expectantly at me.
"Before we get into the homework on suggestions," I began, "I'd like to change gears a little bit, maybe slow things down a little. There is a well-known hypnotic induction that starts out by having the person imagine they are sitting on a beach watching the sun set. I'm not going to ask you to imagine that now because that would be ridiculous; after all, here you are, really sitting on the beach, so you don't have to imagine it. You can feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, the softness of the blanket beneath you, the texture of your bikini top stretching as you breathe slowly and deeply in and out. And as you listen to my voice, and the background sounds of the surf, and feel perhaps a very slight breeze blowing against your skin, you can also notice how time seems to just stretch out until it becomes quite meaningless to you. You can float and drift, relaxing and letting your mind wander where it will, while the part of you that learns and remembers listens to my voice and takes you deeper inside, deeper and deeper. That's right. You may even be noticing soon how sitting on the beach brings you the same feelings as being in trance: a soothing, quiet, sleepy sort of feeling in which your conscious mind can float free, paying no particular attention to anything, while your unconscious listens and attends to every word I say. And you can let go and let yourself go all the way down ... now."
Everything about their body language said that they were totally relaxed. They were so accustomed to going into trance for me that it almost didn't matter what I said, as long as I used the same tone of voice that I normally use for inductions. I could probably read them my laundry list in that tone and see their eyes glaze over.
"What you just experienced," I told them, "is a simple technique called pacing and leading. Pacing means making a statement that is obviously true about what the person is experiencing at that moment, preferably something they may not have consciously noted yet. Each time I made a pacing statement, your conscious mind checked to see if what I said was true and found that it was. After several pacing statements, I can then put in a leading statement -- something that I want to be true, but that probably wasn't until I mentioned it. A good rule of thumb is to make three pacing statements, then follow with one or two leading suggestions. If you follow that structure, you can lead someone into a trance before they even entirely realize that you're doing it. If you practice pacing and leading, you can improvise a hypnotic induction for just about anyone.
"Another new technique that I used with you just now is accessing a previous trance. If someone has been in a trance before -- and by now you realize that we've all been in trances before -- you can get them there again simply by saying things that cause them to recall what that trance experience felt like. Since you were both in very deep trances for me yesterday, I made reference to that and it brought you quickly back to the same state today. If I want to, I might tomorrow ask you a question or two about how you are feeling right now, and in order to answer the question you would have to go back into this state you're in now, which would be what I had in mind by asking the question. And doesn't it feel wonderful to be so deeply hypnotized, on the beach, going deeper and deeper with each word I say? That's right."
Reaching to my right, I put a hand on Claire's knee and squeezed. "And now, Claire, I want you to just drift along in hypnosis. Until the next time I squeeze your knee like this, it's okay to just ignore anything you might hear or feel."
Then I turned to Monica. "And you, Monica, can allow the energy to seep back into your limbs as you return to your waking state. One ... two ... three, wide awake."
I enjoyed the view while Monica stretched, her muscles moving smoothly under the skin. I could imagine her eyes fluttering open and focusing behind the dark glasses. Her hands went straight to the bikini top and patted it. "Feels like I'm still dressed," she remarked.
"Of course you're still dressed," I replied, feigning exasperation. "What kind of pervert do you think I am?"
She lowered her glasses enough to let me see the twinkle in her eyes. "That remains to be seen," she quipped. "But you did have a golden opportunity yesterday, and you willingly passed it up. That counts for a lot."
"Thanks ... I think." I lowered my own glasses and winked at her. "Now, let's see what kind of pervert you are. Your homework, please?"
Monica frowned slightly as she removed an index card from her bag. "These are going to seem awfully tame compared to yesterday," she warned me.
I took the card from her and read the contents. "They look perfectly doable," I judged. "And there's a little room for some fun in there. I think this will work out fine." Reaching out to Claire, I squeezed her knee. "And now, Claire, you can feel the energy returning to your body as I count up to three, allowing yourself to become fully awake by the time I reach three. One ... two ... three. Welcome back."
Claire stretched her limbs out and adjusted her bikini straps. "If nothing else," she joked, "I'll go home well rested."
"How long do you think you were in trance?" I asked, smiling.
"I'm guessing not too long, because I'm not turning red or blistering," she answered. "But other than that, I couldn't say whether it was two minutes or two hours."
"Time distortion," I noted. "Shows how good you are at achieving deep trance. And now, if you'll lend me your sunglasses, we'll let Monica have her way with you."
Claire squinted as the sun shone into her newly-uncovered eyes. Monica moved over and knelt right next to her, with her back to me, and removed her own sunglasses. "Are you ready to go into hypnosis now?"
"Ready," Claire confirmed.
"Good," Monica said, letting her voice soften into a tone vaguely reminiscent of mine. "I'd like you look directly into my eyes, Claire," she said. "Notice the change in focus as you let them make contact with mine. You may still hear the sounds of people playing around us, and feel the sun warming your skin. And as you take a deep breath in and relax, you may begin to notice how your eyes are already becoming tired, wanting to close down ... now."
The teacher was very pleased with the way Monica had learned to use pacing and leading and indirect suggestion. Consciously or otherwise, she'd even chosen an induction that would make the most use out of the eye fatigue that would quickly set in as Claire stared up into Monica's face, with the sun streaming down behind it. The user, meanwhile, was very pleased with the close-up view of Monica's delightful back and shoulders, and the lovely shape of her rear end as she knelt before me.
Claire's eyes had closed already. "That's right," Monica told her, "Closed down, way down. You already know how to go deeper and deeper, just as deep as you were a few minutes ago. And you can, Claire, count down from five to one no faster than you can allow yourself to drift as deep as you can possibly go ... now."
Claire's lips moved slowly. "Five ... four ... ... three ..." As she counted, Monica continued giving her deepening suggestions and Claire's body took on all of the signs of deep trance. "Two" was a bare whisper, with her lips hardly moving. Neither of us heard the last number.
Monica turned and looked at me inquiringly. I grinned and mimed silent applause, then pointed to the first suggestion on her list. She nodded and faced Claire again. "And now, Claire, as you float comfortably in hypnosis, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin ... it's a warm day today, ninety degrees ... and I wonder when you'll notice the air around you becoming colder and colder. Can you enjoy feeling the temperature around you falling to eighty degrees? How will you feel when the temperature reaches seventy degrees? In a moment you may even feel a cold breeze across your skin as the temperature falls to sixty degrees." As she said it, Monica pulled a newspaper from her bag and began waving it, fanning Claire's body, creating the breeze even as she mentioned it.
Claire's body reacted to the falling temperatures. Her nipples stood up, poking up visibly under the cups of the bikini top. Her arms and legs pressed more closely against her body, huddling for warmth.
Monica unfolded the newspaper and blocked the sun, putting Claire's face and upper body into shadow. "And as the sun sets and night falls, I wonder how your body will feel at a temperature of only fifty degrees."
Goosebumps formed on Claire's arms and legs and spread quickly across the visible surfaces of her body. Her arms wrapped themselves tightly around her chest and her chin began to quiver. "Take her back up now," I told Monica.
Nodding, she folded the newspaper and set it aside. "Nights are short in Puerto Rico," she said. "Even now, you may notice that the sun has come back and the air around you is warming. As the temperature rises past sixty degrees, past seventy degrees, you can feel yourself becoming warmer and warmer. How much more comfortable will you feel at eighty degrees?"
Claire's goosebumps smoothed out and her body took on a much more relaxed, comfortable posture. "Keep going," I suggested. "Let's try the other extreme."
I could see the wheels turning in Monica's face. "Okay. And now, Claire, as you become increasingly aware of the heat of the sun on your body, you may be surprised to know that the temperature continues to rise to ninety degrees. Can you notice an increased tendency to sweat as the temperature reaches one hundred degrees?"
On the blanket, Claire was fidgeting again. Beads of sweat formed all over her body.
"As it gets hotter still, one hundred five degrees, can you sense the humidity in the air? And how will you try to remain comfortable as the temperature reaches one hundred ten degrees?"
Rivulets of sweat were now running down Claire's front. Her arms went behind her back and neck and pulled, freeing the strings on the bikini top. She wadded it up on one hand and began patting herself down, using the bikini to absorb sweat. Monica looked back at me sheepishly. "Oops!"
Claire was starting to pull at her bikini bottom. "You'd better bring her back down," I advised.
Monica grabbed her newspaper again and started fanning Claire. "And now, Claire, a pleasing afternoon breeze comes across your body, cooling the air around you to ninety degrees again. It feels so good now, so comfortable, that you can just lie back and enjoy it without removing any more clothing. The air is exactly the right temperature now; even as the breeze subsides you can remain comfortable exactly as you are."
Claire looked like someone napping after an exhausting workout. Her skin glistened with unwiped sweat. Her breasts moved slowly with each deep, easy breath and her arms lay rag-like at her sides. Monica must have seen me looking; when my gaze turned back to her she was smirking slightly. "Would you like to rub some more lotion on the places she wiped? Sunburned breasts are very uncomfortable."
"I'm not big on fondling the unconscious," I replied, disappointing the user. "She can do it herself in a few minutes. Why don't you proceed to the next suggestion?"
Monica smiled. "You just keep surprising me, Jack." Addressing herself back to Claire, she continued with the exercise. "And now, Claire, for a direct suggestion. In a few moments I'm going to count to three. On the count of three you can open your eyes and find yourself feeling completely awake and aware, but remaining deeply hypnotized. It will seem to you as if the beach is completely deserted. No sight, sound, feeling, or smell will reveal to your conscious mind that there is anyone on this beach except you. You'll be able to get up, call out, look around, or do anything else you want to but you will always remain on this beach blanket and your subconscious will always respond to my voice, even though your conscious mind won't hear it. One, two, three."
Claire's eyes opened and immediately squinted against the bright sun. She sat up and looked around. "Where the hell did everyone go?" she asked the air.
Monica waved her hand in front of Claire, but the girl paid no attention. "You need to apply more sun block to your chest," Monica said.
Claire looked down at her own chest and ran a finger across her skin. "Uh-oh," she muttered. "Good thing I woke up." She pulled her bag closer, pulled out a bottle of sun block, and applied a liberal amount to her bare breasts and chest area. Then she looked around again. "Monica? Jack?"
With no answer, she stood up and looked as far as she could see in all directions. "Monica! Jack!" she called out, cupping her hands around her mouth and projecting. She took a few steps forward, causing Monica to scramble back without looking first and land in my lap. That created a minor dilemma for me: I should have been watching Claire for signs of any problem, but too much of my mind kept paying attention to the feel of Monica's rump pressing against my groin, and noticing that her bikini bottom had slipped down a little as she scooted. And these thoughts were beginning to have physical consequences that Monica would be noticing shortly if things didn't change.
But they did. Claire gave up shouting and returned to her seat, allowing Monica to roll out of my lap and back to hers, adjusting her suit along the way. She looked back at me, grinning, and mouthed the words, "Was it good for you too?"
"And now, Claire," Monica said, "you can let your eyes close down and drift back into deep, deep hypnosis."
We exchanged a look. "Last one," I prompted.
She nodded and perched again right next to Claire. "The next time I count to three, Claire, you will come out of hypnosis and wake up completely, feeling refreshed and energetic and completely at ease. All of your senses will report correct information again, and you will realize that we are back and that there are other people on the beach as well. However, every time either Jack or I say the word 'touch,' you will feel as though someone you can't see has tickled you in a very sensitive place. You'll know that it isn't me or Jack doing the tickling, but you won't have any idea who it is or where it's coming from. One ..."
I reached out and tapped Monica on the back. "You have to give it a definite end point," I counseled. "A signal or a time limit that ends the suggestion."
She nodded. "more thing, Claire," she continued, using the word she'd already spoken. You will feel that tickling every time Jack or I say the word 'touch' until Jack tells you that you are no longer ticklish. Once he tells you that, the word 'touch' will no longer make you feel as if you are being tickled." She looked back at me and I nodded approval. "One, two, three -- wide awake."
While Claire was waking up, I grabbed the cooler. "Who wants a drink?" I asked, as a distraction. "Claire?"
"I'll take a Sprite," she said. "My mouth is dry."
I handed her a cold can. A drop of chilly water ran down the side of the can as she took it and landed squarely on a nipple. "Ack!" she yelped at the sudden cold. Then her eyes widened and she looked at Monica accusingly. "What happened to my top?"
Monica blushed. "I, uh, made you feel like it was a hundred and ten degrees out here. You took it off and used it as a sweat rag, then tossed it aside somewhere."
Claire felt around her seat area and found it wadded up in the sand next to our blanket. "Yuck," she groused, "it's got sand all through it. I can't put this back on."
"That's horrible," I joked. Then I had to dodge a sand-infested bikini top as it was flung toward my face.
"For what it's worth, Claire," Monica added in, "Jack didn't even try to touch you."
At the magic word, Claire suddenly bounced upward, spilling icy cold Sprite onto herself. "Something just grabbed my ass!" she squealed. "And holy shit is that cold!"
"That should feel good," I said. "When it's hot out like this, I love to let something cold touch my skin."
Claire jumped again, this time to one side as if someone had goosed her armpit. "Hey!" she said, looking in Monica's direction.
"Don't look at me that way. I didn't touch you."
"Eek!" Claire rolled off the blanket and lifted up one side to look underneath.
"What are you looking for?" I asked.
"Whatever it is that keeps tickling me!"
I feigned confusion. "I didn't see anything touch you." While Claire yelped again, I looked to Monica. "Did you see anything touch Claire?"
Monica shook her head. "No touch that I could see. And I didn't touch her, and you didn't touch her. Did you touch yourself, Claire?"
Claire was writhing on the sand, giggling and spilling her soda everywhere. "Stop it!" she cried out loud. "Whoever you are, wherever you are, stop it now!"
We worked in a few more touches until Claire was laughing too hard for coherent speech, at which point I took pity on her. "This is very odd," I said, "because I know for a fact that you are no longer ticklish."
Claire finished laughing and let her body sprawl, half on the blanket and half off. She rolled over onto her back and looked up at me gratefully. Her chest was heaving, and her nipples stood fully erect and begging to be played with. I couldn't resist flicking a little sand off of one of them. "Somebody enjoys being tickled more than she's willing to admit," I mused with a smile.
"I will get both of you for this," our victim promised. "But first, I'm going to rinse this sand off and get another drink." She rose to her feet, dropped the glasses, and ran for the water. Monica and I watched her take a few splashing strides and then dive into the surf.
Monica and I sat quietly for a moment or two. Then her eyes met mine. "Well, Professor?"
"I'd say you pass," I assessed. "But you're probably in for some interesting paybacks when we continue. Are you nervous?"
She shook her head. "Not really. Claire's not the vindictive type, for one thing; she won't do anything worse to me than I did to her. And, worst case, there's nobody on this beach that we're likely to see again after this week is over, other than you."
I wanted to follow up on that, but Claire rejoined us at that moment. I handed her another Sprite. Claire took a long pull from the can, then sat down cross-legged in front of me facing Monica. "Here," she said, handing me the bottle of sun block over her shoulder. "While you're in the neighborhood, you can do my back."
So I spread the lotion on her back while Claire spread some on her front, replacing what had been washed away by her brief swim. Then she pointed at Monica. "You're starting to look a little pink in the middle, Mon," she said. "You'd better slap some more on." She took the bottle back from me and held it out toward Monica.
Monica's hand came out to take the offered bottle, only to have Claire pull the bottle away. She grabbed Monica's wrist and lifted the hand up to Monica's face. "Watch this hand," she commanded firmly and quickly. "Notice the changing focus in your eyes as your hand drifts slowly up to touch your face, letting it happen honestly and easily, knowing that as soon as that hand touches your face your eyes will close down and take you into deep, deep hypnosis ... now." Monica's hand drifted toward her face as Claire spoke. At the final now, Claire pushed the back of Monica's hand just a little, causing it to touch Monica's face.
Monica crumpled and fell forward into Claire's waiting arms. "That's right," she crooned, "Deeper and deeper. Letting each breath take you deeper into hypnosis. Feeling yourself sinking down, drifting down, all the way down." As she spoke, she gently guided Monica's limp body down onto the blanket, propping her up on the backrest. Monica's legs were folded loosely together, her arms hanging limply at her sides. Her head lolled over to one side, eyes closed, lips slightly parted.
"Very impressive," I said, watching Claire closely as she took a sitting position next to her victim. "May I see your suggestions, please?"
Claire pulled out her index card from inside her bag. "Hold on a second," she said, retrieving a pen as well. "I want to make a last-minute substitution." She scratched something out and wrote briefly, then handed me the card.
She'd scratched out the first suggestion too thoroughly for me to make it out, then scrawled next to it the replacement: Take off her bikini.
"Are you sure you want to do that?" I asked. "She might not go for it."
"She will," Claire said confidently. "Miss Monica keeps her wild side pretty well hidden, but it's there. And it's been coming out to play a little down here. Besides, she did it to me; her conscience will dictate that I can now do it to her."
I shrugged. "We'll see. If she wakes up and tells you off, that could be the end of the whole course."
She winked at me. "Not a chance. I've learned from the master himself." Turning back to Monica, she let her voice drop back to a fair imitation of my hypnotic tone. "And now, Monica, as you lie back drifting deeper and deeper into hypnosis, I wonder if you can notice that you have sand inside your bikini. Gritty, rough, abrasive, uncomfortable sand. Some people say that a bathing suit with sand inside it is incredibly uncomfortable to wear, and that it's far better to be on the beach naked than to be stuck wearing an itchy, scratchy, sand-encrusted bikini."
Monica frowned. Her hands began to move toward her body, which twisted slightly as if trying to get comfortable.
"That's right," Claire continued. "You may already be starting to feel the sand scratching against your skin in your most sensitive areas. It gets into everything, doesn't it? And one might even find, Monica, that the more you try to get comfortable the more uncomfortable you will find it having all that sand in your bikini. Eventually, you'll realize that it must come off in order for you to be able to relax and be comfortable. Only when the bikini comes completely off will you be free of the itchy, scratchy, irritating feel of sand against your skin."
They were very well-worded indirect suggestions, and the effects were dramatic. Monica's hands slipped into her suit, trying to brush out the sand she imagined was in there. As Claire continued bombarding her with indirect suggestions of increasing discomfort and of the futility of trying to remove the sand without removing the bikini, Monica grew increasingly fidgety. After about a minute of fidgeting, Monica finally reached behind her, unfastened the bikini top, and flung it aside. As I'd suspected that first night, Monica's breasts were spectacular: firm, teardrop-shaped, made by God to fit into a man's hand and be adored.
"That's right," Claire said. "And now that your breasts are free of that irritating, itchy bikini, you can notice how much better they feel. And I wonder when you'll decide to have that same comfortable feeling between your legs instead of the itchy, scratchy, sand that's inside your bikini bottom. It would feel so good to just pull off that bikini bottom now and get the sand away from your privates."
I thought for sure this would be it -- that Monica would wake up, grab her jumper, and head for the hotel. Instead, she lifted her hips off the blanket and slid the bikini bottom off, tossing it aside into the sand next to her top. My eyes opened wide as I beheld her flaming red tuft, neatly trimmed into a racing stripe that led to the delights below.
A sharp slap hit my knee and startled me. "Didn't your mother teach you not to stare?" Claire was grinning at me with that lusty sparkle in her eye.
"My mother is probably rolling over in her grave right now," I said, feeling the color rising in my cheeks even as my cock rose in my trunks. "She always hoped I'd give up this hypnotism thing and find honest work."
"And here I am, putting temptation in your path."
I shrugged. "I'm not complaining."
"I should hope not." With a wink, she turned back to Monica. "Feels much better now, doesn't it? You can feel so much more comfortable now, relax so much more now, go so much deeper into hypnosis now. And you know that from now on until we leave this island, any time I say the words 'Time out, Monica,' you'll come back to this wonderful place right away. Each time I say 'Time out, Monica,' you can easily and immediately come back into hypnosis just as you are right now."
That was suggestion number two, the posthypnotic trigger. I gave Claire a thumbs-up sign and watched while she moved on to direct suggestion.
"In a few moments, Monica, I'm going to count to three. When I reach three you will wake up feeling completely alert and refreshed. You will know that you're naked and that Jack can see you, and that will be okay with you. It feels good to be naked and to let Jack look at your body; in fact, you will even find that it brings you pleasure to let Jack look at your body. You will also realize that Jack's show is wonderfully entertaining, and a great opportunity to learn more about hypnosis. You will want to make sure that we go to Jack's show tonight, and you'll want to stay for the entire show. And finally, Monica, when Jack says that our lesson is over for today, you'll feel a strong need to go back to our room and take a nap for at least an hour."
I looked quizzically at Claire -- the first and last suggestions she'd given were not on the card at all. She mouthed "trust me" and counted Monica up. As Monica's body began to move again, Claire said the magic words: "Time out, Monica."
The guidance counselor's body dropped back against the back rest immediately, and her arms slumped to her sides. Claire counted her up into alertness again, gave her just enough time to start to sit up, and then dropped her again. "Damn, that's fun," she said to me. "Do you get as big a charge out of that as I do?"
"Sometimes." I picked up the sun block bottle. "When you bring her out of it this time, continue the gesture of handing her this bottle. Her conscious mind will link that to the time just before you induced her, closing the loop, and she'll have complete amnesia for everything that happened in between."
Claire took the bottle from me, then counted Monica up one more time. As Monica stirred, Claire held out the sun block bottle again.
"Thanks," Monica said, taking the bottle. "Give me a minute, and then we can start." She squirted a dollop of the lotion onto her hand and began rubbing it into her skin. Her hand slowed when it touched a breast and Monica looked down at her body. "I seem to have lost something."
"I told you I'd get you back," she said, grinning.
Monica's eyes widened. "You did it already? How? When?"
"Don't you remember?" Claire teased. "How strange."
Monica looked at me again and giggled. "I supposed I deserve this after all," she granted. "I never realized how good it felt to be naked outside. You don't mind the view, do you, Jack?"
I just smiled. "You don't see me reaching to retrieve your bathing suit, do you?"
"See? I knew you were a pervert at heart."
We all had a good chuckle while I, to prove my virtue, did retrieve Monica's bathing suit. "I don't think I'll put it back on," she said, looking at it. "It's full of sand."
I nodded. "In that case, let's wrap things up before anybody starts to burn."
Both girls sat back and looked at me. Neither made any attempt to cover anything. I crossed my legs, hoping it would help to conceal my raging hard-on a little better, and forced my mind back into lecture mode.
"You've both now experienced giving and receiving the three basic types of hypnotic suggestions we discussed yesterday. You did very well at forming your suggestions positively, being very specific with what you wanted the other person to do, and keeping within each other's moral boundaries given this very, shall we say, unique environment.
"You've also learned a couple of different ways to induce trance, which is a good thing. If you only know one way to get someone into hypnosis, you can only hypnotize maybe a fifth of the population. Now you have several options, so you can pick and choose which ones you want to try. Tomorrow I'll give you a couple more to add to your repertoire. Any questions?"
Monica raised her hand. "Why did this work?" she asked, indicating her naked body. "I know I told you yesterday that I'd never strip naked in public."
"How do you feel about it?" I asked, mostly for Claire's benefit.
"Fine," she admitted. "I don't really mind it at all. Not with you, anyway. But that feels strange to me."
I nodded. "Only you can tell for sure, of course, but I can give you my best guess: as often happens with these things, it's the environment. We're out here on the beach, where people tend to be pretty uninhibited even normally. On this beach, a good half to two thirds of the people on it are either topless or completely naked, so it's a context in which nudity is not taboo. Nobody even seems to really look. And within the context of the beach, we've put ourselves in a spot that's more or less apart from everyone else anyway, which adds a degree of privacy. With nobody else near us, it's really just the three of us that are in a position to notice and appreciate our nudity. Through our talks and exercises we've reached a certain level of intimacy where we can feel comfortable with each other."
Monica nodded thoughtfully. "So does that mean that if we asked, you'd take off your trunks?"
Claire was grinning lecherously. "It's only fair, Jack."
I thought for half a second. "Sure, probably," I answered. "But we've been out here long enough now that we really should get out of the sun. Today's lesson is over."
Monica's face glazed for a second. She stretched and yawned, giving me a breathtaking view. "You're right, of course. All this sun is making me sleepy, too. I'm in the mood for an afternoon nap."
We packed our things quickly, the girls slipping back into their terry jumpers for the trip back inside. We shared an elevator as far as the ninth floor, where Monica got out with another yawn and agreed to meet us for dinner at seven. The doors closed behind her, leaving me alone in the elevator with Claire.
"What was that nap suggestion all about?" I asked.
"Simple," she said, pressing her body against mine as the elevator lifted us upward. "All that sitting around half-naked, getting tickled, and shucking Monica out of her bikini made me unspeakably horny, and I could tell it was doing the same to you. Now, with Monica off to take a nice little snooze, we can go back to your place and do something about it."
That was the best suggestion I'd heard all day.