Waking up in the morning took on a completely new meaning after my face-off with Mr. Scary. It was evident that I was still alive because I had worth to his organization, and could not be replaced. As soon as they figured out how to replace me—game over. I looked at Debbie differently as well: I felt sorry for her. Would she be the instrument of my (or someone else’s) death? You could turn her into a suicide bomber from her programming state and she wouldn’t even know it. She would be the perfect weapon for covert assassinations. We—yes, I included myself as a part of this conspiracy—had already staged a mock assassination of someone she knew. The hush money that appeared in my account from time to time was a constant reminder of my part in all this.
Of course, I also thought about possible countermeasures. I was handicapped by not knowing how or why Debbie’s programming state worked the way it did; in fact, the only thing I was sure of was that I couldn’t access any command she had been given because I’d tested that repeatedly. One night, I got the idea to set a tripwire to alert me that someone else had tried to program her. Even though I wouldn’t be able to tell if they had succeeded, and wasn’t sure if it would even work, it was worth a try. One evening, while we were out on a date taking a carriage ride, and I was as sure as I could be that we weren’t being monitored, I opened her mind. “If someone who is not me talks to you after you hear me say the words, ‘CS. DS. LO. Obey and become. Ten-gamma-ten,’ the next time you see me, the first thing you will say to me is ‘Access violation.’ You will never hear yourself say these words. You will never think of these words when you say them, it will be automatic, and you will never consciously remember them. Zero-close-zero.”
I figured that, Mr. Scary’s word notwithstanding, they still considered me a liability, and they wouldn’t stop trying to figure out how to remove me from the equation. One night, while Debbie was at her second job, I was instructed to give her a command to remove certain files and hide them in the bathroom there. When she picked up the phone, I activated her programming mode, told her what to do, and then closed her programming.
When she got home that night, she smiled at me and said, “Access violation. How’s your evening been, sweetie?” Two nights later, I sent her to back to her night job with a triggered command. Anything that made me look like I knew much more than they did could only be to my advantage. The cell phone arrived at about nine-thirty, and the phone call came a half-hour later. Mr. Scary complained about my intelligence again, and acknowledged that they had tried to command her after I’d opened her mind. “We put you on mute and gave her a quick command. This failed as well,” he crossly said. “You are still indispensable to us, and episodes like this continue to confirm the value of your continued participation. Good night, Mr. Grant.” I actually went to bed with a smile on my face.
Debbie and I went to San Francisco to celebrate my promotion at Meridian—Mr. Scary had been right about everything except the timing, and that was only because my former boss had a family crisis that delayed his transfer. We spent another of her long weekends at the Grand Hyatt in San Francisco, where, as far as she was concerned, it all began. “My mother is getting to be impossible about this wedding,” she confessed during dinner that Friday. “She wants this and that and I don’t need or want it and we don’t need to spend the money and she and I argue and it gives me a big headache,” Debbie said, extremely frustrated. “I thought she’d be happy that I found someone who fell for me just as hard as I fell for him, but… can we just elope instead? Do Vegas next weekend?” She smiled hopefully.
I tried to calm her; we could afford what her mother wanted, and keeping the family peace was worth it. I pointed out that her father would kill me if we eloped because her mother would be hell to live with. “Besides, I like your dad. I couldn’t do that to him,” I said, seriously. “You’re the only girl in the family, and girls should have fairy tale princess weddings.”
Debbie fondled me under the table and growled with lust, “Fairy tale princesses don’t do what I’m gonna do to you when we get back to the hotel. Let’s skip the nightclub.” She was a princess, but it was my somewhat perverted fairy tale, and so it was perfectly in character. Debbie had been made to order. I hadn’t commanded her to lose weight; her appearance, once the major barrier to consideration of a relationship between us, no longer mattered to me. She was beautiful, especially post-orgasm, and she knew exactly how to make me hot. The physical aspect of our relationship was as healthy as ever.
My hypno-fetish faded. While there was something extremely arousing about Debbie saying, “Yes, master…” in that perfect tone of voice, I could make her do anything with a simple, verbal command. It wasn’t worth the sweet deal I had to risk breaking her permanent post-hypnotic state. I didn’t use the command often, but I had no reservations about using it, especially when it looked like we were going to have a fight. Good old, “CS. DS. LO…” would avoid any unpleasantness, and then I’d make her be extra-horny, too. Who needed to have a fight in order to get to awesome make-up sex? Debbie would tell people that I was so sweet that we never fought. No, it was more a case of her not minding that I always won… and then forgetting about whatever had caused the conflict, remembering only the sex we had afterwards.
I still felt guilty about everything about once a week, but it only lasted for a few minutes at a time, and my conscience had been sexed and bought into compliance. I was completely out of debt, I had the woman of my dreams, and life… was pretty good. There were no more “access violations.” They either had given up on taking me out of the picture, or had run out of things to try. The things that I had to do for Mr. Scary also changed, becoming less… ominous. There was one that sounded like I was instructing her to disarm a bomb of some type. Another time, I sent Debbie to London for a day, acting as a courier. She had no conscious idea of the real reason for her trip, believing that she was just having an interview with a British company for a job. The package she delivered? Her resumé and supporting documentation. Her commands remained as inaccessible as ever to her conscious self.
She put her MBA studies on hold for a semester in order to execute her mother’s grand wedding plan. At Mr. Scary’s behest, I prevented her from quitting her second job altogether, although she was only working there on Thursday nights, being too occupied with getting married to work any extra shifts. I told him that that was the best I could do, because I didn’t want any conflict to arise in her mind that might break her post-hypnotic programming. He was entirely too agreeable with that for me to feel comfortable, but Debbie immediately took advantage of her now-free Tuesday nights to sex us both into exhausted bliss, and that conquered my paranoia. The timing was great, because it seemed that her normal Wednesday night wedding planning sessions with her mother always left her with a migraine and not in the mood. I suppose I could have changed that, but the truth was that her schedule also gave me two days to recover, so I could be ready for her over the weekend. I commanded her to keep her mother pleased within reason.
The two months leading up to the wedding were great, with absolutely no contact from Mr. Scary, not even when Debbie took the last two Thursday nights off. No couriers with cell phones rang my doorbell, no limousines mysteriously shadowed me, and no money magically appeared in my account. Only in my most solitary moments did I dare hope they had shelved the experiment, even though I hadn’t explicitly been told. We exchanged our “I do’s” as scheduled. Debbie looked every bit the blushing bride without any sign of the stress of integrating her mother’s vision of our wedding with our own. Our honeymoon took us to Alaska in the Royal Suite on a cruise tour. Debbie was seriously ill the first day of the cruise, which wasn’t much fun, but she seemed to get her sea legs quite nicely after that… even if we did spend several hours in bed each day.
She had moved her stuff into my apartment—I wanted to go house hunting, but Debbie still had a semester to go for her MBA, so we decided that we would keep our options open. I could transfer just about anywhere with Meridian. One thing that hadn’t changed was that her boss was still a son-of-a-bitch. The last straw was when he kept her from getting tuition remission for her last semester. She had to get his approval, and he “lost” the paperwork and didn’t find it until the deadline for filing had passed. I had enough dirty money left that it didn’t matter, and of course, I had been promoted, so she was going to be able to go back to school without causing us any financial difficulty.
Debbie barely studied, spending more time seducing me and having sex than on her books. School was a breeze for her. She spent time on her homework as long as it needed to be turned in, but didn’t seem to do much studying beyond reading her class notes and the assignments once. “This stuff is easy,” she said when I openly wondered if she was getting behind in her studies. “I’ll be OK in the midterm tomorrow night. It’s sweet of you to worry for me, though.” She gave me a kiss on the cheek. “Time for a change of pace,” she announced as she lit a tipped cigar. Debbie tossed her hair, gave me a sideways look of pure heat, and slowly exhaled through her nose. “And I do mean… everywhere,” she finished throatily.
Five minutes later, I was behind her on my knees, slow-fucking her ass just the way we both liked it. We’d been having anal sex a lot more of late by her request. It appeared as if Debbie had completely integrated the command I had given to her many months ago. She never failed to cum, and on occasion, it was as spectacular as the first time. Tonight, her thighs tightened and her butt cheeks began to quiver as her back turned red, and her freckles darkened. She convulsed once, moaning, then drew a hissing breath before convulsing again. I held onto her hips as Debbie’s orgasm continued, and when it ebbed, I resumed pumping slowly at her. Debbie quickly came again, wailing “RAYYYY!”, and suddenly, within a few strokes, my own orgasm hit me. I grunted and panted and snorted and when I fell onto my side, I was semi-coherent, repeating my wife’s name and suddenly she was all I could see and we were kissing crazily.
After we had caught our breath, Debbie pulled out her longest cigarette holder, purring, “We’re not done yet, mister.” As soon as my fetish kicked in, she climbed on top of me, not bothering to put the cigarette out. “Like this?” she impishly smiled, feeling my cock surge in response. Debbie leisurely rolled her hips over my rock-hard dick until she finished smoking, slowing her movement to put out the cigarette and place the holder onto the nightstand. The smooth, oval motion of her hips immediately became much more urgent up-and-down, forcing ecstatic grunts from both of us. Debbie slammed her hips downwards and shimmied with me buried completely inside of her pussy. She stopped breathing and her face turned bright, bright red as she struggled to push some vocal expression of her intense orgasm through her parted lips.
Debbie’s pussy and weight on my hips had locked me into place, keeping me from moving. As soon as she released me, I grabbed her hips and thrust up as viciously as I could, making her squeak loudly, and my cock detonated. I don’t remember much after that until waking up the next morning with Debbie lying next to me, her hair a complete mess, arms, and legs sprawled haphazardly across the bed. It had been a great night, with many more promised to come.
I got a break on Saturday night. Debbie had another migraine, and instead of trying to fuck me senseless, she was lying quietly in the bedroom while I watched a baseball game on the tube. I was contemplating using the command to slow her sex drive. Being married to a nymphomaniac who won’t screw anybody but you is not as much fun as it sounds. And she was extremely skilled at using my fetish to manipulate me into giving her the sex she seemed to crave. “Just making up for lost time,” she had smiled Friday after work, and my dick disappeared into her soft, warm, wet mouth. We had planned to go out to dinner, but wound up staying at home and ordering dinner at about ten p.m.
I asked her about her headaches the next day. We had originally chalked it up to pre-wedding and school and job stress, but the wedding was over (and had gone to her mother’s content) and Debbie seemed to be breezing through school. Her boss was still an asshole, but Debbie hadn’t complained much since we’d come back from our honeymoon. She had ultimately decided that she didn’t want to leave the company, because she would lose her seniority (and an extra week of vacation.) She had put in for a transfer to a higher-ranking position in another department that required an MBA, so it was just a matter of time before he wasn’t a problem. “Y’know, I think you ought to see your doctor about these headaches,” I counseled. “They have medicines for migraines. Maybe there’s something that triggers the migraine.”
“Like not getting enough sex?” Debbie lewdly smiled. She reached for one of her cigarette holders.
“Not now,” I snapped, making her freeze, look at me with surprise, and then pouting disappointment. “I’m serious, Debbie. Something chronic is going on here, and I’d like to figure it out because, while I needed the break from the insane amounts of awesome sex we’ve been having, it wasn’t much fun sitting in my apartment effectively by myself last night.” I gave her a peck on the cheek. “Besides, I worry about you because I love you.”
“Oh, all right,” she sighed. “I know I’m not much fun when I have a migraine. I’ll call and make an appointment on Monday. I don’t think it’s an emergency, because it isn’t all the time—since we’ve been hitched, like maybe once every three or four weeks. It’s not like when I was trying to plan the wedding. Every Wednesday night, about eight p.m., after dinner with Mom.” I nodded in agreement. Debbie looked at me and cocked her head. “I can’t really explain about the sex. I didn’t quite realize I was wearing you out, but it’s like I get close to you and I just get so extremely hot and horny that I gotta have you. And I know how to get’cha if I want’cha,” she finished with a smile. “But… I guess I have been a little out-of-control lately. Sorry.” We kissed, and I went out to do some shopping.
When I came back, Debbie had changed into her slinkiest black dress. She lit a More in her extra-long cigarette holder as I shut the door, making me stop in the foyer and stare at her, fantasy-bound. Her blue eyes were on fire. “I promised I’d keep it under control, Ray. I didn’t say I’d stop,” she husked, posing for me. The shopping bags stayed in the foyer for a couple of hours.
She came home from class Wednesday night chirping, “Guess who aced her midterm, Mr. Worry-wart? Ninety-seven. And you were worried that you were going to keep me from being able to concentrate.” She gave me a wet kiss. “Too bad it’s late. I feel like celebrating with my husband—” Debbie held up her hand. “—but I’ll wait until Saturday night. I gotta work on my project for my other class this weekend.” She grabbed her cigarettes, removed one from the pack, and then wobbled. “Ray?” She put her hand to her head. “It’s a migraine… I can tell it’s gonna be a whop—” Everything went into slow motion. The cigarette fell from Debbie’s hand, landing on an end, bouncing in oscillation. She moaned, swaying as if drunk, and then she began to collapse, her legs having gone completely slack. I couldn’t quite get to her in time before she hit the carpeted floor with a loud thump.
I spent the eternity it took the ambulance to arrive shouting at her and shaking her gently. I lifted her eyelids to find that her eyes, so full of life scant seconds ago, were now completely unresponsive. Her heart was beating slowly, steadily, and she was breathing, albeit shallowly. By the time that the paramedics arrived, her skin had gone frighteningly pale. They immediately got her out of the apartment, with me by her side, answering their questions with a deceptive calm borne out of the fear that I was about to lose the most precious thing in my life. Debbie’s condition did not change during the ride: her vital signs were weak, but showed no signs of fading further; they were virtually the same as they had been when the paramedics checked her in the apartment. The doctor asked me some urgent questions as she was wheeled into the trauma unit. “There’s nothing further you can do, Mr. Grant. We’ll take good care of your wife,” he said with a confidence that I did not, could not feel.
I sat in the waiting room, my heart pounding, internally repeating, “Hysteria won’t do any good. You’ve got to stay calm…” After the first fit of crying, I knew I had to call our parents, but I had left my cell phone at home, so I had to compose myself enough to find her parents’ number. I spoke to my father-in-law who assured me that he would be the one to tell his wife, and they would be at the hospital as soon as possible. I called my folks, and my mom said she would catch the first flight available, while my dad said he would arrive in two days, as soon as his meeting in London would allow.
I got the feeling it wasn’t good when the doctor came out after less than an hour and asked me to follow him into an empty room. “You’ll be able to see her in a little while. We’re moving her to ICU for the night.” He cleared his throat. “Her condition remains virtually unchanged from the paramedics’ first report. That’s a good thing. It means she’s stable.” I asked him what the diagnosis was. “Well, with the description of the headache, we thought she might have had a stroke. That proved not to be the case.”
“I don’t want to know what it isn’t,” I snapped irritably, “unless you’re still ruling things out. Do you know what is wrong with my wife?”
The expression that leapt onto his face told me that he was a terrible poker player, and I instantly knew that I wasn’t going to like what he had to say. “Mr. Grant,” he began, swallowing hard, “your wife… has an anomalous mass in her brain.”
“Debbie’s got a brain tumor,” I said without any emotion. My stomach fell through the floor.
“Er… yes,” the doctor replied, worried by my lack of visible reaction. “That’s what it appears to be. It’s very large. Frankly, it’s surprising that the only sign she manifested were occasional migraines.” He queried me about any other symptoms, and I answered in the negative for all of them. If Debbie had been having other symptoms, she had done a fantastic job of hiding them from everybody.
I asked about options. He immediately looked away from me, at the floor, and I knew what the answer was. “It’s… inoperable. And it’s so large that chemotherapy won’t… do any good. It would poison her long before it had a chance of curing her.” He swallowed loudly, waiting for my reaction, and then I could see him get worried—and a little suspicious when I didn’t have one.
I was too busy working on a major-league case of mad, all of it reserved for the people who had brought Debbie and me together. “So,” I exhaled, my body ice-cold, “what do we do now? Her parents are going to be here any minute.”
“Mrs. Grant is in a coma suffering from, at least as far as we can tell, a very large, very dense mass of tissue in her brain. Her vital signs are depressed, but they are stable,” the doctor said to the three of us. Debbie’s mom was all tears and hysterics, and had been since before arriving at the hospital, while her father was too busy supporting her to have much reaction. I hid my anger pretty well, convincing everybody in the room that I was just numb with shock. “If it is a tumor, and we believe it is, it is inoperable, and sufficiently advanced that it is untreatable by any other means.” We signed the necessary papers, and made all the arrangements. They weren’t going to put Debbie on a machine. Since she was in the ICU, and no one could visit, we decided that I would go home while the Staffords kept vigil at the hospital.
I didn’t rush the next day. I wrote down everything I would need for an extended stay at the hospital, and then I called work to let them know what had happened. After the outpouring of devastated sympathy, I had a long telephone meeting with the people at work. They would consider me as telecommuting, as long as I met my deadlines… if I thought I was up to it. If not… they’d figure out what to do. They stressed that they would always have a position for me. Debbie’s boss offered a perfunctory sympathetic closing, after confirming that she would not be coming back to work. Asshole.
My mother arrived that afternoon and we went to the hospital together. Debbie had been moved out of ICU; there had been no change in her condition, so they felt it was safe. She was put into a room by herself, pending transfer to a private long-term care facility, one specified by the insurance company. I didn’t think our insurance was that good, but I kept my suspicions to myself and my mouth shut. That night, after everybody else had left, I remained in her room, feeling completely empty. The monitors made their reassuring periodic noises while I watched my wife. Debbie was lying in the bed, eyes closed, and other than the pallor of her skin, she looked like she was just sleeping. I couldn’t bring myself to think about the permanency of her condition. She was invisibly wasting away as I stood there. At some point, she would stop breathing, her heart would stop beating, and she would die. And I would be alone. I spent that night by her bedside telling her all the things that we would do when she woke up until I went fitfully to sleep on a cot in her room.
Her parents and I decided to split twenty-four hour shifts with her when Debbie was transferred. The upscale nursing home set up a sofa bed in her room, which was the size of the living room in our apartment. I never bothered to set it up during my stays, spending the majority of my time reading to her, books I knew she’d like, often falling asleep in my chair. Any sleep I managed to get was tortured by ugly, ugly dreams. Even though the home arranged to provide an office for me just down the hall from my wife, it quickly became apparent that I was not going to be able to hold up my end of the bargain with Meridian.
I went into the office the day after I made the decision to take a leave of absence, first spending time with my branch manager. The company’s president had flown in to assure me that they would maintain a place for me. She told me that the company would place me on paid sabbatical indefinitely during my time of bereavement. “I believe that personal disasters deserve much more compassion than the law dictates. Go take care of your wife,” she said. After a series of meetings in which I handed off my primary project, I walked out into the cloudy, humid afternoon, focused on getting back to Debbie’s bedside. I bumped into someone at near-full speed, and was about to say something nasty and uncalled for until I looked up and saw that the man I had bumped into was wearing a dark suit and sunglasses. And he wasn’t alone. “Great,” I grumbled, half to myself. They indicated a limo sitting at the curb. I shrugged, and walked straight to it, getting in.
“My condolences on your wife’s unfortunate—condition, Mr. Grant,” Mr. Used-to-be-scary said right away.
“Whatever,” I sighed. “I take it that you’re responsible for the quality of her medical care and accommodations.” He nodded. “I suppose that I should thank you,” I resumed, “but I’m not feeling much gratitude these days.” An awkward silence blossomed in the car, which was broken when I finally asked, “So… do I at least get to say goodbye to her one last time?”
“Actually, Mr. Grant… that’s not exactly why I am here. Despite your opinion of me, I am not entirely heartless. We did not expect this outcome, even in our worst scenarios, and as an apology, we are going to take care of Miss Staff—your wife until…” Even he couldn’t bring himself to say it. He cleared his throat and resumed, “However, if I ever get the barest hint that you are even jokingly contemplating revealing this—experiment to any third party, you will be terminated. However, until that time, you are free to continue your life, with all of your personal secrets intact, including your complicity in this.”
“Are you saying that this is my fault, too? You were the people monitoring her so closely!” I accused. “Didn’t she ever get headaches while she was working for you? Did you ever examine her after those first few days? Did you ever consider that what you gave her to turn her into a zombie was… was…” My voice trailed off as the sum of my suspicions finally tallied.
“Your native intelligence never ceases to amaze me, Mr. Grant,” Mr. Suddenly-very-scary-again began, his voice cold and emotionless. “Yes, we were prepared for the possibility of an adverse event. Our monitoring did reveal the anomaly.” I gasped loudly, suddenly feeling very dizzy. “Given where it first appeared,” he continued, “it was incongruous with your wife’s symptoms. Other than the occasional headaches, your wife showed none of the other symptoms associated with brain tumors. We felt that it was important to continue monitoring the situation, but that no medical action was warranted.”
“If you revealed her condition to her, she might have tried to get treatment, and her doctor would have started asking questions that you didn’t want asked,” I said, inferring what their thought processes had been. He remained stony-faced, his silent displeasure confirming my hypothesis. “So you knew that she was getting worse and was going to die.” He opened his mouth to say something, but I shouted, “YOU BASTARD! LET ME OUT NOW!” first.
He calmly resumed, “We also thought that maintaining the illusion would allow Miss Stafford some well-deserved happiness with you,” in the face of my rage. “Hence, our lack of recent communication with you. We did not anticipate such a sudden—change in her condition.” I knew that attempting anything physical would fail miserably, so all I could do was get angrier. Seeing my mood and realizing that there was nothing more to be said, he sighed, “Very well, Mr. Grant, we’re almost to your apartment anyway.” Mr. Scary put his hand on my shoulder. “Your part in this experiment is concluded,” he said as the car stopped, but the doors remained locked. “Remember what I said about disclosure,” he warned, his grasp becoming stronger. “I will personally see that you get to the afterlife before your wife does. And it won’t matter, because we will make sure that nothing ever becomes public. I guarantee you that anyone who discovers our secret will not live long enough to talk about it.” He paused as he let go of me. “Dying nobly in vain isn’t very pragmatic, Mr. Grant. I sincerely hope for your sake that this is farewell.” I stepped out of the car into a late summer downpour, with skies almost as black as my heart.