While not a straight extension of the novel “Night Chills” by Dean Koontz (which I heartily recommend you read—available in all good bookshops), this story is inspired by aspects of that book.
Layla danced as though the music had taken over her soul. Her naked body gleamed with sweat as she writhed in time with the beat. Joe watched, rapt, as she danced in front of him.
The little black dress silently landed on the carpet, and Layla stepped out of the crumpled pile. It took a couple of attempts, as the heels of Layla’s stilettos snagged on the dress a little, but she didn’t let that spoil her rhythm. She turned away, arching her back to emphasize her exquisite derriere as she swayed from side to side.
Apart from the shoes and a small pair of black lace panties, she was now naked, and she stepped closer to her prey. Joe loved it when she did this. When she stepped closer to him and pressed her voluptuous breasts into his face. The moment when he could breathe her intoxicating scent was almost the best part of the whole experience. Almost, but not quite.
As the music continued, she crouched down in front of him, putting herself between his legs. Joe knew where this was going, and sighed a little in anticipation. Layla continued, her head getting closer and closer to Joe’s erection, which was making itself clearer through his trousers. Teasingly, Layla nuzzled against his cock, her mouth pressing against it through the fabric. “I wanna see it,” She purred, “I wanna see how much you want me.”
With her expertly manicured fingers, she reached across and started pulling at his fly, slowly undoing his zip. As his member saw light for the first time that evening, Layla gasped “My, you’re a big boy aren’t you”, and a mischievous smile started to spread across her face. She climbed on top of him, her unclad pussy hovering over his erection.
In the background the music changed. The smile spread even further across Layla’s face as she leant and whispered to him “Would you like another?”
“Wha... Oh. No. I’d better not.” As the sudden realisation of his situation hit Joe, he remembered that he’d already spent more than he should. “That was great though.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed it sugar.” Her tone had definitely changed as she climbed off of his and started to get dressed, though as a lap dancer, this didn’t take too long. She kept a wary eye on him as he redid his zip, and reached into his jacket for his wallet. He was a good regular customer (every month she thought), but experience had taught her to be careful with all clients. She didn’t want him running off, or worse, getting violent.
But Joe didn’t have any plans in that direction. He reached into his wallet and pulled out three twenty pound notes, leaving just the one for a drink and his taxi home. “That was three wasn’t it?”
“Yeah hun. You know, if you wanted to stay for a while more, you can use your credit card.” Ever the saleswoman, she wasn’t about to just let him walk out without getting as much as she could.
“No. Thanks though.” Joe had a rule about using his credit cards in strip clubs, namely: don’t. He didn’t want his details in some seedy company’s database, and besides he didn’t want to lose control over how much he spent. He made his excuses, and left the club to get a taxi home.
The kindest way to define Joe’s life over the past couple of years would be “mixed”. Since his girlfriend left him, he wasn’t getting much in the way of companionship. (Or sex for that matter – hence the regular visits to the lap dancing club. He did enjoy Layla though. She was part of the reason he kept going.)
He also wasn’t getting much in the way of mental stimulation since his recent demotion. He was still on the same money (although he didn’t know why), but his duties had been seriously curtailed. Instead of designing and implementing the systems for uploading television signals to the satellite, he was now relegated to maintaining the machinery, and keeping an eye on the feed. The most taxing part of his days generally involved deciding what to get for his lunch. He kept an eye on proceedings within the company though, just to keep his mind active between pressing ctrl-alt-delete on the servers.
It was an evening like most others. Joe was in his favourite bar: a small place in the city centre called Sam’s. He could be found in there most days after work, nursing a pint of real ale or one of Sam’s huge collection of malt whiskies. This particular night though, he was drinking one of the beers and watching the match on the TV above the bar. He didn’t notice the man walking up behind him.
“Barkeep! “ The stranger shouted enthusiastically, his loud American accent booming around the bar. ”Two doubles of that Jura up there please! One for me and one for my good friend over here!”
“Who...?” Joe turned around to see his benefactor. “Bloody hell! Felix! I haven’t seen you in years! How are you? What are you up to?”
“I’m good thanks. Still working in the States. Where are you now?”
“I work for a firm called Sat Tech. Just round the corner from here. I didn’t quite make it to the Ol’ U S of A”
“I’ll bet you’re nerding it up here though. What technical wizardry do they get up to there then?”
“Basically technical support for satellite TV, but at the distribution end. We send the signals up there.”
“So are you the one to speak to about free adult channels then?” He laughed and pulled out a note from his wallet as the bartender served them their drinks. “Now mate. Fill me in on the last seven years!”
The next couple of hours were spent reminiscing about old times. Joe and Felix had shared a house at uni a few years back. Joe had obviously done electronics. Felix had done physics, and apparently half the female population of the university. They had been good friends, and their house had partaken in all manner of drunken nights out, along with the odd bar fight. But Felix had gone to work in the States, and they lost touch soon after that.
As the night wore on, the beer gave way completely to whisky, and the two were effectively on a tasting session. It had to be said, though, that in Joe’s state he wasn’t really tasting anything. Felix on the other hand, seemed completely in control.
All of a sudden the laughter went from Felix’s face. “Look mate. I need to have a chat with you, but not here. Can we go back to your place?”
“Why? You haven’t gone all… You know. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Whatever floats your boat I say! I’m not that way inclined though.”
“No!” Felix spluttered. “I don’t want to fuck you! I’m not gay! I…”
“Methinks you doth protest too much!” Joe interrupted. “I’m just kidding. The number of women you brought back to the flat… well let’s just say that if you turned the whole universe may need to rebalance! I tell you what. I’ve got a good bottle of single malt and a chess set back at the house. It’ll be just like back in the uni days, except maybe the lack of recreational drugs and psychotic housemates.”
Back at Joes place, the chess set and whisky were duly brought out of their respective cupboards. Joe had sobered up a bit by now, helped by a bit of supper, and was intrigued about what Felix had to say. “So... What did you want to talk to me about?”
Felix put the glass down and leaned forward. “I’m working with a small group at the moment, and we have a... a proposition for you.”
“Go on. No seducing me though.”
“Before I start, I need your full discretion.”
“No. I mean it. Full discretion.”
“Yes. Full discretion!” Joe smiled. “My lips are sealed!”
“Ok. Have you heard of subliminal advertising?”
“What like ‘You are feeling sleepy. Drink Coke’ and ‘Go get a MacDonalds’? I’ve heard of it, but I thought it was just an urban myth or something. Something along the lines of alligators in the sewers.”
“Yeah that’ll be the one. Not an urban myth though. Back in the fifties and sixties they tried it in a few movie theatres, but didn’t have much success with it. Some, but not much. Like everything else they did at that time, they made a ham-fisted attempt at it. The project got pulled, largely because of other events at the time, and buried. The powers that be decided to make it clear that the project was a failure, to stop anyone else following their tracks. They also covered themselves with the ‘buy Coke’ shit. They hadn’t even mentioned Coke in their experiments, but anybody researching later could see that the sales never went up”
“Clever. Go on.”
“They weren’t all stupid. So the problem with it was that it wasn’t 100 percent effective. It wasn’t even 50%. They had a minor success, and weren’t even sure that the results were beyond the realm of statistical probability. For the government, that wasn’t enough. They wanted 100 percent.”
“How were they sure that it worked at all?”
“The results suggested that it worked, but they didn’t prove it. Anyway, they scrapped the programme and the whole thing went away. Until the seventies.”
“What happened then?”
“I’m getting to that. In the seventies an American scientist teamed up with a corporation to do a large scale experiment in a remote village miles away from anywhere. He had developed a drug that apparently increased the effectiveness of subliminals to 100 percent. They put the drug in the water supply and a bunch of consumer products, and took over the TV transmissions and billboards to distribute the advertising. It worked a treat for a while, but there were side effects. Plus the scientist turned out to be a bit of a repressed perv and went to town up there. The project got noticed by the wrong people. The scientist got killed and the corporation took a nose dive. The head of the company also ended up going missing, presumed dead or in some deep dark government hole.”
“If that had happened, wouldn’t the government have started back up with it.”
“By the time the whole thing blew over, there was no evidence that subliminals were ever involved. Presumably whoever rumbled them was concerned about the technology getting into the wrong hands. The scientist and the corporation had covered their tracks pretty well, in case they got caught. So almost all traces of the experiment, the drug and the subliminals had gone.”
“Yeah. Once the company had gone bust, all of its assets were bought out, including the scientist’s notes and recordings. They were hidden well, so it was almost by accident they were ever found. Once they were found, though, they made their way onto my desk.”
“Not particularly. As I said, I’ve been over in the States since uni. I’ve been working with a few companies on defence contracts. Top secret and fairly freaky stuff.” Felix laughed. “You wanna know why I went bald?”
“Oh yeah, that top secret balding agent you developed. I remember it well!”
“Fuck off! It was something I was working on though! Come on. Whisky me up!”
“There you go. So I take it you’re now part of some huge conspiracy to bring subliminal advertising back to the world and become some sort of evil dictator? Is it something like that? Make a few billion pounds – sorry dollars – and have the world do your bidding?”
“Something like that. It’s not huge though. The number of people who know about this is barely into double figures. My, erm, employers think I’m working on other projects, which is sort of true.”
“No. I’m leaving them out of this. As I said, the scientist hid his work well, so even my lot didn’t know what they had. I made sure of it. I also made sure they would never find out. So it’s just the few of us.”
“The few of us doing what? Come on, don’t leave me hanging like this!”
“There is a few of us with a plan for bringing the subliminals back in. We had to be a bit clever about it though. For one thing, the previous drug had side effects which firstly caused problems, and secondly could give the game away. I don’t want to go into it, but they were serious. So we had to develop a new version of this without the side effects.”
“It’s a shame you didn’t have Sam working with you. Remember, Sam Bryant? He was studying neurochemistry back at uni wasn’t he?”
“Indeed he was, And indeed he is. He’s still at uni actually, only now he’s a researcher. It wasn’t too hard to get him on side. We got him to do the development, using the uni’s research facilities as a cover. It’s taken us about five years to perfect the new drug. I tell you, the work he’s done is bloody marvellous. He’s a real genius that man.”
“Yeah I remember. He made us look like idiots in comparison. Couldn’t take his tequila slammers though” Joe grinned as he remembered one of their nights out from the uni days.
“Oh I’d forgotten about that. And neither could you, if I remember correctly.”
“True. True. But it was the lime that made me sick!”
“Ha! Was it also the lime that wrecked your chances with Lucy that night?”
“So what do you need me for?”
“OK. So I’ve got the drug sorted out. I’ve even sorted out a method of delivery for it. The other half is the subliminals. We need to get them to as many people as possible, but without anyone finding out and getting us locked up until the end of time. There’s a couple of ways we can do this: add something to the feed of every computer, television, radio , newspaper, magazine, poster or whatever out there, or get them all to watch one large event, which we’re controlling. Number two would be putting all our eggs in one basket, so to speak, so we’re going with the saturation coverage.”
“How are you doing that? You’ll need to have people in every outlet going!”
“Exactly. I’ve got people in almost all the ISPs, newspapers and ad agencies going. Do you know how amoral some ad agency types are?” grinned Felix “I barely had to mention subliminals and he wanted in! Anyway. You’ve probably guessed but I’m after someone who can sort out the Sat-Tech feed for me.”
“I see. And the other feeds?”
“My problem. What I need from you is something to add to the feed, along with a delivery method. We add something to your machinery that allows us to add whatever images, text or sound we like to the signal sent up to the satellite. I also want you to work together with the other audio visual guys, the internet, cable tv etc, so that if there’s a problem on one, we’ve learned how to deal with it for the others.”
“Makes sense. For a crazy plan that is.”
“What’s crazy about it?”
“Using subliminal advertising to take over the world? There does seem to be something a bit bond-villainy about it.”
“I never said anything about taking over the world. That would raise far too many red flags. I don’t fancy spending the rest of my life in an eight by ten cell thank you very much. No I just want to be able to use my own brand of special advertising to make a boat load of money and retire to a nice private island with a couple of dozen hula girls. Where’s the harm in that?”
“There’s still something of the Bond-villain in there though. Where is your base? A hollowed-out volcano somewhere in the Pacific?”
“Ah no. A yacht ten miles off Tahiti. Whisky me.”
“A fine choice. Anyway mate. We’re more than a little drunk, and I could do with some shut-eye. You’re welcome to sleep in the spare bedroom. Upstairs, second door on the left. We’ll discuss your evil plans for world domination in the morning. Oh, and by the way…”
“Checkmate in two moves.”
“Bastard! I mean. I let you win!”
After a peaceful night’s sleep, Joe woke up to find Felix in the kitchen, making himself a coffee and admiring the view out of the window. “Morning! Sleep well?”
Joe laughed. “Hungover like a bitch! But apart from that OK thanks. Yourself?”
“Pretty much the same. Listen. About what I said last night...”
“I know. You were out of your tree. Consider it forgotten.”
“No. It’s true. I want you to remember every word. And I can prove it.”
The smile disappeared from Joe’s face. “You know Felix, I’m beginning to worry about you.”
“No it’s true. I’ve got to go now, but your neighbour, Jane...”
“Jane? How do you know about her?”
Felix turned to look out of the window. This time Joe noticed that he was watching Jane. She was putting her washing out on the line, dressed in an extremely tight pink top and a matching pair of running shorts. A pair of pink trainers and white knee high socks completed the charming ensemble. She continued oblivious of her audience from next door. “I do my research. I know that she’s single, that you’ve got a bit of an eye for her, and that she goes for a run every morning before work at the hospital.” In her garden, Jane bent over to pick something up, unwittingly giving the two men an eyeful of her beautifully round behind. “I can see why you like her!”
“Now wait a fucking minute...”
“She is rather nice it has to be said. Keep an eye on her. She may be doing a few things you find interesting. Think of it as part proof, and part incentive.” Felix handed Joe a card. “When she does, and when you’re interested, give me a call on this number.”
Joe stared at Felix in stunned silence.
“And at this point I’ll be going. Remember what I said though. Keep an eye on Jane.”