The article had made him look fine. He had been rather apathetic about the whole thing from the beginning, and wouldn’t have minded all that much no matter how they portrayed him. But his results did not lie. A ninety-eight percent success rate had made him the golden boy of the industry and high in demand.
He flicked through the thin pages of the magazine. They had dug up an old photograph from his twenties when he had practiced stage hypnotism for cash. His hair was still thick then and his confidence palpable. He smiled to himself and turned the page; there was a quote in a larger font between two of the columns,
“I am rare in the sense that I cannot be hypnotized myself. I am not sure why, but it seems some minds simply won’t allow it.” It’s funny what they pick out to be worthy of quotation he thought to himself and dropped the magazine to his desk. He gazed out the window of his office and watched a pair of pigeons fly south over the Los Angeles skyline. The winter sun was somewhere behind the haze though he suspected it was close to midday. He went to glance at his watch but was stopped by an obnoxious buzzer that signaled the imminent arrival of a patient. He quickly took out his phone and pretended to look busy. A woman in her mid-thirties walked through the door with a confidence that was not normally displayed by his patients. She was exceptionally good looking, with soft features that made her ethnicity difficult to pick. The Hypnotist felt a pang of lust, something he had observed with increasing rarity over recent years. He tried to gather himself but was only reminded of his libido during his stage days.
“Hola.” The woman said.
‘And she’s Spanish,’ thought the Hypnotist, ‘Of course.’
“Hola, cómo estás esta mañana?”
“Estoy bien, supongo.”
“Bien. Lo siento, pero hablas inglés? Mi espanol es malo.
“Of course. Thank you for seeing me.”
‘No shit she speaks English you fucking idiot.’
“My pleasure, please, take a seat.” He gestured with a thick hand at the Eames chair which faced the tall glass windows. She obliged and sat down opposite him.
“So, what is it I can help you with today?” he asked.
She looked up to the ceiling as if concocting her issue out of thin air.
“I want to quit smoking.”
“Okay and how long have you…”
“And I drink… and I’m probably a sex addict.” She quickly added, cutting the Hypnotist off. “But that’s not much of an issue.”
The hypnotist had to swallow before he could continue,
“So you would like to stop smoking, full stop.”
The woman nodded.
“Right, and how long have you been a smoker?
“And have you been hypnotized before?”
“Well it’s quite simple, it will be reminiscent of the hypnagogic stage, or the stage immediately before sleep. Basically, what I’m going to do is trick your mind into associating cigarettes with unpleasantness, this will override any cravings and any habits. Okay? There is really nothing to worry about.”
“And just quickly, are you currently taking any prescription medication?”
She shook her head.
“Any metal illness I should know about?”
Again, she gave a slow shake of her head.
“Well, shall we get started then?”
“I think so.”
It didn’t take long for the Hypnotist to realize this alluring woman was not affected by his efforts. His usual sequence used to coerce the mind into hypnosis proved ineffective, the woman simply stared back at him with her large brown eyes. He was shocked at first but quickly reverted to an older sequence he employed on stubborn minds that broke in and out of hypnosis, but still, she stayed completely conscious.
“I am sorry Missus…”
“I am sorry Miss Caro but you appear to be amongst the point one percent of people who cannot be hypnotized. At least not by me.”
She gave a rise of her eyebrows and waited for him to continue.
“Of course I will reimburse you for any costs that you have incurred and I will be happy to recommend some of my colleagues should you desi…”
“No, it’s fine. Thank you very much for trying.” Miss Caro said. She seemed neither interested in her immunity nor disappointed. The Hypnotist went to his desk and pulled out a checkbook, he felt embarrassed and angry like a man struck with impotence.
“You paid for an hour?” he asked stoically.
She nodded and stood to observe the check signing. The Hypnotist leaned over to start writing the thousand-dollar check, as he did so a cross that he wore around his neck fell out from under his shirt and caught Miss Caro’s eye. She stared at the small cross suspended in midair as if it were a snake coiled around the Hypnotist’s neck.
“You are a Christian?” She asked.
“Yes. And you Miss Caro?” The Hypnotist replied without looking up.
“Oh no, I’m more of a Satanist I suppose. All about pleasure and selfish pursuits.” There was a thin layer of sarcasm in her voice but still the Hypnotist continued to look down for fear of awkwardness. The office was quiet a moment until she spoke again.
“You see the irony in that I hope. The Hypnotist who cannot himself be hypnotized. Yet here you are, hypnotized by a two-thousand-year-old book.”
He finally looked up and saw her holding the magazine in her perfect hands. She looked back at him like a lawyer challenging a judge yet she radiated an amorous aura that made his mind go blank. All he could do was hold the check out for her to take. She smiled and made for the door though stopped as she reached it and looked back at the Hypnotist.
“Do you think if you could be hypnotized, it might affect your faith?” She asked.
The Hypnotist had to swallow again before answering, he found the question odd yet potent for he had often ruminated over this much himself. He did not know why it mattered but he felt as though his faith somehow rested on this fact, like his control over his own mind proved his love for God was real and of his own accord.
“Perhaps. I couldn’t say.”
“Hmm. Gracias nonetheless.” And with that, she left.
He thought about Miss Caro for much of the evening; he lay in bed with her words ringing in his head and her figure unsettling his gut. The next day his morning commute brought frustration which ultimately boiled down to a decision; he would track her down. His first port of call was Janette, his receptionist, though this inquiry only added to his frustrations.
“Sir I’m sorry but a Miss Caro did not book an appointment or make payment of any kind. I certainly didn’t process it anyway.”
“Well, you must have buzzed her into my office. Do you remember her? Mid-thirties, slim, brown hair, slightly Hispanic looking, rather attractive.”
“I promise you sir, I did not buzz anyone of that description in. I only saw the clients here.” She gestured to a list on her computer screen. The Hypnotist retreated to his office, he ran a hand through his thinning hair and resolved to put the woman out of mind, he would focus on his work and forget the whole thing. The buzzer sounded and an overweight man whom he had previously treated waddled in. The man requested to be hypnotized into avoiding specific foods, a relatively simple undertaking. He sat the man down and focused on his work.
“Close your eyes and relax,” he told the man. He ran through his sequence and finally placed a finger on the man’s forehead.
“When my finger drops, you will be asleep.” Said the Hypnotist, he then paused dramatically before dropping his finger from the man’s forehead. There was silence in the room as he watched the overweight man’s eyes flutter, and then open. The eyes stared back confused and very much awake.
It only took two more unsuccessful client treatments before the Hypnotist left his office in a fit of rage. He ordered his receptionist to cancel all his appointments and not to contact him. He walked to his car and past the dingy bar he had past every day for ten years and never entered. There was a moment’s hesitation, born from the knowledge that nothing good would come of drinking, but he ignored it like countless men before him and sunk into a stool at the bar. He sat and drank until the afternoon light that fizzled through a lone window became blackness, he drank until the cross around his neck talked back and answered his questions, he drank until the sting of tequila had become trivial through repetition and his feelings of anxiety and despair were smothered. An elderly couple entered the bar for a meal and gave him a disapproving look, a pair of bikers played a game of pool for the next beer and a group of delinquent girls gained confidence with each five-dollar cocktail. The Hypnotist began to contemplate leaving, he felt an urge to drive his car as fast as it would allow, he wanted to let what could happen, happen. He went to drink the last of his glass but was stopped by a teasing voice from the opposite end of the bar.
“So the Christian Hypnotist has a god damn drinking problem too.”
He looked across to see Miss Caro watching him, she wore black leather and looked like fucking Aphrodite herself.
“It’s not a problem.” He replied stubbornly.
“I know, I’m just teasing.” She stood and claimed the stool to his right. “Two shots of rum please,” she said to the bartender. There was silence as the hypnotist thought what to say.
“You conned me, didn’t you?”
Miss Caro smiled to herself.
“You didn’t pay for that appointment; my sectary doesn’t even have a record of you.”
“Don’t take it personally,” She said with a smirk. “If it makes you feel better I didn’t pay for those either.”
The Hypnotist looked down at the shots of rum that had arrived with a mixture of disgust and excitement.
“Nor did I order them.” Said Miss Caro.
The Hypnotist scrunched his face in confusion at this statement and snapped his eyes back to Miss Caro only to find her stool empty. He looked about frantically but could see no sign of her. His stomach dropped and his head began to spin. The anxiety and despair of before flooded into his veins. He felt he was choking, his brain screamed as if deprived of air. He felt a wave of desperation and grabbed at the bar tender’s shirt, pulling him closer.
“Did you see where that woman went, the one sitting just here not a second ago?”
The bartender was an elderly man who looked at the Hypnotist with pity in his eyes. He calmly placed a wrinkled hand on the Hypnotist’s wrist and caused him to submit instantly. The Hypnotist felt his vitality draining, as though his veins flowed with lead instead of blood. He used what little strength he had left to raise his head enough to gaze upon the man who had paralyzed him. The bartender spoke, but it was not the voice of a man, rather the seemingly amatory voice of Miss Caro.
“How’s your faith, Christian Hypnotist?”
The bartender pulled the Hypnotist’s arm up so he could see the limb in his paralyzed state. The old man smiled then dropped the Hypnotist’s arm suddenly and spoke a single word loud and clear,
Instantly the Hypnotist felt his vitality return, he felt the fog of drunkenness evaporate and his sleeping mind wake. Miss Caro smiled at him from behind the bar with a look of appraisal. The hypnotist stared back while his hands shook from awe of her effect.
“Why?” Was all he managed to ask in a shaky voice.
She did not answer immediately but instead poured him a glass of water and pushed it towards him.
“I don’t know… I pitied you.” She finally said, happy with her answer. The Hypnotist’s inability to respond told her she should elaborate.
“I wanted to show you what the mind is capable of, from the other side of the fence if you will.” She tapped his forehead with a manicured finger, “This is more powerful than any God some terrified and confused person dreamt up. The mind is God in every way.” She picked up a glass to polish and smiled her malevolent smile that sent a chill of pleasure down the Hypnotist’s spine.
“I freed you.” She said.