General Disclaimers: While it features no ‘on-screen’ sexual activity or explicit adult situations, this hypnofetish story does contain examples of fictional characters doing illegal, immoral and/or impossible things to other fictional characters. If you are under the age of consent in your community, are disturbed by such concepts, or want hot wet thrusting sex in your on-line pornography, then for goshsakes stop reading now!

Permission granted to re-post for free to any electronic medium, as long as no one's being charged to view it, and this disclaimer and e-mail address (hypnovoyer@hotmail.com) are not removed. It would also be nice if you told me you were posting it.

Copyright Voyer, 2001.

Specific Disclaimers: Set in the same universe at ‘Shades of Night Are Falling’, ‘Cut Off’, et al, and you should really read them first.

Dedicated to Francis of Assisi

Something prompted her to pause.

So she paused, and she took in her surroundings, craning her neck, finally shuffling slowly around in a full circle. She was standing in a faintly grubby hallway. A large but somewhat sickly-looking plant lurked in a low gray pot which in turn squatted on the equally sickly floortiles. Dirt lingered stubbornly in all of the corners. The air was tinged not with unpleasant smells, not exactly, but more with the (somehow) familiar scent of too much cleaner being used too often in an attempt to cover up certain unpleasant smells. In one direction after a short distance, the hall faded rapidly away into gloom and darkness. In the other direction, the passageway ended at a short staircase, wide shallow steps that climbed to a gray metal door. In the door was a grilled-over window with unreadable words painted on the glass in black letters. The bug-flaked fluorescent strips mounted overhead were turned off, so this window was the only source of light, filtering in the illumination through both a layer of dust and the window’s heavy wire mesh.

The circuit completed, she looked down at herself. She was wearing slacks, a blouse and a long tan-colored coat, and her feet were inside a pair of sensible black leather pumps. In one hand she held a smallish purse which matched the pumps in both color and material. On the opposite wrist was strapped a gold-colored band, with angular shapes flickering meaninglessly behind another window, even smaller than the first.

She seemed to recall that she had been getting awfully absent-minded lately.

But this was exceptionally bad. She had no idea where she was, how she had come to be here, wearing these clothes... She bit at her lower lip, but oddly (oddly?) there was no real concern, only a mild perplexity. She cast her mind back. She remembered waking up, getting out of a bed, going through some quick stretching exercises, seeing the sun streaming in through a window, a very different window than the one in the hall, bigger, cleaner. She had started to think about what she was going to do that day at... her workplace... wherever that was... and then...


A sound?

A flicker of black wings?

And then nothing. Nothing at all.

Until she was here.

She became aware that there was another door directly in front of her, set at right angles to the first, and she studied it intently, seeking some clue. It was made up of tired strips and panels of unpainted wood, with two tarnished metal numbers tacked to it, set at a slight angle, the 2 to the left of and slightly higher than the 3.

23. She gingerly touched the numbers, traced their shapes with her long sensitive fingertip.

23? But I’m below...

Then, as if the numbers were a key, fitting into a lock somewhere inside her brain, lighting up a single line of memory in the haze.

“OH!” Her eyes lit up as well and a smile stretched itself across her face.

A session! It was time for a session!

The excitement and the expression on her face both drained away in one quick whoosh, gone as fast as they had come.

Maybe. Maybe it was time for a session.

Whatever a session was.

She took a deep shaky breath, squared her shoulders, clutched firmly at the purse for reassurance and knocked at the door with her free hand. The panel was cheap and hollow and it seemed to wobble even under her nervous tap.

No reply. She tapped again, just a little harder.


She considered leaving, even turned to go, then realized that she had absolutely nowhere else to go...

She turned back, and tried the worn brass knob. If it was locked...

It wasn’t. The knob turned and the door swung open. She flinched, somehow expecting it to squeal loudly as it did so, but it was in fact almost eerie in its absolute silence.

She cautiously poked her head through the resulting gap and

Something prompted her to pause.

So she paused, and she took in her surroundings.

She was standing in a room. It was hard to say what its original function might have been; it was stripped and empty now with the exception of a solitary piece of furniture. A single tired overhead bulb gave the only illumination. It was fortunate this was lit, as there were no windows.

Beside her on the floor was a purse, a pair of black pumps, and two neatly folded stockings. There was a glint of gold inside one of the pumps.

A smell hung in the air, not unpleasant like... like... some place she had been recently, but distinctive nonetheless. She couldn’t quite place it, and it tickled at her nose. The drab wooden floor stretched unbroken from wall to white plasterboard wall, interrupted only by the long thin mirror which stood up against one of the walls at right angles to the two doors.

Two doors?

Yes. Apart from the mirror, there were a couple of cracks in the plaster, three abandoned electrical outlets, dust and cobwebs in the corners, and on the far side of the room of her current position, another door.

Two doors?

Another door?

She turned around. Yes. There was a door right behind her. A cheap-looking thing. Closed, and the deadbolt handle turned to the locked position. She must have come through it. Mustn’t she? She stared at it for a long time, then turned back to face the other door. The first door.

The old boards squeaked slightly under the soles of her bare feet as she crossed the room.

She stopped when she reached the mirror and she turned so she was looking into it. The mirror’s curled black frame surrounding the resulting image: a tall rather thin woman peering in vague confusion. Her eyes looking out of the shaded hollows of their sockets like two bewildered blue rabbits. The blondish-brown hair was held back with thin two silvery clips, one carefully positioned at each temple. She wore a long tan coat and her hands were empty.

Who is that woman?

She looked for a moment longer, then moved on to the second door. It somehow radiated a sense of being sturdy and intact, belying its worn and weather-beaten appearance. She lifted her hand to knock on it, but her fist just wavered vaguely in the air, and then dropped back to her side.

She opened the door wide. A scented breeze ghosted out, hitting her in the face. She stepped through and

Something prompted her to pause.

So she paused, and she took in her surroundings, blinking as her eyes adjusted.

A dark room. The walls and the ceiling were half-swallowed by blackness, for the only light came from some candles, a wide carefully-spaced ring of them on a bare wooden floor. The candles were white and fat and globby, and each was kept from dripping its wax on the floorboards by being placed into the bottom half of a large tin can, stripped of its label and scrubbed clean. The candles were heavily scented with a mixture of odors. She couldn’t quite place any of them, and they all made her head swim.

Beside her on the floor was a pair of dark blue slacks, a white blouse and a tan coat, all neatly folded and stacked. There was also a cardboard box there, with something written on the side and ill-defined object lurking shapelessly within.

She looked back at the rest of the room.

Emanating from some vague source was a sound, a slow deliberate dripping, a leaky faucet splatting endlessly on a metal pan in a sink, plink... plink... plink... a sound that was soothing one moment and a teeth-grinding irritant the next...

And beyond the dripping, just at the edge of hearing, there was more...

Her eyes fully adjusted, and this revealed that the room was almost empty. The wooden floor. Plaster walls painted very pale swirls of color, almost forming words, shapes... No windows. Almost sterile in its cleanliness.

Almost empty. Almost sterile.

Inside the ring of candles...

A mirror?

No. Not a mirror. Why was she thinking about mirrors? It was another woman. She was sitting on a large flat rectangle made of some unknown substance, Plexiglas maybe, which was aligned with the floorboards, her lower half evidently curled up in a tight cross-legged position. In the dimness it was hard to tell much about her, beyond her being young and fairly slender; her skin was probably dark, and her hair certainly was, dark and almost black. The latter was long as well, held back from her wide intelligent forehead by a the thin silver-gray strip of a hairband and then falling in a smooth straight sweep clear to the woman’s narrow waist. Apart from the band, she wore no jewelry, no decoration. (The woman by the door touched automatically at her own ears. There were holes there, one in each of her lobes, empty now and healing themselves over...) The woman on the floor wore a dress, a long thing that showed her cleavage and then was tucked in tightly around her waist and then flowed back out in abundance. This is what made the exact position of her legs hard to determine. The garment was the same color as the hairband, and seemed to shimmer softly in the candlelight.

The woman at the door looked down at herself. She was barefoot, wearing sensible cotton panties and an equally sensible bra, and she saw with only a vague flicker of surprise that they were colored exactly the same as all the rest. They shimmered in the candlelight. She was also wearing a pair of gloves, thin but tough, reaching tightly halfway up her forearms. There was a shape stitched on the back of each hand, stitched in black...

Something tremored inside her, and she looked at the box, then back at the seated woman, who sat with her bare arms outstretched almost to their limit. In either hand, hands that wore familiar gloves, the seated woman held another of the candles, two more flickering flames. Her back was straight, her head held up, but her eyes were closed, and she did not move. An occasional drop of white wax fell to the Plexiglas, adding itself to one of the two oddly neat piles which were already there, one on either side.

The floor was cool and smooth under the new arrival’s bare feet. Well polished and well fitted. No squeaks at all here.

Those feet padded to the center of the room and her bare legs sat themselves down opposite the woman, pulling themselves up and into the suddenly-proper position with a little help from her hands. Half of the Plexiglas stuck out unoccupied so she wasn’t sitting on the floor. Feeling its smooth hardness under her butt, she had for the first time in this room a brief flash of remembrance: hours spent exercising, running and swimming and spinning and stretching and cutting and sewing and punching until she wanted only to collapse, to puke, and then doing it all again.... She was very limber, but there was still a twinge of pain when her legs curled themselves into position.

She evidently needed more exercise. She would have made a mental note of it, but there didn’t seem to be much point.

She was getting awfully absent-minded.

She was in position. Her lungs sampled a long deep breath out of the swirling air and it droned sweetly inside her lungs. Her arms held themselves up, her hands outspread. Time passed, and she began to count the drops of water as they struck home, wherever that home was.... One. Two. Three. Ten. Fifty.

One hundred.

Two... hundred....

At... a... thou... sssand...

She spoke, softly, her voice blurring just a little.

“Janet Manerud. I have an appointment at 10 o’clock. For a session.”

As she said this, Janet realized in a dim sort of way that before that exact moment, before the thousandth drop hit home, hit the exact center of her brain and softened it to absolute mush, if someone had asked her what her name was, she would have had absolutely no idea what to say.

The woman opposite, the woman on the other side of the mirror, she opened her dark brown eyes, the lids flipping up as would two matched pieces of clockwork. Her perfect lips had been smiling faintly, and now that smile widened, showing the clean white teeth behind them. Her face was as healthy as the teeth, except maybe, there was a feeling around the edges, a stretched look the skin, a darkness near the eyes..

She’s been... ill. She was very ill, and now she’s getting better...

“Hello, Janet.” The woman held out the candles, placing them in Janet’s hands. Those hands automatically closed around the warmcool cylinders.

“I’ll just go and see if he will consent to see you. Rest.”

As she said this, the woman spread two wax-dribbled fingers and pushed them slowly down over Janet’s eyelids, closing them, cutting off the light and the thought. Even through the gloves, her nails were long and sharp, and they scraped lightly against Janet’s skin.

Or maybe the nails were part of the gloves...

Janet trembled as she replied to the meaningless words.

“If he will consent...”

There was the sound of the other woman evidently pulling her legs apart, rising, walking unhurriedly away. A swish of a dress. A... door...? opening and closing.

Silence. Except for the steady drip... drip... drip...

Janet started counting those drips again. One. Two. Three. Ten. Forty. Forty two.

The first line of hot wax dripped down over the knuckles of her left hand, a faint thin streak of pain even through the gloves. Janet couldn’t quite stifle a cringe, a tiny whimper.

She kept counting, and she rested.

Eighty. One hundred.

Five... hundred...

Five... hundred... and... sssixteen....

The door opened again, closed. Feet came closer and knelt down the body to which they were attached. Legs were reassembled. The fingertips slid up her eyelids, pulling those lids open. Flipping them up like pieces of clockwork.

The woman was sitting exactly as before, not a hair or fold of dress out of place, as if she hadn’t moved an inch.

Except there was a faint flush spreading across her cheeks and through her voice.

“He has consented to see you, Janet.” She took back the candles, closed her eyes. Became a statue again.

Janet untangled her own legs. She started to rise, but then a switch clicked in her back, down in her spinal cord between her hips, the same place as before and she toppled slowly over. She caught herself with her arms just in time, realizing that now her legs were useless. The statue-woman with the candles, she was privileged, rightfully privileged, she could walk the final stretch of this journey. Not Janet. And so she crawled slowly across the room on her hands and knees, crawled back out of the circle of candles with a shiver of... what? She had the urge suddenly to look back for a second, over her shoulder. The other woman sat as motionless as ever, facing the door, but there was an object there, just under all the pointy ends of her hair, aligned along her own perfectly-straightened spine and sticking up out of a neat slit in the back of her dress like the Serpent just poking his nose for the first time into Eden. Black and sleek, shaped to fit perfectly into the palm. The handle of a dagger in a sheath.

A dagger. And very sharp claws.

Janet snapped her head sharply away and faced the new door, exactly opposite the one she had been standing by at the start. It was obviously and overtly solid, heavy and well-constructed, with solid boards and tight-fitting seams. It could have stood up to an assault from a battering ram.

There was no sign of any knob. Instead there was a construction mounted in the very center of the door, a collection of indentations around a circle of pearly iridescence. Silver gray. She crawled closer, feeling the floor sharply with her bare knees. She reached up, her fingers moving as if they were being sucked into the waiting holes. Janet almost completely stifled the wince that came with the pricking of the needles. The needles, thin and sharp. One prick per finger against the material of the glove, one in the center of her palm. The fabric stretched but did not puncture.

For a moment, she remembered the feeling of the needles, remembered them as if she had done this many times before, then it was gone.

She squeezed her fingers against them and she twisted her hand, twisted the polished circular thing in the middle of the door all the way around to a very certain point, then back a little, and the mechanism clicked and whirred. The needles clicked away, foiled.

The door opened. A breeze hit her in the face. As these things happened, Janet reclaimed her hand. She crawled through the resulting hole and

Something prompted her to pause.

So she paused, crouched on all fours, a small frightened animal lurking in its burrow, and she took in her surroundings, moving just her eyes.

It was light and it was dark. It was tiny and it was enormous. There were masses of thick white candles, but they still didn’t do more than dispel half of the lower darkness. The walls and the ceiling loomed up forever, just out of the range of sight.

There was sound, a sweet steady thrumming that nibbled away at her brain, a musical version of... of water dripping on a metal pan... It mixed with the smell of the candles, a single smell, high and thin and sharp.

The walls that she could see, just on either side of the solid-looking door which was behind her, were covered with colors, thousands of small rectangles, arranged and overlapped. Vibrant and glowing. The rectangles had a meaning, but she couldn’t place it. The floor was a reworking of the walls writ large; dozens and dozens of rugs, an overlapping profusion of cost and variety. Despite all of the candles, they free of even a single drop of wax.

There were shapes in the dimness, all around the room’s edges. Mirrors? No. Why was she thinking about mirrors? The shapes twisted against her eyes. Were they statues? Patterns on the walls? Or were they really women? So many women, all with clean limber bodies, long flowing dresses, long flowing hair held back with bands across the forehead and then twined around and around, and bare arms covered with every color of skin you could imagine, smooth and oiled in the dancing candlelight. Eyes opened wide and drained empty and then refilled. Lips smiling. Women serving as candleholders, as furniture, none moving, not an inch, not a flicker.

Or was it all just a dream, a trick of the flickering light? Were any of them actually there?

The figures around the edges were hard to pin down, impossible to confirm, but some closer in were definite and real. The woman in one corner(?) who slowly plucked at the elaborate stringed instrument, sort of like a harp. The three women...

The three women in the center of the room, between the two shapes.

With the man.

The man.

He sat cross-legged on his low cushion, a squashed sagging thing which was more majestic than the largest and most jewel-encrusted of thrones. The two kneeling women were behind him, touching him, the blonde (very blonde, no brown at all in that cascade of tresses) to the left, the ebony-skinned woman to the right, touching him only with the very tips of their fingers, slowly, endlessly sliding across his pointy ears, his sharply-defined skull (covered with only a few whisps of gray-brown hair, and a fringe hanging down in the back) and black-jacketed shoulder blades, his thin forearms. Their hair curled softly around their bodies and then his body. Their eyes were holes, blue and brown holes drained out and then filled deep with calm rippling ecstasy.

The object of their ministrations was tapping away somewhat awkwardly but furiously at a computer, a small sleek laptop that was perfectly balanced across the wide upraised ass of the third woman, an earth-mother who was down on her hands and knees and facing away from him, towards Janet and the door, her head hidden down between her arms, her supremely lustrous hair and the folds of her dress both fanned out across the carpet in smooth neat waves. There were two long wavy daggers on the carpet in front of her, their polished silver blades glistening in the candlelight, their tips almost touching. The earth-mother’s hands were curled loosely over the daggers’ handles, while the cords of the laptop looped once around her solid torso and then ran away into darkness, twisting around and around each other, bringing to mind the image of copulating snakes. Her body was motionless except for those strong fingers, which twitched endlessly against the dagger handles, against the carpet.

Janet stared for a very long time. She had no idea how long she crouched there and stared, her mouth hanging open a little, her own fingers spasming against the carpets. Finally, she summoned up her courage and crawled forward, began the long trek towards him and

Something prompted her to pause.

So she paused, a lowly groveling thing, and she peeked up at her surroundings.

She was kneeling on an expensive oriental rug in her underwear, in front a man typing on a laptop computer. A computer balanced on a very oddly-shaped table.

Off to one side, there was a pole. On one branch off from the pole hung a wide-brimmed black hat, and mounted on the top was a good-sized wrought-iron bird cage. Inside the cage, on a perch, a large multicolored bird studied her with flat black eyes, bottomless polished buttons sown on a doll’s face. Buttons carved out of... She looked away. On the other side of the four people, an object sitting on a wooden stand, leaning back at an angle and

it was staring at her as well, staring forever andever withouteyesand

Again she jerked her head away. The man. She looked at the man, only at the man.

She almost recognized him, and this groping half-feeling sent a rush twanging through her body.

She was so totally absent minded.

He continued typing, not looking up.

Finally, possibly, just possibly, the platinum-blonde women positioned roughly between the man and the wooden stand pointed the wide blue pools above her nose in Janet’s direction for a second, then slowly turned and whispered against the man’s ear, or maybe she just stuck her tongue in there, wet and pointed.

He stopped typing with a small annoyed start, and jerked his head up. He blinked rapidly behind his small rimless glasses.

The fingers of the computer-table stopped moving.

“What? What is it?”

His voice... oh god his sad wonderful voice...

Another whisper, another tongue poke, and for the first time he looked directly at Janet.

His eyes... his pools... oh god his sad wonderful awful eyes...

Janet tore her own eyes away. She prostrated herself, her ass up in the air, her hands stretched out across the carpet, mimicking the table, reflecting it in a mirror...

She tried to keep still, tried with every fiber of her being, be absolutely still like the half-imagined shapes around her in the darkness, but she couldn’t stop the trembling. Her whole body. Trembling. She wanted to start hiccuping.

He spoke again.

“Oh. Hello, my dear. Ah... I’m sorry, who are you again?”

She struggled to make her tongue work, thick and wrapped in wool. She had to concentrate on forming every syllable.

“Janet Manerud, my father.” She stared wide-eyed at the carpet. There were snakes there, hundreds of them, intertwined, slithering evily between her clenching fingers, shimmering, licking her skin with their long thin tongues...

“Janet Man... Oh. Oh, yes! I remember now. We met at that... soiree,” She sensed her father’s vague waving gesture... “of Miss Greene’s, didn’t we?”

“I can’t remember, my father.”

“Yes. Of course. And what is it you wanted again?”

This came to her, even if the rest was gone, had never existed in the first place. It came clear and shining.

“I... I would... please... my father... please may I have... a session?” Her voice dwindled away to a tiny squeaky whisper on the last word. She rolled her eyes, was just able to see him.

“A session? Another session?” He held a pipe (the kind you smoked, a short-stemmed brier, not the kind you hit people very very hard over the head causing fractures contusions multiple..) in one hand now, and sounded more perplexed than annoyed, and she sagged in relief. Internally. Just a little. If her father had been truly unhappy with her... “Didn’t you just have one?”

“I can’t remember, my father.”

She was totally absent minded.

“Oh. Yes. So you said.” With his free hand, he tapped again at the computer, squinting a little. Colors reflected in the lenses of his glasses. “Manerud... M-A-N...” Then: “My word. It’s been... How time flies. Very well.” He made small fluttering gestures with his hands, and the two women next to him instantly ceased their actions, falling back, posing their bodies, turning into mirrored statues. “Please come here, Janet.” He put the pipe in his mouth.

She couldn’t even crawl, and she had to worm her away across the carpets, on her belly, the strands, the tongues all teasing her body, working their way slowly down under her skin. It took forever to reach him.

As she did so, her father suddenly snapped his fingers, the gesture of a man who has abruptly recalled an overlooked fact. Again he took the pipe in his hand, closed his fingers around the bowl.

“Oh! That’s right. Now I remember. Janet!” He got up off the cushion, his bare well-callused feet stepping onto the carpets. “I’m sorry, my dear. My mind was a million miles away. This is why I needed you to come.” He pointed at a patch of the darkness with the stem of his pipe. Again she rolled her eyes.

The selected darkness parted, candles flared to life, and another of the shapes became real. A figure stretched out on a low cot and mostly covered with a patchy but clean blanket. There were things stitched on the blanket, between the patches. Black snakes of thread. Twisting. Her father walked closer, and Janet squirmed along in his wake, her breaths coming sharp and ragged.

They both arrived.

“I need your opinion on this, Janet.”

“I don’t understand, my father.”

“I need your medical opinion.”

“Medical?” She could barely remember what the word meant.

“Yes.” A pause. “Your medical opinion. Doctor Manerud.”

She looked at the figure again and

Something prompted her to pause.

So she paused, and she took in her surroundings, her eyes sharp and focused as she hopped to her feet. A bed, pushed up near one of the money-covered walls. A man on the bed, under a rather cruddy blanket. A Latina nurse with long black hair was there in her flowing silver-gray uniform, and she was carefully swabbing the patient’s forehead with a damp cloth. Janet turned her attention to him.

He lay on the bed, his eyes closed. Male, Caucasian, about 35, rather thin, almost too thin. Also rather pale. Not too bad looking, if you liked that sort of thing; Janet personally prefered men who were a little more robust. She stepped closer, peeled off one of her gloves and touched his forehead when the nurse stopped her ministrations. Even after the cloth, it was dry. It was also fairly cool, though.

“Is he anemic?”

“No. Not that I am aware, Doctor. He’s recently lost... a great deal of blood.”

“Blood loss? What happened?” She cracked the patient’s eyelid, and studied what was underneath. He was clearly unconscious, but the pupil dilation looked OK...

“He was shot in the chest. Three times at close range with a large-caliber pistol.”

Janet raised an eyebrow, and checked the patient’s pulse. Slow but steady. She wished she had a stethoscope.

“And he’s still alive?”

“Is he? Alive, I mean?”

She shot the black-jacketed clinic director beside her an irritated glance. The man fiddled with that horrible stinky pipe he was always smoking. She thought she should remember some time to bring around a few diseased-lung shots for him to look at.

“Of course he is. He’s breathing, isn’t he?”

“Oh. Yes. That’s good, of course.”

“Who performed the surgery? Who patched him up?” She carefully pulled back the shimmering silver-gray blanket. The patient’s arms were resting on his chest, and

they were holding holding

holding something and

there were threads and

oh yes now she understood and

everything was clear and

she shifted them all aside, carefully, just enough to see the damaged areas. There were three faint marks there in a neat cluster, mostly healed. A few of the threads still clung.

Good grouping of shots, nice and tight. Someone’s been practicing.

The thought came and went.

“You did, mostly, Doctor. But in the end, as always, it was a team effort. We all helped. As much as we could .”

Janet nodded absently, touched the marks with her ungloved hand. Then with the other hand, she touched at touched at

touched at something else and

it was cold and

slick and

it sang even in its sleep it sang and

she didn’t really think about it any more.

“Yes. Good job all around. Well, they are both still... um... a little absent minded right now, but before long they-”

There was a disturbance nearby, and they both looked in its direction. One of the clinic’s black curtains had suddenly billowed away, revealing another patient being tended to by some more nurses. Silver-gray. Long blonde red brown brown hair. Except the patient. Short-cropped hair, dyed a really ugly bright green color and she was struggling futilely against their grip. She looked over and saw Janet. She spoke, almost screaming:

“Please! No! I don’t want to! I won’t! I don’t belong here! I belong...” A look of panic crept into her eyes. “I belong... to... to-”

The clinic director pulled the blackness back into place with a wave of gloved hand. Silence fell, except for the sweet stringed music from the clinic intercom, and Janet turned back to the patient, pulling her own glove back on with a practiced snap.

“-should both be back with us. They’ll still need several days of bed rest.” She rearranged the arms and pulled the blanket back into place. “When they wake up... he’ll be weak and disoriented. The other... well, that’s your department. Talk to them. Try to explain. Orient them. Make sure he drinks lots of fluids, to start building himself back up. For... for...” She waved her hand. “burn some extra candles maybe?” She squinted irritably and rubbed at one of the clips burrowed into the hair on the side of her head. Cool and slick...

“Yes, Doctor. Something like that.”

Janet made a small frustrated woofing noise in the back of her throat.

“I wish we could take them to a real hospital. No offense, but-”

“Thank you for coming by. Janet.” Gentle, but quite firm.

Janet turned and smiled and

Something prompted her to pause.

So she paused, as her legs collapsed under her, and she took in her surroundings.

Blackness. Blackness all around her, except...

She looked up at the man beside her, recognized him, and she started trembling again. Her chin dropped, yanked down by some force. She found the strength to speak.

“Did I please you, my father?”

She didn’t know why she asked this, but it seemed important. Vitally, incredibly important.

“Yes, Janet. You did very well. Thank you.”

She wriggled with pleasure.

“That’s all I needed to ask you. You can see yourself out, I trust?”

She made a small plaintive noise in the back of her throat and her father instantly turned back to her.

“Oh! Oh, I’m sorry. How forgetful of me.” He pulled off one of his gloves, one finger at a time and carefully placed his bare hand on her head. His thin gnarled fingers came to rest. They connected the clips, completed the circuit, slid into the waiting holes and

they burned against her skin and

inside her brain, icicles.



Jabbing deep.

“You may have your session now, Janet.”

Forming a cross, a snakesymbol twisting sharp and

bright and

the colors exploded a million colors all at once and

it was silvergray and

it was black so wonderfully black and

the colors all the pretty colors kept getting brighter and

brighter and

her brain was going into overloadhigherand


she had her session.

Something prompted her to pause.

It was her cellphone, vibrating angrily in the pocket of her long tan jacket.

She stopped and fished it out, flipped it open.

“Manerud. What’s up?”

“Janet? Where the hell have you been?”

“Herb? I've been... never mind. What’s wrong?”

“That damn vigilante down in Miller Hills just carved up a bunch more of his damn playmates. It’s a freaking mess. We’re calling everybody in.”

“Oh, crud.” Janet looked around. Judging from the position of the setting sun, she was standing on the east side of a rather bleak-looking old warehouse. The black words painted on the door’s grill-covered window read:


“Reston... OK. I’ll be there in 15 minutes.”

She clicked off and flagged down a passing taxi. It was getting chilly. As she ran to get in, she took a pair of leather gloves from her pocket and pulled them on.

What had she been doing down here anyway at this time of day?

She couldn’t remember.

Then it slipped away, all of it, even the puzzlement.

It absented itself entirely from her mind.

To be continued?

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