The bus ride from Alice’s flat to Josh’s apartment was brief and uneventful. Alice was animatedly talking about all the possibilities the algorithm could be used for, from helping people quit smoking to erasing unwanted or damaging memories. Erin kept on suggesting different farm animals that they could turn Lucy into, and it quickly broke down into a heated debate between Alice and Erin over which was cuter, baby lambs or baby pigs.
Tiffany sat mostly in silence, only joining in when prompted by her friends. (“I dunno, you may as well ask which is cuter between baby chick and baby duck?” kept the conversation fueled without her for a good few more minutes). She tried and tried and tried to clear her mind, but the image of Alice blanked and kneeling at the feet of Erin in her incredible red latex mistress outfit was too memorable to be dismissed. At least she had calmed down from her near panic attack back at Alice’s flat, but she was still deeply, deeply unsettled. She wanted them both, she realized. Alice as a lover, Erin as a slave. Her mind also couldn’t let go of the words Erin whispered to her: “You don’t need the program for me to be your slave...”
Had she really meant that or was it another of Erin’s mind games? Tiffany had found a sort of begrudging respect for Erin in light of the conversation they had just had, but she certainly didn’t trust her. Tiffany wanted to speak to Erin alone and find out more, probe her on what she meant and find out just how Tiffany would have to act. But, of course, approaching Erin with that energy of uncertainty would snuff out any chance Tiffany would have of seeing that reality. “Command me... Show me you have the strength and will to control me” Erin had said.
Tiffany knew that she had the will, but she just didn’t know if she had the strength. Her own thoughts had more than once circled around to wondering what it would feel like to have her mind stripped of its defences by the mixture of swirling lights and pulsing sounds from Josh’s computer. She felt a craving to have programming irreversibly whispered into her ear, to feel all illusions of control be swept away by several choice commands. She daydreamed of what it would feel like to be helplessly obedient, to strip immediately when requested, to orgasm on command, to have her mind and body used to sexually satisfy the every need of her mistress or master.
She shook her head. It was a delicious fantasy, but so was the one where everyone was under her control, and she already knew that she could safely explore the limits of her own submissiveness if she controlled the entire scenario. That meant finishing what she had started, finding a way to get to both Erin and Josh and implant her own suggestions of obedience. She could control Alice and Trev when she wanted now, but so could Erin. Erin could just as easily track and undo anything she did, which would really suck.
She guessed it worked both ways though. Erin surely couldn’t implant suggestions into Alice or Trev without Tiffany finding out about it the next time she took them each into trance. She reminded herself she should do exactly that the next chance she got.
As part of her truce with Erin, neither of them was supposed to remove the other’s triggers from anyone, but Erin didn’t say that Tiffany couldn’t discover every last command that had been hidden in their psyches. If anything, it might give Tiffany a clue to what Erin might be planning. From what Tiffany had starkly learned in the last 24 hours, Erin was always planning something.
Tiffany had been so stuck in her thoughts that she only snapped out of it when Alice physically dragged her from her seat.
“Come on airhead! It’s our stop!”
“Right! Sorry!” Tiffany blushed as she made to follow Erin and Alice off the bus. The light of the day was fading and the air was feeling brisk because of it, but they wandered down a couple of well-kept streets and had soon arrived outside Josh’s apartment building. They all had a spare key so they didn’t even bother buzzing. Just before they entered, Erin turned to Tiffany and held up an accusing finger.
“Now remember, Tiff,” she said in a mock serious tone, “I don’t want to spend the entire evening as a chicken this time.”
Alice laughed, and Tiffany smiled smugly at Erin as she considered her response. Remembering what Erin said, Tiffany knew this was no time for meekness or apologies. “I’m promising nothing.” she said airily, “You seemed to really enjoy it last time...”
Erin seemed to enjoy this response, and she offered Tiffany an appreciative grin. “Fair enough Tiff, but if I get you in a trance before you get me, you’re spending the evening as an emu.”
They opened the door to Josh’s flat as Tiffany tried to remember what an emu looked like, but the thought was quickly lost as they were greeted by Josh and Trev.
“Ah, woe betide us this day, my comrade.” Trev announced dramatically to Josh. “Having outnumbered the female to this point, she has clearly summoned reinforcements.”
“Verily, my friend, this is surely the end.” Josh replied. “It was an honour to serve, dear Trev.”
“Now now, there may yet be peace in our time.” Alice announced, high-fiving Trev and fist-bumping Josh.
“Only if they accept female superiority...” Erin added, going to the fridge and perusing the contents. “The treaty we impose will be harsh but fair.”
“Yes, it shall involve daily tribute of cupcakes.” Tiffany declared. “And all males must wear sparkly pink tutus in recognition of our ways.” She looked around avidly, before adding. “Is Lucy here?”
“In the bathroom, m’lady.” Trev motioned with his head.
“Have you told her about the program?” Tiffany asked, as innocently as she could manage.
“Not yet.” Josh said, but then did a double take at Trev. “Dude, what did you just say?”
“That Lucy’s in the bathroom.” Trev shrugged.
“No no, after that.”
“What? That’s all I said, dude.”
Tiffany’s eyes snapped wide. She had completely failed to register it, but Trev had said ‘m’lady’ when speaking to her, hadn’t he? She quickly glanced at Erin who was staring back at her with an urgent expression. She jerked her head towards Trev and gestured for Tiffany to do… something…
“So Trev, you guys been here long?” Alice asked.
“No, m’lady, just a few minutes really.” Trev replied.
“There it is again!” Josh exclaimed, looking at Trev with a mixture of confusion and amusement. “You said ‘m’lady’!”
“Oh yeah!” Alice snickered. “I’d forgotten about that!”
“What are you talking about?” Trev seemed genuinely irritated now.
“Oh, shit, that’ll seem so weird to Lucy though, right?” Alice frowned.
“What will seem wei- what’s going on?” Trev demanded.
Erin briskly strode up to Tiffany and murmured “Trance him, drop him, trigger him, whatever, just do it now.”
“Sleep Trev sleep.” Tiffany said without thinking. Was this really a good idea? Trev blinked a couple of times in surprise and then his entire face went slack, the anger in his eyes fading away as they glossed over into a distant blank stare. He stood perfectly still, his breathing deep and slow.
“Ok, quickly remove the whole m’lady thing, and wake him back up.” Erin ordered. The sounds of the toilet flushing in the bathroom punctuated the urgency in her voice.
“Oh shit, oh right, ok.” Tiffany fought against her own panic. “Trev?”
“Yes m’lady.” Trev responded.
“Stop referring to us as m’lady or m’ladies, just forget that whole suggestion, ok?”
“Good good good now wake him up!” Erin gripped Tiffany’s arm anxiously. The sound of the bathroom lock made Alice spin around fretfully.
“Umm, wake Trev wake.” Tiffany said, and she breathed a sigh of relief as the life returned to Trevor’s expression.
“Well? What’s going on?” Trev repeated himself as Lucy emerged from the bathroom.
“Haha, nothing, we’re just messing with ya.” Erin faked a laughter. “Hey, look, Lucy!”
“Hi guys.” Lucy said in her sweet, melodic voice. She was short, barely five two, and everything about her screamed little and innocent. She sported wavy brown hair that framed her porcelain face and didn’t quite reach her shoulders, large ruby red lips that naturally sat in the slightest pout, and big doll-like eyes that shimmered as she gazed around everyone, her blue grey irises betraying a coolness which extended to her mannerisms. She wore a floral dress that was conservative yet pretty, and Tiffany felt that the only thing missing from her turning into a lifelike doll would be a giant ribbon in her hair.
She said a friendly hello to Erin, Alice, and Tiffany, but to Tiffany at least the hug had felt forced and insincere. Tiffany knew when she wasn’t liked. She didn’t like Lucy either, but Trev did, and that’s what mattered.
Trev hadn’t been entirely convinced of Erin’s dismissal, but Lucy seemed to prove a big enough distraction.
“Hey, baby.” He said with a sickeningly smitten smile, holding out his arms.
“Hey sweetie.” She replied, gently sinking into his embrace. Erin made a gagging motion and Alice stifled a giggle, while Josh just looked away awkwardly as the couple hugged with their eyes closed for what felt like an eternity.
Lucy planted three little pecks on Trev’s lips and then emerged from the hug. Turning to face the group, she then asked, “So what’s the plan for tonight? Trevor said you had this new game to try.”
“Yeah!” Josh said with tempered enthusiasm. “We put it together yesterday and thought it’d be fun to playtest it today.”
“And we figured six people would be a good number to test it with,” Erin explained, “and besides, we wanted to hang out with you more.” She was all charm and grace. Tiffany knew she was lying through her teeth; Erin had always despised Lucy the most, and had been clearly verbal about it when out of earshot of Trev. Tiffany had no idea what this “game” was, but she was almost certain Erin was behind it.
Part of her wanted to warn Lucy to leave the flat and never come back, but Tiffany admitted to herself that she didn’t much like Lucy either. It was just personality conflicts, she reckoned. There was no one particular thing about Lucy she could blame as the deal breaker of their potential friendship, it just seemed to be a dozen little things about her that added up. Like that incessant need to be right about everything, and correcting someone’s minor mistake when it really didn’t matter. And then there was the veiled insults when she didn’t like someone’s appearance or behaviour, being horrible with a kind smile… Lovely. And not forgetting the hyper competitiveness, although that one was clearly what Erin was looking to exploit.
So yes, the thought of Lucy in trance and those dozen little niggles being ironed out seemed like such a good idea. It wasn’t changing her overall personality at all, not really… It was just encouraging some improvements so she’d be a more likeable person and a better girlfriend to Trev. That wasn’t wrong or inhumanly unethical, Tiffany tried to reassure herself. Yet when she considered that Erin was probably thinking the same thing, the doubts remained.
“Ok, I’ll give it a go I guess.” Lucy sighed, before perking up and adding “But Trevor promised you were all going to watch Mama Mia later, it’s my absolute favourite so don’t blame me if I win really quickly so we can start watching faster.
“Sure, Lucy, don’t go easy on our account.” Alice strained a smile.
“Ok, so we’ve put together this computer algorithm that puts the user into a trance and allows us to give them suggestions that last for a few hours before wearing off,” Josh explained.
That’s new information, Tiffany thought as she cocked her head in curiosity. They hadn’t discovered any time limit to the effects of the suggestions, as far as they were concerned, the effects were long lasting or even permanent. Who had discovered otherwise?
She was about to ask the question there and then, but she suddenly realised that she knew better than that… Looking to Erin, she could see the androgynous girl in her tomboy disguise nodding alone with a faint look of smugness hiding in her features. Tiffany was good at picking up subtle signals and expressions from people, and whatever Josh was saying, Tiffany felt certain that his words were planted by Erin. It was a lie designed to not make the program seem as dangerous as it was, otherwise Lucy would very probably be too clever to go near it.
Josh had finished explaining the game while Tiffany was deducing things, so she had missed the latter part of the synopsis. Fortunately, Alice chipped in.
“So it’s like spin the bottle…” the blonde postulated, “except instead of having to kiss someone you’re put in trance and programmed to do something for several hours until it all wears off?”
“Well…” Erin grinned, “it could still involve kissing if that’s what you’re programmed to do while in trance, but otherwise yes. And once five of us have been tranced the last one gets to watch and enjoy everyone’s strange behaviour. You know, while we all watch Mama Mia…”
“Sounds like fun.” Alice beamed excitedly.
“How about it, baby, you wanna play?” Trev asked Lucy.
Lucy frowned for a few moments. “I dunno, I’m not keen on it messing with my mind, if it can really do that…”
Erin opened her mouth to say someone but Tiffany beat her to it. “That’s ok Lucy, you don’t need to play. How about you just forfeit and watch for the first game?”
It was very slight, but Tiffany saw Lucy tense at the word ‘forfeit’, and she resisted the urge to smile triumphantly.
“No, that’s ok, I can play.” Lucy shrugged. “It sounds interesting enough.”
Tiffany stole a sideways glance to Erin, who was already looking at her with respect and admiration. Tiffany wasn’t a master negotiator by any stretch of the word, but she could deploy a payload of reverse psychology every now and then, and it was nice that Erin appreciated it.
As they sat around the kitchen table, empty bottle ready to spin, Erin asked “So who decides what gets suggested to the person in trance?”
“We’ll go on majority rule, I guess.” Josh replied.
“Only from those who haven’t already been tranced though.” Alice added.
“Is it decided on before or after whoever it is is in trance?” Tiffany asked tentatively.
“Oh, if you’re the one being put into trance, Tiff, you don’t get to know what suggestions you’ll be given in advance, that’s half the fun!” Josh grinned.
The reality of what Tiffany was signing up for was sharply dawning on her. Were the bottle to land on her first, she would be put into trance and be at the complete mercy of her friends. And Lucy. The thought simultaneously intrigued and unnerved her. Surely things would be tame for the purpose of this game though, she tried to reassure herself.
She figured that this was an Erin-engineered ploy to get Lucy into the chair, and it looked like it would work, albeit eventually. Of course, there was a slight chance that Lucy would be the only one that the bottle wouldn’t land on. That would be hilariously unfortunate, Tiffany thought.
Without further ado, Josh spun the bottle. It blurred around the table, watched avidly by six pairs of eyes. Tiffany could feel her heart beating faster, at complete odds with herself about whether or not she wanted the bottle to land on her. Alice seemed to tense all over as it slowed, and Erin’s smile got gradually wider.
Erin’s smile, however, sharply vanished when the bottle landed on her.
Tiffany cackled, and then tried to reign herself in when she saw Lucy was giving her a strange look.
“Of course…” Erin muttered, rolling her eyes. “Alright everyone, come up with something good for me. Josh, you want to start up the program?”
“Sure thing. Come on Lucy, we’ll show you how it works.
They all followed Josh as he went through to the bedroom and started up his computer. Tiffany noticed Erin was hovering close to her and turned with a concerned expression.
“I just wanted to quickly save yourself from potentially embarrassing yourself Tiff.” Erin muttered under her breath so only Tiffany could reasonably hear her. “I know you’ll be tempted to implant some suggestions to me while I’m in the chair, but Josh is programmed to undo anything you do. And also, if you try to get me to put Josh into a trance, it won’t work while I’m in trance or under someone else’s control.”
“I’m shocked! I don’t know what you’re talking about, Erin.” Tiffany replied in a mock tone of hurt. “We have a truce, don’t you know…”
“Just making sure you don’t forget it!” Erin winked, before breaking away and heading to the chair. She sat down in the comfortable leather and blinked a few times as the massive screen before her flickered to life with its swirling patterns.
“Go easy on the ol’ noggin, guys…” Erin bargained, “I’m gonna need it tomorrow.” And with that, she put on the headphones.
Josh, Trev, and Alice hovered over the input console, a smaller second screen that showed the frequencies and other settings of the video and audio signals.
“Make sure the binaural mode is 7.” Trev pointed at the screen, “That one seems to have the most kick”
“The swirls look good,” Alice remarked, “but see how the frequency is almost a multiple of the audio stream? Can we make the numbers line up so it has that resonance?”
Josh agreed and his fingers typed away, making the manual adjustments to the program output. “So yeah, when were we planning to work on this and start making it easier to adjust? He asked jokingly.
“After you lose the game.” Alice jabbed him gently in the rib.
Lucy stood next to Tiffany as the screen pattern changed gradually in front of them. Erin had gone silent, clearly already partially affected by the signals as they were honed to put her into a deep trance. The swirling colours and pulsating lights did little to either Tiffany or Lucy however, though Tiffany knew that it would only take an adjustment to the rate of the pulses or the motion of the swirls and she would start to feel groggy and slow, weak and defenceless. It took all her nerve not to cover her eyes from the patterns.
“It looks pretty trippy, sure,” Lucy acknowledged, “But I don’t see how it’s meant to put you in a trance. Like if I were to stare at that and someone was to hypnotise me, then sure, but not by itself.”
“Have you been hypnotised before?” Tiffany asked.
“Yeah, years ago.” Lucy replied. “It was part of therapy I had after my parents divorced. I’ve never been to a stage hypnosis show or anything, but they do look interesting.”
Tiffany was about to ask more questions but before she could Josh sprang up from the console. “That’ll do it. Oh, shit, Erin’s completely out of it already!”
Sure enough, Erin’s eyes were wide and empty, her pupils dilated, her mind seemingly gone. Her mouth hung open, frozen in slackjaw, and she slouched in perfect inaction.
“Are you nice and blank, Erin?” Trev asked.
“Yes.” Erin breathed, barely more than a murmur. Tiffany stared at Erin’s vulnerable and defenceless form. She honestly liked her better like this. While tranced, Erin wasn’t a source of uncertainty or threat, she was just an empty shell ready to be filled with Tiffany’s desires.
“Alright everyone. Ideas?” Josh looked around the group as they all examined Erin.
Tiffany was quick to suggest “Let’s turn her into an emu.”
Josh, Trev, and Alice all groaned as one upon hearing this, while Lucy looked confused.
“Come on Tiff, give it a rest!” Trev moaned.
“Yeah, Tiff, you had that all last night. Chicken, emu, moth, whatever, no more animals!” Alice stated firmly.
“Ok, fine!” Tiffany pretended to sulk. She hadn’t thought they would actually allow her to indulge her desires to inflict more animal behaviours upon Erin, but it had been worth a try none the less. “So what have you got, then?”
A few suggestions were thrown around. Some truly sucked. Some others were considered. Only being able to hop to get around got some interest, while speaking every sentence and addressing every person and object as if reciting a love poem was popular but ultimately considered to be something that would get real annoying real fast.
Tiffany’s thoughts kept returning to implanting her own suggestions, however. If she gave Erin a command to only follow her words, would Josh be able to undo that? Would the process of staring at the screen and listening to the constant thrum of noise in the headphones leave Erin open to anyone’s suggestion regardless? Tiffany could compel Erin to obey her, here and now, and then make a runner for it with Alice before Josh could react—she’d have them both, and that would be sublime.
But then Josh and Trev would probably have some choice words about that, and while Tiffany could easily Trance Trev, both Josh and Lucy were beyond her control. No, literally making a break for it with two girls in trance seemed a bit of an ad-hoc plan. She needed a plan that was solid and secure. Her time to seize control would come, but this wasn’t it…
“Why don’t we make her forget things?” Alice suggested. “We can let her remember after but have her temporarily forget things like her name, how to count, how to open a door, you know, things like that?”
After some brief clarifications, there seemed to be a general agreement for Alice’s idea. They invited her to impart the commands to the blank and empty Erin.
“Erin, can you hear me?” Alice smiled as she spoke to the mindless girl.
“Good. When you wake up, whenever anyone tells you to forget something, you will temporarily forget it, be it the knowledge of like a fact, or how to do something like a task, understand?”
“Good. And when anyone tells you to remember something, you will remember it, understand?”
“And all your memories will return completely to normal at midnight, but it will be only the memories up to when you went into trance—you won’t remember anything that happens between now and then, okay?”
“Okay.” Erin echoed in a perfect drone.
“Perfect.” Alice beamed. She switched off the monitor and took the headphones from Erin’s head. “Wakey wakey Erin, wake up now.”
Erin stirred, blinking blearily and rubbing her face with her hands.
“Wow…” she uttered. “That was incredible… I think I was even more relaxed than last time. I don’t feel any different though.” She added, stepping out of the chair.
“Well, who wants to try it first?” Alice asked. Erin looked quizzically at her.
“Try what? What did you do?” Erin shifted her gaze around everyone else.
“Erin, forget your age.” Josh ordered.
“Erin, forget how to clap.” Tiffany smiled.
“Erin, forget what day it is.” Trev added.
Erin didn’t respond verbally to any of this. She did however blink heavily every time she was told to forget something, as if closing her eyes hammered the memory out of her mind.
“Lucy? Anything to add?” Alice asked, “Or should I say, take away?”
“No, that’s ok, I’m just curious right now…” Lucy said, staring expectantly at Erin.
“How’re you feeling, Erin?”
“Fine, really…” Erin replied. “Honestly, I don’t feel any different.”
“Cool, but do you know what day it is?” Alice asked.
Erin frowned. She looked up to the left, and then down to the right, all the time her brow furrowing. “I actually don’t.” she admitted, then smiled. “I’ve really forgotten!”
“And how old are you, by the way?” Trev asked.
The frowning resumed, and she quickly broke into laughter. “I have no idea!” Erin gleefully replied.
“Awesome, now clap your hands!” Josh ordered.
Erin then brought both of her hands in front of her and looked at them like she was scrutinising her palms. She then turned them over, and then looked up at Josh with a completely lost expression on her face.
All of them burst out laughing now, including Erin who waved her hands about and looked amazed at her lack of memory.
“Ok, that is fascinating…” Lucy said with wide eyes when the laughter died down, “But you said it wears off after a few hours?”
“Yeah,” Tiffany lied. “It seems to vary based on what the effect is and who it’s on, but anywhere between three to eight hours seems to be the window.” It was interesting, Tiffany thought, because for all they knew the effects of the program might indeed wear off. That was surely a test they would have to set up at some point.
“Wow… well a part of me wants to know what it feels like.” Lucy tilted her head, but then she straitened up and determination framed her features. “But the rest of me wants to win the game and see you all do weird stuff as well.”
“Well then, Erin’s out, but the rest of us should get back to it!” Josh declared.
“Wait, we’re not going to play with her more?” Trev asked incredulously.
“Oh, of course we are!” Alice insisted, “but there’s plenty of time for that! C’mon…” she lead the way back to the kitchen and soon five of them sat around for the second round of the bottle spinning. Erin followed, fished a beer out of the fridge, and hovered nearby to watch the game.
“Say, Erin, forget the taste of beer, and forget you’ve ever had beer before.” Tiffany called to Erin before she took her first sip. Erin blinked and then stared at the beer like it was something entirely alien to her. She looked unsure if she even wanted to drink it.
“Tiff! You meanie!” Alice scoffed, though her amusement was plain. Josh spun the bottle, and the game was back on.
Josh lost that spin, cursing himself for his own goal. They all returned to the computer where Alice and Trev operated the program once more. It was the first time Tiffany had seen Josh under the effect of the program, and to see his strong muscular body go limp and defenceless as his deep brown eyes glazed over sent a shiver of excitement through Tiffany. If you control the mind, you control the body, and all of Josh’s six four athletic body was currently ready to be controlled. Tiffany bit her lip as she watched him, knowing she longed to whisper words of obedience and submission into his open mind, but she couldn’t… Not yet.
For Josh’s implanted suggestion, they decided upon a strange mix up of the senses, where seeing certain colours made him experience smells that the colour reminded him of, and touching different textures made him experience the taste of different food and drinks he enjoyed. Conversely, eating or drinking food would make him feel different sensations of touch on his body, and smelling different smells implanted images into his mind that looked as real as the room before him. He was told to let his subconscious decide what cause would result in what effect, so long as it wasn’t dangerous or too unpleasant.
They returned to the kitchen once more as Josh got a beer himself. He remarked that touching the fridge felt like the taste of cheesecake and drinking beer felt like having his shoulders rubbed by firm, professional hands. Erin was nervously sipping away on her own beer, every now and then repeating that she wasn’t sure if she actually liked it.
Trev was next to lose, and for him, they turned the usually chore-lazy and slightly slobby Trev into a manic clean freak, determined that everything needed to be spotless everywhere. Josh’s apartment was cleaned by a service twice a week, but with the regular footfall of five people typically there was plenty of cleaning to keep Trev completely busy and absorbed. Lucy joked that they both could maybe quickly head back to her flat when the game was finished to really take advantage of her boyfriend’s newfound passion.
Then the bottle landed on Alice, and she soon sat on the leather gaming chair challenging Tiffany and Lucy to come up with something good. Erin and Josh operated the program this time as Trev was only interested in dusting the desk and polishing the screen. It didn’t take long for Alice to be in a deep and mindless trance, and Tiffany debated with Lucy what to do.
“Acting like an animal is kinda boring, ultimately, isn’t it?” Lucy didn’t try to hide her scorn of the idea. “It just shows lack of imagination I guess…”
Tiffany squinted in irritation at Lucy but the petite girl didn’t seem to notice, instead starting at the blank faced Alice with growing amusement.
“We could make it so she’d always tell the truth, find out all her secrets…” Lucy pondered.
“Nah, Alice doesn’t have enough secrets to make that interesting,” Tiffany quickly rebutted, “Besides, that’s a bit too much prying into her privacy, she’d tell you things like her passwords without a second thought, and that wouldn’t be fair…”
“Hrmph, fine. You got anything then?” Lucy replied coolly.
“Hmm, kinda.” Tiffany shrugged. “We could make it so she acts like she’s really drunk or stoned or both, but she can sober up as long as she’s touching her nose with a finger.”
“Ha! That might be fun.” Lucy nodded. “Which finger?”
“That’s what she said!” Josh, Trev, and Erin simultaneously shouted.
Tiffany and Lucy both rolled their eyes, but Alice remained unflinching and completely entranced in the chair, her straight blonde hair falling neatly over her chest, her hazel eyes wide and absorbed entirely in the swirling lights before her. Tiffany knew that she really wanted to tell Alice to become completely infatuated with her, to swoon over her, to not be able to resist kissing her, touching her all over. Tiffany tried not to let her mind wander too far with that train of thought, lest she blush endlessly.
“Ok, so long as no one else has any dumb immature jokes, why don’t you give Alice the drunk suggestion, Tiffany?” Lucy requested.
“Sure.” Tiffany replied, before turning to Alice. “Alice, can you hear me?”
“Good. When awake, and until midnight, you will feel like you are a combination of really drunk and totally stoned, understand?”
“However, if you place any finger from your left hand on your nose, you will immediately no longer feel drunk, and if you place any finger from your right hand on your nose, you will no longer feel stoned. Placing one from each hand will return you entirely to normal. Your fingers have to be held on your nose to have the required effect, you’ll be drunk and or stoned again moments after removing them. Understand?”
“Nice touch with the alternate fingers.” Lucy said.
“Thanks, I just thought of it in the moment.” Tiffany smiled back. “Ok, guys, kill the program.” She ordered.
The screen went dark and Tiffany removed the headphones.
“Hey Alice, fancy a drink?”
“Woahhh… Nah Tiff...” Alice slurred as her eyes flickered back to a state of semi coherence. “Think I’ve s’had enough ’ready. God I could murder a pizza though!” she declared, swaying where she sat.
Her attempts to get to her feet resulted in her collapsing back into the chair. Everyone chuckled as she batted at the air with a wobbly hand and grumbled.
“Wow, it looks like the real deal for sure.” Josh remarked.
“You know, it’s funny…” Erin said wistfully. “I remember being drunk before, but I don’t remember drinking alcohol before…”
“Erin, forget about ever being drunk before.” Lucy said with a sly smile.
Erin blinked again, and then regarded Tiffany as if for the first time that evening. “Glad I’ve never been drunk…” she muttered, “it looks awful.”
“It feels shamazing!” Alice slurred at her, leaning heavily to one side. “Anyone notice the world is like… shhpinning right now? But… like… shhpinning inwards?”
Tiffany helped Alice to her feet, then gently guided her hands towards her face. She positioned her index fingers from both hands onto her nose and immediately Alice’s sway stopped and her eyes became fully focused.
“Holy cow, Tiff!” Alice remarked. “It’s incredible how real it feels!”
“Well, you have an on/off switch at your disposal,” Tiffany winked, “Have fun with it.”
For the last time, they returned to the kitchen. Tiffany and Lucy sat opposite one another, the bottle sitting between them. Tiffany’s heartbeat started to increase as she realised that the entire plan to get Lucy into a trance hinged on the spin about to happen. She contemplated what a flawed plan it had been, and if it did fail, she truly intended to rub Erin’s face in it later.
Tiffany couldn’t help but feel that she was about to lose. Lucy had so far beaten the odds, and now there was a fifty-fifty chance that she would win and Tiffany would be the one put in trance. What would happen then? Lucy would have sole control over what state Tiffany would be put into. What would she do? Tiffany tried to console herself that the framing of the game as some temporary fun had led to things being kept relatively tame in respects to what the program could truly do, but that didn’t mean that Lucy wouldn’t use her imagination to come up with something particularly mind-warping for Tiffany.
The idea that she had proposed to inflict on Alice, a curse of truth… Tiffany was terrified of that being programmed into her. Her plans to use the program to control all of her friends would surely come out into the open. Then what would they think of her? Would they simply kick her out and stop being her friends? Or would they force her back into the chair and strip her of her free will the way she planned to do to them? A shiver of excitement crept through her just thinking about it, and she was forced to ask herself if she actually wanted to win the game.
“You ready?” Lucy asked, a victorious glint already forming in her eye.
Tiffany glanced around at her friends. Josh was stroking a mahogany fruit-bowl and murmuring in satisfaction because apparently it tasted like 30 year old Macallan single malt. Trev was frantically scrubbing the inside of the oven, where a year old pasta bake stain was desperately clinging on with all its might. Alice had taken one of her fingers from her nose and was gently swaying around in circles with her eyes closed and humming what Tiffany reckoned to be a Taylor Swift song.
“Ready.” Tiffany acknowledged, hoping her voice wasn’t betraying her apprehension.
Only Erin was watching the game now, and she looked as anxious as Tiffany felt. She was the only one who would really pay attention to what Lucy would say to Tiffany in the chair, and all it would take is a single utterance from Lucy and Erin could forget how to speak, how to understand words, even how to think.
If Tiffany lost, she would be helpless.
Lucy spun the bottle.