The Kat Came Back
Colleen Peters, who possessed at least two pieces of illicit identification listing her name as Calliope, sipped her morning tea.
She was in the kitchen of the row house which stood over the Calliope business. Colleen owned the entire house under her own name; she had purchased it back in the Giuliani days with money given to her by a wealthy dowager who believed that, via Calliope’s guidance, she had reached out to her deceased husband and prepared them both for their next lives.
Colleen did not think that she had defrauded the dowager, precisely. Neither was she a believer in reincarnation, precisely. All she knew was that she had stared down a career in hypnotherapy, compared it with the career she had chosen instead, and found one of them financially superior. In her mind, either career was based upon using a person’s suggestibility to create a fantasia which would help them deal with the random cruelty of life.
But only one career would allow her to own a piece of Manhattan real estate.
A laptop was open on the breakfast bar in front of Colleen. It displayed the results of a Google search for “katherine alexander.” As Colleen had feared, she got a phone book’s worth of hits in return. The Facebook and Instagram avatars of dozens of teenagers all across the country smiled back at her.
Colleen sighed and changed her search to the phrase “katherine alexander new york city.” She found results in Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn, but none of the pictures belonged to the messy-haired redhead who had been in Calliope’s office yesterday.
Colleen could not have known the exacting detail that Kat and Marisa had used in erasing their digital presences after The Thing. Early on in the news coverage of The Thing, some news organizations had printed oblique references that enterprising stalkers might have used to deduce their identities; after Marisa complained to their ombudsmen, many of the stories were changed further. But not all of them were, and had Colleen scoured her Google results deeply enough, she might have found some evidence to cause her interaction with Kat that day to go quite differently. But she did not.
Colleen sighed again. She did not do extensive background checks of her clients—the Church of the Divine Passion employed a private investigator for that, for those sufficiently suggestible people that Calliope recommended to them—but it was always smart to try to get some idea of how much money she could suggest her way into. Some clients proved tougher than others to measure up.
Colleen changed sites, navigating to Prtmnt (the pattern of tech companies removing all of the vowels from their names was frustrating to her). Instead of looking for apartments to rent or own, she looked up the address that Katherine Alexander had listed when she had made her first reservation for a session with Calliope. She found a building in Upper Manhattan, Washington Heights or some nearby neighborhood. Colleen studied the glass-and-concrete surface, the spacious balconies on some units, the gym machines visible through the second-floor windows, and smiled. There were a few open listings; Colleen clicked on one of them.
When she saw the price of the condo listed there, her smile widened.
Kat became aware of the sunlight painting the room, and opened her eyes.
She was on the couch. She barely remembered closing her eyes; she had been watching TV with Marisa, and then everything had just gone away.
Marisa. Kat could feel her lover’s body underneath her. She looked around, to see Marisa’s green eyes wide open and looking down at her.
Kat said, “How long have you been staring at me like that?”
“I dunno,” Marisa said. “Half hour, maybe?”
“You just laid there?”
“I couldn’t move,” Marisa said dryly. “A Kat fell asleep in my lap.”
“You’re gonna be late for work,” Kat said. It was a shared joke, that one of them made at least once a week since they had started their new career together.
“Yeah,” Marisa said. “My boss is gonna be pissed.”
Kat slid off of the couch, reaching for her phone. “I’m not gonna have time for breakfast. My appointment with Calliope is at ten.”
“You shouldn’t go down there on an empty stomach,” Marisa said from the couch.
“I’ll grab a donut or something on the way.”
Marisa said quietly, “Maybe you shouldn’t go down there at all.”
Kat, already in the bedroom doorway, stopped and turned around. “What?”
“Ten a.m.? For a past-life regression?” Marisa said. “Seriously? She’s planning a marathon session. Keeping you under all day, getting you accustomed to being under her thumb.”
This had, in fact, occurred to Kat. “Probably,” she said. “But Calliope doesn’t know that we know how hypnosis works. That’s our advantage, just like it was with Hallam.”
“Hallam found out,” Marisa said, rising from the couch. “What if she does, too?”
“She won’t,” Kat said. “Can we not have this discussion again? I’m gonna be late.“
Marisa said nothing. After all, Kat’s annoyed emphasis on the word again was right. They had had this discussion—many variations of it, in fact—during their planning session.
Kat turned and went into the bedroom. Soon, the sounds of the running shower came from the bathroom within. Marisa picked up her phone, and dialed for Margot Kellner.
Kat did not hesitate this time, striding through the cool early-fall morning until she was knocking at the front door of Calliope’s basement apartment/office.
The stocky brunette answered after one knock, greeting her with the same wide smile as yesterday. “Katherine. So good to see you again. Come in, come in.”
“Thanks,” Kat said, as she entered the door. She felt a twinge in her head: That’s what Hallam called me. Always the full name, never Kat. That was his brainwashing hook.
“Are you okay, Katherine?” Calliope said, concern creasing her brow. “You look troubled.”
“Uh, yeah,” Kat said, pushing aside—
(You were already starting to feel aroused, weren’t you, Katherine?)
—the memory of The Thing. “It’s just, like ... we’re doing hypnosis today?”
“That’s the plan,” Calliope said, nodding. “I think it’ll help you get much deeper into the events of your past life.”
“I mean...” Kat looked at her lap, much as she had done yesterday. After the conversation with Marisa that morning, she did not have to do much acting in order to feel uncertain. “I felt like I was seeing things pretty deeply yesterday.”
“I know,” Calliope said. She was already starting to slip into her lullaby Trance Voice. “But this will be so much more productive. You’ll be able to stay in the past life longer, remember so much more.”
“And,” Kat said, pausing as she tried to remember Marisa’s lame objection when Kat had first introduced hypnosis into their relationship, “I won’t cluck like a chicken or anything, right?”
Calliope chuckled. “No, no. Only stage hypnotists do those kind of embarrassing skits, because their subjects are agreeing to be embarrassed just by going up on stage. What we’ll be doing today is much more considered and responsible than anything that ever happened on a stage. It’ll be therapeutic for you, I promise.”
Kat decided that she had played unsure long enough. “Okay,” she said, looking Calliope in the eye. “If that’s what you think I need, let’s give it a shot.”
Calliope gestured towards the lounge chair. “Wonderful. Just take a seat in the Session Chair,” she said, her tone leaving little doubt about the chair’s proper-noun status.
Kat settled into the chair. As expected, it was raised such that her feet did not touch the ground, a fine way to artificially create that odd floating sensation that many people report while under hypnosis. Calliope stood to her left, a few feet distant.
Kat looked up at her, saying, “You’re not going to sit?”
“Oh, no, I like to walk around during a session. Helps me feel the energy of the room.”
The same way the cult leader likes to walk around the room during his sessions, I imagine, Kat thought. Aloud, she said, “Okay, whatever works.“
“So, just let your body rest comfortably in the chair,” Calliope said. “Just let yourself be at rest. Do you see that crystal on the shelf there, by the window?”
Kat did, in fact, see a crystal on the shelf. It was semi-circular, with text frosted onto it that Kat could not read from this distance. The sun was not behind it, as the window faced south, but there was still enough light coming through to make the crystal gleam. “Yes, I see it.”
“I got that when I became a certified hypnotist,” Calliope said. This statement was true, in the sense that there had been a day when Colleen Peters had decided to start calling herself a certified hypnotist, and on that day she had paid an award-manufacturing company to make the crystal for her, in the style of the Team Player of The Month award that she had never won in her previous job.
“It’s very pretty,” Kat said.
“Focus your eyes on that crystal,” Calliope said. “See how it catches the light. Focus on the crystal and breathe deeply.”
Kat did as she was bid. She felt calm and in control of herself; in fact, more in control of herself than she had felt at any time since The Thing. I can do this. I am doing this.
“Just let the crystal come into perfect focus, even as the rest of the room becomes blurry and indistinct,” Calliope said.
Kat blinked her eyes, then blinked again. The crystal plaque was still in focus as she re-opened them, but the rest of the shelf was not. And now she’ll talk about my eyes...
“I’m going to count down from ten,” Calliope said. “With each number, I’d like you to close those eyes, then open them back up again. I think you’ll find those eyes growing tired and heavy, tougher and tougher to open with every number. Ten.”
Kat closed her eyes, then felt the drowsiness all through her face as she opened them back up again.
“Nine, eyes tired and heavy.”
Kat let the eyelids drop, and could only open them back up to half-mast. It was Marisa’s dependence on the Elman induction; she had experienced this sensation too many times with Marisa to resist it. She had a moment of concern—is this too fast? Will she know I’ve been hypnotized before?—but the next number relaxed her too deeply to dwell on it.
“Eight, so relaxing to close those eyes.”
Kat tried to re-open her eyes, but couldn’t keep them up. They began to flutter.
“Seven, floating through the air, so relaxed.”
Kat closed her eyes, and the eyebrows could only twitch slowly as she tried to open them. She could no longer sense how close she was to the floor. The lounge chair might have been ten feet high, or a hundred.
“And sometime soon, those eyes will be too relaxed to open again. Six. Three, very drowsy.”
Kat registered the skip in numbers, but it was not important.
“Two, one, and sleep. Deep sleep.”
Kat drifted away.
Marisa needed just a second or two in the Kellner home to see that Stacy was not doing well.
The Kellners’ Manhattan residence was the penthouse in an aging condominium near the Empire State Building. After being buzzed in by a pleasant security guard and taking a pleasantly smooth ride in an elevator with pleasant music, Marisa opened the door to a decidedly unpleasant living space. The apartment was like an Apple Store, laid out as if to show off all the empty space and draw attention to the ornate items in the middle of the room. Marisa guessed that the hulking couch by itself cost two or three months of her own rent. To Marisa’s right was the kitchen, and a dining space just beyond that. Far to her left, along the wall, was a staircase that led to the bedrooms and bathrooms on the second level.
Stacy Kellner was perched on the couch, turning her head back toward the door at the sound of entry. “Marisa! It’s good to see you.”
“Don’t get up,” Marisa said, walking over to the couch. “From what your mother said on the phone, this sounds like a conversation worth having on the couch.”
Stacy, who had made only a half-hearted attempt to get up, flopped back down onto the expensive leather. Marisa came around the couch and sat on the next cushion, a few feet away.
“This is quite a nice apartment,” Marisa said.
Stacy crossed her arms, grabbing her elbows and pulling them in, as though trying to fold in on herself. “Cold, isn’t it?”
“No, I’m fine,” Marisa said. “It’s not too bad outside.”
“Not the temperature,” Stacy said. “The atmosphere.”
Marisa glanced around the room. There were no shelves. A coffee table that appeared to be pure glass lay prostrate before a wall-mounted television that might have been seventy inches or more. If there were any accessories for the television—a remote, a cable box, an Apple TV or Blu-Ray player—Marisa could not see them. The Kellners probably had some kind of expensive rig to attach those items to the wall, behind the television.
“It’s not my place to say,” Marisa said diplomatically. “I don’t know how my home would look if I could afford this much space.”
“Look at that coffee table,” Stacy said. Her tone was difficult for Marisa to place, neither angry nor contemptuous. “Pure glass, and that big? The reflection would ruin any attempt to watch the TV.”
“I suppose,” Marisa said.
“I never watched TV or lounged on this couch. Not once,” Stacy said. “The living room is not designed to be lived in. It’s designed to be admired.”
“Is that you talking?” Marisa said. “Or the Church of Divine Process?”
“I dunno,” Stacy said, shaking her head. “Maybe both.”
“Tell me what’s really bothering you, Stacy,” Marisa said. “Somehow I don’t think it’s interior decoration.”
“My mother wants to change,” Stacy said. “She wants things to be better between us. She even said she would let me redecorate around here, make this a place I’m happier to live in.”
“That sounds good,” Marisa said. She already had a decent guess what the problem was, but it was better to let Stacy tell it at her own speed.
“But it just feels wrong, I guess,” Stacy said. “As much as we were arguing and making each other miserable before I left ... I think I miss it?“
“We’ve seen this before, Kat and I,” Marisa said. That was sort of true; they’d read some literature about the phenomenon. “Organizations like the Church target people whose lives are in turmoil. And so, when people leave, they’re kind of in limbo: they don’t want to go back to the turmoil, but the turmoil is the last familiar ground for them.”
“So what do you do about it?”
“Stacy, you have to go to therapy,” Marisa said. “You and your mother both. But it’s not therapy to help you with the Church. It’s therapy that you should have gotten before you even went to the Church.”
Stacy looked away. “Talking to you in that shitty hotel room ... that felt like therapy. I thought it was therapy.“
“We’re not therapists. Neither me or Kat are,” Marisa said. When Stacy simply stared at her in response, she added, “We just have some experience in this area.”
“You were in a cult?”
It was not a question with a simple answer. Marisa often wondered if Quentin Hallam had intended to achieve cult-leader status by using The Thing, if they had not stopped him. He probably could have become as wealthy and influential as L. Ron Hubbard had been, but his technique was so powerful, maybe he had been aiming even higher than that.
“Not exactly,” Marisa said. “It’s a long story, and I didn’t come here to tell it.”
“Why did you come here?” Stacy said. “I mean, I’m glad you were willing to listen about my problems, but my mother said you called her.”
“I wanted to ask you some questions about the woman you told Kat about,” Marisa said. “The person who brought new members to the Church through past-life regressions.”
“Calliope?” Stacy frowned. “I didn’t know her very well. And the past-life aspect of the Church ... I don’t know if I was ever that into it.”
Marisa nodded. Stacy’s skepticism about the core spiritual aspects of the Church had been the whole reason Marisa had been able to persuade her so quickly during their first conversation. “Anything you can tell me is fine. We’re trying to get evidence on her, so it can be used against the Church.”
“Uh, well, I guess she was in her late forties or early fifties. Brown hair. She had one of those weird bodies, she clearly wasn’t skinny but wasn’t really overweight either.” Stacy blushed. “Listen to me, judging her like everyone’s mother pays for a personal trainer.”
Marisa actually cared little for what Calliope looked like. If it came to the point that Cates needed a photo of her, they had probably already won. “Did you talk to her very much?”
“Not really. I was ...” Stacy looked away. “Doing other things.”
Marisa hesitated. Stacy’s role in the Church had mostly involved sexual favors for the leader. She certainly did not want to force Stacy to think about those things again; it had been bad enough in the hotel room. But she had an equally strong desire to get some idea of what Kat was walking into. Maybe...
“Do you think we could try a little memory exercise to help you remember her?”
Stacy gave her a skeptical look. “You mean, like hypnotize me? My mom said you were supposed to do that in the hostel.”
“Well, maybe. But your mother has a very television conception of hypnosis. Even if you went into a trance, it wouldn’t be what she was imagining anyway.”
Stacy still seemed guarded. “And this is going to help you take down the Church.”
“That’s the plan.”
Stacy looked at her another few seconds, then shrugged. “Okay. What do I do?”
“Um...” Don’t say ‘um’! Sound confident! “You don’t have to do that much. Just sit comfortably and close your eyes.” On those last three words, Marisa found her Trance Voice, calm and a little sing-song.
Stacy said, “Okay,” and closed her eyes. She had an expectant look on her face, like someone walking into an obvious surprise birthday party.
“Just let yourself be on the couch. Feel your body settle into the cushions, while you breathe slowly and deeply.” Marisa spoke slowly, trying to figure out her patter on the fly. She had never done this induction before.
Stacy exhaled noisily.
“Now picture in your mind, a movie theater,” Marisa said. “A big movie theater filled with comfortable seats. You sit down in one of these seats, and it’s as comfortable as your own couch.”
Stacy gave a small shimmy of her shoulders, settling down into the cushions. Her eyelids twitched, and Marisa smiled. When you see my eyelids flutter? Kat had said when training her. That’s when you’ve got me.
“And now all of the lights in the theater go down,” Marisa said. “Even the lights in the aisles and the exit signs. Just let that movie theater become completely dark.”
Stacy’s head bobbed slightly. Her exhales were no longer forceful and noisy.
“And on the movie theater screen, you can see a misty morning in a field. It’s so clear, you can feel the mist on your face, and hear the birds chirping in the distance.”
The first time she had read about this technique, Marisa had worried she might put herself under with it. But in fact the opposite was true. She had never felt so sharp and alert. She felt like she knew what the television heiress next to her was thinking before Stacy even had the thought.
“And now the camera begins to move through the misty field,” Marisa said. “Moving toward a sign in the distance. You see the shape of the sign, but you can’t make out what it says. Just letting yourself relax more and more as the camera moves through the field, closer and closer to the sign. It’s fifty yards away, through the mist. Forty yards. Thirty yards. You can see the shape of five letters on the sign. Twenty yards. Ten yards. Soon you’ll be close enough to see the letters on the sign, and the sign says SLEEP. Sleep. The sign says sleep.”
Stacy slumped sideways, flopping onto the back cushion of the couch. Her face was inert, a mask of slumber.
“That’s right,” Marisa said. She felt the same swell of pride she’d felt the first time she’d hypnotized Kat. “Deeper and deeper asleep. Now let the movie screen change. Let the screen fade into the last time you saw Calliope. Let yourself watch a movie about what Calliope was doing.”
Stacy’s brow twitched, the eyelids continuing to flutter.
“Can you see Calliope, Stacy?”
“Yeah,” the younger woman muttered.
“You see everything from that moment perfectly on the screen, as though it were happening to someone else. Tell me what you see.”
“Break,” Stacy said. “After the meditation.” Her sluggish voice struggled with the longer word.
“Where is Calliope?”
“A girl started ... freaking out,” Stacy managed to say.
“Someone had a problem with meditation?”
“Yeah. She started ... crying.”
“What happened next?”
“Calliope ... took her to the ... Room of Peace.”
Interesting, Marisa thought. Haven’t heard about that one before. “What happens in the Room of Peace?“
“Peace,” Stacy muttered.
Well, duh, Marisa thought. Kat would often tease her about giving such literal-minded answers during trance.
“I’m sleepy,” Stacy muttered. “Meditating makes me sleepy.”
Wait, is she supposed to keep going like that? Marisa thought. Kat never does this. She hesitated, which turned out to be a mistake.
“Sleepy and horny,” Stacy said.
Oh, shit. “Um, Stacy, uh—“
“His voice always makes me sleepy and horny,” Stacy murmured. Her hands, peacefully arranged in her lap, began to move. Marisa realized with some dismay that she was masturbating, touching herself through her jeans.
“Stacy, focus on the sound of my voice,” Marisa said.
“Oh my God, that’s so good,” Stacy moaned softly.
“Stacy, on the count of three, you’re going to open your eyes and awake,” Marisa said quickly.
Stacy moaned again, louder, her hands working faster. If her mother is here and heard that, could I go to jail?
“One, two, three!” Marisa fairly shouted the last word, like a baseball umpire emphatically signaling a strikeout. She clapped her hands together, the pop cutting across the quiet trance with the force of a gunshot.
Stacy started awake, eyes flying open immediately. She blinked rapidly for a second or two, then focused on Marisa. “How did I do?”
“Uh...” Marisa wasn’t unfamiliar with trance amnesia. She often experienced it herself. But she hadn’t been expecting it in this case. Stacy had seemed to remember her experiences with the CDP fairly well. “What do you remember?”
“Not a thing,” Stacy said. Her face was bright and open, accepting this odd truth with equanimity. Marisa saw that her face was flushed bright red, but Stacy seemed not to notice.
“Well, I learned some ... interesting things,” Marisa said. You can say that again. “How do you feel?“
“A little sleepy,” Stacy said. “Kind of like I was meditating or something. I might go take a nap.”
“Yeah,” Marisa said quickly, as she rose to gather her things. “You do that.”
“What the hell’s goin on out here?” Jimmy Waugh said. He was not shouting; or, perhaps, it was more accurate to say that he always talked like he was on the verge of shouting. The Centerville High football team had some funny story about him talking so loud on the field, that he accidentally let the other team know what the plays were going to be.
Kelly Adams flinched, blinking her eyes away from the beatnik’s compelling green gaze. She kept her composure, as she was well accustomed to Jimmy’s braying by now. “Well, since you ditched me for the first slow dance, I thought I’d get some air.”
“A-ah, come on, Kelly,” Jimmy said, stumbling to find an excuse. His wits were not nearly as quick as his legs.
“Hey, Kelly,” Ronnie Carter said. He was the quarterback of the Centerville High team, his broad-shouldered frame almost always looming just beside Jimmy’s. “Who’s your friend?”
Kelly looked around. The beatnik girl was looking away, her gaze aimed out over the parking lot.
“I think she’s in muh mash clash,” said Ronnie’s date, whose name was Jane Roberson. No one ever spiked the punch this early, not unless they wanted to spend a month in detention, but it sounded like Jane had had a few, regardless.
“Sorry, I didn’t get your name,” Kelly said. The beatnik girl turned and gave Kelly a look.
(“What kind of look?” The Voice was like the narrator of a movie, outside the story and more powerful than the story, and Kat knew how important it was to give the best possible answer.)
The look said, You’re better than this. Better than them. Kelly felt it right down to her bones. The green-eyed beatnik did not want Kelly to leave, but she was not going to be in this gathering. That would be like mixing oil and water.
Kelly took Jimmy’s hand and walked back into the dance.
(“How do you feel?” The Voice said.)
”She would be so beautiful if she didn’t smoke,” Kelly murmured.
Jimmy blared, ”What’s that, hon?”
”Nothing,” Kelly said, loud enough to be heard above the music this time. “And don’t call me ‘hon,’ I hate that.” The cook at the diner used that pet name, for her and only her, often with a leer that turned Kelly’s stomach.
”Sure thing, hon,” Jimmy near-yelled, and Kelly had an irrational urge to slap his face and storm out.
(The Voice said, “You want to be with her, don’t you?” Kat answered instantly, having internalized that she and Kelly were one and the same.)
”More than anything in the world,” Kelly murmured, as Jimmy guided her through the quick pace of another rock song.
(“It’s those green eyes, isn’t it, Kelly?“)
”Yes.” Kelly could not have told the song if anyone, even The Voice, had asked her.
(“Like an emerald which has come alive, shining a light down into the very depths of you, seeing everything that you are and knowing how to make you better.”)
”Oh god, yes,” Kelly gasped. She tried to tell herself that the heat she felt was just the dance, getting her heart pounding and her body sweating, but deep down she knew better.
(“There’s only one way you can forget her, Kelly. You already know what it is.”)
Kelly gasped, “Excuse me,” and let go of Jimmy so suddenly that he probably fell down, except he’s not real, Kat found herself thinking randomly, rising from the chair and walking across the dance floor, knowing by heart that the closest ladies’ room would be “through the curtain and on your right,” Calliope’s warm voice said behind her, Kat moving slow because she could barely open her eyes, feeling the gentle impacts of the beaded curtain on her face as she plunged through the restroom door moving so fast that she nearly face-planted into it, the bathroom seeming small and unoccupied, Kat now losing the illusion of the sock hop more and more as she did not want to think of taking off the dress, instead flinging her jeans down and fingering herself with such intensity that Kat cried out with passion within ten seconds.
At some point, Kat heard a voice through the door, saying, “You’re doing okay in there?”
Kat blinked. Am I still in trance? She didn’t think so, but like most trained hypnotists, she knew that the concept of trance could be a very slippery thing.
”Kat?” Calliope said again. Her voice was quiet and friendly. “You’re doing okay in there.” Kat, still somewhat dazed and suggestible, did not process that the phrase might not have been a question.
”I’m okay,” Kat said automatically. Hearing herself say the words, she followed up with, “Sorry about that.”
”Everything’s fine, Kat. People respond to my technique in all sorts of ways.”
Kat ran water over her hands and made sure her clothes were in order, then opened the bathroom door. Calliope was standing there, her hands clasped behind her back, smiling. Kat had no idea what to say, but Calliope went first with, “So what are your plans for dinner?”
“Dinner?” Dear God, it couldn’t possibly be that late, could it?
Calliope chuckled warmly. “Oh, not now. It’s only about three. I just wanted to know how much time we have to continue.”
Kat said, “Three?” Her own voice sounding dumb in her ears. In her head it had felt like less than a half hour, the time between commercial breaks on a TV show. Instead... five hours?
“Lost some time, did you?” Calliope’s smile never changed. But that wasn’t creepy, somehow; it was like having a friend who always supported you.
No, Kat told herself forcefully. It IS creepy. I don’t lose time in trance, never have. Marisa has never lost that much time, and she’s the best somnambulist I’ve ever met.
Calliope said, ”You do want to continue?”
This time Kat heard the subtle suggestion, and knew it for what it was, yet she was surprised at how quickly she almost said yes. She had a feeling, a sensation that if she were to put into words, would have been Well of course I have to say yes, it’s in character!
What stopped her was an image of Marisa, and the look Marisa would have in those green eyes if Kat told her she had agreed to two sessions in a day. Kat’s parents had been big fans of the I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed approach, but Marisa sometimes had a dark look which said, Why not both?
”No, thank you,” Kat said. “That took a lot out of me. I’ll come back tomorrow.”
Calliope turned to her left, gesturing with one hand toward a cheap-looking futon. “I do keep a cot here, if you need to rest. Some of my clients drive here, and rather than drive home straight away, it’s better to rest.”
Kat felt the suggestions in her eyes, a twinge of heaviness. But stronger was the sting of professional pride, that this past-lives hack would think Kat could be so easily undone by waking suggestions so obvious. Kat had to bite her tongue to keep from shouting at the other woman.
After a second or two Kat found her character again, and said, “That’s so generous, thank you. But I’ll be fine. I’m riding the subway and it’s the middle of the day.”
”As you wish,” Calliope said. She started walking backward toward the beaded curtain. Her smile never wavered. “I’ll walk you out.”
Kat followed her to the front door, where Calliope stopped without opening it. “Tomorrow at noon?” She said.
Jesus, she just doesn’t quit, Kat thought. She had to admire the suggestion, though: Calliope was not literally blocking the door, but she had created a situation where Kat would feel like agreeing to a session tomorrow was necessary, before she could leave.
Kat tried to play it shy as she said, “Are you sure? I feel like I’ve been taking up so much of your time already.”
”Oh, think nothing of it,” Calliope said. Kat felt another twinge of the veiled suggestion. “That’s why you should come at noon. I do have another client in the morning.”
If she keeps doing that, I’m going to scream, Kat thought. “Fine, tomorrow it is.”
Calliope opened the door, saying, “See you tomorrow.”
The only reason Kat did not run to the subway was because her legs felt like rubber.
“Why didn’t you just take a cab, for God’s sake?” Marisa palmed Kat’s cheeks, looking close at her eyes.
Kat pushed her hands away, wobbling on her unsteady legs to the kitchen island. “Quit that! You’re not an ophthalmologist.” The lengthy word felt like mush in her mouth.
”I’m checking to see if she drugged you.” Marisa walked around in front of Kat again, though she did not perform the eye check. “Remember the first aid course we took? It was your idea.”
”Yes, I remember,” Kat said. The cult deprogramming literature often said that you had to be ready for all sorts of physical responses. “But she didn’t drug me, for God’s sake. I would have felt the needle and woke up.”
”Would you?” Marisa folded her arms. “If you can lose the better part of five hours...”
”Yeah, I would have. I woke myself up as soon as it got uncomfortable, Ris. And a needle would have been a lot more uncomfortable than that.”
”Uncomfortable? What did she do? How far into the story did you get?”
”Um, I don’t really remember, Ris.” In fact Kat did remember, and fairly well, considering how deep in trance she had been. But the amount of concern that Marisa was showing now, made Kat fear for the omega-level freakout that would follow if she said the word masturbating.
”Kat, your answers are not inspiring confidence.”
“Ris, it’s working out just like we planned it. She thinks she’s hooking me, but we’re actually hooking her.”
”We can’t prove that she did anything illegal if you’re forgetting all the stuff she said to get you on the hook.”
”Ris, I’m telling you, I’ve got this under control.”
”And I’m telling you, Calliope is really good at this! I talked to Stacy, and she told me that Calliope was the one who handled the difficult subjects!”
“Wait, what?” Kat should have understood this perfectly well, but her mind was not quite firing on all cylinders. “You talked to Stacy Kellner?”
“The people who didn’t go along with the Father’s brainwashing shit would get handed over to Calliope,” Marisa said. “A few hours in a quiet room with her, and they were chanting right along with everyone else.”
”Wait.” Kat furrowed her brow, trying to work though all of this new information. “Stacy didn’t tell me that. She didn’t tell me anything like that. She barely remembered Calliope at all.”
”Well, yeah,” Marisa shrugged. “I kind of helped her remember.”
”You did what?”
The story came out of Marisa then, and Kat’s heart sank to hear it. When Marisa was done, she said, “What is that look?”
”Oh, this? This is my ‘I can’t believe you’re giving me static about being irresponsible when you’re out here doing unlicensed memory recovery’ face!”
”I was just doing what you taught me...”
Kat pointed a finger, what Marisa thought of as her I object! pose. “I only taught you to do that on me, because I got brainwashed by a psycho in a way that no therapist would ever understand. You’re not supposed to do that to clients!”
Marisa threw her hands in frustration. “I didn’t have any choice!”
”Oh, and what is that supposed to mean?”
”Kat, we’ve had cases where you trancing them would have worked way faster than me negotiating with them. But you haven’t hypnotized any of our clients, ever. You haven’t even hypnotized me in months! There was no way I was going to ask you to do it.”
”Well, even if I’m so fucked up that I can’t trance people, that doesn’t mean you should just take over—“
”Kat, I didn’t say you were fucked up, that’s not—“
”Plus that memory recovery stuff is dangerous, you probably asked her all kinds of leading questions—“
”Kat, will you just—“
”And even if you did get something useful, it’s not admissible in court, we might have just completely fucked up the case—“
Marisa shouted, ”KAT!”
“We. Are. A. Team,” Marisa said, trying not to shout the words. “Okay? I’m just watching your back. That’s all I was trying to do with Stacy. Get some information so I could watch your back.”
“Marisa, we planned this. Right? Right. And if we had planned this thing with Stacy, together, I could have told you what a bad idea it was and how it could go wrong.”
“I’m not going to argue this any more,” Marisa said, stalking over to the drawer where they kept the take-out menus. She often declared arguments over in this way; Kat, with her college athletics background, could be quite competitive otherwise. “I’m ordering Chinese. You want something, tell me now.”
After Marisa called and placed her order, Kat said irritably, “Well, give me the freakin’ menu.” She liked to improvise her food orders, often to the consternation of waiters and people who received her takeout calls.
As she reached out for the pamphlet, Marisa tapped Kat on the forehead with one finger and said, “Sapphire Void.”
Kat stopped in her tracks. Her arms flopped to her sides, and she dropped the menu onto the floor. Her pupils dilated, her gaze aimed at nothing in particular.
“Jesus, it worked,” Marisa whispered. She ordered for Kat, then ended the call.
Marisa had been certain that Kat would be given commands to forget by Calliope. Kat had been skeptical that any such commands would work, but she had acquiesced to Marisa planting this suggestion anyway, in part as payback for Kat planting a similar suggestion during The Thing. Marisa, in turn, had been skeptical that any of it would work at all. But clearly it had.
“Kat, let’s sit on the couch,” Marisa said. She took Kat’s hand and led her over to the sofa, where Kat sat on the end cushion.
Marisa went to gather her notepad before she returned, saying, “Now, tell me how far into the fantasy you got with Calliope.”
“I went back into the dance,” Kat said in a toneless voice. “But I couldn’t dance very long. I started thinking about the beatnik girl and I got really hot.”
Marisa had to bite her tongue until she could think of a non-leading question. “Kat, what happened next?”
“I went into the bathroom. First I was going in the dream, then I was doing it for real. I masturbated in the bathroom. Then I went out and ended the session.”
“Kat, why didn’t you tell me about this when you were outside of the Sapphire Void?”
“I don’t know.”
Marisa bit her thumb, so deep in thought that, when the Restaurant called back to report they were out of shrimp, she jumped off the couch with a yelp.