The Erotic Mind-Control Story Archive

Phase Zero Clinical Trial: Response To Hypnozamine In The Human Female

by B Pascal

Chapter 23

I went to bed, but lay awake for a long time in the dark thinking about Liz and how I felt about her. I was afraid that it was true, that I was falling in love with her. Nothing wrong with love, but I wasn’t sure how she felt about me. I was afraid that it might be, “you’re a good friend, let’s not spoil it”.

Beautiful women learn early to establish force fields to fend off the unrelenting attacks from smitten men who profess adoration and devotion, but really just want to get them naked and humping. Women looked upon every endearment as part of a larger plan for getting them into bed. So I had no idea if she had any feelings at all for me. Even the kiss on the cheek could be just a friendly peck, a thank you, and have no other hidden meaning.

And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was exactly how I’d felt in high school and was trying to work up the nerve to ask Sally Cowan to the movies. It took weeks of agonizing before I’d worked up the courage to do it. She’d finally said yes, and we did go out, but it turned out that, while she was pretty, she wasn’t that interesting after all and we hadn’t had much to talk about. My imaginary Sally had been much more enticing than the real thing.

I knew that wasn’t the case here, but I still felt the same set of nerves. I had to figure out a way to find out if she did harbor some feelings for me. Preferably through other than chemical means.

The next morning I woke with something dancing around the back of my brain, just out of reach. I don’t think it had anything to do with Liz, it didn’t feel like that, it was more like an idea trying to form itself into something tangible. I’d always found it was hopeless to try to drag them out from the dark corners. Better to let it resolve itself and poke its head out when it was ready.

So I had breakfast and planned my day. Well, ’planning’ was probably the wrong word. It was more like ’what the hell am I gonna do today?’ All I could come up with that absolutely needed doing was laundry, so I did that.

Then I thought back to Saturday and my panic about clothes, and thought it wouldn’t hurt to buy a couple of new shirts while I was already out. Maybe it would impress Liz. And then I thought about my not having shoe shining supplies, so I bought some of those, and that led me to a contemplation of my stock footwear and how beat up they were, so I went and bought a new pair of shoes.

For an aimless Sunday with no goals other than laundry, I’d spent a lot of money. I resolved to go home and eat leftovers for dinner. Afterwards I typed up a few notes on Liz’s latest chapters, but it looked a little sparse because I had very little to contribute.

Monday the brainworm was still there and still not showing itself. It was starting to bother me. I had decided it had something to do with opioid receptors and cravings because that felt... close, or something. I let it continue to fester until it was ready to announce itself.

The big news was that Frank finally admitted that he and Eden were now an item, and it was getting serious. They were talking about moving in together. I tried to recall what my estimate had been for this to happen when I was first talking to Sara, but the details were gone now. Regardless, I was happy for him. They seemed to get on well together and it’d be good for him.

I went for my afternoon snack at my usual time, and scrolled through my phone messages, deleting the ones trying to sell me time-shares or offering extended warranties for my car. I raised my head when Liz put her tray on the table.

I looked at her. ”Two cookies? Was the apocalypse announced and I missed the memo?“

“Make fun of me. I don’t care. I felt like two cookies, so I got two cookies. I was in a good mood.”

“All right. I’m just teasing because it’s such a rare occurrence that it was worth an ironic comment.”

She took a very small bite of the first cookie. “I was productive over the weekend, so I felt it deserved a small reward. Is that a new shirt?”

“Umm, yeah. I broke down and bought a couple of new shirts.”

“Another difference between men and women. Women never think of it as ’breaking down’ when they buy new clothes, it’s more like ’expanding the wardrobe’. Anyway, very nice.”

“Thank you. I feel guilty having indulged myself like that. It’s like we’re programmed to wear something until it develops torn seams or holes in the elbow.”

“You know your problem, Sam? You need a personal shopper, someone who checks your closet periodically and buys you clothes when you need them, not when you think you need them.”

“Are you offering?”

She blushed. “No, that’s not what I meant. I mean, there are services that do that kind of thing for people just like you who don’t have the inclination or the awareness to know when to shop.”

“Sounds like a service for rich people. I’ll probably have to pass for the time being. Before I forget, here’s your latest stuff back, and I had a few—a very few—thoughts.”

We went over what I’d written out, and again I was feeling embarrassed that I had so little to contribute. “Sam,” she said, “I think this is the way it’s supposed to work when the writing’s going well. When an author has problems with a story or a character, it comes out in the writing and a sharp reader or an editor will see it immediately.

“When the author has a clear sense of the story line and the characters who inhabit it, as I think I do now, then there’s not much obvious to fix when it’s set on paper. Earlier, when I was starting this, I was making more mistakes, and you helped me clarify those ideas in my head. That’s why you’re not seeing them now, I think. Because you did your job.”

“That’s kind of you to say, but I still feel like I should be finding more, like I’m not working hard enough at it.”

“I don’t think so. Remember what I told you about my meeting with Deb Morrow? She’d said she hadn’t seen much that needed fixing, maybe some added color and detail, but nothing substantive. So don’t feel bad if you’re not finding lots of errors. I think we’re past the point of picking out the kinds of problems you’d be likely to find. She’ll find different things. You just saved her a bunch of work by pointing out those things before she found them.”

“Okay,” I said, not yet convinced.

“So, after you left on Saturday, since there weren’t dishes to do, I sat down at the computer and started unrolling the story. That’s how I think about it. The story is in my head, and I’m unrolling it like a scroll, adding some detail and dialog and color as I type it out. I got really involved and it was after one when I looked up again. I usually don’t stay up that late, but I was on a roll.

“Then when I got up on Sunday, I wrote a bunch more. I was surprised where the story was going—I don’t always have it mapped out completely, and sometimes I’ll change things from the way it was originally in my head. I’ll have to see what you think about it. And what Deb thinks about it. When it’s ready.”

“Well, that sounds a bit mysterious.”

“Maybe. I may change it back again, I have to think about it, see if I like what’s happening to the characters.”

“Fine. I’ll be right here, chewing on my fingernails, when you’re ready.”

She really did have a lovely smile.

“I’m glad you were able to come to dinner, Sam. It was nice to cook for someone, and on some strange level I think it got me thinking about my characters again. That may have been where that sudden writing jag came from.

“Listen, I had a thought, Sam. Since you’ve been so helpful and involved with my writing, I wondered if you might be interested in attending a reading one of my friends is doing later in the week at Morley’s Books downtown? She’s further along in her process than I and her first book is at the printer’s. She’ll be reading a chapter or two from her novel and I thought you might be interested.”

I thought to myself, if you’ll be there, I’m interested.

“That sounds different from my usual, might be fun. When is it?”

“Thursday at seven, I believe.”

“Maybe. That means it’ll be after eight, maybe pushing nine before it lets out, and I’ll be pretty hungry by then.”

“I was thinking we could grab a quick bite at the deli around the corner from there before it starts.”

Ah, so she’s definitely going to be there, and we could eat together, too.

“Okay. It’ll be good for me to get out of my rut, try something new. We can work out details later, but it sounds like fun to me.”

“Oh, good. I think you’ll like her stuff. I’ve read some of it in manuscript and I’m a little jealous.”

“Has she read any of yours?”

She lowered her eyes. “No, you’re the only person I’ve let read it. And Deb Morrow, too, of course. But I was too self-conscious to let Jane read my stuff because she’s really good and I didn’t want her to say she didn’t care for it.”

“I think it more likely that she’d read your stuff, and then throw away her computer and everything she’s written.”

She looked a little shocked, but also a little flattered. She gathered up her snack things and the chapters and stood up. “Gotta get back. We’ll talk about Thursday later. So long.”

I watched her leave, and thought, “Did she just ask me out?”

I wandered back to the lab, my head spinning with possibilities. What if... No, as she had said about meeting Deb Morrow, one step at a time.

The lab had become so accustomed to my sitting with Liz that it was no longer a topic for conversation, unless she exhibited excitement or attraction, and then they’d want to know what occasioned the display. But they registered each meeting internally and made an entry in the mental log. I thought that I was probably a subject of conversation elsewhere in the building as well, as ’the guy who’s friends with Liz Conway’.

I sat at my desk and pulled out my notes on the latest experiment and underneath it I found half a candy bar. Who knows how long it had been sitting there. And as I looked at it, I started thinking about snacks and why I wasn’t suddenly craving a candy bar. Because, of course, I had just finished a snack in the cafeteria, so I wasn’t hungry.

But that led to my thinking about cravings, because food cravings weren’t all that different from cravings for drugs. They both made you feel good, in different ways. I thought, what we’re trying to do with opioids is to reduce the desire for the drug while also suppressing the body’s need for the drug. Removing one and not the other means the user still has an addiction problem which will manifest itself again and again.

And that’s not much different from the problem people have with dieting, trying to lose weight by reducing the caloric intake. It’s hard to do because the brain tells the body “This will taste really good, and you need this, you have to have this candy bar/hamburger/bag of chips/bottle of soda/piece of cake, or you’ll become weak, anxious, crabby.“

Diets mostly only worked if the dieter had enough willpower to suppress the body’s insistence that it needed more for a long enough time that the body eventually realized that it didn’t need all those extra calories and re-calibrated itself. The dieter spends weeks, months, constantly fighting the body’s urges, while still having the ever-present desire for the snack. That’s why most diets failed. The dieters weren’t able to hold out long enough to reprogram the body’s insistence that it needed more than the normal caloric intake.

So what Ted and Art were doing with blocking opioid dependence should work as an approach to food cravings. It was well known that cravings for drugs and food were located in the same part of the brain.

I got up and wandered into the lab’s library, which was pretty good as scientific libraries went. I found some books and articles on cravings and their underlying mechanisms, most of them drug-oriented, of course, but found I was right. µ opioid receptors are linked to mood, pain and reward triggers, but they are also linked to the brain’s reward system in a more general sense, such as having a snack because it makes us feel good.

Food cravings seemed to be centered in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of the brain. I found several articles saying that increased activity in the DPC improves self-control in dealing with food cravings, and that decreased activity lowers self-control in resisting cravings.

There had been some interesting studies showing that deep-brain stimulation (DBS), for example generated by magnetic fields from an implant or by a focused external magnetic field, can increase activity in that area, thus reducing food cravings.

What if there were a chemical means to cause that stimulation? If we could block the craving and also suppress the body’s need for the snack, much as we were trying to do with the opioid blockers, that could prove to be a really effective dieting aid. And if there was an even bigger moneymaker for the pharmaceutical industry than drug treatments, it was diet aids.

I resolved to do some more library research and to think about those ideas more seriously.

So I put them in the back of my head, and as I did I realized that the brainworm that had been buzzing around in there was gone. So it was probably that idea about cravings that had been festering in the background because I was thinking about drug cravings and it probably got tied into other kinds of cravings as well. That was the thing that had been trying to dig its way out. It was the candy bar that had been the stimulus to bring it to the surface. The mind was a weird place, no doubt about it.

Without much direct research I found myself pulling ideas and old memories up from somewhere as I thought about this new path. I didn’t have enough data yet to bring it to Clark, who would want to see something more concrete. I could probably tie this onto the coattails of Art and Ted’s project. If their approach worked, it would be a good argument for seeing where this new path led.

So off and on for the next couple of days I played with those ideas while also working on my current experiments, and in idle moments I would think about Thursday and Liz.

On Wednesday at our afternoon break she suggested we drive separately and meet up at the deli about six. That should give us enough time to order and eat, then walk around the corner to the bookstore. She said she’d called her friend, Jane, and told her she was coming, so she’d know there’d be at least one friend waiting for her there.

“Did you tell her about Deb Morrow wanting to publish your book?” I asked.

“No, ’cause I didn’t want to make this about me. This is her evening. I might tell her about it after she’s done with her presentation, we’ll see.”

I thought about that, and realized she was right. Liz had a good heart. That was the proper thing to do, so as not to steal Jane’s thunder.

Thursday seemed endless. We had several meetings, one with Clark on research progress among the staff, and another with “Corporate Strategy”, whoever they were, but they seemed to have something to do with thinking about what products and medicines might be important for the company in the future. Translated, I thought this meant “what’s gonna earn us the most money over the next few years.” All in all, a waste of a perfectly good afternoon.

I packed up a little after five and drove downtown. I had to park in a multi-story garage, since street parking was nearly impossible. I was a few minutes early, so I walked slowly and people-watched. At the deli I found a table and settled in. They had a few specials on the chalkboard, so I glanced at those and decided on the pastrami sandwich and soup.

I’d no sooner made that decision when Liz came in, looking a little breathless. She flounced down into her seat, saying, “Sorry, the drive took a little longer than I thought.”

“It’s okay, I really just got here myself. I’m getting pastrami and soup.”

She took a couple of minutes to decide, then nodded just as the harried waiter stopped at our table with notepad open, pen poised, and a look that said, “I don’t have all day? Whaddya want?” Without actually saying a word, the meaning was unmistakable. We ordered and he hurried off.

I looked at her and said, “It may lack some of the atmosphere, but I’ll bet the pastrami’s better here than at Le Château.”

“Doubt it,” she said. “Though it’s probably not on the menu. If it is, it’s in French and I wouldn’t know how to order it anyway.”

And then it got strange. Not in an odd way, I mean in a completely normal, unremarkable, everyday sense. Two people talking about work, something they’d seen in the news, a funny thing a colleague said. Two people having a pleasant, comfortable conversation about nothing and everything.

Every other time we’d met, there’d been an unmarked boundary, two neighbors who don’t know each other that well chatting over a backyard fence, polite, looking for topics that wouldn’t be too personal or offensive.

This seemed different somehow, like it had now progressed to two friends meeting after work, sharing the amusing things, the aggravating things, the mundane, because those were the kinds of things friends shared. And it was so unexpected that it took me by surprise. She was open, she smiled at my bad puns, she laughed when I said something amusing, she thought about my more serious observations and then offered her own thoughts on them. I liked it.

I was having a good enough time that I wasn’t watching the clock. She glanced at her watch and said, “We’d better go if we don’t want to be late.”

The waiter had dropped off the check earlier, a subtle reminder that his time was valuable and the tables could be better utilized by a new, paying customer, so I picked it up while she fumbled in her purse.

“Let’s settle up later, if we’re running late. I’ll just pay it so we can go.”

She looked like she might argue, but she nodded. I dropped some bills on the table for a tip and paid the check at the cashier’s station. She knew the way, so I followed her around the corner to the bookstore, where there was a sign in the window, “Tonight, 7pm, Jane Connolly reads from her new book, ’Too Far The Glen’.”

“I hope we’re not too late to get a good seat,” she said. That appeared not to be a problem. There were maybe thirty chairs set out, and less than half were occupied. There were a couple of seats up front and she homed in on them, marking them with her coat and her purse. She graciously moved her purse when I looked like I didn’t know where to sit.

A woman was in the back behind a table, talking to someone wearing a name tag, probably an employee. She turned around and saw Liz and her face lit up. She hurried over and they threw their arms around one another, exchanging greetings.

“Liz, I’m so happy you could come. I’m a bit nervous.”

“What do you have to be nervous about? You’re a published author. The rest of us bow down in admiration. Jane, this is my friend, Sam Halloran. I’ve been talking you up, so you’d better be good.”

We shook hands, and I said, “She has been talking you up, and I’m looking forward to it.”

“Thank you, both of you, for coming. It’s almost time to start and I’ve got to get my head together, so please excuse me while I get ready.”

We sat. I asked, “Was she in one of your writer’s groups?”

“Actually, yes, though we both dropped out eventually, and for the same reasons. I think I told you, it got a little toxic. But we kept in touch, and I was happy for her when she found a literary agent who shopped her around. Her book should be out next month.”

Just then, the employee with the name tag stepped up and gave a little spiel about supporting the arts and how happy they were to be able to host Ms. Connolly, who will be reading from her brilliant novel, available here next month. There was polite applause, and Jane stepped up and gave a few introductory remarks about the novel and the setting, and commenced reading.

And Liz hadn’t been wrong. Jane’s work was pretty good, and if I came across it when it was released I’d probably buy a copy. I tried to listen as an editor might, seeing how the characters developed, where the plot started to twist, how the characters reacted and the decisions they made.

The more I tried to do that, the more respect I had for editors, because I saw how easy it was to screw things up by changing the wrong things, or adding things that weren’t needed. Jane’s book seemed to work pretty well, and it had a flow to it.

It went a little faster than I’d thought and it was close to eight when she finished her second chapter, closing the book and looking expectantly at the audience. Most applauded politely, but Liz seemed really excited and was almost bouncing in her seat, clapping her hands.

The employee with the name tag asked if there were any questions for the author from the audience, and there were a couple of polite inquiries, how long had it taken, were there any autobiographical elements in the story, and the like.

The EWTNT thanked everyone for coming and said Ms. Connolly would remain for a few minutes if there were any further questions. Jane turned to Liz and whispered loudly, “Can you stay for a little longer? We’ll get a drink!” Liz nodded.

“Do you mind waiting?” she asked me. “She could probably use some depressurization, and I wouldn’t mind chatting with her.” I told her it was fine, I had nowhere to be.

A few book groupies did come up to the table where Jane sat, wanting to be near a real, live author. I was pretty sure that when Liz’s book came out, there’d be a lot more of that, the bulk of them men.

But in short order, Jane shook hands with the EWTNT and gathered up her things, approaching us with a big smile. “You were great, Jane, really,” Liz enthused. I nodded in confirmation.

“There’s a place across the street, want to try there?” Jane asked.

So across the street we trekked, and found a nice little bar with some booths. They ordered margaritas, I got a beer, and the two of them started a nonstop back-and-forth banter that had me swiveling my head like I was watching a tennis match. I could only smile and sip my beer. These were two writers, talking about writing, and I was out of my element. But it was fun to watch her get so involved with the ideas.

When Liz paused to take a sip of her margarita, Jane said, “We kind of monopolized the conversation, huh? That’s a writer thing. You’d better get used to it. So what do you do, Sam?”

I gave her the details, and Jane cast an interested eye at Liz. She thought I hadn’t seen it, but it was there. The look said, (”So, something going on here that I should know about?") Liz looked completely innocent.

With no further details forthcoming they returned to talking about writing, Jane asking how Liz’s book was going. Liz replied that it was almost done and she felt really good about it. Jane started probing a little more, asking for a synopsis, and Liz gave the five-minute fly-over.

“Oh, Sam, by the way, I almost forgot that I brought some more for you to look at.” Liz reached into her purse and pulled out a stack of pages and handed them to me. Jane asked, “Do you mind if I look at it?” Liz hesitated just a moment, her self-doubt rising, but she nodded and handed them to Jane.

While Jane read, Liz started a normal conversation with me, completely relaxed, just two friends talking, and it knocked me back in my seat. Was it the alcohol loosening her up, or something else? I liked this new Liz.

Beside us, Jane tapped the pages into a neat pile after a few minutes, and said, “Conway, I wish I could read the earlier pages, but from what I just saw, this is going to be good. I think you’ve got a real shot at getting this published.”

Liz said, “Well, actually...”

I was next to Liz, across the table from Jane, so I was able to watch the drama unfold. Jane’s eyes got wider, her mouth dropped open, and when Liz finished, there was complete silence.

“Deb... Morrow? Deb fucking Morrow? Are you serious? How did this happen?“

Liz gave a little more of the back story, about me meeting Morrow at the party, and how I’d talked her into looking at Liz’s work, and everything that followed.”

“Le Château? She took you to Le Château? Liz, you are truly blessed. And Sam, maybe you could swing by and help me choose my next set of lottery numbers. Because you’ve clearly got something magic going on.”

I had finished my beer, and they were almost done with their drinks, so we wound things up. The two of them stood and hugged each other again, and Jane said, “Sweetie, I hope this works out for you, ’cause I really liked what I read. And someday you should write up how the publication came about, because that’s a story in itself.”

They gave each other little kisses on the cheek and said goodbye, then she left. I told Liz, “I’ll walk you to your car. This was fun, and way different from my usual Thursdays. Thanks.”

“Thank you for coming,” she said as we walked. “I would have come anyway, but it’s better if there are more people at these readings. What’d you think of her book?”

So while we walked we talked about Jane’s book, and she offered some observations that hadn’t occurred to me. It must be a writer thing that allows you to have those insights.

We got to her car, also in a parking garage, and I thanked her for the invitation, for getting me out of my rut, and for the opportunity to rediscover pastrami. That made her laugh, and she was still smiling through the driver’s window as she said, “See you tomorrow, Sam,” and backed out of the space. She gave a little wave as she drove down the ramp.

As I walked back to where my car was parked, I thought, I wasn’t telling a polite lie, it actually was fun, more than I’d thought it was going to be, and it was because she was there. A big part of it was that sudden breakthrough where we were now relaxed with each other, able to talk like two people who were really comfortable with each other. I’ll take that in a heartbeat.