Ten minutes before nine, the front door of Tessa’s Jewels was unlocked by Ahmed Issa. A man of forty-five years, the last twelve of which were spent tending to this store, he dressed in a white shirt just barely formal enough for work. His arrival was just the same as it was every weekday, a mundane moment in a mundane day. Carter, a tall, fit man, had already been standing outside for almost twenty minutes. He was dressed in an intimidating black outfit which was labeled “SECURITY” in bright yellow letters. Nominally, his job was to stop anyone who tried to rob Tessa’s, but in his years in this career, he hadn’t stopped a single one. In fact, he had never been the target of a robbery. Carter’s presence in front of Tessa’s Jewels had been sufficient deterrence to deflect potential predators to other, easier targets. As a result, Carter sent most of his time on most days standing still in the same place, doing next to nothing. This suited him just fine. He was more than content making good money without doing any real work. To pass the time, he would play a memorization game in his head, trying to remember the features of the people who entered the store until they exited. The store’s first customer today was a middle-aged woman with graying hair, wearing a blue blouse and red jacket. A red bag hung on her left arm, and she gave Carter a quick, uncomfortable glance as she walked past. He pretended not to notice. Middle aged, red coat blue blouse, and red bag. A few minutes later, a man in a dark suit entered. He carried a bag with the letters IMD embroidered in an attractive font, and wore a silver watch. Dark hair, dark suit, IMD bag, silver watch right hand. Middle aged, red coat, blue blouse, red bag. Next, a young man with blond hair, a red t-shirt, jeans, and green sneakers of a brand Carter didn’t recognize. Dude, red shirt, blue jeans, green sneakers. Middle aged, red coat, blue blouse, bag. Dark suit, IMD bag, silver watch, right hand. Next, the businessman exited the store. Dark suit, IMD bag, silver watch, right hand. Spot on. Of course, the game was easier earlier in the day. Closer to noon, there might be seven or eight people in the store at once. That was when the game got fun.
A young woman with long, wavy brown walked into the store, wearing a low white tank top. Carter wanted to turn and get a better glance at her as she passed, but he didn’t. It was important to Carter to appear professional. Hot chick, low cut white tank. Middle aged, red coat blue blouse, and red bag. Guy, red shirt, blue jeans, green sneakers.
Ahmed waited behind the counter. The woman in the red jacket seemed close to making a decision, but no one had asked for his help, so he stayed behind his counter. The door opened, and a gorgeous young woman in a revealing white tank top walked in. She smiled at him, blue eyes sparkling, then turned to a display of necklaces by the door. When she turned back around, Ahmed realized he’d been staring, and averted his eyes. She walked straight toward him, and Ahmed was suddenly worried she was going to confront him about his staring, but when she reached the counter, it was the necklace which she had selected that she asked him about. “Can you help explain something about this?” she asked. Ahmed looked at the necklace, a chain of bright synthetic diamonds. “Look closely at how it sparkles in the light. You see how each of the edges of the crystals sparkle so brightly when the light reflects off of them? I was trying to count all of the sparkling edges, starting at the top and dropping on down, but I just found that the crystal seemed to fill up all of my focus and make it so very hard to think. That’s it, just focus on the crystal and count the sparkles.” Ahmed’s eyes flicked back and forth, trying to focus on each of the individual sparkles, which disappeared as just quickly as they had appeared while necklace slowly spun in the light. “The more sparkles you count, the more your mind can relax. That’s it, harder and harder to focus as you count more and more and let your mind go blank now. Watching and counting and watching and counting. As the sparkles start to overwhelm you, it’s alright to let the numbers slip from your mind. That’s it, counting and forgetting and counting again. Just let yourself slip and drop and sink right on down into the necklace. Staring and sinking and counting and forgetting, just looping around in your mind.”
Eve watched the shopkeeper’s eyes carefully. They were gazing forward, making rapid but miniscule movements as they flicked from glittering spot to glittering spot. Every few seconds, they would flutter as he lost count, then reopen. “That’s it,” she whispered, “keep counting and slipping and just allow yourself to feel better every time you forget. I’ll be back in a minute to help you finish counting.” Eve stepped back and watched him for another few seconds, to make sure he would stay down for a minute or two. When she was fully convinced, she turned around, and saw an older woman behind her, wearing red. A jolt of fear ran through Eve’s gut. /Had she been caught?/ But the woman wasn’t looking at Eve, her gaze was locked on something behind her. Eve turned, and saw that she was focused on the necklace, apparently caught up in the induction. Eve gingerly stepped behind her, careful not to disturb the woman’s focus, and resumed whispering. “So easy to watch the crystals. You can let your mind quiet down now as the sparkles fill your attention and allow everything else to quiet into the background. That’s it. Drop down now. So focused now on the sparkles that you can just let my voice slip right past your mind, and help you sink even deeper. Watch and sink and sink and watch, and be ready to listen to my voice again soon”
Carter felt a tap on his shoulder, and turned to see the cute chick in the white tank top from earlier. “Can I see your sleeve?” she asked, gesturing to his wrist. He looked down, ready to offer her his arm, but his hand was suddenly in front of his face. Time seemed to stop. Carter could hear a soft voice asking him to find a spot and watch it, to breathe deeply, and to relax. “You’re going to find that the more you focus on that spot the more your mind and body can just let go and drift.” The voice sounded as if it was coming from a thousand miles away, but his hand seemed to be moving closer to his face. He felt warm and safe listening to her, but it grew harder and harder to focus on the individual words. Focusing on his hand became even more difficult now, as it came within inches of his face. “Three,” she began to count, “you are safe. Two. Notice your thoughts quieting down, and let my voice in. One. Now take a deep breath in.” Carter felt his chest rise, but the rest of his body was so relaxed that he just wanted to let it fall back down. Then, several things happened at once, but the only one Carter could focus on was the word “Sleep.”
Leon had spent fifteen minutes examining a display of earrings. Eventually, he found a few that he thought Emma would have chosen, but he was on a budget and none had their prices displayed. /That probably means I can’t afford them/ he thought, but he wanted to be sure, so he headed back to the front desk. As he stepped out from behind the tall display, he saw something incredibly strange. The security guard who had been watching the store entrance was lying on his back next to the closed door. The shades were down too, and Leon wondered for a moment if the store had closed. But looking at the front desk, he saw the storekeeper examining a necklace, and a woman standing behind him, whispering in his ear. Another woman, older and with blond short hair, stood several strides behind the desk facing away from Leon, but he could tell she was staring at the same necklace. The whispering woman took the necklace, holding it up in the same spot he had. She snapped her fingers, and the shopkeeper walked to the nearest display, and began collecting certain pieces of jewelry. Next, she strode confidently toward the older woman, holding the glittering necklace up in the air. “You’ve done such a good job counting, you can just rest and let me take over now.” Her voice was soft and soothing, and Leon could see the second woman’s shoulders relax as she listened. “But those pretty diamonds are so hard to look at for long. You’ve been watching and counting for so long. Just rest your eyes now and relax. Let me take over.” Leon couldn’t see the older woman’s eyes, but the younger one set down the necklace, and stepped closer to whisper into her ear. “That’s it. One, two, three, resting while I count. Four, five six, focused only on my voice. Seven, eight nine, relaxing deeply down. I’ve got you.” She stepped in, resting the older woman’s head on her own, shoulder, and placing her other hand on the woman’s back. Gently rocking side to side, she continued. “Ten, eleven, twelve, warm and safe and secure. Eleven, ten, nine, letting go into my voice. Just let your mind quiet down and allow my voice to take over.” A jolt of fear shot through Leon as the strange woman’s eyes met his, breaking the spell. He hadn’t realized how fascinated he had been by her voice until the spell was broken. She froze for a moment, staring at him, then continued. “Eight, seven, six, listening so well to my voice.” Leon could tell she was speaking to him, but he wasn’t falling for it this time. She gave him a disappointed look, then looked away and whispered into the older woman’s ear. Leon relaxed. He was no longer her prey. After a few brief sentences, she snapped her fingers and the older woman collapsed into her arms. She set the woman down gently in a nearby chair, tapped her forehead, and stood up, turning to Leon. “Well, what’s your name?” she asked authoritatively.
“Leon” he replied, uneasily.
“Well Leon,” she stepped forward, “you were enjoying my counting so much, and I really did count you so far down. Why don’t we continue?”
Leon stepped back. “You’re not doing that to me, whatever you did to them.”
“They’re comfortable” she replied. “And it’s not them I’m robbing. Or you. When I’m done, I’ll wake them up and they’ll go on their way as if they were never here.” She touched Ahmed’s shoulder as he walked past her, arms full of jewelry. “Good boy,” she purred to him, before turning back to Leon. “I can’t let anyone away remembering me, but they’ll wake up with everything else. Would that really be so bad?” She stared at him innocently.
Leon considered making a break for the door, but he would have to run past her, and he wanted to stay as far away as he could. “You’re not going to do that to me,” he said in a voice lacking confidence. She shrugged and looked away.
“Alright. I suppose there are other ways of making sure you don’t tattle. How about you give me a hand? If you’re my accomplice, then I’m sure you’ll keep the secret.” Leon was no criminal, and didn’t plan on becoming one, but he wasn’t about to reject her offer to not mess with him, so he remained silent. She seemed to take that as an agreement. “Perfect. Grab the most expensive things from the other side of this display, will you?” Leon nodded and returned to the far side of the earning display he had been browsing before. Leon spent a few minutes internally debating the pros and cons of helping rob the store. Eventually, he decided that getting away safe was his top priority, and he could risk a bit of dubious behavior to stay on the woman’s good side.
/After all, I’m being threatened, right? I can’t go to jail for—His train of thought was broken by a flash of white flying over the display, which he caught in front of his face. “Did you just throw something at me?” he called out. Straightening it out, he realized it was a white tank top just as she walked around the display.
A complex net of diamonds wound behind her neck and along the tops of her bare breasts, shimmering as she moved. “I love this one,” she gushed, tracing a finger along the bottom of the necklace and the top of her breast. Leon stood there, dumbfounded and unsure exactly what he should be looking at. “It’s so beautiful, I just want to keep watching it. To just keep staring. It must be valuable too—there’s so many diamonds. I wonder how many there are? I count one, two, three...” She pressed each diamond into her chest as she counted, and Leon forgot to listen, fascinated by the sight of her breasts moving under her touch. A little voice in the back of his head screamed at him to run, but Leon stayed. The diamonds glittered so brightly in the light, it was hard for Leon to focus on anything, and he felt good right now. When he next understood her voice, she was counting down. “Five, dropping right back down. Four, trusting my voice, obeying my commands.” The word “obey” brought the mental image of the shopkeeper’s zombie-like movements back to Leon’s mind, and he snapped up.
“No!” he shouted, looking up at her eyes. Her gentle, seductive gaze turned to shock, then anger.
“Leon you creep! Give me my shirt!” Still in a haze, Leon looked at the white shirt he had been holding. A pang of guilt shot through his stomach at the thought of having stared at her breasts, but didn’t she want him to? Momentarily confused, he held out the shirt. Eve stepped forward to grab it, but missed the shirt and pulled his outstretched arm instead. “Sleep.”