There was one more early afternoon session before it would be time to collect my bags, head to the airport, and fly home. I tried to find a knot of people to sit with, but the first one I tried asked me to leave ... they’d come together and were talking business. So it was either sit by myself and risk Mari finding me and doing whatever it was she’d done to me again, or just slip out the back door and leave early. I went back and forth about it. Truth is I was thinking about what had happened with her a lot more than following the session presenter. Looking into Mari’s eyes had profoundly affected me, and I believe she’d expected that, so I had to figure out what it meant and how to avoid letting her mess me over so much again. Reading glasses had seemed to make the situation dramatically worse for me. As for why her eyes could have had such an effect in the first place, the only clue she’d given was in describing them as “magical”. Could such a thing be real? I mean, I know the herb garden I’d grown last year had produced some unexpected benefits for me and my family, including some improved clarity of thought for me and some really nifty medicinal effects in addition to the food, seasonings, and pretty flowers, but could actual magic beyond simple herbalism exist?
Half an hour passed. I’d started paying more attention to the presenter, taking notes to help my still-shaky focus, which turned out to be a very bad idea since it kept me from noticing when Mari came up next to me, on my right.
“I am not happy with you, Madeline,” she said as I looked up. “And you do not want me to be unhappy.” She looked downright pissed. Forbidding as hell, in fact.
I slipped my glasses off and into my left pants pocket, away from her, avoiding her direct gaze.
“Oh no you don’t,” she said, taking my chin in her hand. I started getting up as she sat. She dug her nails into my cheeks to stop me. I kept rising and felt her nails draw blood, but I continued, also turning away. A little blood was the least of my concerns right now, and might even help others recognize that something was seriously amiss here. I grabbed her wrists, squeezed and twisted hard.
While Mari was remarkably strong for a woman her size, I am bigger, stronger, still in good shape, and was maybe a little panicky just then. I wrenched free of her talons, though the result was even more blood.
“I’m leaving,” I said, loudly.
“Oh my god, he’s bleeding,” I heard a nearby woman in the audience say.
“Is there a nurse or doctor here?” I asked, even louder.
“Freeze,” Mari said angrily, snapping her fingers.
I froze. My head was fogged and spinning again. I’d frozen even before I understood the meaning of her word, almost as if she’d bypassed my conscious mind. Maybe it was the jolt from her fingersnap?
“Sit down,” she said, snapping her fingers, and I sat. Blood was already dripping from my jaw. She put her fingers under my chin, which she raised high with the points of her nails. God help me, even through the pain, the jolt from her fingersnap tingled pleasure up and down my spine.
“Is everything all right here?” Two men and a woman seemed worried, but kept their distance standing two seats away.
“This is none of your concern,” Mari said.
“Hotel security is already on its way,” the woman said softly. “He needs a doctor, or at least a bandage.” She handed Mari several napkins.
This seemed to rouse Mari. “I will take care of him,” she said, her tone angry. “He’s a dirty fucking cheat and I hate his guts right now but he’s my boyfriend and I will make sure he gets the care he needs.”
The older of the two men was looking at me. “Are you OK?” he asked. I couldn’t answer. I could barely understand the question through the haze around my mind, but I looked at him in what I imagine was the most fearful, confused expression I’ve ever worn. “Something’s not right here,” he said.
“Look at me,” Mari said to him, and he did, his expression changing, softening as moments stretched into seconds. “Everything is fine here,” Mari told him, and he nodded slowly.
“Everything is fine here,” he repeated.
“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” the younger man said, grinning goofily. His somewhat sloppier choice in clothing suggested his occupation: programmer. Mari, now holding napkins to my jaw, shot him an annoyed look.
“Mari, is everything all right?” asked a man in a security uniform as he walked up.
“Everything’s fine, Tom,” Mari said. “False alarm. A little blood from my boyfriend here but no permanent damage.”
I didn’t know you had a boyfriend from out of town,” Tom said.
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” she said impatiently. “Now go, this is a false alarm.”
“We’ll have to go together, Mari,” he said. “There will be some paperwork. Bring your ... boyfriend or whoever he is.”
Mari shook her head in exasperation and snapped her fingers. “Go. To. Your. Office.” she told Tom, each word punctuated with another snap, his body jerking and pants tenting more with each one until he came, groaning, on the final snap. At the same moment he heard her last word, he turned instantly to obey.
“Maybe these are the droids you’re looking for after all,” said the programmer type, his voice a little awed. The woman who’d brought napkins was backing away slowly.
“Look at me,” Mari told him, and he did. As with the first man, who still stood somewhat slack-jawed nearby, his expression softened as Mari’s power washed over and overwhelmed him.
“You two, go to the security office and reassure anyone there that everything is under control. Everyone is fine and My boyfriend and I are just having a little lover’s disagreement. No real harm done. No further response necessary. Go.” And they went.
“Now you,” Mari said to me, her tone quietly terrifying. “That was much more trouble than it should have been, and it’s all your own fault. You are soooooo gonna get it, you can not begin to imagine. We were gonna have serious fun before, and I mean the most fun you’ve ever had in your pathetic little life, but we’ll do this the hard way now, and I do mean HARD. She snapped her fingers again.
Mari’s attention elsewhere, I closed my eyes, thoughts drifting, breathing deep.
“Jedi mind tricks,” came a thought, then “Move along,” then “You serve your master well ... and you will be rewarded.”
“I was but the learner ... now I am the master.“
Don’t you forget about me
Will you stand above me
Let’s get together and feel alright
“Wazowski, you didn’t file your paperwork last night.”
Mari’s fingersnaps. Uhnh. So good. So. Much. Pleasure. Uhnh.
Body throbbing, on the edge for her again. No, I won’t cum that way. I don’t want to come at all. Not here. Not for her. Not going to come.
“Fear is the mind killer. I will permit it to pass over me and through me,” then “This is part of the weirding way that we will teach you.”
Deep breath. Mari must’ve already implanted commands in that security guard. How many people did she have her hooks into?
Well there’s just an empty space
And there’s nothing left here to remind me
Just the memory of your face
Joanna. My wife. My children.
No more. My jaw set. This was not going down Mari’s way. I will let her commands flow past me if I can avoid her eyes ... I still don’t know what’s going on there, but it is serious juju.
What kind of commands had she implanted? I mean, aside from my response to her snaps? I found that I was no longer frozen.
Tingle, just a little one, more from surprise than anything else.
I opened my eyes.
“Get up, Madeline,” she ordered. [SNAP]
“We’re going upstairs,” she said. “Hold the damn napkins yourself. How did you resist me?”
I took the napkins and held them to my jaw. They were pretty well soaked in blood, though the flow was slower now. I stumbled, a little woozy from the loss. A little ways away, the woman who’d brought the napkins looked on in horror.
“I need fresh bandages,” I said.
“Answer!” [SNAP] “The!” [SNAP] “Question!” [SNAP]
I took a deep breath. “We’re not doing this, Mari,” I told her. “I’m going to the airport now and getting on a plane, and I doubt I’ll ever see you again.”
Her jaw dropped. “That is not how things work with me,” she said, eyes narrowing, voice gone low and menacing. “You will do what I say when I say, and ...”
I was walking away.
“Freeze!” she said. [SNAP]
My gait stuttered but I kept going.
“FREEZE!“ She was yelling now. She’d forgotten to snap her fingers. I didn’t even stutter this time.
She came after me. I heard her from behind but didn’t turn. Maybe that was my second mistake, or third, or tenth, and maybe it wouldn’t have mattered what I did when she’s a martial artist and I’m not, but ... who’s counting when crazy-ass shit starts piling up and over me like it had today. A couple more steps, a sort of collective gasp from others around me, and then my world went dark.