A Revenge Fantasy
You feel your mouth flicker into a snarl, your fists balling at your sides. You see your muscles twitching under your skin. You aren’t looking in his eyes - you know what happened the last time you did that. Well, you sort of do. It’s like a story you tell yourself, half-remembered, just the basics, and only sort of how it ends. First, the slow creeping numbness over your brain, like fog over the river on a cold morning. The humming, the buzzing, that rises in the same manner. You know that if you let your eyes close, just a little bit, just a fraction, they might slam shut. You might wake up somewhere else again.
The way his words slide in and out of your consciousness. It’s like trying to hold onto a slippery rope, coated in oil. Your hands just keep sliding, even as you fight to hold on. To concentrate on the words he is saying, not just the sounds they make, the way they piece together. It’s so important to fight, to fight it with all your might. It is important because if you don’t, you might slip, slip just a little, lose your footing. Every single one of your muscles is wrought iron, is corded steel. You are not superhuman. You cannot keep this up forever.
The thought occurs, unbidden, a little suggestive, flicking in and out, stiletto-quick: is this part of it? What are the words he is saying right now? Maintain! Focus! Concentrate! So many imperatives, so hard to -
A wave of dizziness crashes into you, and you are faltering, teetering, there in the darkness behind your closed eyes. Wait - when did you close your - are you become desperate? Where are you on the slippery rope? Your breath is so measured. So even. Wait, stop. Breathe. In, and out. Relax. You have this. You can do this. You are assured, you are confident. Your mind is iron, just like your muscles. You feel your muscles twitching under your skin. Muscles are what is important. They are how you maintain the fight against him. You relax. You grin. There’s no way he beats you. Not again. Not with muscles like these. This is what you are good for. Muscles. What’s he saying now? It doesn’t matter that you don’t know. You let the slippery rope slide. You are confident. You are laughing on the inside. You let the tension drain out of you. There’s no need to hold all that energy in your muscles, the best part of you. All that electricity, all that fight. You know he can’t best you, not with your muscles, not with muscles like yours. You flex, just to show him who’s boss.
“Well, you got me,” he says, and you open your eyes, swimming to the surface through what seems like an eternity of shifting colors, black to twilight to gray to blinding white - he is sitting there in front of you, smiling, arms crossed over his chest. “You can’t be hypnotized.”
“Yeah,” you say, uncomfortably rolling your shoulders. “Can’t be hypnotized, bro.” He grin widens.
“And there’s no way I can get you to change your mind.”
“Naw, can’t change my mind, bro.” The words are out of your mouth before you can think to stop them. Thinking to stop them seems like kind of a waste of time. Who thinks before they speak? What’s that even mean? There’s a sort of fogginess. You feel yourself frowning, just a little.
“Aw, what’s the matter? A little confused?”
“Uhhh,” you start to get out, but it’s like your mouth’s filled up with cotton, or is it your head, or is it both? It’s like having water in your ears after dunking your head underwater. Try again. “Uhhh…”
“Wow, it really works.” A new voice. You turn your head to one side, surprised at how much effort it takes. Someone standing next to him. Staring at you, with a weird look on their face. Something a little like surprise, but mostly like they just won something. “And he’s gonna stay like this?”
“He might relapse, but you just have to say his trigger phrase to get him to, ah, recharge, as it were.”
“Or drain his batteries, haha.” They share a high-five and then stare at you again.
What the fuck. This isn’t right. Something’s gone terribly wrong - you fought this! You didn’t get hypnotized, you were strong, your muscles were flexed. You start to stand up, and they’re staring at you. “What’s a matter, bro? Feel a little funny?”
“Uhhh … yah,” you try to explain yourself. I feel dizzy. Faint. Confused. But the words just exist now as themes, as big feelings, in your head, and you don’t have the tools to describe them. You make motions with your hands and arms. You raise one arm from your side and clench your fist. Your bicep engages, your tricep engages. Parts of your lats and delt engage. Your body is a machine which has been turned on, and this clears some of the fog.
“Holy shit, he’s posing!” The new dude is looking at the other dude. They’re both skinny like twigs. Glasses. Smirky. Fuckin nerds. “This is nuts.”
Your mouth opens. “This isn’t me! I’m not this way! I flex, I flex, I - “
They stare at you, for a long, unbroken moment, and then burst out into laughter, laughter that goes for so long that you raise your other arms and flex that one too. That makes sense. Flexing shows you’re strong. Shows that you’re not weak. Can’t be beat. Can’t be hypnotized. Can’t be made dumb. You’re strong in the brains. “I’m strong,” you say, but the brain part doesn’t make it out. “I’m strong,” you try again, and then flex again. God, it feels good. You don’t want to stop. You never will stop.
“What about his classes?”
“Taking care of that now.” You hear typing. He’s on your computer.
“I flex!” You protest.
“Yeah, dummy. You flex. You just keep on flexing, and I’ll just keep on editing your life for you. You won’t have to worry about being smart anymore.”
What the fuck? What is happening? Your mind is spiralling into panic. You are smart. You are in the top level of your classes. You are getting all As. You tutor people! You - “I flex!”
“Looks like he’s trying to fight it,” the second nerd observes, pushing his glasses up on his nose. “Man, his muscles are getting big … how long have you been doing this?”
“The whole semester,” he says. He looks at you square in the eyes. “Mostly while he was sleeping. I doubt he even remembers when he started going to the gym. Work’s really paid off, though, hasn’t it. Big muscles.” He walks up to you. He touches a finger to your forehead, presses. “Little, tiny brain.” He laughs. “You’re right. He is trying to fight it. Let’s just fix that while his add/drops are processing.” He turns back to you. “Bet you’re sorry you ever fucked with me, dumbbell.”
Don’t look at him in the eyes. Don’t look at him in the eyes. Don’t listen to his words. Don’t let him -
“Bet you’re sorry you ever called me dumbbell, dumbbell.”
Don’t - no -
His smirk. His brief, short laugh. His gray, gray eyes.
“Go to sleep, dumbbell.”
The tail of the slippery rope, vanishing into the darkness.