Author’s note - this was something I just sort of stumbled over. So many folk have done the hypnotism trope, but it’s all been of the easy, downloadable, sneak onto someone’s iPod when they go to sleep variety. So I thought about doing it “the old fashioned way”, and out came this… Enjoy, as I’m able to update it.
I don’t know what possessed me to do it. Maybe it was the rush of power. Maybe it was revenge for all the times she got away with shit that Ma never let me do. Or all the social life I missed out on in high school because I had to babysit her. Anyway, I did it, and while it was a hell of a thrill for a while, I took it way too far, and I’ve been regretting it ever since.
“Alright ladies and gentlemen,” Professor Price announced, snapping me out of my daydreaming, “I assume you are all prepared with your subject declaration for your final paper due next month. Please turn them in before you leave today.”
Shit! I thought morosely as he launched immediately into a lecture on some guy named Dement and his “important research about sleep”, which made me chuckle a bit. Wonder if that’s where “demented” comes from… Normally I’d just tune out and let my little portable tape recorder Mom bought me do the listening, but something the professor said caught my ear. I listened intently, my eyes widening with every word, my little old brain spinning with possibilities. I started scribbling in my notebook, putting together the declaration old Price wanted as fast as I could. I swear, for the first time since kindergarten, I was gonna have some FUN with a dumb old school project!
Handing my paper to Price on the way out the door, I scampered to the parking lot. I piled into my beat-up old Brat and turned the key, silently praying it’d start, which thankfully it did. Ma bought me that old car when I got my license back in 10th grade. It was only five years old at that point, and still kind of okay. Now, two years later, I hated it, but the idea of working at the Piggly Wiggly or Big Boy on top of my classes and having to babysit my bratty little sister just to afford a new car just didn’t seem worth it. My best friend Jessica’s parents bought her a brand new '86 Trans Am when she graduated last summer, and even paid for her to go to some big fancy college all the way down in Miami. I get letters from her like every other week telling me how she’s partying and living it up, while I’m still stuck here in Abbeville, which might as well be the middle of nowhere, going to community college.
I drove home as fast as I dared, what with all the local cops having nothing better to do but pull people over. I swear, the biggest crime this stupid little town has ever had was when some black guy from Greenville tried to rob Jesse’s Corner Grocery, only old Jesse put two barrels of birdshot right in his chest when he pulled his little knife. City folk can be right stupid at times.
Anyway, no sooner did I get home and dump my books on the kitchen table than Gabby’s bus come rolling up the street. You could hear that beat up old thing from half a mile away, I swear, with all the brake squealing and backfiring and all the other noise. I grabbed the mail out of the box while the bus pulled up in front of the house. No letter from Jessica today, just a bunch of bills and stuff for Ma to sort through when she got home. Gabby came bouncing off the bus, all three sets of ruffles on her little pink dress flopping up and down as she skipped across the road, showing off her little stretch tights. I just rolled my eyes. I spent my entire childhood in my cousins’ raggedy old hand-me-downs, but she gets new clothes every other week! So unfair! Ever since Pa skipped town when Gabby was a baby, Ma had to go to work at the mill, and now she’s a big-shot foreman, so she gets first pick at overruns and irregulars, which means Gabby always has something new to wear to school. Sure, I get new clothes a lot too, but still!
“You got homework?” I asked as I opened the screen door.
“Nope!” she said confidently, skipping through the door and dumping her school bag on the floor next to Ma’s rocker.
“You know that bag don’t belong there!” I shouted after her as she made a dash down the hallway toward our bedroom. That was the worst part of living at home, having to share a room with my little sister her entire life. Ma kept saying she’d get an addition built onto the trailer so I could have my own room, but it never did happen. Now, every time I complained about it, she’d just invite me to get a job and go get my own place. So I was stuck putting up with my slob sister taking over the whole room with her mess and leaving me hardly any space for my stuff at all.
She ran back out and grabbed her bag. “Hey, Skipper and Mary-Sue are goin’ down to the crick to swim! Can I go too?” she asked.
“I got schoolwork to do, and Ma said you can’t go down there without me to watch you!” I huffed.
“You never let me do NUTHIN!” she snapped, her eyes squinting up like she was gonna start crying. “I HATE you!”
“Quit bein’ such a baby!” I sneered back as I walked over to the sink.
“I’m not a baby!” she yelled. “I’m tellin’ Mama!”
“Go ahead!” I hollered back. “And I’ll tell her you lied about not havin’ homework, ‘cause Mrs. Beane already told Ma you’re supposed to be studyin’ every night since you’re damn near failin’ math! You know she’ll whip your tail if you have to go to summer school again this year!”
She shrank back at that and ran down the hall, slamming the bedroom door behind her. “Little brat think she can get over on me,” I huffed as I set about washing the breakfast dishes. The words from our exchange rattled around in the back of my mind, and I started thinking about how much cuter she was when she was little, how she copied everything I did, and hardly ever sassed me or fussed at me when I told her to do stuff. An idea bubbled up somewhere, and I smiled a little.
“Come on, Ma! I gotta go to the library on Saturday for my Psych project!”
“Beverly Jean, I can’t help it, it’s mandatory overtime. You’ll just have to take Gabby with you.”
“I don’t wanna go the dumb old library! Why can’t I just go down to the crick with my friends?!”
“Sweet pea, you know darned well you can’t go off by yourself like that!”
“Mama, I’m nine years old! I’m not a BABY anymore!”
“Young lady, don’t you dare sass me like that again! Now we are DONE with this conversation! If BJ’s gotta go to the library, then you’re goin’ with her, and that’s THAT!”
Gabby and I humphed in unison, but neither of us dared protest any further. I glared at her, she glared back at me, and we both picked up our forks and resumed eating. There was a lull, then Ma spoke back up. “Now tell me about this project you’re doin’, BJ.”
I paused for a minute, choosing my words carefully, both to impress Ma and confuse Gabby. “Well, it’s about the effects of auditory stimuli on delta wave sleep. That’s why I gotta get to the library and check out some papers that were published a couple years ago. Apparently it was some real breakthrough stuff.”
Gabby didn’t even lift her eyes from her plate, and even Ma had a little glazed look to her. “Well, that’s lovely, BJ, I’m sure you’ll do a great job. Gabby, you make sure and behave yourself on Saturday so Sissy can get her work done.”
“Yes, Mama.” Gabby grumbled back. I wasn’t looking forward to having her tagging along with me all day on Saturday, but I couldn’t help but smile as Ma scolded her. That sword cut both ways, really. Ever since Gabby nearly drowned at the lake one summer when she was 6 and spent a week in the hospital with pneumonia afterward, Ma wouldn’t let her go anywhere by herself. Of course, that meant most of the time that I had to tote her around and, more often than not, go suffer through whatever little get-togethers her little friends had going on. Thank God Ma hadn’t made me attend a sleepover, but I swear it was coming sooner or later.
I finished the dinner dishes and headed out to the living room to watch Dial MTV, just like I did every night at six. Not surprisingly, Gabby had the TV on Nickelodeon, watchin’ that stupid cartoon she liked so much with the blond kid that talked to a rose all the time.
“Gimme the clicker, Gabby,” I demanded.
“No! I’m watchin’ The Little Prince! Mama said I could watch this show!” she yelled.
“I ALWAYS watch Dial MTV after dinner, Gabby! Now gimme the damned remote!” I reached over to snatch it from her, but she twisted away.
“No!” she screamed. “MAMA! I’M TRYIN’ TO WATCH MY SHOW AND SISSY’S BEIN’ MEAN!”
“BJ! Let your sister watch her show!” Ma called out from her bedroom.
“But MA!” I yelled back. “I…”
“I don’t want to hear it, BJ! You can watch whatever you want when she goes and takes her shower! Let her watch her show!”
I flopped onto the couch and growled in disgust. Gabby stuck her tongue out at me, and it was all I could do not to slap it right out of her mouth. “God, you’re such a baby!” I muttered under my breath. She either didn’t hear me or decided to ignore me, but either way I was over watchin’ stupid baby cartoons, so I stormed off to the bedroom and got my notes back out. I decided to skip the next day’s English Comp class and spend the day in the library getting my research done, so I wouldn’t have to try and do it with Gabby harassing me the whole time on Saturday. Didn’t mean I wasn’t gonna take her to the library, just that my work would already be done, so I could have a little fun torturing her instead.
After an hour or so of my brooding and scheming, Gabby wandered in. I ignored her completely as she grabbed her nighty and stuck her tongue out at me again before heading to the bathroom, but as soon as she was gone, I put my books up and went to reclaim control of the TV. Stupid little brat made me miss my face time with Richard Page, and Don Johnson was another hour away, so I glumly sat through a barrage of David Lee Roth and Madonna and a bunch of other noise I didn’t care about. Gabby reappeared shortly with her hair wrapped in a towel and sat down on the opposite side of the couch.
“Don’t even think it,” I growled.
“What?” she asked innocently.
“You got your show. TV’s mine now.”
“Aw, but You Can’t Do That On Television is on!” she whined.
“Tough luck. You made me miss Dial MTV.”
Another huge tongue in response. I just rolled my eyes and started flipping.
“You ain’t even watchin’ nothin’ right now!” she pouted.
“Ain’t you supposed to be in bed already?” I snapped. I knew it wasn’t her bedtime, but needling her about it always got a rise out of her.
“It ain’t but seven thirty! I ain’t gotta go to bed until nine!”
Ma surfaced from the bedroom at this point, so I bit my tongue instead of commenting further. “Can’t you girls go five minutes without fussin’ at each other? I swear, I oughtta call the cable man and tell him to shut the damned thing off,” she announced as she sat down in her lazy boy rocker. “And you know darned well your bedtime on school nights is eight o’clock, missy,” she added.
“Aw, Mama!” Gabby protested.
“Don’t ‘Mama’ me! I’m not the one who’s failin’ math! And you’d better believe it’ll get even earlier if you end up in summer school over it!”
“I got a 85 on my last test, Mama! You said…”
“I said you could go back to nine o’clock when I see a progress report says you’re passin’ again. I ain’t seen nothin’ of the sort yet, only that you got a fightin’ chance of makin’ it happen between now and the end of the school year!”
“It’s not fair,” Gabby said as she crossed her arms and pouted in the general direction of the TV. Ma and I exchanged knowing glances and shared a quiet chuckle as she brought out her knitting and I locked back in on the TV.
Next morning, after Ma was off to work and Gabby was on the bus to school, I headed for the campus library and set to digging. It didn’t take long to find what I was after; the studies were in some recent issues of Psychology Today. It was all right there; they demonstrated that people could be hypnotized during sleep using traditional hypnosis techniques, though without the need for visual points of focus, obviously. I made my own notes, but also photocopied the pages to keep with me.
Now it was just a matter of learning how to do it. I started digging, scanning through book after book on hypnosis, looking for methods and techniques, but also paying attention to limitations. Wouldn’t be much point in going through all this trouble if I couldn’t get her to do what I wanted, after all. I filled up damn near an entire notebook before I looked up at the clock and realized it was near time to get home and get Gabby off the bus. Scanning over my work, I was quite satisfied that I had everything I needed not only to ace the report, but get into my little sister’s head and scramble her little eggs around a bit.
I drove home with a head full of possibilities, sorting out what I’d read and what people had done. The idea of getting Gabby to bark like a dog on command or even make her say a cuss word in front of Mama was pretty funny, but then I started thinking about the previous night, and how much I missed the quiet Gabby who just thought I was the greatest thing in the world. Maybe I could get that Gabby back with a few of these tricks, or at least take her down a peg or two, so she wouldn’t be quite so sassy with me. A simple little idea started to take shape, and I chuckled to myself as the images flashed through my mind.