“I, um… I’m not so sure about this,” Ali said, trying to keep the rising tension out of her voice. She didn’t want to suggest that she was actually worried about being hypnotized, not after scoffing at the idea that there was anything to the notion in front of everyone, but she also didn’t want to keep staring at Ryan’s pendant, either. Because if something did happen (and it wouldn’t, but if it did…) she’d be completely in Ryan’s power. She didn’t want to think about how that might work.

But Ryan didn’t stop. He just said, “Of course you are,” in warm, friendly, and unshakably certain tones. Not arguing, not contradicting, just setting out The Way Things Had To Be. “If you weren’t sure, your eyes would stop following the crystal on its journey back and forth, left to right, never stopping…” His voice was calm, soothing, but somehow inexorable. Just like the crystal. “You keep watching, Ali. So your eyes must be sure.” Ali didn’t think it worked that way. But she didn’t stop looking at the crystal, either.

“And your limbs,” Ryan continued, still in that same calm, commanding voice, “they’re already sure you want to be hypnotized, too. Because if they weren’t, you’d just stand up and walk away. You’re not held in place, Ali, not by anything but that warm, heavy feeling that makes it so much easier to sit and watch the crystal. Just sit and relax and stare at the glittering lights refracting from each facet. That’s all your body wants to do, Ali, so of course your body wants me to hypnotize you.” Ali almost got up right then and there, just to prove him wrong, but she found that she didn’t want to think about how much effort that would take.

“Your whole body is listening to me now, Ali,” Ryan went on. Ali let him ramble; she couldn’t think of exactly how to contradict him now, and trying to interrupt with a half-baked counter-argument was what had gotten her into this stupid situation to begin with. So she simply allowed him to continue until she was ready to speak. “Your head doesn’t want to turn away from the crystal, your heavy eyes won’t close even though they’re so sleepy, so drowsy… all you want to do is slump down and relax, relax, relax, but your body won’t let you. Not as long as the crystal keeps swaying back and forth. Back and forth.” Ali briefly wondered what would happen when the crystal stopped moving, but she decided she didn’t want to think about that anymore.

“Your deep, relaxed, heavy body wants to stop, Ali,” Ryan said, but Ali wasn’t really listening to him anymore. She was focused on trying to hold her head up. It seemed to suddenly and unaccountably wobble on the end of her neck, like she had been up too late and was desperately pushing back against deep sleep. Her eyelids fluttered, the crystal dancing in and out of her vision as she tried to focus on it through half-closed eyes. She didn’t want to think about how tired she was all of a sudden. “Your mind and your body want to stop for a little rest, simply listening to me and letting go while you relax into a powerful hypnotic trance. Isn’t that right, Ali?”

Speaking felt too much like work, so Ali simply nodded. Or at least, she half-nodded. She managed to jerk her head up with a supreme effort, but when it came time to relax her neck muscles into the downward part of the motion, they simply slumped. She couldn’t move her head. She couldn’t open her eyes. She couldn’t really move at all, period. She knew that meant that she was hypnotized, but Ali didn’t really want to think about that right now.

Or anything else, really.

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