Copyright© 2006 by Carlos Malenkov
Emerson was a professional victim. Growing up, he had been the butt of his playmates' jokes. He was the one they would always pick on, the one who "accidentally" got his nose smashed by a baseball, the one who slipped on a banana peel, the one who caught the measles, the one that nasty things always seemed to happen to.
Adulthood brought no noticeable improvement. He had dropped out of school when the going got rough (It wasn't my fault!) and had earnestly followed the path of least resistance. The dead-end low-paying jobs he managed to get reflected his total lack of self-esteem. He had slowly drifted to the bottom of the social pyramid, and his prospects were approximately nil.
Of course, he was still a virgin at age 35. His pathetic attempts at getting a girlfriend invariably ended in comedy or catastrophe. Poor self-confidence and non-existent social skills do not lead down the path to success with the opposite sex.
The woman on the street handed him a leaflet.
THE PATH TO AMAZING SELF-IMPROVEMENT:
SUCCESS AND WEALTH IN YOUR FUTURE!
Well, what did he have to lose? His time? He really had nothing much to do that evening anyhow, and the woman was nice looking, and maybe, just maybe...
For all the empty seats, there must still have been a couple of hundred people in the old theater building draped with multicolored bunting and SAS banners. When the tall man in an elegant three-piece suit ascended the podium and raised both arms heavenward, a hush fell over the audience.
He utterly dominated the auditorium. He exuded charisma, mesmeric force, or whatever it is that reduces the masses to slavish followers. It was as if no reality existed beyond the glowing circle of expectant faces looking up at at him, as if everything else was but an illusion, a dimly-remembered dream...
The fulfillment of ALL your desires.
His voice boomed out and penetrated every dark corner and crevice of that vast space. It vibrated deep into Emerson's most secret places and resonated through his very soul. It moved him.
The crowd was swaying back and forth in unison, craving more, screaming Yes! Yes! Show us! Give us!
The lights slowly dimmed until it was possible to see only silhouettes and moving shadows onstage. There! It couldn't be! It looked like, like --
Over there a dark figure seemed to be straddling another, and a few feet off to the side it looked as if someone was bent over with someone else standing behind, and... No! Could it actually be a sex orgy going on up there?
Without warning the lights came on again, full and bright, blindingly bright. When his eyes had finally adjusted, Emerson saw that the stage was empty. No one there. No orgy. Nothing.
Had it been illusion? A hallucination brought on by the speaker's power? Hypnosis? Nothing but stage magic?
As he filed out of the auditorium, following the departing crowd, Emerson mechanically stuck out his hand to accept a leaflet from someone. He looked up and... it was the same woman he had seen earlier. At this particular moment, she was the most beautiful woman in the world.
"Listen, Miss, uh, could you tell me, uh..."
Emerson had run out of words. This was as far as his limited social skills and failing courage could take him. The rest was up to her, or to fate, or to...
She smiled at him.
All the way home he was walking on air. She likes me. She really does. Maybe... maybe she could be my girlfriend... Maybe she'll even...
It finally occurred to him to glance at the leaflet.
Fulfill yourself. Succeed beyond your wildest dreams. Discover your hidden potential and become the person you were always meant to be.
The SAS Group Self-Actualization Seminar shows you how.
It was the basement of an apartment high-rise in a ritzy neighborhood. There were about fifty persons sitting in gray-metal folding chairs, and well-dressed members of the Self-Actualization Seminar greeted every newcomer.
Emerson scanned the room for the woman, that woman. There she was! She waved at him and smiled. She smiled.
"Well, hi. We haven't had a chance to get to know each other. My name is Melina, and yours... ?"
"Uh... Emerson. Actually, Waldo Emerson, but I usually go by just Emerson. Waldo sounds so terribly geeky, and, uh..."
"Hold on there, Emerson." She was looking him straight in the eye and the intoxicating scent of her perfume was making him lightheaded. "Aren't we getting a little ahead of ourselves?"
Damn it! There he was, doing it again. Stammering and falling all over his feet in the presence of a woman he felt something for. Wasn't there anything he could do right? He had been trapped in this never-ending nightmare all his life and sometimes he wished he could just roll over and die.
He stood up to leave. Got to get away from this place. Away!
But, her warm hand lay on his bare forearm. Her touch burned. "Stay a while," she said. He slowly collapsed back into the chair.
"There's so much we could do for you." She was looking down at him and shaking her head. "For example, your interpersonal skill-set needs a major upgrade. And, of course, there's the matter of tapping your hidden potential."
Hidden potential. The speaker at the public meeting had mentioned something about that, but Emerson couldn't remember exactly what. He had been so totally hypnotized by the sheer, stark power radiating from the man that...
"Listen, Emerson. Listen carefully. After the public presentation I'll come back to you. There are people here you need to see. We can help."
Help. Yes, damn it, help was exactly what he needed. Help getting a girlfriend. Help escaping from this screwed-up rut his life was in. Help to save him from drowning in despair.
"Your case has been laid before the Inner Circle. It has been decided that you possess certain of the special attributes characteristic of a High-Level Initiate. That means you can skip a number of steps in the program and begin all the way up at Stage 5. Congratulations, Emerson!"
Seventy-five hundred dollars. He'd have to beg, steal, or borrow that much to pay for the first set of lessons. It was about seventy-four hundred more than he had in the bank. But, no matter. He'd come up with it somehow. He had to.
"Three hundred, four hundred, five. Seven thousand five hundred even."
It hadn't been easy. He'd begged a thousand from his mother, who gave it to him with the understanding that this was the absolute last time he could turn to her for help. Another five hundred he'd borrowed from the landlady, who had a soft spot for him, but who had all the same let him know in no uncertain terms that the money was to be paid back by the end of the month, or else. The remaining six thousand, he'd, well, taken from a drawer in the payroll office at work. Stolen.
Emerson had put on the line whatever tattered shreds were left of his honor to raise the money. This had damn well better be worth it.
Fasting and going three days without sleep had brought him to the point of physical collapse, with a hammering headache, ringing in the ears, and blurry vision. Continual chanting had put him in a semi-trance and even his sense of who-he-was had begun degrading.
When they selected him for the Ritual, it didn't occur to him to say no. This was the first time in his life that he had ever had any sense of belonging, of being a part of something greater than himself. Even if it meant exposing himself to uncertainty. Even to danger.There is more of this story...The source of this story is Storiesonline