"How To Win Friends And Influence Enemies - With Mind Control!"
The title seemed to jump out at me as I walked through the cluttered aisle. I stopped and had a look at my reading list. At first, I thought it was some kind of joke, but then, I spotted it on the list - strangely enough, it was required reading for one of my subjects. I picked up a copy and my jaw dropped when I saw the label - $150. It was way too expensive for me.
Not for the first time, I cursed the publishing industry for making Uni text books so expensive.
Idly, I started leafing through the book. If I couldn't buy it, at least I could see what I was missing out on. And then I had a moment of inspiration. I leafed through until I found the section I wanted. I read through it carefully, rehearsing the tonal inflections under my breath. When I felt I'd got it right, I sauntered over to the cashier.
"That'll be $150, 10% less if in cash," she said, in a bored, detached manner.
"You don't want to charge me anything." I said, wiggling my hand in front of her like the book suggested. "You want me to have this book for free."
The cashier rolled her eyes and muttered under her breath.
"You're the sixth guy today to try that," she said, in that loud, clear voice people use when addressing morons. "Look buddy, it doesn't really work. The book's a parody — P-A-R-O-D-Y- illustrating the lengths people go to in order to maintain the illusion of control over unpredictable, random events."
She paused, and looked at my uncomprehending eyes. The corners of her lips twitched, and her eyes softened slightly.
"It's just satire," she said gently, patting my hand. "Your lecturer probably listed it for reading as a joke, or because she has a stake in the publishing company, or something. I took one of her subjects last year, and her classes are the biggest waste of space. Seriously, don't buy this book; you're just wasting your money."
I stood there, not saying a word. Her eyes flicked over to her boss, and then flickered back to the book that lay between us. She started playing with a bookmark that lay on the counter. I raised my eyebrows in a mute, pathetic supplication.
She sighed, and then leaned forward.
"Look, it's not really something that's flying off the shelves," she whispered. "I don't know why I'm doing this, but if you really want it, just take it. The boss wants those things out of the store. They're taking up too much space. We're crowded enough already, and if we don't clear some of the stock, the shelves are going to fall over."
"Mind control is a fantasy theme commonly found in erotica. Although it is classed as a genre in its own right, it is often merely used as a literary device to enable the protagonist to explore certain misogynistic fantasies which would not be feasible with a willing accomplice. Themes such as sex slavery, prostitution and incest are almost staples of this genre. It is used by the protagonist to overcome some deep-seated inadequacy, such as fear of intimacy or a sense of weakness compared to others."
The lecturer droned on. I looked at the clock - another fifteen minutes to go. I scratched my head. Who would've though that a subject like "Theory of Erotica" could be so boring? I glanced around the auditorium. It was clear that, like me, most of the students here had picked this subject for a laugh — half the class was absent, half were asleep, and the other half was chatting on their phones.
I tried to concentrate on the lecture, but my thoughts were fully focused on the book in my bag. Ever since I'd manipulated the sales girl for it, I couldn't stop thinking about it. It was burning a hole in my consciousness. If I could talk my way into a free book after reading it for a couple of minutes, what else was possible?
After the lecture, I headed straight to library to read my mind-control book. I had leafed through the first couple of chapters, and it was ... interesting. Some of the stuff seemed really daft, but some of it really made sense. I looked around the library. It was virtually empty; there were only a couple of girls studying in the corner, and a guy with earphones on in a study carousel.
I decided to try it.
I sat in the recommended lotus position and breathed deeply. I put my fingers against my temples as suggested and massaged three times in a clockwise rotation. I closed my eyes and reached with my consciousness out to the astral plane. I held my breath as I waited for transcendence. I felt a faint buzz as I pushed further...
"What on earth are you doing, Aards?"
I opened my eyes. Rachael was standing over me with a quizzical expression on her face. She grabbed my book and had a look.
"Oh Aards," she sighed, "you're such an idiot. I took that subject for first semester — biggest waste of time I ever spent. The subject's a joke and the lecturer's a creep. I can't believe you'd be that gullible to think that it'll work."
"I worked on the salesgirl," I countered. "She gave it to me for free."
"Let me guess — you gave her that hang-dog expression of yours, didn't you? The one you always use with me when you want to get your way? That's not mind control, Aards. That's just pity."
I gave her the same expression.
She giggled, and then the tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. She tugged at my jumper.
"Okay, it WAS mind-control then, Professor X. Come on, let's get some lunch. I'm staving!"
We walked out of the Baillieu and went up the steps to South Lawn. It was one of those balmy winter days that Melbourne occasionally tosses up — the sky was clear and blue, the air was clean and crisp, and the temperature had crept up to the high teens. Consequently, the lawn was crowded with students trying to catch a bit of the winter sun. We managed to scratch out a spot underneath the elm trees, between two groups of boisterous students.
Rachael and I talked as we ate. She wasn't a stunner by any means; short and buxom, with freckly skin and with black oval glasses that lifted up whenever she scrunched up her nose. I watch her eat. I'd always thought there was something compelling about those glasses. At the moment, they were being lifted off her nose with a hypnotic regularity. Every few bites, Rachael would pause, take a pickle out of her sandwich, and scrunch up her nose in disgust. It was mesmerizing, like watching the wind blow across a wheat field.
"What are you staring at?" she said, in mid-munch.
"Oh nothing," I said, stifling a chuckle. "But who made your sandwich?"
"Then why did you put pickles in it when you know you can't stand them?"
"Aards, you know it's not a peanut-butter and pickle sandwich unless it's got pickles in it, don't you?" she said. "Without the pickles, it's just another stupid peanut-butter sandwich, and I've been eating those since primary school. I'm in Uni now, so I should be trying new things. This way, at least it's different."
She scrunched up her nose as she bit into another pickle.
"I probably could've chosen something else, I suppose."
We both laughed.
I'd known Rachael for as long as I could remember. She was fun and pushy, and we always got on well. We'd grown up together in Horsham, went to primary school and high school together. Rachael and I were the only ones from our year to have come down from Horsham to attend Melbourne Uni, and for the past six months, we had clung onto each other for support. University can be an intimidating place when you don't know anyone.
I blinked as Rachael gave me a teasing, mock air-kiss.
"What were you thinking?" she said. "You looked really zoned out just then."
"Oh, I'm just thinking how weird things are here, compared to back home," I replied. "We spent our whole lives wishing to get out of Horsham, but now that we're here, it's nothing like what I expected. Back in Horsham, it was so small and familiar. Melbourne's just so big, and the classes are so strange, and I don't know anyone here. Thank God I've got you around, Rach. I don't know what I'd be doing if you weren't here."
She smiled, and rubbed my arm.
"I feel the same way, Aards."
Our relationship had deepened this year. We had always been close, but since Uni started, it had got to a point where we seemed to read each others minds. She would answer my questions before I asked. I would see something funny, and we would both laugh out aloud. It was bizarre, but nice. Sometimes, in idle moments, I would even daydream about Rachael as my girlfriend, but never for long. It was just too weird to think of her in that light.
Rachael had fished out a tub of yogurt from her bag. She ran her finger over the rim and licked it languidly with her finger.
"I just love yogurt, don't you?" she smiled, blinking slowly.
I felt a buzz around my ears.
"So how's your love life, Rach?" I teased. It was a favorite routine between us.
"Oh, just dandy, Aards," she said, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. She snuck a quick look around us and suppressed a little smirk.
"I met this black guy at the University Bar and we really hit it off. We went back to my dorm and we fooled around for a while. The whole time, I could feel his monster prick grinding against my belly, and finally I had to see the size of the thing. When he unzipped his pants, I almost fainted. He had a massive cock, like an elephant's trunk! I was so impressed that I even fished out a ruler, but realised I needed two rulers to measure him properly!
.... There is more of this story ...