A woman stepped into her home and closed the door, cutting off the sound of disco music from down the street. She looked wan and slightly tired and, despite an almost regal bearing, was dressed plainly as if she didn't want to attract attention. Under her arm was a thin composition book with "Patricia's Diary" written on the cover. She built up a fire in the fireplace, brewed some tea, and sat down to read.
Everybody obeys my mother. It is as much a part of my life as the sun rising in the east. She loves telling her friends that before I could even talk she could say "stop crying" and I would.
When I was a child, people didn't obey me they way the way they obeyed Mother. I don't know when I figured out that it wasn't just because she was an adult. She would say, "Do what the teacher tells you today" and I would say "As you command" and do it. I don't know how many times she forgot to tell me to obey the teacher before I realized I didn't have to obey the teacher's every whim. "What if Mother finds out?" quickly became my only guideline. The first time my mother said, "You will only remember good things about my daughter" to another adult (a policeman I believe), I was grinning for the rest of the day. I think I was eight years old.
When I was a child, I thought that I would get powers like Mother with puberty. Thirteen was a profound disappointment for me.
Fifteen was another disappointment. I was a freshman, and I'd begged and wheedled mother into telling the captain of the football team to take me to prom. As expected when mother was involved, he was a perfect gentleman. He was also bored to tears and horrible about hiding it.
When I turned sixteen just before prom the following year, my mom caught me moping in my room.
"Patricia, what's wrong with you today?" she asked as she walked in on me. Mother never knocked.
"Nothing," I mumbled with my chin buried in my pillow.
"Sit up and tell me why you have been moping around the house today." It was a command, not a question.
"As you command," I said automatically as I sat up on the edge of the bed. "Prom is coming up."
"Do you want me to suggest somebody in particular go with you?"
"No," I said in a long sigh. "I want to tell somebody to go, myself."
"Do you know anybody you think will say yes?"
"No, Mother. I want to tell somebody to go ... the way you do."
"Ah," she said and was thoughtfully silent for a while before adding, "Let me think about this a while," and then left the room. I don't think she heard me say "As you command" before I before plopped back down on the bed. I least she hadn't told me not to think about it.
The next morning, I woke to the sound of mother folding up one of her lists and tucking it away in a pocket. I had the feeling that I had been saying something as I woke, but I don't remember.
"Patricia, I'm going to be out of town for a few days and I think it's about time I let you try this," she said holding up the necklace hanging inside her blouse. "You remember I've always worn this necklace and have never taken it off."
"As you command," I said blearily, still waking up.
She pulled off the necklace and handed it to me. A simple golden chain threaded through an ornate gold amulet with a large teardrop-shaped ruby prominently displayed in the center.
"When you issue a command while wearing the amulet," Mother said, "you may hear a voice confirming the command. When I wore the amulet, the voice sounded like the person who gave the amulet to me. Put it on and don't take it off while I am gone."
"As you command," I replied automatically.
Then she handed me the amulet and was simply gone.
I was half way through cooking breakfast (for two, as usual) before it hit me that Mother was gone, I had the house to myself, and I had her powers. I considered calling in sick to school but I was dangerously close to expulsion and I couldn't remember Mother ever using her abilities over a telephone. I put away the uneaten portions of breakfast in the fridge and went upstairs for my list.
Last year, when I was a freshman, I made a list of all the people I would control and what I would do to them if I had the ability. I still had that list in my diary - not the fake duplicate diary that I left out for mother ever since she commanded me to keep a journal of my thoughts and feelings, but my real diary that I was forced to write honestly but allowed to keep hidden because Mother didn't know I was hiding it.
By the time I had found the correct entry, copied it down, and hidden the diary in case Mother came home early, I was late for school. I checked my empty wallet, took a chance and called a taxi.
When the taxi pulled up, I leaned over and said, "I don't have any money, but you think I'm cute enough to give me a ride to school for free." I held my breath a little while I waited to see if the magic worked.
"Do as she commands," said a voice that sounded a bit like my own or Mother's.
"As you command," the driver drawled as I got in the taxi with an elated feeling, "ye got yerself a deal, but the other lady still pays."
But the driver didn't answer. He simply stuck something in his pocket and we drove away.
As the taxi pulled up to the school, I saw Mr. Reynolds, the vice-principal, standing at the curb.
"Ms. Gardner, so good to see you," he said as I stepped out of the cab.
"Good morning, Mr. Reynolds," I said cheerily. His eyes shifted as if he had been looking past me previously. "You will give me a hall pass, remember seeing me arrive on-time this morning, forget seeing me or the cab just now and correct any records that show I was late or not in class today."
"Do as she commands," said the confirmation voice.
"As you command," Mr. Reynolds said slowly as he struggled to both write a hall pass and forget why he was writing it.
As I walked to class with my hall pass and a happy skip in my step, I thought for a moment I heard a voice then realized it was just my imagination. It was then that I had an epiphany. I stepped into the ladies room and found myself a mirror.
Looking myself in the eye, I commanded myself, "You no longer need to hear the voice of the amulet and will now no longer be distracted by it. Its words will still have effect, but your conscious mind will ignore hearing it."
I somehow knew my effort to command myself had worked despite not hearing the voice of the amulet any more.
Elspeth set aside her daughter's diary and took another sip of her favorite tea in front of the fireplace. Even weeks later, she remembered that day clearly. The amulet was useless, of course: just a meaningless trinket. The power to command came from Elspeth trailing along behind her daughter. As such, there was a lot that happened that day that Patricia never knew.
After she finished tidying up her early-morning commands on her daughter and letting her daughter act out an explanation for the change in the bathroom, she followed Patricia into her first class. As the stepped in the door, Elspeth Gardner said loudly, "Class, treat me as if I am invisible. You will not remember seeing me all day."
The class chorused "As you command" but, thanks to Elspeth's commands in the hallway, Patricia no longer noticed any responses to commands that she did not initiate and missed that the teacher had looked at Elspeth first when the pair stepped through the door.
Elspeth took another sip of tea in the firelight and picked up the book again.
I gave the teacher my hall pass, sat down and pulled out my list. It was a long list but I had spent the better part of a school year writing it. On the other hand, I did write it a year ago and some of the people were a bit nicer to me now. Since I only had the amulet for a few days, I had better skip over the nice people and concentrate on the truly deserving.
Just then, my list was snatched out of my hands by Ms. Carter, my teacher.
"Give that back!" I snapped.
"As you command," Ms. Carter replied with a surprised expression on her face as she handed back my list.
"You should apologize for being so rude. Sit down quietly at your desk and stay there."
As she marched to the front of the room and sat down, I realized the rest of the class was staring at me - most of them with their mouths hanging open. Some of them started to rise from their chairs; I don't know if it was to run or just to prove they could since Ms. Carter was obviously struggling and failing to get out of her chair.
"Everybody sit down and stay quiet until I tell you otherwise," I said crossly.
I always told myself that I would be subtle if I ever got Mother's powers. She's bossy and opinionated and, if she makes a mistake, can simply tell people to forget big blocks of time. I always swore that I would be smart enough to never have to do that. Now I was stuck with a whole room full of scared people.
I sighed and started to tell them to forget, but happened to glance down at the list clutched in my hand. Why wait until after school to have my revenge? If I hurried, I could knock out a big hunk of my list before the bell rang. I started at the top of my list.
"Bonnie Anderson, when the bell rings at the end of class, you will be allowed to talk and will be released from the chair and will forget that anything unusual happened during class today. You will also realize that you are addicted to Vice-Principal Reynolds' cum and you absolutely must taste it right then. You will not allow anyone, including Mr. Reynolds, to stop you from satisfying your addiction and will go to any length to drink all of the cum that he can produce."
Turning to Bonnie's twin sister Connie, I repeated the same instructions word for word. "Connie Anderson, when the bell rings at the end of class..."
Reading the diary, Elspeth again frowned (as she had that day) at the first individualized command to come from her daughter's mouth and frowned deeper at the second. On that day, she had hoped that her daughter planned to treat the vice-principal to a nice threesome with the pretty twins and the possibly deadly catfight that was sure to erupt in the vice-principal's office was only poor wording of the commands.
But when Patricia tried to implant memories in Billy Barker of being repeatedly raped by the gym teacher and the burning need to go to the police, Elspeth finally admitted to herself how her daughter was deliberately abusing the gift she had been given. Instead of just saying "Obey her command" as she had up to this point, Elspeth tried to formulate a better command for the Anderson twins that would both satisfy Patricia and not hurt the twins.
By this time, Patricia was issuing commands to a fifth person. Elspeth had missed Patricia's commands for the fourth person but, from the stunned expression on his face, the teen behind Billy Barker had heard every hateful word spoken to him. Luckily, he was under no compulsion to obey them without Elspeth enforcing Patricia's commands.
Turning to her daughter, Elspeth said, "Accidentally drop your paper and continue from memory." Patricia didn't notice when she replied "As you command" and dropped the paper. She also had no difficulty issuing commands from memory.
As Elspeth read through Patricia's list with growing horror, she felt her legs growing wobbly. With only Patricia's chair at the back of the room available, she sat down on the teacher's desk.
What should she do? Even without Elspeth's powers to force Patricia's classmates to obey her commands, being forced to silently sit and listen to Patricia coldly tell them how to ruin their lives and the lives of around themselves made Elspeth want to vomit and probably was traumatizing the children too. Patricia was her little girl and Elspeth felt Patricia, and by extension the people Patricia affected, were Elspeth's responsibility.
Just then, Elspeth noticed Ms. Carter looking at her. The teacher was looking at Elspeth calmly instead of watching Patricia with terror filled eyes like the rest of the class was doing.
"Speak," Elspeth said.
"As you command," Ms Carter said softly. "You are the one really controlling them, not her,"
"What?" Patricia replied, surprised at noticing a voice other than her own.
"Class, ignore Miss Carter until the bell rings," Elspeth said without turning around.
Patricia shook her head in confusion then resumed issuing commands that wouldn't be followed.
"I'm guessing you don't consider yourself part of the class," Elspeth said to Ms. Carter. "I'm Elspeth Gardner. I don't believe I caught your full name."
"I'm Melanie Carter. I'm pleased to speak to you." Both ladies smiled at the double meaning of the phrase.
"So Melanie, did you know I was in the room when you snatched that paper from my daughter?"
Melanie nodded. "I always told myself that if I wouldn't do something while somebody was watching, I shouldn't do it alone."
Elspeth nodded back. "What else have you figured out about me and my daughter?"
"I think you pick out her clothes."
Elspeth glanced back at the pretty blue dress her daughter was wearing. "What's wrong with her clothes?"
"It's a little girl outfit - pretty enough, but something a young lady struggling to establish her independence wouldn't be caught dead in."
"Patricia has it good living with me and shouldn't be struggling to do anything," Elspeth spat.
"As you command," Melanie replied and paused while she adjusted her thinking.
Elspeth sighed and said, "Melanie, reverse that last command."
"As you command," Melanie replied and added, "I would have to do that a lot if I wanted anybody to keep their own opinions for five minutes."
"What do you think I should do about Patricia?"
Melanie considered a moment and then said, "Next to nothing. When the bell rings, all of the people she issued individual commands to will be released from their seats and she will suffer the consequences of her actions."
"I can't do that," Elspeth said emphatically.
Melanie shrugged, "Either she starts taking her own consequences for her actions or you lock her down all the way and keep her a little girl in truth instead of letting her go the way she is going."
"I think that is a bit harsh," Elspeth said carefully as she fought the urge to snap a command at the young woman. "I thought teachers were supposed to be kind and gentle."
"I can be," Melanie replied, "but I think you respond best to blunt."
"Give me some time to think," Elspeth said as she grabbed a sheet of paper and started drafting potential commands.
"As you command," Melanie replied before grabbing her own piece of paper.
Some time later, Elspeth had filled several sheets with potential commands and crossed them all out.
"We have five minutes until the end of the class period," Melanie said gently.
"Shut up!" Elspeth snapped.
Melanie's mouth snapped shut with an audible snap, and then she slid the paper in front of her over to Elspeth.
Elspeth read the paper Melanie had written. She savagely wadded it up and threw it at the trash can. The paper sailed over the rim of the can and skittered across the floor. Elspeth walked over to the paper, threw it at the can a second time and again missed.
"You don't know her like I do," Elspeth howled in frustration before she kicked the trash can across the room.
Melanie didn't reply "as you command". Elspeth spun and glared at Melanie Carter suspiciously.
Melanie was sitting very quietly, with her head down, looking at her fingers interlaced in her lap. Elspeth felt the anger drain out of herself.
"Why are you sitting like that?" Elspeth said.
"Patricia does that whenever I scold her," Melanie replied. "She sits very still, and very quiet, and doesn't make eye contact."
For several minutes, the room was quiet except for the sound of Patricia rushing to finish issuing all of her prepared commands before the bell rang at the end of class. Melanie held her head-down position, praying silently and not daring to look up at the angry woman able to ruin her life with a single command. If Elspeth ordered her to suicide, would it still be a mortal sin? Would her priest refuse to give her last rights?
Then at one minute before the end of class, Elspeth walked across the room, picked up the paper and carefully unfolded it.