You want this to work. At least that’s what you tell yourself, because you know that if, deep down, you have any reservations about it, it can’t work. You will yourself to want it.
“Sit here,” the hypnotherapist says. “Make yourself comfortable. Close your eyes. We’re going to start with some deep relaxation exercises.” He has you tense all your muscles, from your scalp down to the tips of your fingers and toes.
You try, but you can’t help wondering if there actually are tiny muscles in your scalp. You struggle to suspend your disbelief. You catch yourself trying to wiggle your ears, and that makes you laugh. You try to stifle the laugh. “Sorry,” you mumble, as if mumbling softly won’t break the spell. The spell of hypnosis feels like the surface tension in a raindrop, and you are the raindrop, about to fall. Possibly onto concrete. Concrete breaks surface tension. Not to mention bones.
“Just let yourself relax, bit by bit.”
Is that exasperation you hear in the hypnotherapist’s voice?
“Inhale slowly, to the count of five. One, two, three, four, five. Now exhale to the count of seven, and as you do that, I want you to let the tension float away from your head. Relax all the muscles in your face – your cheeks, your jaw, just let your mouth fall open…”
You stop short of letting your jaw fall open. You’ll catch flies. You hope that doesn’t spoil everything, but you’re not going to open your mouth, because that would feel too vulnerable. You press your lips together, but not in a vise grip of tightly pursed lips and clenched teeth. You will them to go soft and round, and you exhale through them as if you are blowing out a candle, making the tiny flame dance and flicker until the final, seventh second. Poof!
You repeat this until you grow bored and start to drift off to sleep in earnest. This, you could have done at home. You paid the hypnotherapist sixty dollars to keep you from falling asleep, and here you go. Boredom gets you every time.
“I want you to hold out your hands, palms up. Now imagine that there is a slender string tied to your left hand, and on the other end of the string, there is a helium balloon. That helium ballon is so big, so full, that it is lifting your hand slowly into the air…”
The balloon is blue. You don’t know why, but you feel compelled to fill in the details that the hypnotherapist has forgotten. On the side of the balloon, there is an imprint – a logo, perhaps. It’s a feather, trapped beneath a lead anvil. A pounded feather under a pound of lead.
“You are very relaxed. You let the balloon lift your hand up. In the other hand, you hold a small paperweight. It is made of lead. It is very, very heavy, and you have been holding it for such a long time. You cannot lift your right hand from the arm of the chair. Try to lift your hand… that’s good. Now I’m going to clip the string from your left wrist, and I want you to let go of the balloon. Just let it drift up and away…”
In fact, you let that stupid blue balloon go ages ago. You are standing atop the sea wall, now, surrounded by gulls. Sea grass has grown high around the stairs that lead down to the beach, and they are wisps in the warm breeze. You go down the steps slowly, deliberately, counting each in turn. With each step, you feel your body relaxing a little more, until your feet rest on the warm, dry, gritty, white sand dune that has swept up the first few stairs and leads you down towards the sparkling, azure water. Your toes curl in the sand, digging into its warmth. The sunlight winks atop the tiny, dancing wave crests. It would not be surprising, in the least, if a mermaid were to surface from the sea, riding bareback on a narwhal.
It might surprise the hypnotherapist, of course. Mermaids aren’t in the script. But the script is boring and guaranteed to put you to sleep, so you allow his voice to drone on in the background, something ridiculous about a hot tub on the beach – who the hell puts a hot tub on the beach? – and the fluffy white clouds above you, but you really wish the hypnotherapist would just shut up and chill with a margarita. You could conjure up a bikini-clad bartender for him, if only he’d imagine himself a personality.
That was unkind, but you know that you’re doing all the work and paying him sixty dollars just to rent a chair in an office and do your own imagining, so you figure he owes you that one. He’s still counting the damned stairs. What does he think you are, eighty-two? How long does it take to descend eight steps to the beach?
Just ahead, there is a long, low, rock promontory that stretches out into the sea. The gulls circle overhead, and crabs scuttle up the spray splashed rocks, their hard shells glistening in the sun. As you draw closer, you see that there is a large fissure in the rock, and curiosity impels you forward.
“There’s a lone seagull circling overhead, slowly circling…”
You slip into the crevasse and allow your eyes to adjust to the darkness. You pray the hypnotherapist doesn’t follow you into the cave and spoil the moment by droning on about blue skies, warm sand, and that lone seagull – how could he have missed the flock, squabbling on the beach, over a crab? Or the dozen or so circling the shrimp boat about half a mile off the coast? You conclude that the hypnotherapist is the dullest, most unobservant, unimaginative man on the planet, and that he ought to invest in better scripts.
You could write better scripts.
You wonder what the man would pay you to do it.
You fight that feeling of rising up, floating off the floor of the cave, hovering near the fluorescent office light that shouldn’t be in the cave at all. You are the opposite of the drowning man, struggling not to surface, not to break the surface tension of the lucid dream that is hypnosis, not to remember that there was ever a point to all this – no, no, no point, just sink and go with the flow – and you feel the cool splash of bio-luminescent water as the cenote opens up and draws you down, down, down where you can still, miraculously, breathe, but you can no longer hear that droning, monotonous soliloquy.
There was a point, you know. You struggle to remember what it was… There was a point when it all made sense; when the writing felt like play and you didn’t need to worry about paying rent or utilities or buying diapers. You shoo the thought, the very grown-up thought, and flip over so that you are diving deeper, into a place where the only light is a pure, white light at the end of the tunnel – the bottom of the cenote – and you blink to focus your eyes underwater…
It’s the narwhal. Waiting. Smiling.
You grab hold of his long, spiraled horn and pull yourself onto his back and it feels as if you’ve been riding narwhals since you were three years old. He pulls you both through a tunnel at the bottom of the cenote and back up, up, up through the brightening water, where you can see the sun’s rays filtering down on you like a radiant crown. You hold onto the narwhal with your knees, arch your back, fling wide your arms – just as you breach the surface in a triumphal leap.
In the distance, on the shore, you see yourself – smiling, waving, longing to be you. You laugh and disappear below the waves.
This is #11 for StoryADay May. It was inspired by a prompt that suggested writing in second person – which seems odd to some, but not to those who’ve ever played text based, “Adventure” style roleplaying games. Or listened to self-hypnosis recordings. I can’t help it – the usual visualizations bore me to sleep. Which is rarely a bad thing, really, since my dreams are so much more fun.