“Hey, Andrew,” I called, walking into my older brother’s room. Saturday had fled frighteningly fast. Today, Harriet had left at midday because her parents had cooked a roast dinner and I needed to finish my work.
“Hey,” he replied, sitting up - he had been lying down, perhaps napping, perhaps daydreaming of Elizabeth in the same way that I loved to daydream about Harriet.
“I’ve got something to ask you,” I told him, as I sat down opposite him.
“Fire away,” he said, smiling warmly.
“Well,” I said, my brow furrowing slightly. “It’s about the fact that Harriet’s my proprius. Should I be feeling ... clingy at all?”
“What d’you mean by ‘clingy’?” Andrew asked, frowning a little.
“Um, ... I miss her. A heck of a lot. Like ... after virtually no time has passed without her.”
“I don’t think that’s natural for anyone,” Andrew said dubiously. “I mean, ... much as I love Elizabeth, I never miss her to the point where I become distressed. Unless I’ve not seen her for something like a month. But it never gets to that stage.” He sat up a little straighter. “I hope you don’t reach the point where you’re addicted to her - space is healthy and it gets complex when you try to make someone spend every second with you.”
“I could reach that stage?” I asked, alarmed.
“I don’t know,” Andrew replied, shrugging. “It depends on how strong the clinginess is.”
My brow furrowed further down my face.
“It’s very strong.”
“Then perhaps you will. Become addicted.”
“What can I do to prevent it?” I asked, my voice barely above a murmur.
Andrew’s frown deepened.
“Consult a psychologist, maybe a psychiatrist... Or let a Captivator hypnotise you.”
“Psychiatrist?” I repeated. “I’m not ... mad, am I?”
“Mad’s not always bad, Arthur. Well, it is, in terms of health, but it doesn’t stop you being a good person. And it’s not always obvious if you are mad.”
“If I were, could you cure me by hypnosis?” I asked dubiously.
“No. I suggested the last thing in case you don’t like the idea of strangers studying your mind and being told you’re crazy. Captivators could stop the effects, I’m sure, but your thinking wouldn’t really be affected. And I certainly am not proposing to do it personally because this sort of thing seems like it would need a deeper knowledge of hypnotism than I possess. I’d suggest Ryan if you did want things changed.”
I winced. “He’d certainly make a good doctor.”
Andrew smiled wryly.
“Yes - he’s quite the scientist.” He frowned. “But you seem uncomfortable. What’s wrong?”
“Oh, ... I just don’t trust him, that’s all. I think ... the calm detachment he displays from time to time used to scare me as a child.”
Andrew’s frown grew. “You needn’t be distrustful of your own brother, Arthur.”
“I know... But ...” I hesitated. “But what if he does the opposite of what he’s meant to and turns me into a nutcase?”
Andrew snorted loudly.
“He wouldn’t do that, Arthur. Not to his own brother. Not with me around.”
Lightening up, I said, with mock gravity, “Ah. But we must remember that Henry is boss these days. And he hates my guts.”
Andrew chuckled. “I’ll be on hand to reverse any stray suggestions he gives you.”
I rose to my feet.
“Thanks, Andrew. I’ll go and see him now. I hoped I could count on you.”
“I’m offended you ever doubted me,” he replied.
I laughed as I left, though couldn’t suppress the nervousness that rose up in me as I thought again of the fact I might be mad.
Ryan looked surprised when I tentatively knocked on his door. He stood up, gestured for Sophia to remain seated on his bed and walked over to me as if there were something preventing me from crossing the threshold of his room.
“What’s up, Arthur?” he asked quietly, not wanting Sophia to get worried.
“I ... I need your help,” I told him, hoping that my anxiety wasn’t too evident in my tone.
“What with? Sophia’s here at the moment.”
“Well, ... I’ve been having problems with clinginess. And ... it could lead to some bad things. At least, that’s what Andrew said. So I want to be safe.”
“You want me to stop you being clingy?” he asked, one eyebrow shooting up his forehead.
“Yeah, if you would.” I pawed the ground with my foot, worried that Ryan would either laugh at me or hypnotise me without warning.
“Well, give me another hour with Sophia. Have you got some work you could be doing in the meanwhile?”
“I’ve got loads of that,” I murmured, relieved that he was taking me seriously.
“Well go and do it. I’ll come to your room when she’s gone. 'Kay?”
“Sure. Thanks... thanks a bunch, Ryan.”
Ryan came to my room when Sophia had gone.
He leaned against a wall as I turned in my desk chair to look at him.
“So why have you been worried about clinginess?” he asked, sounding a bit like a psychologist.
“It could overpower me,” I admitted, a little frightened now that he was in my room and probably about to hypnotise me. “I never imagined this would happen - Harriet’s the one desperate without me...”
“But you love her,” Ryan interjected. “And you loved her enough to make sure she couldn’t leave you. I’d think you were cruel if you thought you could leave her.”
“I don’t,” I assured him hastily. “But it’s distressing. And that hurts her.”
Ryan nodded slowly.
“So how d’you want me to go about doing this?”
I bit my lip anxiously and looked at the floor.
“Well, I talked to Andrew and he suggested ... hypnosis.”
Ryan was silent. I felt his eyes on me and looked up. He was frowning slightly.
“Arthur, you’re uneasy. You’ll probably resist me if I try to hypnotise you.”
I took a calming breath, but my heightened pulse failed to steady.
“But I don’t want my life to keep being a torture when I’m not around Harriet - and I don’t want to see some psychologist about this. You’re the most apt brother for this.”
“I don’t know,” Ryan said hesitantly. “You have a lot of control - I think that partially explains why you made Harriet your proprius. I don’t want to break that and take away who you are. You’d be worse off in that situation, I promise you.”
I swallowed hard.
“Are you saying you can’t help me at all?”
Ryan looked at me intently.
“No, no. I’m just trying to work this out.” He put his hands in his pockets. “Let’s sit on your bed.”
I moved over obediently. Ryan came to sit beside me.
“We all live our own little lives, don’t we?” he said thoughtfully. “Eight brothers, but all slightly disconnected. Apart from Shaun, Simon and Jack. They seem quite close.”
“I guess we were all born with a desire to be independent?” I said, though I didn’t really see what this had to do with curing me of potentially dangerous feelings.
“Maybe,” Ryan replied. “Or maybe we all got obsessed with our girlfriends.” He grinned. “Andrew with Liza, Matt with Zara, me with Sophia. When a Captivator loves, he loves intensely. And it might just be the death of us.”
I snorted, despite my nervousness.
“The death of us. That’s a bit extreme, isn’t it?”
Ryan remained serious.
“Depends how you interpret the word death, doesn’t it?”
“Look, Ryan, I’m sure you’ve picked up on something very interesting, but what I’d really like to know is whether you can help or not.”
“Well, ... what has actually made you worried? Because a bit of not wanting your girlfriend to go home when it’s time is quite ordinary.”
I thought back over my feelings of distress from the past few days.
“I... To be quite honest, I’ve wanted to kidnap her,” I confessed, looking at the floor and feeling the blood rush to my cheeks in embarrassment at telling this to Ryan. “And every time I leave her house, the level of pain is slightly disturbing.”
“You see her daily, don’t you?”
I smiled wryly.
“I try to. It’s for her sake, as well, since she’s my proprius. I know I could do damage if I restricted how much time we spent together.”
“Well, you need those restrictions for yourself, as well, Arthur. You can’t get addicted to a girl - not even your girlfriend.”
I blinked in surprise that Ryan had come out with the word ‘addicted’, that he had thought of the same thing as Andrew.
“Okay,” I said. “So, what d’you suggest?”
Ryan’s frown deepened.
“I don’t think you should see her every single day.”
I tensed. The thought made me very anxious.
“But Harriet...” And then I realised that I wasn’tsolelyanxious about Harriet. I buried my face in my hands. “This is bad, isn’t it?” I said through them.
“It might not be,” Ryan said carefully.
I lowered my hands.
“Okay,” I said, trying to sound braver than I felt. “So, not seeing her daily is one thing. Any other advice?”
“Hang out with other people. You’re still friends with Eric, right?”
“Oh, yeah,” I answered. “Though I’ve not talked to him in a while...”
“You’ve spent all your time with Harriet,” Ryan finished for me.
I looked at the floor again.
“Yeah,” I mumbled.
In the corner of my vision I saw him shrug.
“I think Sophia’s the only person I see other than you lot,” he said.
“But you’re not potentially addicted to her,” I pointed out, looking at him again.
“Well, I might be.” He smiled to himself.
“It’s not funny,” I told him, slightly annoyed at him. “Like you said, addiction is a problem.”
Ryan looked into my eyes.
“We’ll sort this out, Arthur.” His tone became gentler. “Would you give me your trust?”
I swallowed, nervous again. I didn’t know if I wanted to, even if it meant being more able to deal with being away from Harriet.
Ryan punched my shoulder gently, though his expression was kind.
“Come on, Mr Stubborn.”
“I ... You won’t take advantage, will you?”
Ryan rolled his eyes.
“What do I want from you, Arthur? Nothing. There’s no reason for me to exploit your suggestibility.”
I nodded slowly.
“What are you going to ... suggest?” I asked hesitantly.
Ryan thought for a moment.
“I’m going to try to calm things down a bit. I’ll probably suggest that you don’tneedto see Harriet every day to be happy and I’ll tell you not to feel an unhealthy amount of pain when you have to say goodbye to her at the end of spending time with her.”
I nodded again.
“I ... I think that sounds about right.”
Ryan gave a small smile, his brow furrowed.
“We’ll see, won’t we? If you notice anything strange afterwards, I’ll undo it.”
“Thanks, Ryan.” I felt myself relax.
“No problem, Arthur.”
I closed my eyes and imagined a polished orb of shining copper with the word ‘trust’ engraved around its middle. Still focusing on that picture, I opened my eyes and shook Ryan’s hand.
“D’you know, Henry did this with me only recently... Funny, that. Eyes or voice?”
I didn’t relish the thought of feeling like I was falling into Ryan’s eyes. But nor did I like the prospect of being entranced by listening to his voice, which would take longer. The problem with both forms of hypnosis was that you felt yourself submitting to the other person. And Captivators seemed to feel it more strongly: that ... give.
“Um, pendulum?” I suggested. It wasn’t faster but it would be easier to focus on an object than my own brother.
Ryan narrowed his eyes.
“Isn’t it enough that I’m letting you do this at all?”
Ryan sighed wearily.
“Fine. Where’s yours?”
“In the drawer in my desk,” I replied, slightly reluctantly. Submitting to my own instrument of trance-induction would make it even more uncomfortable.
Ryan stood up and walked over. He opened the drawer, rooted around until he found it and picked it out. He held it up and looked at it in the light from the window.
“You polish it,” Ryan said, amused.
“Can we just get on with this?” I asked, embarrassed.
Ryan turned to me.
“I don’t know - should I make it shinier for you?” he teased.
I glared at him.
Ryan grinned and came back to sit in the chair in front of my desk. He let the pendulum dangle from its chain. The silver metal glinted in the light from the window.
“Well, um, I’d give you instructions but you know what to do.”
I focused on the pendulum. Ryan started swinging the instrument. The movement was slow, rhythmic. I concentrated on the rhythm and the spiral pattern on the disc.
My mind cleared. I felt the rhythm and the spiral was like my sole reality, everything blurring around it.
Ryan clicked his fingers quietly and my conscious mind switched off.
I was passing Arthur’s room on the way to the kitchen for a drink and I saw the strangest thing... Ryan sat in his chair and he on his bed and Arthur... was in a trance. I stopped and watched, amazed.
“Arthur, you don’t need to see Harriet every day to be happy,” he commanded. I blinked. Was I hearing right? Ryan was suggesting that Arthur didn’t need to see Harriet to be happy? I wondered what had brought this on. Ryan continued, unaware of my presence: “Furthermore, when it’s time to say goodbye at the end of spending time with her, the sadness you feel will not be overwhelming. You will not be distraught by the prospect of being apart, though you may still miss her.”
Was Arthur having problems with Harriet’s effect on him? I found it ironic that he would have her utterly desperate for him by being his proprius and not long for her too much himself. ‘How can he say he loves her,’ I wondered bitterly, ‘if he’s not prepared to accept that he’ll yearn for her company when they’re apart?’
Before Ryan woke him up, I pushed the door open wider and said, “Maybe you could tell him to wake Harriet up from proprius mode.”
Ryan jumped and looked at me in shock.
“Henry! That’s out of order.”
I folded my arms.
“Isn’t what he did to Harriet out of order?”
“That’s his choice. I can’t believe you’d suggest controlling him like that.”
“Am I the only one who thinks what he did was utterly wrong?”
“No, I don’t think so at all. But what you’re suggesting is immoral too. You were thelastperson I’d imagine to think of that.”
I sighed crossly.
“I’m just angry at what he did.”
“Henry,” Ryan said, frowning. “There’s no justification for you suggesting that kind of suggestion for your brother.”
I didn’t reply, walking off, annoyed at everyone else's acceptance of Arthur's actions. ‘The rest of these thirty days is going to torture me,’ I thought despairingly.