Chapter 18

At the dining table, Michael appeared to be conversing warmly (if he was capable of warmth) while Jack was talking excitedly to his mum about all the things he'd done/ seen/ achieved in her absence. My stomach clenched at the sight of Anna, sitting silently, eyes towards Michael but gaze unfocused. I tried to remember how comfortable I'd felt earlier, when Arthur had almost taken my will, but the memory wouldn't come properly and instead my mind conjured up an awful scene of icy blues fixed upon mine and Arthur asking "Harriet, would you ... terribly mind being my footstool?" As I sat down beside him, I wondered how at any point I could feel safe around him, and dare to kiss him when each moment I spent with him could be the last where I had free will.

Arthur seemed to notice my nervousness and stroked my hand soothingly underneath the table. Henry entered the room and I was suddenly overwhelmingly relieved. He wouldn't let Arthur make me his proprius.

I had a sudden desire for Henry to be around every time I was with Arthur.

Henry took his place on my other side and smiled at me, as if to say ‘Everything's going to be all right'. I smiled back and hoped to convey my immense gratitude.

"So what's your name?" I heard Jack ask. Everyone froze. He was addressing Anna.

I noticed Michael subtly tap Anna's arm. She instantly blinked. Her eyes focusing on Jack, she smiled and replied "I'm Anna. How about you?"

"Jack," he told her, appearing not to have noticed anything out of the ordinary. Arthur's parents breathed quiet sighs of relief, Michael smiled at Arthur's dad and Arthur looked amused.

"Silly Jack," he murmured.

I looked at him questioningly. My own reaction had been to swallow hard anxiously. I couldn't for the life of me see what was funny.

Arthur smiled at me, unashamed to be amused.

"Well, he nearly dropped himself right in it," he explained.

Slightly disgusted I turned to Henry. His expression was grim.

"They shouldn't have let Jack join us," he muttered. "And they certainly shouldn't be associating with people like Michael."

I rubbed his arm comfortingly. "At least it's only one meal."

Henry smiled at me. "Thanks Harry."

I suddenly had a burning question. Pausing momentarily, I braced myself before asking "Are all proprii so...?" I searched for the right word but couldn't find it.

"Lifeless?" Henry asked, his expression once again becoming grim.

I nodded.

Henry sighed. "No," he replied.

Surprised, I asked "No?"

Henry shook his head. "Some Captivators like them to be able to blend in with other people. Heck, one of your friends could be someone's proprius and you wouldn't know about it." He sounded like he was quoting something as he added "You only know what the Hypnos People want you to know."

Overhearing Henry, Michael said "I love that quote."

All at once, the entire table's attention was fixed on him.

Michael casually leant across and clicked his fingers in front of Jack's face. Shockingly, Jack's head slumped forwards, his eyes closed. He was evidently in a trance.

Michael glanced at Mr Mesmerising as he leant back.

"You don't mind, do you?"

"Don't be silly," he said, waving a hand dismissively as if the hypnotism of his son was the most natural thing in the world.

Arthur's mum looked almost fascinated by Michael. "Do you have a job?" she asked.

Michael laughed. "Me? I'm barely out of school."

"Would you like to work for us?"

"It pays well," Arthur's dad added.

Michael looked touched. I do believe it was the first human emotion I'd ever seen him show. I was surprised that he could manage it.

"Caroline, Ralph, ... I'd be honoured."

Henry looked appalled. I felt great sympathy for him. He and I had both been terrified by the sudden entrancement of Jack. And I already knew how much he disliked Michael after the events of September.

"Sorry," I whispered.

"Don't worry about it," Henry murmured, swallowing hard.

I was stunned by Arthur's indifference to the whole affair. Unlike me, he hadn't flinched as Michael had hypnotised his youngest brother, nor had he cringed at his mother's proposition. Didn't he care?

I refocused on the conversation as Mrs Mesmerising said "Well, the dinner table is not the place to discuss business. What were you about to say?"

Michael smiled, his evil, chilling smile and at once I forgot how human he had looked seconds ago.

"I was about to continue that quote was saying. The one about how the Hypnos People control humans more than even the ones who know of us realise. You only know what the Hypnos People want you to know. You only see what they want you to see. You only feel what they want you to feel and your dreams are only untouched when your subconscious doesn't hold their secrets.' It really rings true."

I trembled. Henry looked pale. Arthur looked serious, intense even, and his parents were beaming.

"Do you know any more?" Arthur's mum asked.

Michael's smile widened. "The words are inspiring. Let me think."

At this moment, the chef walked in, carrying a tray of silver platters. Before us were laid these covered dishes and glorious smells pervaded the room.

As the chef disappeared, we lifted the lids and helped ourselves to the various components of a traditional Sunday roast.

"I have another," Michael announced as we tucked into the flavoursome meat, the soft yet crunchy Yorkshire puddings, the roast potatoes whose taste was like warmth in the mouth, the delicious vegetables (with those sweet-tasting honey-glazed parsnips and that sugar-like sweet-corn), all covered with that thick, satisfying gravy which contained mushrooms and slices of onion...

I've never been good at describing taste but what I can say is that that food was divine.

"Pray tell," Mrs Mesmerising said.

I had almost ignored Michael as my taste buds had sung and the meal had relaxed and delighted me, but now I stiffened and felt a chill as we awaited the next awful quote.

"‘Humans are there for a Captivator's enjoyment." Already, Arthur's parents looked enthralled. A small part of me recognised slight power in Michael's tone, though I wasn't sure whether it was hypnotic power or the power that some great actors and public speakers naturally possess. Michael was continuing. "We may pet them, abuse them and exploit them as we please." Arthur's parents nodded in agreement. Could Hypnos People hypnotise other Hypnos People, I suddenly wondered.

"If they are dissatisfying, they will suffer the consequences, ... will suffer our wrath.'"

"Hear, hear," Arthur's mum murmured.

And suddenly, I could picture thousands of screaming people running away from a pair of cold brown eyes... The world went black.

The End

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