"Henry, it's me," called Andrew.
Henry sat bolt upright. "Damn. I didn't even tell you how we have to act."
He walked over to the door and opened it.
"Hey," he said.
I didn't understand how Andrew was involved.
He looked surprised to see me.
"Um, are you sure it's a good idea for her to be here?"
Henry nodded. "She's hypnotised so she won't mind."
What?! I was hypnotised? The jerk! I was prevented from saying anything, however, when a tall guy with medium brown hair and brown eyes walked in, followed by a slightly timid-looking girl with long dark hair, tanned skin and wide brown eyes.
Henry followed him, frowning slightly.
"Um, hey Michael," he said.
The guy nodded. "So you wanted to see a proprius?"
"Pretty serious stuff. Are you ready for one?"
"Oh, I was just seeing if I wanted one. Hey, look, why don't I go and fetch some chairs. Harriet, do you want to come with me?"
I followed him, hoping for a chance to bite his head off. As soon as we left the room, though, Henry said, "I was lying about hypnotising you. You have to act like you don't mind too much what Michael's done to his girlfriend. I had to pretend I was interested so I could introduce you to one."
"Oh well thanks for telling me this earlier(!)" I said, but deep down, I was relieved.
We walked downstairs to get some chairs from the kitchen. We were very lucky to yet again avoid Arthur, seeing as this mansion was his home too.
When we got back to Henry's room, we found Michael looking out the window and the girl with her eyes averted. We put the chairs down and sat on the bed.
Michael sat and said to his girlfriend, "You can sit too." There seemed to be little warmth in his tone.
The girl sat, keeping her eyes lowered to the floor. I had a sudden feeling that I didn't want to know what a proprius was, after all.
"Um, so," Henry said nervously. "Do you mind if it's like an interview?"
Michael shook his head. "If that's how you want to find out about what a proprius is, go ahead. Incidentally, how much do you know?"
He seemed to be talking only to Henry, the way Henry was only talking to him.
Henry looked slightly pale as he replied, "I know they're not hypnotised, but they're slaves and they're totally in love with their owner."
I was shocked. How could one person own another? And, moreover, why was Henry telling me about this? I tried my best to keep my face as blank as possible while shaking with fear and shock inside.
Michael nodded. "That's right. Although, when you say ‘not hypnotised', a little suggestion is used before they become a proprius, but the most effective method of changing someone into one uses as little as possible. It's considered quite an achievement if you use less than a certain amount, since to be honest, who wants to be a proprius?"
He laughed, showing the first real emotion since he'd come in. I tried not to scream.
Henry laughed nervously, looking worried too.
Michael glanced at me briefly. I tried to remain motionless and expressionless.
"Is this the girl you were considering making your proprius?"
Henry looked at me, obviously thinking about how I'd react to his answer.
"No," he replied.
I just couldn't bear even thinking of Harriet becoming a proprius, especially not mine.
Michael looked slightly puzzled.
"She's ... a toy," Henry lied. Under normal circumstances, I would have slapped him but here and now, I recognised his need to keep up an act.
Michael smiled. It was a dark and chilling smile. "Well, you are a surprising character. Andrew tells me he was amazed when you approached him, but I wouldn't put this past you personally."
"I ... like the secrecy," Henry said. I could almost feel his uneasiness, an addition to the cold atmosphere of the room.
Michael's smile grew wider. I wished it would go away. "Many do. It just teaches people to trust no one."
Oh, he was diabolical. It was terrifying. Like having a tea party with someone who wanted to eat your soul.
"C-can I ask some questions now?" Henry asked.
Michael appeared not to notice the stutter and nodded.
"Er... could you ... demonstrate your power over her - your proprius, I mean?"
Michael laughed. "So you're one of the power-hungry ones, are you?"
Henry nodded. I could tell he was fighting the urge to run, like I was.
Michael turned to face the girl. "Anna," he said, running the back of his finger down her cheek. She shivered but it looked like it was from delight rather than disgust or fear.
"Would you... terribly mind being my footstool?"
Anna stood up wordlessly and got on her hands and knees. She crouched under Michael and supported his feet. Michael looked relaxed, as if he was greatly enjoying himself.
I felt sorry for this poor girl who was being exploited by the one she was in love with. The poor, poor child... How old was she? Arthur's age at the least. I tried to blink away tears.
Henry looked traumatised.
"H-how did you meet?" he asked quietly, as if he didn't really want to know.
"Oh, well, she was at the school dance and she came up to me, and she shyly asked, ‘Would you dance with me?'. She's so wonderfully pretty, as you can see, and I bowed, which made her blush and I said, ‘Madam, it would be an honour.' She looked flattered and as we swirled around the ballroom floor, I swept her off her feet by giving her the most amazing compliments ... about her eyes, her hair, her dress, her figure, the confidence she'd shown in asking me to ask me to dance and at the end of it, she was positively lovestruck. I had of course used my charm as a Captivator as well as my power to make her more charmed. I got her to tell me exactly what would make her fall deeper in love with me, encouraged her to share her deepest secrets with me. In the end, she just couldn't leave me because she was obsessed. She trusted only me and she loved only me - she even forgot about her family, the poor child - and in the end, making her a proprius was just the natural thing to do."
I felt sickened by this evil, twisted teenager who had probably broken this girl completely.
"And," gulped Henry, "how did you do that?"
"It wasn't hard," Michael said, wearing that horrible smile. "I told her she was nothing, she repeated; I told her she was nothing without me, she repeated, and then I told her that she'd do anything for me and that she'd always feel this way and that she'd willingly give me servitude in exchange for my love which she couldn't live without. She repeated and she fell to her knees and I knew I'd conquered her."
I couldn't stand it anymore. I ran outside the room, slumped down with my back against the wall and began to sob. A few minutes later, Michael walked out, frowning slightly, followed by the poor girl, and Henry was saying, "Thank you. That was very ... insightful."
I ran inside, still crying and hugged him, not because I liked him particularly but because I'd go insane if I didn't have some support.
"Sh, sh, it's over now," he said, rubbing my back but from the way his voice shook, I could tell he was distraught too.
"W-why would you show me such a thing? I know it's wrong to turn a blind eye and all that but I doubt you're going to ask me to help you stopping girls being propriuses or whatever the plural for that blasted word is, nor even to attempt the prevention of the creation of propriuses."
"I ... wanted to stop ... one," he said slowly. He sat down on the bed and beckoned for me to sit beside him.
He looked me straight in the eyes. "You don't believe I'd show you something like that without great concern that something similar may happen, do you? You don't believe I'd be that cold and actually want to witness something like that over something trivial?"
"No," I said, shaking my head. Henry may have been evil when he hypnotised me but I didn't believe he was that evil. We'd had quite a nice conversation before this had happened.
"Do you promise you don't believe that? That you would never believe that of me?"
I had half a mind to say that if she did, she deserved what was coming to her.
I shook my head.
Henry took a deep breath before saying, "I have strong reason to believe that Arthur wants to do that to you."