In synchronised silence, Alex and J moved swiftly through the swing doors, J pointed to Alex then at the office, then indicated his own chest he gestured towards the computer. Each set off on their separate missions. J moved stealthily and clicked the computer mouse. When it brought on screen what the Librarian had last been looking at, he shook his head at her casualness in not locking the computer when she stepped away, while being hugely grateful that she hadn’t! An inventory page loaded, she was in the process of placing an order for more books – nothing very surprising there. What had she minimised in the toolbar? A database of student names & their library pass codes, a timetable of classes using the Library for study sessions and internet explorer. What had she been researching on the internet? Opening it, he felt a jolt of excitement: hypnotists! She‘d been researching hypnotism in its many forms.
Just then J heard the squeak of the back office door as it swung open. Immediately he ducked low and sidled away from the desk. He didn’t straighten up till he was safely between two bookshelves crammed with paperbacks and hardbacks, all neatly ordered by category. He could hear Alex talking, but in that low voice people use in libraries, so J had no idea what he was saying.
When the Librarian moved in his direction, her sensible shoes made a faint squeak on the parquet floor. J grabbed a random book off the crowded shelf. He took it over to her, fishing his library card out of his inside blazer pocket as he walked.
The Librarian tapped a few keys and moved the mouse. The printer sprang to life and whirred until a piece of paper came out. As she turned away to grab it, Alex delivered J a subtle wink.
“Thank you Miss. I’m sure my Library card is somewhere at home, but you’ll save my bacon if I can get some study books out for tonight.”
“This is valid for one week.” She observed him sternly over her glasses. “If you haven’t found your card by then, you had better see me to arrange a replacement.”
Alex took the temporary pass. She turned her attention to J, who proffered his book. As she entered the reference code she looked at him rather strangely – he kept his face blank. Not until they were a way down the corridor did he look at the book’s title. He burst out laughing, “Lacemaking Through the Ages”. No surprise she wondered why he needed that!
“What did you find out?” J asked Alex.
They were walking briskly, urgently needing to retrieve books from their lockers for afternoon lessons.
“Not much really. Too many posters & flyers obstructing the glass panels.” He shook his head. “She did look furtive. I saw her putting a big jar of pills into her handbag. Which, by the way, also looks like something from a museum! What did you find?”
“We may be onto something – she’d been researching hypnotism on the internet. I’ll run the same search at home tonight and see if I can get a bit more info.”
J could tell Alex was impressed, but before they could talk more the bell rang, summoning them back to class.
When he got home from school, J was greeted by his sister Lulu, excitedly flapping a pink postcard at him.
“What’ve you got there Lulu?”
“A party invitation. MY PARTYYYYY!” she squealed and twirled round making her checked summer dress flare out like a bell.
J took the invitation from her hand to read.
“So Lulu, karaoke AND a clown?”
“Yes J. And there will be balloons and dancing and a Disney Princess cake.”
“Wow! Lucky you. Will you give the invitations out to your friends at school tomorrow?”
“Mmm hmm.” She followed him out to the kitchen and watched him make a sandwich.
“Can I have a milkshake please J?”
He reached up to get a glass, then filled it with milk and added spoonfuls of strawberry powder. As he stirred it he looked at his little sister, at her thick blonde plaits and grey blue eyes, noticing an air of sweet innocence. He handed her the glass and she padded off down the hall, silent in white cotton socks. Seconds later he heard the blurt of the television as his sister settled down to watch cartoons.
J made himself a drink and took his sandwich upstairs. Passing his Dad’s study door he pushed it open. His Dad sat at the computer, but he wasn’t writing; he was drinking coffee and scrolling on his phone – it was OK to interrupt.
“How’s it going? Did you get much written today?”
“Yes. I had a bit of a breakthrough actually, I got a lot done. How about you? School good?”
“Er – guess so.”
J flicked his fringe out of his eyes. He didn’t feel like sharing details of the recent weirdness with his Dad. Change of subject required.
“Lulu’s party sounds cool Dad.”
“I hope so. She wanted something none of her friends had done, and I saw the clown-guy’s card in the newsagent’s window. You might know him actually – he goes to your school. Danny something – Randall is it?”
His Dad looked at him expectantly.
“Oh yeah. Does drama, year 12.” J nodded his head, he’d seen Danny in some school plays.
Biting into his sandwich he moved off to his room. The dog got up from under his Dad’s desk and, having stretched followed J and his sandwich.
J opened his laptop, eating while he waited for his desktop to populate with various icons. He chucked his crusts to the drooling dog, who caught them mid-air, then typed ‘Hypnosis’ into Google, checking Wikipedia first.
- Hypnosis is a state of human consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness and an enhanced capacity to respond to suggestion. The term may also refer to an art, skill, or act of inducing hypnosis.
- Theories explaining what occurs during hypnosis fall into two groups. Altered state theories see hypnosis as an altered state of mind or trance, marked by a level of awareness different from the ordinary conscious state.
J conceded that both Laurie & Katie seemed to be in an altered state of mind, blanking out their friends and exhibiting reduced emotional responses. What puzzled him was how the Librarian was doing it, and for what purpose?
He stroked the dog’s head absently. It snuffled around his desk hoping for more food, then plodded back down the hall to curl up on the dog bed in his Dad’s study. As J clicked on more links he learned that hypnotism did not require the ‘subject’ to be sent to sleep. There were also more subtle ways to hypnotise than swinging a pendulum in front of someone’s eyes. In fact it could work on the power of suggestion, and a normal conversation peppered with key command words could be used to trigger ‘mental obedience’.
J printed off the most relevant passages to show to Alex tomorrow, then he cracked open his books and started on his German translation homework.
[To be continued]