[mc, mf, fd, hy]
((The following was written as a result of The Iron Writer XVIII Challenge hosted at The Garden of MC, where one had to come up with a tale concept that involved the use of a needle and a hat. Just a sketch of the plot would suffice but I couldn’t settle for that and so I fully developed the idea I had at the time. This is the end result. Enjoy it if you will.))
When Brenda got home that night, her mother immediately knew something was wrong by the way she turned the key in the lock. Whenever she was happy, it was customary for her to execute a rapid movement to open the door far and wide, driven by the anxiety of sharing the good news and spreading the joy. On the contrary, when she was sad and depressed, the key would turn very slowly, lingering for a few seconds before causing the hinges to squeak.
Now, this may seem a simple, little detail to you but Gloria was the kind of woman that perceived them all, always attentive to the small things in life we usually consider to have no importance whatsoever, especially when it came to the well-being of her only daughter. The moment she recognized the sound of imminent disgrace, she jumped from her seat and hurried towards the door.
Gloria found Brenda sitting in the stairs that led to the guest bedrooms, her eyes watery, auburn hair wet and dripping and soft make-up all blurred. Her clothes were also a mess, especially her red skirt and matching shoes whose beauty was now tainted with mud.
“Oh, my dear… what happened?!” asked the late-fifties woman as she sat down next to her daughter. “Didn’t the date with Jonathan go the way you expected to?”
“You can say that…” Brenda sobbed in reply.
“I’m here if you want to talk about it but may be we should get you out of those soaked and dirty clothes, first…”
“No… I… I’d rather do it now if you don’t mind…” she said as she wiped her tears in the best way she could.
“Of course… Tell me what happened, then!”
“There was no date, tonight. When I got to the restaurant, there was another woman sitting next to him… Though pretty dressed and such, she was nothing but a trashy blonde with fake boobs and she was whispering things in his ear in a sultry way as if they were lovers for a very long time. The moment I reached the table and asked what the hell was going on, Jonathan simply looked at me disdainfully and said he was with the one he truly adored and that I was ancient history, now. I believe his last words were ‘You can go back to where you came from, you stupid tramp!’ Can you imagine my shock when he said that, loud and clear so everyone could hear? For a moment or so, I thought about grabbing a fork and stick it in one of his hands but I did nothing but turn my back on them and leave… On my way back home, it started raining cats and dogs and some stupid truck driver almost ran me over… Luckily, only my clothes suffered the damage but that’s okay. I feel stupid and dirty, anyway…”
“That son of a bitch!” yelled the enraged mother. “He always seemed so nice whenever he came over. I can’t believe he had the guts to do this to you!”
“I still can’t believe either but what can I do about it now?”
“I don’t think you can do anything, my dear. But I sure can!” responded Gloria as she got up and walked steadily into the living room. Brenda followed her.
“What’s that supposed to mean, mother?”
“Oh, you’ll find out soon enough… tell me, didn’t he leave something of his the last time he was here?” she asked as she reached for a black box sitting atop the mantelpiece.
“Yes, I think so… one of his favourite hats, why?”
Gloria opened the box and removed something from inside it but at the time her daughter failed to grasp what it was. Without looking back, the older woman spoke again:
“Will you be so kind to get it for me, please?”
Brenda didn’t move, somewhat confused by what was going on and made that perfectly clear.
“I’m not following you at all, sorry! Why do you need his hat? What exactly are you going to do?”
Gloria glanced at her, an emerald needle in her right hand and answered in a quite chilly tone:
“Give him a lesson, of course!”
“With Grandma’s old needle she brought from Africa all those years ago and a hat?! Now, I’m even more puzzled than before…”
“I’ll explain everything as soon as you bring me the hat, promise! Indulge me, sweetheart!”
“I think it’s in my bedroom. I’ll go get it, then!” retorted Brenda and left the room, not knowing what to think anymore. It didn’t take her more than two minutes to return holding a white cowboy hat she immediately handed over to her mother.
“Now, about that explanation…”
Gloria cleared her throat before looking her in the eyes.
“What I’m going to tell you now was only revealed to me by your grandmother when she was on her death bed. She told me that all objects have a sort of psychic connection to the people that use them in their daily lives. Kind of like ‘memories’ if you will. Imprints of the experiences lived by the users are forever linked to them and even though objects don’t ‘talk’ there are ways to access those imprints and take advantage of what they have to offer. This needle here is capable of establishing such a link and it was given to your grandmother by a powerful tribal chief she met in the two years she spent working at a campaign hospital in one of the poorest regions of the world. It was a sign of gratitude for saving his life and she kept it religiously ever since, only resorting to its powers whenever needed. I never used myself ever since she died but today I will…”
“Wait a minute… object’s ‘memories’ and psychic connections using a needle? What kind of nonsense is that, mother? Are we talking about… witchcraft? Something like Voodoo?!!” interjected Brenda, now starting to worry about her sanity.
“Not quite… it’s something even older whose true name has been lost in Time but there are some similarities so, for the sake of clarity, I think you can use that word. This hat has a lot of Jonathan linked to it and with this needle I can reach him wherever he is and give him just a little bit of pain for what he did to you tonight! You and I both know he deserves it!”
“You’re serious, aren’t you? You really believe that…”
Gloria sat down on a leather sofa, her face still showing the same signs of candour, but this time intertwined with a tiny little hint of mischievousness.
“Of course I do. Your grandmother wouldn’t have told me the story if it weren’t true. I’ve held this needle in my hand countless times and whenever I touch an object with it, I can sense things that are beyond the invisible, the countless threads that connect everything in this world. Do you want to hold it yourself and feel them, too?”
“No… I… I… really don’t think so… I’m sorry but that’s just too much information for me to process at the moment.”
“I understand but I’m still going to use it, Brenda. Nobody plays with my daughter heart like that!”
There was no point in trying to dissuade her so she young girl just shrugged her shoulders and muttered:
“Fine, if you think you must… but don’t get too carried away, okay?”
“Of course, my dear. You can trust me, you know that!”
Gloria’s eyes glimmered as she placed the hat in her lap and prepared to stab it with the needle.
* * *
Meanwhile, in a hotel bedroom not very far away, Jonathan was involved in something unlike anything he had ever experienced before for he was kneeling, naked, his eyes seeing only a pair of black patent ankle high kitten heel boots he had been instructed to clean using nothing but his tongue.
He didn’t really want to do it but he just couldn’t help himself as the blonde woman with the crystal pendant had made perfectly clear when she ransacked his thoughts for the first time, outside the subway station. A couple of hours earlier, she was nothing more than a stranger sitting in front of him and occasionally giving him a smile or two. Now, she owned his mind and body. She was in complete control and he had to obey her orders just like he had done so at the restaurant, when he was coerced into shamefully sending Brenda away for her satisfaction alone.
“That’s it, my entranced pet!” she cooed as he respectfully carried out her instructions. “That pleases me so much and you know that when I’m pleased, your frail little intellect is pleased as well. Feel the bliss coursing through your veins, completely filling your brain with…”
“Ouch!” he screamed in protest as his head suddenly felt the effects of a very sharp pain that had come out of nowhere. Roxanne – for that was the hypnodomme’s true name – looked down at him, visibly displeased.
“Excuse me?!! What do you think you’re doing, slave?”
“I’m sorry, Mistress…” he begged. “It’s just that suddenly I felt this horrible ache and… Oh, my God it’s happening again!” and he instinctively placed both hands on his temples as he sought to understand what exactly was going on.
Showing no mercy at all, Roxanne took the opportunity to kick him in the back, as angry words spew out of her angry lips.
“Are you trying to play games with me? Trying to resist my control? You know you can’t! You’re mine and you’ll do whatever I want. Quit your whining and get back to work! I want my boots clean and I want it, now!”
Against his wishes, Jonathan’s tongue prepared to resume the abject devotion but never made it to the destination. Another violent wave of hurt had him crying and almost convulsing on the ground, such was its intensity. Half a dozen times he felt as if his brain was being pierced by invisible metal wires, each consecutive blow threatening to cause his body to collapse for good. Simultaneously, and without any apparent explanation, he also felt a huge weight being removed from his soul.
In the meantime, Roxanne’s fury subsided and she didn’t do anything noteworthy except watch his bewildering episode take place until it was finally over and he was breathing normally again. She had never seen anything like that happen before and wasn’t sure what to make of it. The aftermath was something she couldn’t have predicted, either.
“Finish your chore, servant!” she ordered, dangling the pendant used to ensnare him.
“Servant?!!” cackled Jonathan. “Who do you think you’re calling that to, blonde bitch? I don’t see any servants around here!”
“You’re aware?” Roxanne asked in amazement.
“Oh, yes. And quite pissed, too!” he confessed as he rose and brutally swiped the pendant from her hand. “So this is what you used to mess up with my brain, right?” he glimpsed the open window to his right and, in a fraction of a second, the crystal was already flying across the bedroom, out of the bedroom and plunging into the depths of night. “Oops, there goes your little trinket! You know, I’m not the kind of guy that likes to beat women up but in your case I think I can open an exception.” He clenched his fists and felt quite a rush when he noticed the panic in her eyes.
Knowing she was no match for him in a physical confrontation, Roxanne instantly dropped the arrogant attitude and backed away from him.
“Please, don’t… I… I know what I did was wrong but there’s really no need for that…”
“You honestly think so? I remember everything you had me say and do, you worthless skank!”
Roxanne continued moving away from him as he approached her at an unnerving slow and steady pace. He was blocking the door so if she wanted to get away, she would have to go through him and that sure wasn’t going to happen unless she had some secret weapon of sorts.
Unfortunately for him, she did. A moment of distraction allowed her to open her purse and pick up a small canister of Oleoresin Capsicum, commonly known as ‘pepper spray’. The chemical compound went straight into his eyes and face causing disorientation and temporary blindness. Roxanne seized the moment to run for the exit and he never saw her again.
Alone in the bedroom, his eyes still burning, Jonathan washed his face and Brenda came to mind. He had to go see her in person and try to explain everything, even though she would most likely not believe a word. Hell, he probably wouldn’t if it were the other way around! But still, she was far too important to him and their relationship couldn’t come to an abrupt end like that. No way! He got dressed, grabbed the cell-phone lying on the carpet and ran to her house as fast as he could, hoping there was still time to make amends.
* * *
Brenda stepped out of the shower feeling a bit more relaxed but still haunted by some lingering thoughts of the things that had transpired earlier. The story about the powers of the emerald needle didn’t make a lot to sense to her but whenever her mother was so adamant about something it really was no best not to try to engage in a logical debate as she would always find counter-arguments, no matter how absurd they would sound.
Within the heat of the hair dryer she sought for complete peace of mind and the strength to get over Jonathan as soon as possible, the warm air all around her working as a balm to her mental wounds. The story was far from over though and she discovered just that when she heard the frantic knocks on the front door.
Gloria was the one to answer to them first, offering Jonathan a very bitter expression and words of disdain that were practically spat:
“You have some nerve coming here once again, young man! Crawl back to your hole and leave us alone!”
“Hello, Mrs. Higgins…” he said, having a hard time to breathe for he had been running for over fifteen minutes non-stop and he wasn’t much of an athlete. “I’m guessing Brenda told you what happened tonight but I need to talk to her so I can explain everything…”
“I’m pretty sure she doesn’t want to talk to you, Jonathan!”
“She’s right.” said Brenda from the top of the stairs. “I don’t. Go now and don’t ever come back!”
“Please…” he implored. “You have to understand that the things I said and done to you weren’t really my ideas at all. I was forced into treating you so badly. That woman you saw… she… she hypnotized me or something as I was leaving the subway station to go to the restaurant and then she started messing with my emotions. She asked me all sorts of questions about my personal life I couldn’t help but answer and then she decided she wanted to humiliate me by acting out like a complete jerk in front of my girlfriend… Brenda, I know how ridiculous this must sound right now, but you have to believe me! I’m telling you the truth, cross my heart!”
“You’re right, Jonathan. It sounds ridiculous because it is ridiculous!” she exclaimed as she was descending the stairs with the sole purpose of shutting the door in his face. “At least, you could have tried to come up with a proper excuse instead of all that mumbo-jumbo about hypnosis and whatnot!”
“But it happened! She had this crystal pendant that made me feel drowsy and then it was if I was a passenger inside my own body. I couldn’t do anything other than what she wanted me to and after you left, we went to this hotel and I… I had to do other things I’m not so proud of… Luckily enough, I was able to escape her control and when that happened I came here immediately… Please, Brenda! Please… you know I love you and if you dare to look me in the eyes, you’ll realize I’m being completely honest!”
Gloria looked at her daughter and then back at Jonathan, clearly intrigued by the tale. She was the one to stare him in the eyes whilst rubbing the emerald needle in one of his hands.
“Goodbye, Jonathan!” said Brenda about ready to close the door.
“Wait!” exclaimed her mother, her body tingling with something she had felt. “As strange as it may seem, I don’t think you should be so dismissive about his narrative. Jonathan, if indeed you’re telling the truth as you claim and you were under the influence of that woman all along, how exactly did you break free from her clutches? How did the mind and body control come to an end?”
Jonathan took a deep breath before answering:
“To be perfectly honest, Mrs. Higgins… I have no idea! All I know is that suddenly I started experiencing some violent headaches like… like…” he looked at the needle. “… like someone was sticking one of those in my brain over and over again. The pain was excruciating but when it was over, I had regained my ability to think on my own. It was a horrible thing to go through but also a marvellous one because it delivered me from a life of servitude I sure didn’t want and that’s really the best explanation I have to offer.”
“I see.” said Gloria. “You know, Jonathan. I actually believe you and I think you should come inside, now.”
“Mother, what are you doing?” asked Brenda, dumbfounded. “You’re not suggesting that…”
“I’m not suggesting anything. I know what happened because I saw it just now! We were unfair to him this whole time. Jonathan really isn’t to blame for any of the things that transpired tonight.”
“Hmmm… not that I’m not grateful for that sudden change of heart, Mrs. Higgins but I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something I’m missing here…” he declared as he walked inside and the door was closed behind him.
“Indeed you are but I’ll tell you all about it in the living-room. Brenda, my dear, come along too, please. After all, this is in your best interest, too…”
And so the three of them sat on a comfortable sofa, with Gloria talking about the origin of the needle and all the supernatural vibrations it could register and interact with. The sceptical daughter was convinced when she was given the object and used it to touch Jonathan’s hand ever so slightly. For a brief moment, she shared his memories and the feeling was overwhelming.
“So, let me get this straight…” said the young man when the account of the events was finally over. “You used this needle and that hat of mine over there to give me those headaches, Mrs. Higgins?”
“Guilty as charged. After all, you had just hurt my daughter and so I wanted you to feel some pain in return as well. At the time, I had no idea of the predicament you were involved with and I’m sorry if I got myself carried away.”
“Wow… and here I was thinking my story was strange! I was wondering if you could give me a small demonstration…”
“Of course.” She picked up the cowboy hat once more and inserted the needle on it very gently to avoid causing him great discomfort. The bodily throbbing was instant and whatever doubts he had left, quickly vanished.
“Oh, my God! It really works! Oh, how I would like to use that thing to punish that filthy whore that tried to make me her slave!”
“If you brought anything of her with you when you left the hotel room, perhaps we can do something about it…” suggested Gloria, she too very interested in the idea of a well-deserved revenge.
“Unfortunately, I got nothing.” he sighed. “She took everything when she ran out the door after hitting me with the pepper spray.”
“That’s a shame!”
Their conversation was abruptly interrupted by the sound of a cell phone ringing a melody that was unbeknownst to all of them. The sound was coming from the inside pocket of Jonathan’s jacket.
“Did you change your ringtone?” asked Brenda.
“No. I always use the default setting. That’s strange…” he got up to rummage his belongings and grabbed the phone. The screen flashed blue as the device kept on ringing. He wasn’t familiar with the number so he withheld the call and then scrolled through the contact list. Everything was wrong.
“This isn’t my cell!” he exclaimed. “It’s the same model as mine but it’s definitely someone else’s. I’m guessing it’s hers and they got mixed up in the confusion.”
“Oh, but that’s just wonderful news!” chuckled Gloria. “Jonathan, I know you’re the main victim around here but I would be forever grateful if you would allow me to be the one to use the needle against her for making Brenda sad.” She held her right hand. “Can I have it, please?”
“I don’t see why not.” he replied, handing over the newfound weapon of retribution. “If you don’t mind me asking though, what exactly do you have in mind, Mrs. Higgins?”
“I’m going to give her something to remember this night forever…” The older woman answered, eyes twinkling. She opened the cell lid to remove the battery and all other potentially hazardous materials, leaving only the plastic case intact. Then, she grabbed a small ball of white yarn from the sewing kit she always kept nearby her favourite chair in the house, attached one end of the string to the needle and slowly started to wrap the phone with it.
* * *
Roxanne was sitting in the kitchen of her luxurious apartment, one she had bought three years ago, precisely two months after she had discovered her unique talents in the art of capturing other people’s minds. Despite having been purchased with some of her first servants’ lifesavings she had never allowed one of them to enter it. After all, it was her personal sanctuary and she didn’t want it defiled in any way by those who were weak enough to be ensnared by shiny pendants and a couple of words.
In front of her, stood a half-empty bottle of Scotch, her favourite companion for when plans didn’t go exactly as predicted. To describe the things that had taken place recently in that way was undoubtedly an understatement but it was best to play with words than to admit defeat. She was a proud woman and hated to lose no matter the game being played.
Something like that had never happened to her before. For all purposes and intents, he shouldn’t have been able to wake up from her trance after all the suggestions she whispered in his ear at the restaurant. Nonetheless, he had done so and only luck had allowed her to escape the hotel bedroom. A little bit more caution would most surely be necessary for the next attempts because, even though she was a tad frightened with the tide of events, there was no way she was going to stop doing what she enjoyed the most and deny herself the pleasures she deserved!
“And one of these days, I’m going to find you again and break your mind so completely that you’ll do nothing but beg to kiss my ass, my feet and lick my pussy all day long!” she promised, thinking of Jonathan as she raised the glass high only to…
… let it slip her fingers and watch it shatter upon the table.
“What the hell?” she thought as she looked at her hands and realized she could no longer move them freely. Her fingers were tightly pressed against each other, constrained by an invisible force that made them nothing more than ten useless limps of flesh.
“What’s happening to me?” she asked the empty house as she felt the bindings in the extremities of her upper limbs becoming stronger and tighter, compressing the muscles, arteries and veins within. Roxanne bit her lip to muffle a scream, yet it came out anyway and it was a dire one.
* * *
With the cell phone properly wrapped up, Gloria picked up a small piece of paper and wrote a note in it whose content she kept to herself. Afterwards, she used the needle to stitch it to the package and looked at the sweltering fireplace in the center of the living room, the orange flames inviting her to play the final round of the game and declare victory once and for all.
Without hesitation or any shred of remorse, she threw the fruit of her labour into the burning heat, with both Jonathan and Brenda trying to guess exactly what would come out of it. Aware of their pending questions, the matriarch simply said:
“If everything turns out the way I expect it to, that fake domme will be getting a message she’ll never be able to forget!”
* * *
The smouldering sensation was immediate. Roxanne’s hands were becoming red hot now, burning from inside out. She saw the blisters forming, the cracks in her skin opening and the blood boiling underneath. The torment was great yet she didn’t shriek for long. Her levels of tolerance to pain weren’t that high and her body soon went into shock. Passing out at that time was the best thing that could have happened to her.
* * *
Three minutes later, Gloria used a poker to remove a mass of molten plastic from the fireplace. It was all that was left of the cell phone, everything else reduced to ash. Triumphantly, she announced:
“My work is done!”
“I don’t get what you did at all, Mother! What was in that piece of paper you wrote?”
“Nothing but the truth, my dear.” was her enigmatic response. “I believe that hag will never try to control anyone’s mind ever again after what just happened.”
“You’re really not to going to tell us, Mrs Higgins?” inquired Jonathan.
“I think I better not. I was a bit cruel after all so I’d rather keep that to myself. Will you let an old woman have her secrets, please?”
“Very well, but I hope someday you do feel comfortable enough to share it with us…” answered Brenda.
“One never knows. I guess it’s time for this to return to its box.” Gloria declared as she held the needle one last time.
* * *
Roxanne wasn’t sure how long she was unconscious but, upon waking up, she realized she could move her hands once more and that the sizzling burns had also disappeared. Only some strange markings remained in both of her palms, some sort of branding covered in cinder she couldn’t quite ascertain. Were those… letters?
Although her mind was rather hazy, she got up without much of an effort and washed her hands in the kitchen sink, the cold water cleaning all of the dirt whilst calming her down at the same time.
This state of tranquillity was an ephemeral one, rapidly fading into nothingness when she looked down at her hands again and saw that those signs embedded in her skin were indeed alphabet letters. There was nothing random about their disposition for they clearly formed a sentence comprised of six distinct words whose true meaning she never came to understand fully.
All that can be said is that throughout the following years the sentence itself would resist any attempt of removal, a permanent warning and threat by an unknown foe. At that moment, she read them out loud for the first of many times and shuddered:
“Nobody messes with my daughter’s heart!”
* * *
Back at the Higgins’ house, Brenda and Jonathan were starting to touch one another in the most affectionate of ways, their connection reinforced by the most peculiar reason imaginable: the hidden magic of an emerald needle.
“I think it’s best if I leave you two lovebirds alone, now…” said Gloria, smiling.
“Thank you, mother… for everything!”
“Yes, thank you, Mrs. Higgins. You literally saved my life!” emphasized Jonathan.
“You’re both welcome. I’m off to bed, now. Good night!”
As soon as they were left on their own, Jonathan held Brenda closely in his arms and, for a few moments, they just stood there enjoying each other’s warmth in utmost silence. She was the one to break it first.
“What a strange night this was, huh?”
“Tell me about it! Brenda, I… I just wanted to say…”
“Shhh… I know exactly what’s on your mind right now and you don’t really have to apologise any more. The nightmare’s over and that’s all that matters. I think it’s best if we simply forget what happened and start things over, don’t you agree?”
“Yes, I do. But there’s always one thing I’ll keep in mind from now on.”
“And what thing is that?” she asked, her lips getting closer and closer to his.
“As long as we’re dating, remind me to never do anything that may upset your mother, okay?”
“I think that’s wise under the circumstances…” Brenda concurred and they both shared a laugh.
Usually all love stories end up with a kiss. Rest assured this one was no exception.