It was twenty minutes by the time Curio’s block of flats came into view, and Malcolm was taking it in turns to walk, then run, walk, then run, as he was so over exerted. He eventually walked into the car-park, and could see that the main entrance door was being propped open by one of two men who looked to be chatting. He was leaning against the door frame, one arm keeping the door open. The other man was nodding and gesticulating. It seemed that the man holding open the door was a resident. The other man saw Malcolm approach, and his stopping of conversation caused the tenant to look in his direction. Malcolm ignored them and pushed past into the corridor. The tenant looked back at him, shrugged, and looked back at the other man.
“….and that’s what he said, anyway”.
Malcolm sighed when he reached the stairs. He ascended as quickly as he could, but he had to stop and lean against a wall to regain his breath on Curio’s floor. After a few moments, he walked along the corridor to his flat and banged on the door. He banged again after two seconds.
“Curio,” he shouted. “It’s me, Malcolm. I’ve got to see you”. The door opened, and Curio appeared, looking tired.
“What?” he asked. Malcolm pushed his way in, and walked into the living room. Curio closed the door, and slipped on the latch. He followed Malcolm inside, who was standing in front of the television. He was holding forth the envelope.
“£500 quid. £500 quid. I need a reading Curio. I need it now. Melissa’s dead. Tom’s dead. Everyone I know is dead”. Curio nodded, and took the envelope.
“So you want me to get in touch with your parent’s to see what they know?”.
“Yes,”. Malcolm’s face was scarlet, and tears threatened to burst forth again.
“Please, Curio, Please”. Curio laid the envelope on the coffee table, and walked around for a few moments, deep in thought, as though he was deciding whether or not to give him a reading. The television had been on mute. He switched if off, the room illuminated by the lamp in the corner.
“Sit down,” he said. “In the armchair”. Malcolm did so, but leaned forward towards Curio.
“Lean back, relax” Curio continued. “I suppose you forgot to bring a personal item. It doesn’t matter though. I don’t need it. All I need for you to do, is close your eyes and bring up a vivid image in your mind’s eye of your father”. Malcolm nodded. He sat back, and closed his eyes. Curio stood in front of the television for a few moments, looking at him. He stepped across to the side of the armchair and leaned towards Malcolm’s left ear.
“Sleep,” he whispered, and clicked his fingers in front of his face. Malcolm slept, his head leaning on his shoulder. Curio nodded, smiled, and stood up straight.
“Got you,” he said, then walked in front of him. He sat on the sofa for a few minutes, simply staring at him, satisfied.
“What am I going to do with you?” he asked himself, quietly. He stood up, stretched and walked back to Malcolm.
“When I snap my fingers, you will wake, but the chair will have become like glue. You won’t be able to budge. You can move your head, you can speak, but nothing else”. He clicked his fingers.
“Eyes open, wide awake”. Malcolm woke up, and looked at Curio who was smiling down at him.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “I fell asleep”. He frowned. “What’s happened? I can’t move. What’s happened, Curio? I can’t move!” He tried to struggle, but he couldn’t, his eyes becoming wide with fear.
“Relax,” said Curio. “You’ll be alright, but not for long”.
“What? What have you done?”
“Congratulations Malcolm, you are my final threat. You were one of the hurdles in my path to fame, the last one. You were the only one who came close to threatening my notoriety”.
“What the fuck…?”.
“There is no virus,” said Curio. “That was just something I told Ian to confuse you incase he never managed to kill you. It throws you off my scent. There is no weird cult. I tried not to speak to your father. In fact, I was very reluctant to do so. He did not come to me, yet he has more reason to be angry with me”.
“You killed him?” said Malcolm, as a statement, trying and failing to move.
“No, he killed himself, and he killed your wife. I hypnotised him into doing so. I then implanted the suggestion in his mind to admit it upon the knowledge of her discovery. Then I planted a timer in his mind that counts down to his suicide, so it does not connect to me. Actually, I should have given your father less time to do so. Instead of three days, I should have said one, but nevermind. It’s the same with the others. The later ones I gave less time to. I suppose I am too paranoid. I can make people forget, can make them not even think of me, but it has potential for failure. My system has not yet been fully explored, but it works. It has many implications which I have yet to understand. The basis of it, Malcolm, is that I can get anybody to do anything. Anybody”.
“You killed everyone, why? Why can’t I move?”
“I am not a strong man, Malcolm, as you can see, but I can make even the most hardened person into a weakling. All I need is about ten seconds alone with them. That’s all. If I get that, they’re mine. If I let you up as you were, what will you do to me?”.
“You’re not a psychic?” asked Malcolm. Curio scowled and pointed an accusing finger at him.
“Yes I am,” he said, loudly, “Yes I am. I have proven the supernatural exists. I know it exists. I am using the hypnosis to help me prove it”.
“How does that work? Hypnosis is not supernatural, and anyway, you have to be susceptible to believe that you are hypnotised. If I don’t believe, I can’t be hypnotised”.
“Then get up”, said Curio, grinning. Malcolm tried, but failed.
“Anyone, Malcolm, anyone”.
“Why did you kill Melissa?” Curio thought about that for a few moments.
“Oh, that goth. She killed her didn’t she? See? There’s no blood on my hands. Melissa, and the others, were all a threat to my path to fame. I wanted to prove the supernatural in the normal, conventional sense, without using hypnosis, but when I knew the potential of it, I knew that I could use it to help me achieve this, achieve recognition, and now I’ve got it. In a few days time, there’ll be a press conference where I’ll be shown to the world as the man who proved the existence of the paranormal. I knew that the tests I had were not achieving what I had wanted, and I used the opportunity when Abe was alone in the room with me to convince him that I had passed the tests and proved the existence of the paranormal. I told him to then leave the room and had sent in five other scientists one by one whom I induced into thinking the same. The thing is, I made a hard choice when I decided to hypnotise Abe”
“That doesn’t matter to you. You’ll never meet him. Anyway. I could have done the tests, achieve what were probably average scores, and walked away, not proving the supernatural. Yet I know it exists, so I used hypnosis to convince them that I am right. It’s like an athlete that uses steroids to enhance performance, I suppose”.
“You get notoriety as well. Fame, riches. Was that an incentive?” Malcolm asked, sarcastically.
“I know I am right, Malcolm. Fame and fortune comes secondary to proving the facts. I use hypnosis to assist me”.
“You have innocent people murdered?” Malcolm shouted.
“They’re strangers!” replied Curio, pointing at his window. “Who cares about them?”
“Obviously not you”.
“Such small sacrifices reap great rewards. I simply give them the order, and they obey. They have to. I have never had somebody not carry out a task I give them. Once, for an experiment, I gave an order for someone to touch the moon. You know, an impossible task, just to see what would happen if he couldn’t carry out his order. Well, I had to get out of his way, his brain, well, I got the impression it melted because of overheating. His inability to carry out the task gave him burnout”.
“How long have you been doing this?”
“Well, when I was in uni, training to be a doctor, I reached the part where we learned about hypnotherapy. The thing is, it’s standard. You learn this and that’s that, but I saw that there was more potential. There were areas of it untapped. So I began to basically learn more and more about it and concocted my own experiments to see how much potential there was. Those stage hypnotists that get adults up on stage to make fools of themselves haven’t even scratched the surface. It goes, literally, much more deeper than that. Don’t they say, whoever ‘they’ are, that we only use 10% of our brains. Well, what lurks in the depths of the unknown? Potential, Malcolm, potential. If this gets out, then we’re all fucked, you know that? I discovered this, it’s mine.”
“Why would we all be fucked?”
“Control. Anybody can be controlled within seconds Malcolm. I can order them to walk to their bank accounts, withdraw money and simply give it me, then forget me. Easy. I didn’t, I wanted my fortune to come from legitimate sources, and it was too risky. Perhaps I should have, but then, I know I have a healthy amount of paranoia. Basically, I didn’t want to get caught. I suppose I could risk it nowadays though, because I understand it more, but my profile is increasing. If I’m caught, then my method could get out and I’m off to prison. This I why I wanted to wipe you out Malcolm, and those linked to you, paranoia, because you started asking questions about why your father murdered your mother”.
“Just to give you a bunk up the ladder, you’re a fucking loon”.
“Now now, Malcolm, that’s not very nice is it? Don’t forget what I can make you do. You can choose the method of your execution, a method you’re going to carry out. So you’d better be nice to me”. With his hands on his hips, he wondered whether or not to send him out now, but then decided against it.
“I suppose you could sleep with any woman you liked?” Malcolm said.
“Absolutely. I could do anything I liked, but see, that would be none consensual, wouldn’t it? I have never used it for that purpose, I have a conscience”.
“A conscience? A fucking conscience? You murder innocent people to help you get famous”.
“No, I don’t” Curio said, calmly. “They aid my acceptance in the eyes of the public with regards to them believing the truth. I know the paranormal is real, that’s a fact, but the people whom I have helped the police to discover are part of my proof”.
“What proof? You’re a shark, Curio, conning people into believing you’re real”.
“I am real. I do have psychic ability, the hypnosis helps people take me more seriously. I use it to show that the supernatural is real, that there is a spirit world. It helps people believe”.
“I bet it does, so why can’t I get out of this chair. I’m not a believer. I should be able to just get up”. Curio nodded, looking at Malcolm as though surveying an aesthetically pleasing work of art.
“My probing discoveries led me further into the workings of the human mind. No need to count backwards from ten. No need for you to even relax and then me saying that you are feeling sleepy. The autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary actions, such as heart rate and blood pressure, is connected to the subconscious, which is responsible for dreams and unwanted thoughts. Don’t think of a dog, Malcolm”. Malcolm frowned. He thought of a dog.
“See?” continued Curio, “You thought of a dog. It’s the uncontrolled actions of our brain that we, our conciousness has no command over. This link between automatic reactions and the subconscious can be manipulated by resonance, Malcolm, resonance. It is the dark area of the mind untapped by science. It is the gateway to the parts of the mind unknown, unexplored”.
“Maybe consciousness passes through that when we die,” said Malcolm.
“Through in to the spirit world”. Curio nodded.
“One path we may take” Curio continued. “I do not know, but we do get there, and very soon, Malcolm, you will find out if you are right. This area is susceptible to suggestion from the outside, but not by ordinary sound. It needs to be low, Malcolm, a very low ‘frequency’ that the human voice needs to practise. Obviously I have done it. I am proof of that. It is like a whisper, only lower in tone. This taps directly into this area and your autonomic system becomes open to suggestion. I tell the person to sleep. This they understand anyway, so fall asleep instantly. Clicking my fingers helps also as that taps into the areas used by normal hypnotists, the subconscious, but obviously this goes much deeper. All I have to do, is, when I’ve got somebody I want to hypnotise alone, whisper ‘sleep’ at the practised low tone, click my fingers in front of their face, and they’re mine. They fall into a deep sleep, and I can suggest anything. I can then talk to them in my normal voice, and set their clocks. They cannot be manipulated by anybody other than me, the person that put them under. They become receptive only to my voice, nobody else’s. I can do what I like with them. They always obey”.
“Can’t you just make me forget? I’ll never know you existed”.
“That’s a possibility. I’m sure I could do that, but my healthy paranoia says no. What if you do remember? With my profile as it is, as it’s going to become, I cannot risk keeping you alive after I have hypnotised you. I have given the scientists differing times to commit suicide, after my press conference. How will that link to me? They commited suicide. It happens”.
“Yet, they’re connected to you,” said Malcolm. “Scientists all commit suicide after being with you. Isn’t that suspicious?”
“Two of them are to organise flights to foreign locations, and kill themselves there. All of them commit suicide at differing times. The first, two weeks after the conference finishes. Another four months away. It’s the biggest risk I’ve taken, keeping them alive for so long after induction. Yet, it’s the price I pay for notoriety”.
“So what happens in their mind to make them do it?” Malcolm asked.
“A timer, counting down to zero. The mind has sense of time, inborn, and learned in childhood. It is subconscious, and the person is unaware that it is counting down. When it hits zero, they perform the action I have given them. They have to. It becomes their only goal, their sole purpose. They must perform that action and see it through. Their drive is to complete the task, which is why when I give the order for them to kill, they make sure that they are dead. When their minds decide that that person is dead, they revert back to ‘normal’, I suppose. What they have done becomes something they believe they had decided to do. I suppose I have spared them the reality of what they had done. When they know that that person is dead, a timer activates that counts down to their suicide. It becomes their sole purpose, as it will be yours”.
“I’ve done nothing to you, though Curio. Look, I’m giving you five hundred pounds”.
“For which I am grateful, but you are in my way, as were all the others. They were potential threats to me, because they were linked to you. Now it’s only you. I am showing people the reality of the paranormal, and you are hindering me”.
“Where’s your proof, Curio? Prove the spirit world, prove ghosts. You’re just a talentless psychic who can prove nothing”.
“When I snap my fingers, slap yourself across the face,” said Curio. He snapped his fingers. Malcolm’s right hand slapped his face.
“Fuck!” said Malcolm, “Alright, alright. The paranormal is real, anything you say”. He said it quite sarcastically, but never meant to. Curio simply stood, staring at him for a few seconds.
“Your student friends were linked to you, so they had to die”.
“She had to die. That’s what my father said, and that goth,” said Malcolm.
“Is it?” asked Curio. “Well, I hypnotised one of the tutors into finding where they where and getting all of the addresses incase he failed to kill them all. Maybe it was too much of me to suggest for him to kill all of them, so the addresses were my back-up, should he fail, which he did. He killed one, I know, so I needed to send people to those addresses to kill the others. One person, one kill. One of them I hypnotised was a fucking gangster. I only realised afterwards. There he was fixing a car engine in his garage. He was alone. I went across and put him under. Only on the back seat there was shotgun and a load of pirate DVDs. See what you were making me do Malcolm? You’ll never make me do that again”.
“What about Tom? What did he do?”
“He was linked to you. He knew you, so he had to die. Who knows what you’ve told him? Well, you do, I suppose. I couldn’t take that risk. When you walked out after I told you the price of another reading, I had precious few seconds with Tom to give him the suggestion to take himself to that, Ryvak, was it? to burn it down. I agreed with him over the animal experiments. I ‘encouraged’ two reporters to write good articles on me. They’ll be dead now. Also, I am also taking a big risk in having people killed, because I was genuinely reluctant to get in touch with your father. He has more right to be angry with me, than you. Angry spirits I do not want to deal with, so calling upon him was something I did not want. I was already possessed once, as you saw on that video”.
“You weren’t possessed. You’re dealing with untapped areas of the mind. You should understand how susceptible people are to belief. Then again, maybe you can’t see the woods for the trees. You’re altering people’s brainwaves and thoughts. Don’t you think it will affect you?” The look on Curio’s face told him it didn’t.
“I know what I’m doing, Malcolm. I know the truth when I see it”.
“You can’t prove it. Nobody can”.
“I can!” Curio shouted, his face reddening. He pointed an accusing finger at Malcolm.
“And I am. I’m showing people that I have psychic ability to prove what is real”.
“Using hypnosis to help you”.
“It’s an aid in the path to showing people what is true”.
“You’re fucking mental”. Malcolm then wished he had not said that, but Curio knew that by the look on his face, so did nothing.
“Less of that, thank-you” he said. “If this is the path I must take to show people that the supernatural exists, then that is fine with me”.
“Have you ever hypnotised yourself?” Malcolm asked. Curio shook his head.
“No, never. It’s the most powerful form of hypnosis I know. So there’s no way I would ever put myself under. I knew I had the gift at that point in my studies. I knew I had the ability to become psychic”.
“Is that when you started hearing voices inside your head?” Malcolm said, sarcastically, this time meant.
“Go on then,” said Curio, “Choose the manner of your demise”.
“What? I certainly will not”.
“Then I’ll have to do it for you?” Curio thought for a few moments, then clicked his fingers and said:
“Sleep,” in his normal voice. He only needed to say it once in the practised tone. Malcolm slept. Curio walked into the kitchen, and crossed to the fridge. He opened it, then opened the freezer compartment. There were two bundles wrapped in sugar paper. Carefully, he took out one, and carried it through to the coffee table, in front of the sofa. He laid it carefully down, and collected the other. Soon, he was sat staring at the bundles. He hadn’t seen them in a long time, and wondered what state they would be in. They had to go, he thought. With his kudos raising in public profile, to have these in the flat would subject him to serious questioning if discovered, and his stature would no doubt fade, his fame converting to that which he would not want.
He reached forward and opened the left bundle. The paper cracked open and he stared at its contents. He then did the same with the other, and looked at each in turn. The two chopped up human brains had a layer of ice over them. They seemed identical, but he had hoped for that not to be the case when he had acquired them, for it was a potential difference that caused him to see for himself, but he couldn’t see any at all, so had stored them away incase he ever wanted to study them again. One of them had belonged to a fellow student when Curio was studying, the other, the man’s friend. He had hypnotised the student into killing his friend, then had him commit suicide. Curio had wanted the brains because one had been hypnotised, and the other was normal. He had wanted to see if there was any dissimilarity by chopping them up and looking inside. When he did this, he had thought there might be a factor that could distinguish a normal brain from one that had been hypnotised, but there had been nothing. After one night, he had returned home from a hospital placement, his mind at the time concerned with learning more about the hypnosis, and his coursework, as he had not yet dropped out of university, so when he had opened the cupboard beneath the sink to bring them out for study, he could not tell them apart. He had concluded that hypnotism is purely psychological. Suggestion made no physical mark. It was only by the reactions made by the person, that they could be deemed hypnotised. The suggestions made were accepted, and therefore, to the person, that reaction was normal, so no physical change was present. He had stored them in his freezer. His paranoia would not let him dispose of them incase they were found and somehow linked back to him. He did not know how, but just incase there was something that brought the police to his door.
He stood up and walked into his bedroom. At the bottom of his cupboard there was an old rucksack that he hardly used. Walking back into the living room, he said: “Wake”, as he passed Malcolm. He sat on the sofa. Malcolm awoke, only to find that he still could not move.
“What have you done to me? What have you been telling me to do?”
“Nothing,” said Curio, looking at the brains. Malcolm saw them.
“What the fuck are they? Are they….are they..human brains?”, Curio simply nodded.
“See? You’re a fucking lunatic, you just can’t see it”.
“Have your insults, Malcolm, if they make you feel any better. You’re still going to die”. Curio stood up and carefully gathered each bundle and put them in the rucksack. He zipped it up and put it beside him, then simply looked at Malcolm.
“I’ve chosen your method of execution,” he said, “and you’re taking these with you. It’s night-time. Now is the best time to do it”.
“There’s got to be a way,” said Malcolm. “Please Curio, just let me go”. Curio shook his head.
“If there was a way to break it, and as far as I know, there isn’t, do you really think I would tell you? Sorry, Malcolm, you’ve got to go”. Curio stood up and walked back into his bedroom, returning moments later with his A-Z. He stood beside Malcolm and leaned towards him, pointing to an area on one of the pages.
“From here, it will take about twenty minutes to half an hour to walk here, west bank dock estate. Just beyond that, is where the river Mersey meets the Runcorn gap. This is where I want you to go. Around that area, there are a lot of marshes and quicksand. That’s what Abe said my arguments were based on, so I thought it would be good for getting rid of evidence and threats. I want you to walk into it, and make sure you sink. No-one will ever find you. I doubt if anybody will call me to find you. If they did, then I won’t get six in a row. You’ll have ended my run, and because you were a hurdle in my way, and because you’ve insulted me, I’m going to make you very aware of what you’re doing. In the others, I make them ‘want’ to do it. I make it their sole desire, their drive. Not with you. Your mind will stay the same, but your body will take you there. Rather like falling from a great height. You know you’re going to die. The time it takes from realisation to impact is what you will feel walking into the marshes. On my command, you will stand up, pick up and wear the rucksack. This you will want to do, then you will leave my flat, and do what I said. Kill yourself in the quicksand. Before that, though, don’t think I’m going to leave you with the power of speech. You’re not going to cry for help along the way. You’re going to be mute. So have you anything final to say before you die?”
“Please, Curio, have you no mercy at all?” Curio could see fear on Malcolm’s face.
“Well, I suppose I could make you want to go there, but when you see the marsh, or feel it, depending on how dark it is, you will become aware of what you’re doing, but you still won’t be able to speak, or scream, or stop yourself. You will perform my command. Now after I click my fingers, you will do what I have just said. Have you anything to say?” Malcolm thought for a few moments.
“You’re just a fucking psychopath”, Curio shook his head, and clicked his fingers. Malcolm got up from the chair and stepped across to the rucksack. He shrugged it on. Curio stood up and walked into the hallway. He unlocked and opened the door. Malcolm walked past him towards the stairs. Curio watched him, then gently closed the door and walked back to look out of his window. After a few minutes, he saw Malcolm leave, walking into the darkness.
“Farewell, Malcolm,” he said, quietly.
A slight breeze had built up, and there were no stars in the sky, or moon to cast any form of light across the area. The only light came from streetlamps, and the occasional front window of a house. Malcolm knew exactly where he was going, focused as he was, on his task. He could still think as normal, but his goal had been incorporated into his psyche. As far as he knew, it was something he wanted to do. It was his drive. Should he be prevented from completing it, then he would become like Ian and Kenneth, dying by repeatedly throwing themselves in the direction of their targets. Kenneth had been sedated at the university. He had been prevented from completing his task and awoke in a police cell. He had hurled himself at the cell wall in the direction where he thought his target laid. Malcolm had no such hindrances. He walked along streets and roads, crossed over the A533, passing by the West bank dock estate. The air took on a more icy chill, ruffling his hair. When he reached a narrow road, ahead of him the darkness of the River Mersey, he saw that just ahead, there was the edge of a marsh. A street lamp nearby illuminated the area, bathing him in an orange hue as he passed by. His mind had reverted to what he would deem to be ‘normal’, but his body had its command, and took him onwards.
What am I doing? he thought. No, No, stop. I’ve got to stop, but he walked onto the marsh, into the darkness. Quicksand lay metres before him at the water’s edge. Malcolm tried to yell, tried to shout, but Curio had taken that from him, and it was his mind that screamed. He began to stumble and stagger. The muddy waters went up to his knees, further as he trudged on.
Stop! his mind yelled. No! He fell, but clambered forward. The marsh blended into quicksand, and he was only four metres from the shoreline. He crawled into it and stopped, not through his own freewill. He couldn’t scramble, couldn’t attempt to get out. Fuck, no! his mind screamed, as he slowly sank beneath the surface. Soon, there was no trace of him.