The hypnotist knows what he’s doing. The woman in the bed with him has her eyes closed. She was very susceptible. Not everyone is. The hypnotist knows through experience. His voice is calm and smooth, like one of those late-night radio voices that seems to carry around with it the gravitas of rain-wet city streets at two in the morning. The hypnotist knows this, which is why he is very careful. “Vivian,” he says to her. Vivian nods, almost imperceptibly. “Vivian,” he says again. “The next time I say the word ‘god’ you will have the best and most intense orgasm of your life.” Vivian nods again, almost imperceptibly. The hypnotist lays his palm on her thigh. Vivian is dressed in a black bustier with garters and stockings. The hypnotist snaps her garter the way a teenaged boy will snap the bra strap of a girl he likes. Vivian doesn’t flinch. The hypnotist met Vivian the night before. He was doing a show and asked for volunteers. Being a hypnotist, he has a way of asking for volunteers such that particular people from the audience will willingly comply. He asks, makes eye contact, and seemingly by magic, they come. Last night, he looked pointedly at Vivian. He’d noticed her tits and wanted to fuck someone with tits like that. She rose, moved past the man seated beside her and came up to the stage. He made her look ridiculous. He made her think she was a chicken, made her cluck and hop around the stage. He watched her breasts bouncing up and down. And in the midst of this, just before he snapped her out of it, he whispered in her ear, too low for the microphone to pick up – “Come to room 615 tomorrow night at 7 o’clock. Tell no one.” Then he snapped his fingers. The hypnotist and Vivian are rocking back and forth on the bed. Her legs are up around his shoulders. He is about to come. “Oh!” he cries. Vivian’s eyes are closed. She is breathing heavily. “Oh God!” the hypnotist shouts. Suddenly Vivian begins bucking. She’s whimpering. Suddenly she is in rapture, howling. She is having the best and most intense orgasm of her life. At the very moment the hypnotist comes, the phone rings. He looks up, panicked. “Shakespeare on the moon,” he says, curtly. Vivian stops dead in the middle of her big come. Her legs drop down. She seems almost dead. The hypnotist pushes her stockinged legs aside and picks up the phone. “Hello?” he says. The voice that twenty seconds ago was ragged with lust is now calm and smooth as a still pond. “Hey, it’s me,” the voice says. It seems very far away. “You sound very far away, honey. We must have a bad connection.” the hypnotist responds. “Oh, it won’t be long. I just called to say goodnight.” “Aw. How’s Kenzie?” “Kenzie’s good. She found a dead bird today.” “Oh,” the hypnotist says. “Is she alright?” “We talked about it. She’ll be okay. I told her that we were both going to be around for a very long time.” “Ha ha. Is she close by?” “Kenzie?” the hypnotist hears his wife speak to their four year old. “Do you want to say goodnight to your father?” “Yeah!” she says. “Daddy?” “Hey sweetheart,” the hypnotist says. “Where are you tonight?” “Minnesota,” he says. “Do you like it?” “I’d rather be home,” he says. “When are you coming home daddy?” “At the end of the week, honey.” “When’s that?” “Well, today is Tuesday, so...” “When? When?” “Ha ha. A few days.” “Okay. Goodnight.” “Goodnight Kenzie. Put your mom back on.” “’kay.” The hypnotist’s wife closes Mackenzie’s door and makes her way down to the kitchen, still on the phone. “How did the show go last night?” she asks him. “Oh fine,” he says. “Dinosaur stew.” The hypnotist’s wife drops the phone, then drops down herself to hit the thick carpet. She is on her knees, on the hallway floor, shuddering. She is having the best and most intense orgasm of her life. Well, since the last one, anyway. After her shudders die down, she retrieves the phone. “I hate it when you do that,” she says, weakly. “Love you,” he says. “Love you too.” The hypnotist hangs up and looks over at Vivian. She lies there, inert, seemingly dead but breathing steadily. He had taken the precaution of programming six different trigger phrases with her. The hard part was remembering which one did what. “Maraschino quintuplets,” the hypnotist says. In a daze, and without a word, Vivian gets dressed and leaves the room. The hypnotist takes his condom off and flings it across the room, hitting the yellow patterned wallpaper, where it sticks. A thick runnel of sperm leaks out of the mouth. The hypnotist sees this but closes his eyes. He’ll have to ask the cleaner to take special care cleaning that the next morning. After she’s sucked him off, of course. Two days later, the hypnotist’s wife wakes up to birds chirping in the trees just outside her window. Mornings, the hypnotist’s wife likes to make a strong cup of coffee. This morning is no different. She makes her way downstairs and sets the coffee percolating. She’s just about to call up to Mackenzie, to get her up for school when she hears a light tapping on the front door. It’s a man. The hypnotist’s wife puts the chain on before she opens the door. You never can be too careful. “Yes?” “Hello? Mrs. Prewitt?” “Yes, that’s me. How can I help you?” “Mrs. Prewitt. Your husband is sleeping with my wife.” The hypnotist’s wife freezes. “Mrs. Prewitt?” “Please leave,” the hypnotist’s wife says, calmly. Without emotion. “But, Mrs. Prew-” Calmly, deliberately the hypnotist’s wife closes the door and heads back to the kitchen. She blinks. What was she doing down here again? The coffee gurgles, reminding her, and she pours herself a cup. The doorbell rings. “Hmm, that’s funny,” she says. “Who could it be this early in the morning?” When the hypnotist’s wife gets to the peephole, she sees that it’s a man. She knows she’s never met him before, but he seems oddly familiar. She opens the door. “Yes?” “Hello,” the man says, kindly. “I found something on the sidewalk and was wondering if it belonged to you.” The man lifts a shiny pendant out of his suit pocket and dangles it in front of the hypnotist’s wife. “Oh,” she catches her breath. It is beautiful. The hypnotist sits in a hotel bar. He is exhausted after finishing his show. It always takes a little bit out of him. Some evenings he has up to fifteen people on stage, all hypnotized simultaneously. Some nights he has fantasies of hypnotizing them all into a group orgy. Or of making them all go up to the hotel roof and committing mass suicide. It is a truism that a hypnotist can’t hypnotize anyone into doing anything that they really don’t want to, but the hypnotist has developed, over the years, an almost uncanny ability to discern people’s inner hopes and desires. The fact is, people really want to do any assortment of things – they merely seek permission, and that is what the hypnotist provides. He can sense the secretly suicidal in any crowd. He knows that were he to merely make the suggestion, the would-be suicide would dutifully write out a note, pin it to his chest, and plummet the fifteen floors from the hotel roof to the hard concrete beside the swimming pool. That is also exhausting – that responsibility, that knowledge that he could push people into doing what they secretly desired. “Corona, please,” the hypnotist orders. The bartender nods. The hypnotist can tell that the bartender isn’t very suggestible. No free drinks tonight, he thinks. A woman in a black dress glides into view and settles a few stools down. Never say never, the hypnotist coaches himself, getting up and straightening his jacket. “Hello there,” he says to the woman. She glances up, giving him the once-over. She sees an ugly little man in a too-tight suit. “Sorry,” she says. “I’m waiting for someone.” The hypnotist is momentarily crestfallen, but smiles. His beer comes. He pays, then as a tip, places a dollar coin on the bar. He moves it in a circle. It catches the light. The woman looks over at him. “I want you to relax,” he says. “Get lost, creep.” the woman says, getting up. The hypnotist nurses his beer. He should have read her better, but fatigue got a hold of him and he slipped up. Across the room, he sees another man chatting up a woman on a couch. The hypnotist can’t remember the last time he seduced a woman legitimately. In his secret heart he wonders if he could actually give a woman an orgasm, without tinkering in her head. Would any of the hundreds of women he’d had sex with over the years have had sex with him if they were in their right minds? He tosses the last of the beer down and heads up to his room. When he opens the door he sees a woman on the bed, naked. The hypnotist stops still. He is trying to remember. Did he suggest that someone meet him here? Did he forget? Which city is this? He opens the door a litle further, letting more light into the room, illuminating the bed. The woman is facing away from the door, but the hypnotist recognizes her. It’s his wife. The hypnotist breathes a sigh of relief, then pauses. What in the world was she doing here? What if he had brought that woman from the bar up here? Why wasn’t his wife moving? He flicks on the overhead light. “Honey?” he asks, venturing further into the room. Suddenly he feels cold metal against the back of his neck. “Don’t move,” a man says. The hypnotist is tied to a chair. The man with the gun sits on the bed, looking at him. “What have you done to my wife?” the hypnotist asks. “Nothing,” the man says. “She’s sleeping.” “What do you want? Is it money?” There is a pause. The man on the bed caresses his revolver. “My wife’s name is Vivian,” the man replies. A beat. “Oh,” the hypnotist says. “We were taking in your show,” the man continues. “I’m a hypnotist myself, so I thought it was a hoot when you picked my wife to go up and volunteer to be your little puppet.” The hypnotist strains quietly against the ropes. They’re tight, but he thinks he might be able to slip out of them, if he managed to flex the bonds a little. “But that wasn’t all, was it?” the man continues, his voice quiet and dangerous. “You had to fuck her. You had to trick my beautiful wife into bed. You had to wreck our marriage.” “Hey,” the hypnotist says, “You know as well as I do that you can’t make anyone do anything they don’t really want to.” The man stares at him. The hypnotist flinches, glancing down at the carpet. “I know.” The man says. Then he looks over at the hypnotist’s wife. “Fragile asteroids,” he says to her. The hypnotist’s wife is suddenly in motion. She comes over and stands before the hypnotist. She looks down on him with glazed eyes. The man hands the gun to the hypnotist’s wife. She lifts it and aims. “Right between the eyes,” the man laughs. “Now,” the man says, dramatically. “Do you think your wife wants to?” The hypnotist is sweating. The too-tight suit is an oven. On the positive side, his sweaty forearms slip a little easier in the ropes. They’re still too tight to do anything though. “Shoot him,” the man says. The hypnotist’s wife pulls the trigger. Nothing happens. The man looks up in annoyance. “Safety’s on,” he says. He reaches up and unlocks it. “Now,” he says. “Shoot him.” Everything happens at once. “Dinosaur stew!” the hypnotist shouts, using all his weight to throw himself sideways. He falls hard, and the wooden chair breaks, releasing him. He struggles out of the ropes. The hypnotist’s wife collapses on the floor, having the best and most intense orgasm of her life, falling on top of the gun. The man tries to get the gun, but the writhing form of the hypnotist’s wife keeps getting in his way. She is shuddering so hard she is almost spastic. He has to dodge her flailing limbs. “Bastard!” the hypnotist says, jumping at the man, knocking him back onto the bed. The man tries to get the hypnotist off him, but underestimates the hypnotist’s rage. Bap! Bap! The hypnotist lands a couple of good shots, breaking the man’s nose. He jumps up onto the bed and drives the heel of his oxfords into the man’s gut. Oof! The man is struggling. The hypnotist starts kicking the man in the head. The bed squeaks horribly. The people in the hotel room next door think it is the roughest sex they have ever heard in their lives. “Die!” the hypnotist says, kicking the man repeatedly. Blam! Blam! Blam! Three holes appear in the hypnotist’s chest. He looks down at them. They are clustered quite close together, like the holes in a bowling ball. He wants to put his fingers in them, but understands that that would be a bad idea. He collapses on the unconscious man, turning to see his wife holding the revolver. She sits on the floor, chest heaving, sweaty. There is a cloud of blue smoke between her and him. He has never seen her look so beautiful. The room reeks of gunpowder and pussy juice. “Like I said,” she pants. “I hate it when you do that.” The hypnotist coughs blood. “Zombie circus,” he says, then dies. The hypnotist’s wife pauses for a second, then takes the gun and points it at her brain. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing! The fire alarm. Someone’s heard the shots and pulled it. The hypnotist’s wife blinks, snapping out of it. She drops the gun. The man groans under the hypnotist’s body. The police will be here soon.