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Chapter 18 - Isis
Bianca had never thought herself vulnerable to suggestion but that was not the most amazing thing. Isis, was obviously protecting her. Of course Isis has full access to The Cloud and all the connected cameras, microphones and devices in this restaurant including the kitchen robot. Isis was actually using that access to watch over her. Isis realised what Margery was up to and worked out ways of saving Bianca. Isis has become intelligent. The only question is how intelligent. Did it take all that time for her to realise the danger or did she deliberately wait to the last second to save her? If so why? Is Isis up to something too?
Bianca calmly went back to their booth and sipped her undrunk wine. Then she said, "I'm sorry Margery you must have thought me very rude going to sleep like that. Now it's so late work will have to wait until tomorrow."
Margery smiled and said: "I didn't want to wake you. You were so adorable like that. Enchanting. And yes, why not?"
"I think you were telling me about The Craft and exploiting a man's perversity. Do you see yourself as a Siren, luring men to their destruction? How many men have you enraptured?"
"Oh, I've lost count. At one point in my life when I was still learning The Craft my teacher, Morag set me a challenge to see how many we could enchant in a year. Together it was well over a hundred."
"Wow, I have trouble meeting one man who will moon after me. How did you do it? Surely you didn't give them all a Christmas present? That sounds very unhygienic."
"Church social groups are great. Other singles groups. Youth organisations. I was still young. Morag, taught me the theory but she insisted that I also needed the practice. It was she who identified me as a gifted amateur after Greg, the 'boofy one', and introduced me to The Craft."
"Is that how many men you slept with in one year?"
"No, even an amateur whore can beat that. You asked how many I had enraptured. Morag set strict rules as to what counted as successful conquest or infatuation. Intercourse or even suicide may be an outcome but they are not the goal. The goal is capturing a mind. Once you have a person's mind you have them body and soul. But sometimes taking control of their body comes first."
"How did you score? What counted as a success?"
"Morag had a Witching List. This was a list of evidence that the person had given up their mind to you like: deserting their loving family; leaving their home and country with no prospect of employment to be with you; taking your side in some patently silly cause against the world, that Morag made up; betraying their dearest friend; abandoning society; giving one all their wealth; me robbing them of their self-esteem so that they considered themselves worthless; and of course dying for me was the final confirmation. That's a partial list."
"How quickly can you capture a vulnerable person's mind? You must have been seeing them in batches."
"Some will take a single evening, some may take several lunar cycles. My average, from go to woe and I mean woe, was twenty eight days. One lunar cycle. I had several mooning after me at any one time."
"So that's what The Craft is about, destroying men?"
"You haven't been listening. It's about capturing souls. Not the everlasting kind. Those here and now in the real world, not in a hypothetical meta-world beyond the grave. Once you have them here you have them for as long as eternity lasts, be it a microsecond or an infinity. And by men I don't mean the gender, I mean mankind. It's what religion is all about too. Power over others' minds. I challenge you to find any other purpose to life."
Bianca agreed that religions do attempt to capture men's souls from each other. Yet not many have a goal of driving their adherents to suicide. To encourage them to make the ultimate sacrifice in battle perhaps, by purveying a belief a metaphysical life after death as consolation.
Perhaps Margery and her mentor, Morag, are products of our time. Billions of people have recently been wiped out by an apparent 'act of god'. There is absolutely no evidence that those saved were those who had not sinned; and now we have an official policy that encourages suicide and indeed demands it in some circumstances. Maybe Margery is a modern patriot doing her bit?
Bianca was again struck by how much Margery seemed like the seductress Cleopatra, who had married her brother before seducing both Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony, and found that she was suddenly drawn to the idea. Her mind went back to how willingly she had participated in that romp with Margery while enchanted and how incredibly erotic it had been. Maybe she would enjoy doing that to someone else, like Zaire or her silly friend Willow?
Maybe taking control of another's mind is a worthy goal in life? It would certainly be fun. But it would be hard to match a religion. Maybe that's the answer: start a new religion. The many religions managed to capture the minds of tens of thousands, particularly these days with those huge mass rallies.
The drug seemed to be stronger. She imagined each religion a huge vessel filled with metaphysical souls like yellow tennis balls; shaken by some huge invisible hand; bouncing around; suffering life's vicissitudes. Occasionally balls are lured into yet another belief system with the promise that in this new vessel alone they will bounce on in bliss forever. Alas, sooner or later, no matter which vessel they are in, the promise is hollow. They lose their bounce, as all tennis balls do, and go into the rubber recycler so the factory can stay in business creating more. Rubber to rubber.
Her hand-held buzzed again. She looked at the screen it was a single shot of Margery dropping something into her wine. Damn this woman was dangerous. She took the unfinished bottle from the end of the table and poured more wine into both glasses until the heights were identical. Then she fumbled and dropped the bottle on its side so that it fell towards Margery spilling red wine into her lap. It worked like a charm. When Margery looked down in horror Bianca took her wine glass and drank from where Margery's lipstick was on its rim, replacing her lip marks with her own. It wasn't long before Margery was consuming her own drug and looking very lustfully at Bianca.
"So Margery, I feel silly calling you that, it seems so formal. Can I call you darling when it's just us two?"
Margery was delighted with this turn of events. Bianca was obviously as turned-on by her. And she was finding that she was unusually turned-on by Bianca. She had loved seducing her earlier and now she was tingling with it. Her mind went back and she became very aroused. She rearranged her skirt and began subtly enjoying squirming on the leather seat.
"That would be lovely my darling," she replied. Then she said: "You know you're a Siren whether you like it or not. All women are potential Sirens. Many are oblivious to their hold over others and to the trail of destruction they leave behind."
"Darling," said Bianca taking her hand, "what I don't understand is how you go about controlling a mind, taking a soul if you like? I would love you to tell me how it feels when you do?"
"It's like fishing. Have you heard of fishers of men? It's a Christian organisation that seeks to capture the souls of people, not just men. I was a Roman Catholic once and I still have very close ties to the Church as I've told you before. But they were amateurs compared to Morag. She taught me that you need bait; and then a hook attached to an unbreakable line. Once they are hooked you need to reel them in and pull them aboard. Then you play with them like a cat. That's the nice part. You might to decide to throw them back or use them for bait or take them home to eat or put them in a fish tank for your amusement or simply let them die squirming on the deck. It feels wonderful to decide on which it should be and then to help them meet the fate you've chosen for them. Darling, would you like to come over to this side and sit with me?"
Bianca ignored the invitation even though it was very tempting. The drug was still working on her too. She wondered how excited Margery would be by another Christmas present. She was still holding her hand. But it was not out of love or lust. It was to ensure that if Margery realised what was happening she couldn't swap the glasses back. Margery was starting to 'go off with the fairies'. Bianca, on the other hand, was feeling better and ordered another bottle, using it to top up Margery's almost empty glass to the same level as hers again. Isis had seen Margery spike her glass a second time. This time Margery was so off the planet she didn't notice the switch; or that Bianca was no longer drinking.
"How were you recruited?"
"I was temporally homeless at thirteen years old and she sent me an invitation to her rural property offering food and lodgings. I'd never seen anybody like her. Morag seemed horrible and she smelled of farm and chemistry lab and her own secretions. She was a big unkempt woman, in every way. Everyone who met her recoiled in horror at first. But you couldn't ignore her piercing eyes. And the fear she induced released adrenalin, which immobilised her subjects, like a rabbit caught in the headlights. She could enchant almost anyone. She had a gold medallion on a chain. Once they were enchanted her subjects accepted her hypnotic suggestions as gospel. Her first suggestion was always that she was their greatest friend and protector, so that there was nothing to fear if they accepted her into their lives. Soon they would accept that she had great beauty within and was the woman to whom other women aspired. Soon they would come to love her unique smell and realise that she was the epitome of erotic beauty and her merest touch was impossible to resist. She was a brilliant chemist with a PhD in biochemistry. She knew everything there was to know on the effects of hormones and enzymes and synthetic drugs on the human body and brain. Have I told you the difference between and enzyme and a hormone? Oh Yes I did didn't I. I loved her you know. She's dead now."
"What was her property like? Were there other girls there or boys too?" Bianca asked.
"There was another girl a bit older; and a two boys about our ages in the dormitory she called her 'Bait Locker' we clung together like brothers and sisters. It was our job to go out and bring her back older men and women for her amusement and experiments. We'd been chosen for out beauty and other seductive attributes."
She was getting increasingly dreamy but went on to describe her job at thirteen, like the children working for Sykes and Fagin in Oliver Twist, how she was sent out to seduce and bring in men and women to become Morag's playthings like the fish that she talked about being so much fun; or perhaps like a god, amused by mankind's suffering.
"Where did you fish for them? Nightclubs I suppose?"
"Sometimes, but they can be hard work, other young teenagers were working them too and the older men and women become too street smart. Innocents are best. For example Christian youth clubs are excellent fishing spots, as many priests have discovered."
"My poor darling," commiserated Bianca. "You have led a hard life. It sounds like between you, you had to bring back four at a time."
"It started with one then two and then three. One time we had a very successful fishing trip and brought her home three big men and a rather attractive young woman in our catch. The way she took them in made us in the Bait Locker jealous. She was our earth mother and we were forced to go out for hours earning our room and board while these older ones took our place in her affection. They cuddled together naked, two by two, under the quilt on her big bed as she 'suggested' various couplings and changes of partners. When at last she'd decided that they had become properly habituated to every possible variation, each with each other with her and together, she threw them out into the barn to sleep with each other. We were delighted. But then she suggested that each of us should go out and get her more. I ended up bringing home two or three dozen for her to experiment on and play with during that year. She claimed that she was god's gift to therapists. She had a wicked sense of humour."
"What did she do with them then?"
"We put them to work on the property and building more accommodation. Morag wouldn't allow them any electronic devices or connection to The Cloud so there were no VPA's nor outside contact for them. They were like hippies or Amish. She liked the musical ones to play and to watch them singing and clapping. At full moon there was always a big bonfire when Morag would distribute drugs and there would be an orgy. When she died jumping off the barn roof after tasting one of her own potions and thinking she could fly, we all had to leave. Although they were mostly young adults, her army of victims were like molested children leaving a church orphanage or shell-shocked soldiers leaving a battlefield."
"Did she experiment on you?"
"No, not really. She liked to experiment on almost everyone but that usually left them useless as bait. The only thing she did to me was give me a potion to make me look older. It just stripped away some puppy-fat and made by boobs slightly bigger. She suggested that one of her 'hippies' who had training as a makeup artist should show me how to look more adult. Her suggestions were always acted on. We students received training in Mesmerism and knew exactly what was happening yet we couldn't resist Morag."
Then she suddenly became suspicious. She realised that she had been talking about things that were supposed to be secret.
"Are you sure you aren't a witch?"
"No of course not my darling," Bianca said reassuringly, holding Margery's hand more firmly.
The drug had worn off on Bianca and now Margery no longer seemed seductive but pathetic. She was having trouble sitting up, her makeup was smudged, and now she was actually touching herself with her free hand. It was not at all attractive. Instead of Cleopatra she looked like a common tart with a yeast infection: Mutton dressed as lamb.
"Morag was brillant," she slurred. "She would shit them comfortable in her parlour and offer em a nice cup of tea or mabe jus worer. Then she had a bootiful gold medal an would ark them't describe the picures on't assit spun; and n'chant em. After at sh'cood jus grip em on the sholer and suggest someing was true. I can sho oo. Woo oo like to see m' amlet?"
Bianca was still holding one hand and didn't let go. Margery had been struggling with the other to free the chain around her neck when the amulet puffed straight up into her face. Bianca saw her opportunity.
"Tell me about your Bishop do you still see him, is he still a sleeper? Where did you meet him?"
Even in her inebriated state Margery confirmed that he was 'still a very good sleeper' and he was 'a seekrit'; then she revealed his old parish. Isis immediately buzzed Bianca's hand-held with his identity and Bianca confirmed this by treating it as common knowledge between them. Then Margery realised that she somehow knew.
"Thas a seecrit! You're are a wich aren yu," she slurred.
"Do you know that Margery is a witch's name in Shakespeare? Is she your role model? Are you a witch too?"
Margery sat up as if completely sober and recited a response by rote, as if she had been coached by a lawyer before going into court:
"Yes of course I know about Margery Jordane the cunning witch of Eie. But that is not me. I am an ordinary woman with professional skills. I am simply 'one who is skilled in The Craft'."
"Oh darling," said Bianca, "She's still in there, in your head isn't she? Morag, your witch?"
"But mistress Morag told me never to use the word witch. It disturbs people," Margery declared, then fell sideways. She'd passed out.
Bianca quietly got up and arranged her more modestly: head on bag; coat over her upper body; skirt pulled down below her stocking tops. Then she took off her shoes and tucked her lower legs up onto the seat. On her way out she told a staff member that her friend had had a busy day and too much wine. Could they let her sleep there for half an hour or so and then call her a hover-cab?
Was that a conspiratorial grin Bianca detected? She hoped that Isis was intelligent enough to have blocked, scrambled or removed those video feeds. Isis immediately responded.
This was a joke. Isis had made a joke! Between them, her name is Bianca.