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Chapter 26 - Cinders

 

 

 

In Margery's world it's far too risky, and somewhat demeaning, to court a man then passively let him choose between her and other rivals. A far better strategy is to take positive action against usually unaware and unsuspecting rivals to eliminate them.  Then the man is left with only one choice, her.

So in order to secure her relationship with Claude, Margery needed to eliminate Cindy, the present girlfriend, in the same way that she had eliminated any woman who has so much as flirted with Philip her current, soon to be surplus, boyfriend.  Not a few of them had found themselves in a departure lounge or signing up for unflattering body modifications.

She needed information.  So whenever she knew that they were out together, Margery let herself in to Cindy's apartment and made herself at home going through draws and cupboards, even making herself a gin and tonic, before settling down to open Cindy's screens and watch her media.  To avoid Cindy noticing the drink, she simply made up the volumes with tap water and took the remains of the lemon away with her.  Cindy had a habit of leaving her devices logged in so, with her Widget, Margery had interrogated them for her passwords.  This knowledge continued to allow her assess, even when Cindy had shut-down before going out.

It was during her third visit that she discovered that Cindy had been watching those explicit home movies, made with Claude, probably as solace when he had been away to look at his telescope thingy.  So the movie Margery had found at Claude's was no secret. Cindy was a knowing and willing participant, which accounted for her frequent staring into the camera when she moaned or cried out.

The movie was quite raunchy and, together with the contents of her bedroom side-table, made Margery want to meet this naughty girl in the flesh.  She started to plan an anonymous evening together. Among the things she discovered was that Cindy read her horoscope daily.   She must keep this secret from Claude because she knew that he frequently spoke against the 'myth of astrology'.   For her part it was one of those 'dark arts' that allowed her to manipulate others.

***

Claude was away at his telescope again and Cindy was about to settle down to watch MV when the robo-concierge in her building announced a visitor. The woman gave her name as Mirela.  On her screen Cindy saw a striking woman who sent a shiver up her spine.  The woman was wearing a red and gold head scarf, tied like a pirate over her shoulder length black hair. Her cream coloured lace top was off her shoulders, tied with a cord above her cleavage and she wore a calf length, heavily pleated, multi-coloured skirt, on top of which was tied a large contrasting scarf scattered with astrological symbols. Above that a smaller scarf matching the one around her head was tied. Around her waist was a wide black cummerbund that matched her long black, laced stiletto boots. With her gold bangles, large circular earrings, featuring a five pointed star in each disk, and bright red lipstick she looked exactly like a storybook Gypsy.  Cindy was immediately on guard.  She's always been scared of Gypsies.

"What do you want?" she asked the woman's image in her security screen aggressively, wondering if she needed to ask the robo-concierge for help to get rid of this person.

"Oh I'm sorry for alarming you Cindy," said Mirela close into the camera. "But I've received a message from someone beyond, who says she's your mother.  She told me to come here and said to tell you Thornton."

Cindy felt like fainting.  Thornton was the village where she'd lived as a child.  It's no longer there.  Only her mother, who's passed, could possibly know this.  It's so personal and obscure that she even uses it as a password.

"Come in," Cindy said. 

"Password indeed," thought Margery, "open sesame would've been more fun."

***

Clairvoyance is a standard tool in a witch's repertoire. When combined with alleged communications with the dead, clairvoyance becomes necromancy.  It's a skill feared by religion and the Judeo-Christian Bible warns against it repeatedly.  The Bible requires Jews and Christians and possibly Muslims to promptly kill a Necromancer - by stoning. 

As in all her witching studies when learning The Craft from Morag, Margery had excelled in clairvoyance.   Like Tarot; reading tea leaves; and the rest, clairvoyance seems, to a receptive mind, to be more than it actually is.  At its best it's similar to psychiatry, listening to a person then telling them what they want to hear.  But what's the point of that?  At its most useful it's a useful way of persuading a person to do something that they wouldn't otherwise do, even when enchanted.  It can be incredibly persuasive for believers in the occult or for the highly religious. It's much the same thing, particularly when it comes to believing in a life eternal, saints and messengers and devils and ghosties and ghoulies and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night.   Used together with mesmerism this vulnerability to manipulation, created by a faulty belief system, can put a believer to death by wasting away; or make them suicide; destroy them mentally or financially; or cause them to kill someone like an unbeliever; or simply to seduce them.

As she ushered this woman in, Cindy caught the strong scent of sandalwood.  Mirela was at least Cindy's height and her high-heeled boots made her seem even taller.  Her voluminous skirt accentuated her hips and made her altogether larger than life. She was also carrying a large patchwork shoulder bag made from irregular fabric squares.  She pushed straight passed Cindy into the apartment, as if it was her own, and went into the dining room to put her bag on a chair then sat on another.

"I have to warn you," she said in a very businesslike way, "not all messages from beyond are benign.  This woman who says she's your mother could be an evil spirit.  Are you sure you want to hear from her?  If you don't I can leave immediately."

Clairvoyants are a dime a dozen, so it's never been a career choice for Margery.  Yet it remains a useful party trick, which she's used very effectively on occasion to destabilise colleagues on her climb up the corporate ladder.  There's nothing like a bit of relationship trouble to damage a career.

"But what if it is my mother trying to tell me something important," Cindy protested, her heart sinking.  "How can we find out?"

Morag taught that the scientific witchcraft or The Craft should not resort to unscientific deceptions. For example she disliked necromancy as perpetuated the unscientific deception that people whose brains had been destroyed could continue to think and communicate after death.  Surely they have noticed that even a live person with a brain disease like advanced Alzheimer's is unable to communicate like a normal person?  But that's never worried Margery, she's happy to exploit the wilfully simple-minded and naive.

"I can ask for proof if you like but first we need to make contact again. I will set up the table for a séance," said Mirela, delving into her bag and bringing out a dark tablecloth with mysterious golden markings and the signs of the zodiac in a circle; a pack of Tarot cards; and a large candle, that she lit in front of Cindy.  It gave off a strange perfume.  She somehow knew how to dim the apartment lights. 

Now she sat across from Cindy in a business-like way, dangling a crystal on a silver chain from one hand while she took Cindy's hand in the other.

Mirela had been careful to set the scene.  She'd taken command the moment she was allowed in because the apparent authority a clairvoyant is essential to being believed. In this respect it's like mesmerism, the subject must respect the teller and believe that the telling is possible. Warning Cindy is an old trick, often used by bag snatchers to gain the trust of a target and distract them while an accomplice robs them. In this case warning them against being deceived by the unknown in one direction blinds them to being deceived in another. 

"Can you hear your mother," she asked Cindy while distracting her by moving the candle. 

Cindy could hear a woman's voice, but could make no sense of it.

"The connection is too faint to understand her" said Mirela, not knowing enough about the mother or wanting to risk more ventriloquism this intimately, even though Margery was very skilled at speaking without moving her lips, breathing with her stomach, and had often deceived others this way. "She can hear you but we'll need to use the crystal to get her replies.  She'll swing it this way, around the central star, for yes or back and forth, towards the crescent moon, for no. Have you thought of a question to make sure it's her?" 

"Mum," she asked, "when I was little did I have a doll called Jemima?"

Morag taught that:  "Like a lie-detector, the basis of clairvoyance is biofeedback to gather the necessary data.  This aspect of the art is evidence based. Using bio-feedback techniques such as holding hands with a finger on the wrist and watching eye dilatations, the information required for a reading can obtained." Environment is important for technical reasons. Eye dilatations are most variable and useful with the iris in the middle range so lighting the face is important. Heart rate and nervous twitches are best read in a warm place.  

This was simple, even had 'Jemima' not been another of Cindy's passwords.  The crystal said yes.

Cindy then asked a series of questions about her mother's happiness and various dead relatives to check and got very satisfactory answers.

"Now, with your mother's help, would you like me to tell you about your future?" Mirela asked.  "We can use the cards or I can read your energy from you hand.  I have clairvoyance."

As Morag taught, telling the future is simply a matter of degree.  In the short term everyone can do it.  You have a good idea where you will be in an hour and can probably imagine quite accurately what you'll be doing then. It gets less certain as you go further forward.   Like a weather forecast, how far forward you can see and in what detail, is a matter of prior knowledge. Being believed is having at least as much relevant data as the subject has.

A person's past and their current tendencies, desires, beliefs and plans are already known to them, either consciously or unconsciously. The clairvoyant needs to discover the important parts of this data. The past is obviously important to the future. For example it's helpful to know a person's family background; their belief system; their relationships; their means and their state of health.  And some of these, like their wealth and social status, general health and often their current relationships are immediately evident to a skilled observer using their accent; their grammar; their grooming; their clothes; their jewellery; tattoos and piercings; and obvious disabilities and illnesses, as clues.  Starting with what they already know, the clairvoyant adds to it, piece by piece - filling it in like a jigsaw puzzle - making suggestions; trying this piece here or there; receiving positive of negative iris reactions or hand twitches; noticing distress or arousal and so on, for example, after suggesting a loss or a gain; as in a love affair or in a family or in a career.  Props, like Tarot cards, an Astrological chart or tea leaves can elicit a reaction and help to suggest topics to explore.

Margery was pleased that she'd been right about this younger woman.  Claude was a good selector when it came to his girlfriends.  This one was a particularly good specimen - she was going to be fun to deal with.

Mirela had Cindy split the cards then laid them out in a pattern and turned them over.

"Oh dear" she said, alarmed.

"What?" asked Cindy.

Mirela told her that she'd better shuffle them again and repeated the process.

Then Mirela laid them out again.  But without saying anything, looked worried and gathered them up. 

"I think it would be better if I hold your hand and we just talk this through," she told a now very frightened Cindy. 

"Obviously, in its broad details, even the distant future is partly guessable," Morag had taught them, "being influenced by the past and by current tendencies, desires, beliefs and plans of a person seeking a reading. If one has an addiction to smoking it is likely that they will satisfy that craving sometime later that day. If one desires to wear red on Fridays and have chicken for lunch there is a good chance that one will be in red eating chicken at lunchtime on Friday. If one fears to leave the house on Friday the 13th then there is a good chance one will be home on that day. If one plans to go to another place in a years' time and has made the appropriate bookings, there is a good chance that is where they will be in a year's time." 

"Once sufficient data is to hand it's trivial to predict the obvious.  Thus you can safely predict: you'll go home to an empty house; and on Friday you'll wear red and have chicken for lunch; next year you'll go overseas. And sometimes a prophesy will be self-fulfilling for example: you'll have a cigarette later today, despite your desire to give up."

Mirela proceeded to tell Cindy all sorts of facts about her life that Margery had discovered rummaging around the apartment; and in her messages; and documents on-line.  She repeated Cindy's hopes and aspirations back to her; and imaginatively told her about her desire to get her finances back in order and settle down, perhaps as a wife.

"With a man, who I see is someone in the media, a scientist.  Someone who you find very sexy but who sometimes makes you feel uneasy about the sexual things he wants to share with you."

"Filling in the blanks in a prediction is like painting between the lines, limited only by the clairvoyant's imagination and their care not to be too specific," Morag had taught.  "And it's here that it's easiest to influence future decisions and thus change the future through self-fulfilling prophesy. What might happen if you tell someone that their relationship will fail, that someone at work is plotting against them, that their headaches or back pain will get worse or that they will drown?  The clairvoyant has more scope to influence decision making than most future tellers, as they are not constrained by stars or cards or chicken entrails or the flight of birds.  Once the data gathering is in hand, a skilled clairvoyant can also set about subtlety interfering with the subject's tendencies, desires, beliefs and plans so that their prediction of the future is indeed fulfilled, at least sufficiently to achieve the desired influence over that person."

"Yes it's true!" Cindy said. "But I do love him."

"But he won't commit. Even though you do dirty things for him, which trouble your sense of what's right and proper?  And he to you. That you've come to enjoy.  And that worries you too."

"No. I mean yes, I mean ..."

"That's alright dear, give me both your hands and I'll look into your mind, no need to say it out loud."

***

Mirela held her hands and appeared to download Cindy's shameful memories. When it was done she sighed and told Cindy that she was not at all shocked. After feeling Cindy's aura she'd expected something shameful.  But these things were quite normal among sophisticated young woman like her. Even her mother was telling her it was alright to share these things with the man she loved. .

After Mirela's lack of reproof, all Cindy's sins came pouring forth. She opened her troubled heart and revealed all her new confessor. Within the hour Mirela had a catalogue all her previous lovers, including one who, deliciously, overlapped with Claude and she had imagined a threesome with.  Mirela was surprised that Cindy had not suggested this to Claude.  She explained that every man's fantasy was to make a home movie involving another couple. Cindy should take the initiative and surprise him.  It would be an excellent way of having Claude accept her as his life partner.  Swinging two ways was a very common delight among the most sophisticated couples these days, with all the one on one and two on one opportunities that presented.

Mirela uncovered some interesting deceptions too, such as Cindy lying to Claude about her credit status.  Of most interest, in addition to her belief in astrology, Cindy had on-going religious affiliations and was secretly going to church to confess then lying to Claude about where she'd been. All this lying; while dating an outspoken atheist, must be putting her conscience at odds with her faith and beliefs, Mirela sympathised. 

It had been a long session and Mirela suggested that Cindy lay down on her bed so that Mirela could use her phrenology skills to read the bumps on Cindy's head. They went to Cindy's bedroom and Mirela sat sideways of the bed, near the pillows, so that Cindy could comfortably lay her head in her lap, looking up into Mirela's eyes. 

***

Morag had drawn a distinction between enchanting someone and bewitching them.  Enchantment is quite literally chanting or singing to them in such a way as to capture their subconscious mind, as in hypnosis or Mesmerism. That's what the word means. It's a temporary state during which ideas can be implanted, memories can be recovered and inhibitions can be lowered or removed.   Bewitching is more permanent.  The person is no longer able to resist the witch as they have been physically and psychologically addicted to fulfilling the witch's every desire. It's a kind of love - an all-consuming love from which the bewitched may long to escape.  Being bewitched might be likened to a nightmare in which the the victim dreams that they are desperately running or swimming or climbing from some dread but their legs won't move. 

In this case, enchantment will be quite sufficient, although Margery is quite attracted to the idea of training Cindy as her apprentice after her failure to bewitch Bianca.  She recalled Morag's lesson:

"The words to a chant or chanson are quite arbitrary. They could be a shopping list, it's all about circumstance and melody.  In relaxed circumstances a lullaby is ideal. If seduction is the goal, the relaxed subject should then be assured that pleasuring themselves erotically is now perfectly appropriate and desirable. The enchantress should then shadow their hands a moment later so that the action seems to the subject to be their own. The subject will experience a double hand giving them pleasure wherever they choose to touch themselves.  Soon, utilising the phantom hand phenomena, in which even wide awake subjects can be made to believe that a foreign hand is their own, the enchantress can continue to stimulate an erogenous area after the subject's hand has left.  Soon they will believe that, like an Indian goddess, they have four arms all at work giving them pleasure.  They will henceforth subconsciously associate this stimulation with the chant that is used during the experience.  Thereafter the subject will become sexually aroused and subconsciously desire that the enchantress should pleasure them again when that chant is repeated.  Thus any inhibitions a subject may have about being touched sexually by their enchantress, for example in public or with friends, will be overruled by the hummed or whispered tune."

***

With Cindy's head in her lap, Mirela was quietly crooning Summertime from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess while feeling her bumps. After her emotional and corresponding hormonal rollercoaster Cindy took just minutes to enchant. 

The next stage was easy.  The most difficult obstacles had been removed earlier during the readings by providing Cindy with a motive for sexual experimentation.  Cindy, who had never thought this was a problem before, now realised that a more sophisticated approach to sex was key to her ongoing relationship with Claude.  Mirela now suggested that Cindy needed to actually try-out with a woman before getting into a potentially embarrassing situation with Claude.  She told Cindy that she, Mirela, was a sex therapist and would be available to help.  Finally she told Cindy that the phrase 'making home movies' would re-enchant her and clapped her hands to release Cindy from her trance.

"Is there something you wanted to ask me," she asked Cindy, who must have drifted off but was now gazing up at Mirela from her lap, fully aware.  "No, don't tell me, let me lay my hand on your forehead so I can read your thoughts.  Oh, that's very exciting! You want to find out what women do, with me, don't you?"

"Yes, how did you know?  Do you do those things with women?  Could you show me what to do?" asked Cindy hopefully.

Mirela confirmed that she did and she would, in a purely therapeutic way, because she would like to help Cindy secure her relationship with her boyfriend.   In a very professional manner she suggested that they both strip.  Cindy shyly took off her clothes and demurely, and very tentatively, got under the covers.  Mirela got under with her.  After a little awkward fumbling Mirela started to hum and sing quietly in Cindy's ear.  Cindy could feel Mirela's warm Gypsy breath puffing against her ear with each word:

...hum hum hum

Your hum hum's rich
And your hum hum's good lookin'
Hum little baby
Don't you cry

Hum, hum these mornings
You're going to rise up hum in'
And you'll spread your wings
And you'll take to the sky

Hum hum hum,
And the livin' is easy
Hum are hum in'
And the hum hum is high...
 

 

This got Cindy wonderfully excited and she found that she was no longer shy at all.  Her wings were spread and she took to the sky.  Soon Cindy was so bold that Mirela asked if she would like to make recording to show Claude.  Without any further prompting Cindy enthusiastically delved into her bedside table and took out the camera that she'd evidently used to record her previous erotic experiences with Claude.

Margery was anything but camera shy but there was no way that she wanted to be seen by Cindy's camera.  Fortunately, Mirela just happened to have a virtual reality camera set in her bag that looked like an innocuous headband.

"If we shoot it from your lover's point of view," explained Mirela, as she confiscated Cindy's camera, "with me wearing this, we won't need yours."

But of course, shot from that perspective, it wasn't to be for Cindy herself to enjoy and it wasn't even for Claude. It was for a different purpose altogether.

Much later, when Cindy was cuddling Mirela contentedly yet again and tracing circles on her arm with a finger, Mirela asked:

"So, did you enjoy making home movies with me?" 

Cindy's expression went blank and she closed her eyes.

"If you would you like to know what I saw in the cards you'd better ask before I leave," Mirela told her.

She disengaged and began to get dressed. It took some time with those scarves, lace up boots and so on.  So it was some time before Mirela was ready and she clapped her hands. 

Cindy immediately asked: "What was it in my cards that you refused to tell me about?"

"Oh it was too dreadful," Mirela told her, pausing as she collected her remaining things into her bag, "I didn't want to tell you. The cards always tell the truth. The cards told me that Claude will be unfaithful to you sometime next month. Next year he'll end up marrying a beautiful but evil seductress."

Cindy who until then, had been luxuriating among heaps of crumpled bed linen, was obviously devastated. She sat up, as if she'd heard a gunshot; and the colour drained from her face.

"But in on the bright side," Mirela continued.  "You're about to embark on a brilliant new career in the movies.  You're about to become a star. You'll no longer be confined to making home movies."

With the last three words Cindy's head fell forward again. "Now you will forget about my visit today but you'll remember what you've learnt about Claude," Mirela commanded.

Mirela's last act, before she walked out the door and clapped, was to bring up Porgy and Bess as background music on Cindy's sound system. Cindy would be wondering when she had undressed and gone to bed. She must have been dreaming. Claude had broken up with her.  She messaged him and was reassured.  Stupid dream.

As she rode her hover-bike home over the city Margery shrieked to the sky with triumph and elation.  Mirela had been brilliant. 

***

Cindy had told Mirela that she wasn't the only one who'd made a sex movie with Claude.  When Claude had first suggested that they made a movie of their lovemaking, Cindy had suspected that he'd made one with Joy, his previous. She'd asked him and he was a evasive it made her determined to to see it.  He didn't trust The Cloud and had stored it on removable media that he kept in a cupboard.  Cindy had been so determined and annoyed by his evasiveness that she'd used her key and stolen his recordings. But he'd somehow got them back or had another copy. Recently she'd viewed them at his place without his knowledge.

Margery realised that was the reason one had still been on his device because he was obviously more careful because when she looked for them they weren't in the cupboard where Cindy had said. He must have moved them.  Cindy had said that they were on old fashioned miniature memory cubes.  These were about the size of a pea and easy to hide. It was in the back of Claude's socks draw that Margery hit pay-dirt: a little bag of cubic peas. She borrowed them and had Woodsman copy them to her storage in The Cloud, then she replaced them as before.

As Kat, she messaged Joy, the ex-girlfriend, from Woodsman's apartment and claimed to have enjoyed a one night stand with Claude during which they sat up in bed watching sex movies he'd made with her and with his current girlfriend Cindy.  She elaborated about her night, describing his bedroom, bathroom and so on so that Joy knew that she must be telling the truth.  Kat claimed to be a friend of Cindy's who Claude had slept with on the side.  She gave Joy the most damaging information about Cindy, including her ongoing confessions at Church, during which she told a priest potentially damaging information about a prominent atheist; her real credit position; and all about the concurrent lover. 

"Even though she pretends to be a Christian, Cindy was screwing two men at once and I'm sure that she's enjoying their nights sitting up in bed with Claude, watching the movies that you made with him."

Then she described some of the more graphic highlights to confirm that she'd seen them too; and to rather deliciously turn the knife. 

"How many did you make?  One of them he showed me is very unflattering of you, particularly that scene when your flabby flesh is bouncing like a fat cow on a trampoline.  We laughed so much.  They're probably laughing at you right now.  You should crash his place when they're both there, demand that the movies are destroyed and tell him what a deceptive bitch Cindy is."

After that Joy did all the dirty-work and it was totally untraceable to Margery. 

***

Margery's next step was to call on Phillip, who was soon to be surplus to requirements.  She found him in his new hangout, a gay bar downtown.

She enchanted him suggesting that he would enjoy dating woman again, in particular an 'up and coming' porn star.  After releasing him from his enchantment she showed him a home movie that Cindy had made to promote herself as porn star, seen from the point of view of her lesbian lover.  Philip found that he was desperate to meet this hot woman.  Margery then suggested that he would like to become a porn star too and that Hank the Shank should be his porn name. Phillip, who until that moment had not realised that being a porn star was what he had always wanted to do in life, loved the name, which seemed quite flattering to his principal asset.  

Over the next several days Margery oversaw their courtship, as Cindy who now doubted Claude' commitment, was swept off her feet by Hank, who was wonderfully simpatico, already in tune with her likes and dislikes and even knowing the town she grew up in and remembering some of her friends.  

After their rapturous initial meeting, Margery suggested that Hank's next date with Cindy should be boating and a picnic on the bank such as they had once enjoyed. She was laughing at something to do with the name she'd chosen for him.  When she refused to say what it was he told her that he'd given up trying to get to the bottom of her jokes.  At this she shrieked with laughter and kept giggling off and on, for the next half hour.

The following day Margery outlined her script for his porn movie with Cindy. Using Circe she remotely coached him on how to prepare Cindy for their big production: step by step; date by date; as their affair continued.  Cindy told Hank about her dream in which she had been with another woman and then became a famous star.  They agreed that it was wonderful that they were so simpatico that they'd even had similar dreams of sex and fame.  They placed an advertisement for another bi-couple to practice with and to co-star in their movie.

Their movie, Cindy Sins and Sins and Sins, featuring Hank the Shank, was one of the hottest of the year and quickly went viral. Downloads of the featured song, Summertime, also skyrocketed.

Later Phillip went back to his boyfriend and Cindy tried to reconcile with Claude.  But by now that relationship was in metaphorical cinders. Claude was in love with Margery; and having quite sufficient fun of his own.

Cindy has since gone on to fame and fortune in the entertainment business, just as the cards foretold.

 

 

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