Ending 2: (Logical)
They all turned face me but I was too stunned for their familiar faces to register initially. An impressive assembly of my closest friends were wearing the ornate ballroom uniforms and gowns I had witnessed in my dreams. The room echoed with hysterical laughter. It seemed like the walls were spinning so I had to sit down before my knees buckled. I was guided to a couch in the ballroom until the dizzy spell wore off.
After several moments, the hilarity died down and my friend Steve grinned and remarked; “I guess you’re wondering why we all called you here.” The old expression made the entire roomful burst into giggles and howls again. I was the only one who didn’t get the joke. Obviously it was at my expense.
I had regained my composure and stated sarcastically; “Yeah, I did have a few HUNDRED questions.. now that you mention it!”
“We really shouldn’t be laughing at you…”; He explained with a sarcastic snort; “but if you could’ve witnessed the priceless expression on your own face; you would understand. It’s everything we expected it to be!”
“Understanding is something that I seem to be in short supply of right now!” I’m sure there was more than a hint of confusion and annoyance in my voice. “Maybe one of you jokers can let me in on your little master plan.”
“Do you remember about 4 months ago when you and I had an argument about the validity of hypnotism?”; Steve began. “You told me that I was wasting my time and money on the hypnotism course at the college.”
“Yes”; I admitted; while quietly wondering what that had to do with the recent series of bewildering events.
“Well”; he further explained, “You kept calling it ‘a load of bunk’. You must have used that infuriating phrase a dozen times during our discussion. You wouldn’t even entertain the idea or keep an open mind. You mocked me incessantly and became insufferable. Finally, to prove its scientific validity, I arranged an exhibition in front of just about everyone here.”
“If I remember correctly Steve, that whole fiasco was a dismal failure for you.”; I remarked. That brought another round of laughs from the crowd.
“That’s what we let you believe! After you agreed to a demonstration; Darren, Bobby, and I drove here to Wayne’s house. Since you had never visited him before, it was the perfect choice for my revenge plans. Darren filmed the background scenery with his video camera. He held the camera on his shoulder so it was shot from a driver’s view perspective. Once we arrived at the property, I walked up the path and filmed ‘your vision’ as I went along. The hand that knocked on the front door was actually mine.
Wayne was waiting inside for the signal to switch on the lights and unpause the music. Everyone here tonight was an ‘equal partner in the crime’ that night. They were all waiting in costume and ready to waltz on queue for the dream performance. I simply filmed what we wanted you to ‘see’, from the porch. Then Wayne turned off the lights abruptly and paused the music again. The last thing we did was focus the video camera on the cardboard cut out of the ‘evil Jesus’. We had placed it over the stained glass window next door; while we playing spooky music, off camera.”
I sat quietly in abject shock as Steve continued to relay the details of his master illusion. I still didn’t understand all the details or scope of his trickery but It was a crushing blow to my ego. He detailed how easily I had been manipulated by his creative efforts.
“The next day when we met up for the demonstration, you reiterated how ‘iron clad’ your will was. You stated to everyone that you were completely immune to any sort of ‘mind control’ or ‘psycho babble’. The fact is, I’ve never seen anyone so confident to prove hypnosis to be a hoax. Then, when I did put you under; you were one of the EASIEST subjects I’ve ever hypnotized!”
All of his co-conspirators roared when remembering my weak will-power and rapid transformation. At this point, I didn’t dare dispute any of his revelations but I still failed to grasp how he managed to get me to dream about the things I did. Sheepishly, I asked for more details on the complicated stunt.
“I had you to watch the videotape footage while instilling several hypnotic suggestions. The idea was that you would dream about what you were seeing; as if it were actually happening to you personally. I also went into great detail about why you were driving around the countryside. When I brought you out of hypnosis; you looked around as if nothing had happened! Then you started making fun of my ‘failed experiment’! We all had such a hard time keeping a straight face while you were berating me and saying: ‘I told you so!’.”
I felt so humiliated by the multiple servings of ‘humble pie’ I was being served by my boasting friend. By the appearance of things however, I had earned it. He continued to dish, and I continued to swallow.
“After the initial success, I needed another hypnotherapy session to add some new details. I made a lame excuse that some people require more than one effort before they can be put under. You were exasperated that I couldn’t just accept my ‘failure’ but you agreed to go through it, again. Is it coming back to you?”
“Little bits and pieces”; I admitted. My head was swimming with confusion. It was difficult to hear all the things I was learning about myself. So many things conflicted with what I thought I ‘knew’ about those events. It was all I could do to just comprehend what they were telling me.
“Once again”; He continued; “we filmed the trip and added some new elements to make it more interesting.”; Steve continued with a grin. “We had to make all of this memorable to you, to positively effect an outcome we wanted you to have more than three months later.”
“Like that big old oak tree?”; I questioned. “How in the world did you add that? It’s huge!”
“It was there the whole time but on the first night, the camera was just pointed in the other direction. Darren purposefully left it out of frame the first time so we could add it to a later sequence. The next day we gathered at the exhibition and I put you under again. I carefully showed you the next ‘dream’ that you were going to experience. When I brought you out of the trance; you immediately started letting me have it. You went on and on about the whole thing being ‘pseudoscience nonsense’.
In my best acting performance, I pretended to be embarrassed. Then I muttered something about why it hadn’t worked that time either. You looked at me with pity in your eyes.”
“Yes, I remember that. I called you a poor sap!”; I admitted. “Then I asked why you couldn’t accepted the truth. I told you that it is all a bunch of bunk; but you made the excuse that not enough time had elapsed between the initial session and the follow up. You begged me to give you one last try. I honestly thought I was doing you an injustice by entertaining your delusions another time but I reluctantly agreed. I told you that I was only doing it one last time to prove once and for all that it was nonsense. When it failed, I expected you to admit to everyone that it was a hoax. I guess the big joke is on me.”
I looked around the room and everyone was smiling. They seemed to be enjoying watching me eat my well deserved ‘crow’.
“Yes, I readily agreed and hurried off to direct your third and final ‘dream’.”; Steve added.
By this time I was fascinated at all the intricate things they had done to make their elaborate production so successful. “How did you build the graveyard, the monolith, the sign and the iron fence all in one night?”
“Do you remember that Darren and Bobby were not present at the second hypnosis session?”; Steve pointed out. They started making the new props right away and worked through the night. Jeff’s dad owns a construction company and had about 30 sacks of concrete that got wet. After they hardened, they were perfect to use as headstones. The rest of the gang helped dig ‘graves’ or worked on the sign. I personally built the monolith from styrofoam sprayed with stucco and painted it to look like granite.”
“Was the oak tree real?”; I asked.
“The old oak tree was dead but had been real. We lowered the hanging limb down by cutting a notch on the opposite side so it would sag. I wanted it to seem like the tree was trying to prevent you from danger. How’s that for subconscious symbolism? We also spread gravel all the way up to the roots to make it appear closer to the road every time.”
“If the monolithic archway was just styrofoam, then why did it make such a thunderous sound when it fell?”; I inquired.
“You seem to forget that all of this was staged and prepared in advance.”; He reminded me proudly. “Darren was standing by with a tape recording of a loud crashing sound. After that, I filmed ‘your’ hand open the door and step inside. Wayne reversed the electromagnetic field on the old grandfather clock so the hands spun counterclockwise. I made sure you noticed that detail by pointing the camera toward it in the final dream sequence. Then I simply stood in the doorway and filmed the final moments of the mock dance. When the grandfather clock went off, it was the signal for you to wake up from final dream.
On the final hypnosis session; I could have made you get down on all fours and bark like a dog. Instead, I just had you sign a written confession that you had been hypnotized. Do you need to see that as proof, or is it safe to assume that you can admit my hypnotic abilities now?”
I was embarrassed, humiliated and more than a little bit freaked out by it all. All the hoops I had been made to jump through seemed cruel and excessive but by all accounts, I had been a giant ass and had it coming. I decided to accept my medicine. I had been taught a supreme lesson in humility.
“I would have rather played fetch all day long than have went through all that!”; I grinned. “How did you know I would forget the bogus directions to the party tonight, and follow my instincts to the house instead?”
“Are you kidding? I had you absolutely PROGRAMMED to come here! There isn’t anything stronger than a deep suggestion like the one I gave you. Plus, natural curiosity about the unknown helped too.”
I was relieved to finally understand the obscure meaning of the dream saga. “I must admit;” I said to everyone who participated in the world class prank. “You made a first class monkey out of me. I take back everything negative I said about hypnotism. Steve Staten; you are a master of the art! It seems that you thought of everything! Answer me one thing though; how did you animate the creepy clown puppet to walk and talk like it did? It was incredibly life-like.”
“Huh? What puppet? There was no puppet or clown in any of the dream film sequences.”; Steve said. “What are you talking about?”
I was more than a little bit miffed that even after coming clean on all the other shenanigans, he was still playing coy about that one detail. “The one in the second night’s dream!” I looked around the room and saw a sincere look of confusion among everyone. “The one in the hall, sitting on the antique chair!”; I added nervously.
“What the hell are you talking about?”; Several people said in unison.
“Cut it out, the joke is over!”; I was annoyed by their refusal to let ‘sleeping dogs lie’.
“Honestly, I don’t know anything about a clown or puppet.”; Steve said seriously. I looked around the crowd for a sign of a grin; or a crack in their united facade. All I saw were disturbed looks on their faces. It was as if their intricate psychological prank had somehow made me delusional.
“This is easy enough to prove!”; I defended. “Just take a look for yourselves in the hall, on that old chair. It was there when I walked in!”
Steve and Darren went to see what I was talking about. When they came back into the ballroom, their expressions told me all I needed to know. I didn’t need to check for myself. The sinister clown puppet had gotten up and left!