Yearly torment

TRIGGER warning  – hypnosis.

This is out of context unless the blog has been read in a chronological order.

Each cult has some peculiar traditions. Our family had a yearly torment designed only for Eric and me. It started about a week after the horrors in the barn. 

Guinevere, 5 years old:

Auntie, Grandma and Eric’s mother said they were taking Eric, Samantha and me on a small excursion. I wanted to ride in the same car as Eric, but was forced to go with Samantha and Auntie. Samantha was busy applying lipgloss in the rearview mirror during the whole trip. 

”Don’t talk, you’ll distract me”, she directed. ”I have to remember my lines!”

”Samantha has been picked out for the school play”, Auntie said. ”I’m so proud of her!”

Buildings were becoming more and more sparse as our car ventured into the countryside. I started feeling uneasy. 

”I want to get off, I don’t want to go to the country! I want to stay in the city!” Buildings were safe. Fields and forests not so. 

”But this is a fun trip!” Auntie exclaimed. 

”NO! NO! I DON’T WANT TO GO! TURN AROUND! TURN AROUND!” I got more and more upset, crying loudly. 

”Goodies, mom?” Samantha asked, looking pointedly at me. Auntie sighed.

”No goodies, I’m afraid. There will be no goodies today.” I continued crying until the car stopped outside a big barn situated by a lake, then I stopped in pure stupor. Grandmother, Eric and his mother were already there. The barn frightened me, but I felt relieved when I saw the lake. This is a different place than the scary one. Once out of the cars, they wouldn’t let me hug Eric. 

”We just found out he’s got lice!” Auntie blurted.

”I don’t care if I get lice, I need to see that he’s breathing!”

Grandma took a deep breath.

”Bianca look at him! He’s standing up! Of course he’s breathing!”

”I’m Guinevere!”

”Guinevere, he’s fine!”

”I DON’T CARE IF I GET LICE!” I howled. ”GIVE ME THE LICE! I WANT TO HUG HIM!” Eric had worn a very sad expression, but now it changed into a smile. I stared. He’s smiling – does that mean he’s ok? 

”Look at this necklace I bought”, Grandmother interrupted. I turned my head and regarded it. The chain and the medallion were sparkling but I couldn’t see the details, it was all swaying too much. I leaned in closer, trying to get a better look. Before I knew it I was hypnotized. 

Grandmother had stolen my attention. She kept urging me to look at the necklace, to concentrate. But out of the corner of my eye I could see what was happening behind her. Eric’s mother and Auntie were forcing him to change into swimwear. They then started shepherding him to the lake, it was quite entertaining because he kept dodging them. One week and autumn had arrived in full force. Mother told me this morning it’s too cold to swim! Eric’s mother pointed at me and suddenly Eric looked frightened. He hurried into the water. 

Concentrate!” Grandmother snatched my attention again. She talked to me, I saw her lips moving, but I don’t remember what she said. Auntie came up to us and Grandmother stepped to the side, giving me a full view of the beach. I was now convinced Eric had insisted no water was too cold for him. I could see him lying on the sand. He was nearly dead from swallowing too much water! I was frozen in fear…wait, Eric’s in danger! I plunge forward but Auntie grabs hold of me.

”You’re frozen. You’re frozen. You’re a statue. You can’t move.” Luckily brave Samantha was not frozen in fear! She kissed Eric back to life! I could see Samantha kissing Eric. I didn’t react until she started pushing on his chest. I felt a fear so immense I got lost in my bubble, my bubble of voice. I didn’t know I was screaming until I felt Grandmother shaking my shoulders, violently. She snapped her fingers in front of my face and immediately the world was clear and real again. 

”This was a bad idea, you’re only waking it to her! Let it all fall asleep instead! It’s a natural process, it’s better if she forgets it naturally!” Eric’s mother exclaimed. 

”You know why we do this!” Auntie countered, on the verge of tears. ”It must work! I’m not taking any chances! It’s my brother’s life!”

”You said you loved my son!” Eric’s mother was also crying now. ”And now you’re risking his life with this method!”

”Calm down, calm down”, Grandmother soothed. ”We’ll do all methods. We’ll do everything we can to save their lives. We’re not gonna let the idiot men kill the children in our family!”

This farce is forcibly repeated every summer. The first years, it’s almost always Samantha doing the resuscitation. She’s been tricked into believing the purpose of the theatre is making Eric love her. Later on she realizes he cannot be possessed by such means and then Marcus or one of the adults play the role of saviour instead. Until the summer when Eric says ”Bianca, or none at all.”

Bianca, 15 years old:

I’m walking the old trail to the beach together with Grandmother. It’s the height of summer, butterflies and dragonflies darting to and fro in front of us. I wanted to tan my body, so I’m wearing a bikini with a long, flowing skirt. I’m glad to go swimming, but I feel lonely too. All my friends are finding boyfriends, but I’m too shy and scared of physical contact. I want to be loved, but I don’t think I’ll ever find someone who’ll have patience enough to wait for me. Wait for me to trust him and get over my fears. Grandmother is nice and she’s good company, but I feel like a freak. I’m not living the life I imagined teenagers live! My days are tranquil and uneventful, full of long hours of reading books. Where are the parties, the boys, the teenage drama? 

Some distance from the beach we encounter Auntie and Eric’s father. Auntie’s got a new bracelet, it glimmers in the sun.

Eric is so still. He’s lying on the beach, looking positively drenched. What on earth is he doing? There are no high waves or strong currents here – he can’t have had difficulties swimming. I get down on my knees and lean close. It seems like he’s not breathing, but suddenly he lets out a lot of whoosh of air with a shudder.

”Eric! How are you?” No answer. Is he sleeping? Drugged? But he’s such an orderly person, why would he be drugged? There is only one way to know. 

”Eric, a nurse taught me the only way to know if someone is faking unconsciousness is to temporarily disconnect their jaw. I’m not really sure how it’s done but she says they do it at the hospital so maybe I should…”

”Bwahaha! No thank you!” Eric starts laughing. ”Couldn’t you just blow some air in my mouth to see if I wake up?”

”But you’re already awake?”

”You could try, anyway. In fact, I’d like you to. Practice resuscitation on me.” I should resist the offer but frankly, he’s irresistible. As soon as my lips touch his, he kisses me, first gently, then he turns me over and pinions me to the ground. I don’t want this to stop ever. I’ve been hypnotized to believe we’re alone, but now our relatives make themselves heard:

”Remember you’re getting married! Eric you have a fiancée!”

”Stop this! Bianca, you’re second cousins, this is incest! It’s forbidden, you could go to prison!”

That’s a ludicrous claim which makes us laugh even while we’re kissing. Half siblings are allowed to marry in this country – second cousins couldn’t possibly be a problem.

”Didn’t you hear, it’s incest!”

”We don’t care!” Eric shouts back.

”What! You don’t care?! Bianca, stop encouraging him! Eric, let go of her!” Auntie is so apoplectic, she’s bouncing on her feet.

”Water! We need water!” Eric’s father hollers and I see Uncle appearing out of the corner of my eye. I gaze into Eric’s eyes.

”I really don’t care”, I whisper and we resume kissing. All that shouting is just background noise.

”A bucket of water, someone! A bucket!”

”Not again!”

”We’ll break them up!”

”Make it ice cold!” This makes me turn my head. A bucket, water slopping out, coming towards us. I hear an unearthly scream. It takes some seconds for me to realize it came from me. Eric lifts me up to standing and gives me a big hug.

”It’s over, it’s over”, he whispers. My knees are shaking uncontrollably. ”Look at me, you’re safe. I’m safe.” I search his face. What are we safe from? Why did I scream?

”You know what you have to do, if you love her at all!” Grandmother reminds Eric. 

”I know but I don’t want to”, Eric answers.

”You have to”, Eric’s father insists. Eric clamps his mouth shut, he’s struggling to hold back tears. 

”Please Bianca, look into my eyes. I want you to relax and breathe. In and out…in and out…in and out…Guinevere, I need you”. 

Guinevere:

”I don’t want to make her forget. She’s so happy now.” Bianca’s in love. I want this to be her first kiss. The first in her memory.

”I don’t want her to forget either.” Eric is struggling not to cry. ”Dad, why can’t she remember this? Why?”

”You’re about to get married!”

”It was just a kiss!”

”No and no and no again!”

”Can’t we just wait a little?”

”No.”

”Guinevere, can you pack this memory into a box? Bianca finding me on the beach and everything?”

”No problem!” I know why we do this. It doesn’t change what Eric and I feel for each other. Forgetting won’t change what I feel for him.

The idea of my relatives is I will have so many memory boxes, I won’t know which is which. So many boxes, I’ll never find…what? Will I ever know why we do this stupid theatre each year? Afterwards it’s my turn to be the one acting. Eric is lying on the beach again. But it’s not the same Eric – it’s his Normal Self. Eric’s Normal Self has a memory loss of everything cult-related and everything related to me. He doesn’t know I love him. Auntie hypnotizes Eric to believe he was swimming and got pulled under by a strong current. Luckily I appeared and dragged him out of the water and blew life back into him. When she breaks the hypnosis, Eric has the same visage as always in this situation: confused, fearful.

”Bianca you saved my life?”

”I guess so.” I hate theatre. I hate lying. But they’re watching us right now.

”I didn’t know you were such a strong swimmer!”

”I…people get stronger when they’re frightened!”

”I…when I was…unconscious? I dreamt…I saw you. We were…” He shakes his head. ”I must be a little mad”, he mutters.

”You’re not mad at all”, I smile. ”Come, let’s go home!”

”Break it!” Uncle shouts.

”Eric?” I cup his face with my hands and kiss him.

”Not like that!” Eric’s father yells.

”NOO!” Auntie roars.

I can’t do hypnosis. But if I kiss Eric, his Normal Self is expelled and his Second Self takes over.  He’s kissing me back and I’m wondering if he’s switched – or is it still the Normal? Then he exclaims:

”You shocked him, poor fellow!” I can’t help feeling sad.

”Am I that unattractive to him?” 

”No!” Eric chuckles. ”On the contrary. But I’m eight years older and to him, that’s way too much. Kiss him when you’re eighteen and he won’t disappear.” I can’t wait until I’m eighteen.

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