“Well, we have something interesting today for you folks,” promised Bob Thatcher, the host of “Morning Live with Bob.” Each hair was meticulously in place as usual, his impossibly white teeth beaming forth from his hyper-caffeinated grin.

            “Do you believe in hypnosis? Well our next two guests sure do. We have invited two local professional hypnotists to our studio to have a kind of ‘trance off.’ We are going to try something a little different this morning, though. Instead of asking our contestants to hypnotize me or one of you out in our audience, we will be asking them to work their craft on one-another.”

            Bob paused dramatically to allow the cameras to pick up the few gasps and smattering of applause that this announcement elicited, then continued, “That’s right. The first hypnotist to put his or her opponent into a trance here on live television will win $1,000. And bragging rights, of course!”

            Another pause for laughter from the audience.

            “Okay, let’s bring out our contestants. Our first guest is the author of several books on hypnotherapy, and has been profiled by several national print journals- Dr. Emile Berghof.”

            A tall, well-built man walked on stage, dressed in a conservative suit and tie, and stood to Bob’s left. He looked to be in his early fifties. His neatly-trimmed silver-gray beard and wire rim glasses gave him an intellectual air.

            Bob Thatcher shook the man’s hand. “Welcome, Dr. Berghof.”

            “Thank you, Bob. It’s a pleasure to be here,” he replied, his speech clear and strong but tinged with a slight central-European accent.

            “How do you feel about today’s contest, Doctor?”

            “Very confident, very confident. I have degrees in both psychiatry and psychology. I have been studying the science of the mind for more than thirty years. I have no doubt in my abilities.”

            “All right! Well, let’s bring out your opponent. She is an internet sensation and a self-styled expert of ‘erotic,’” here Bob winked at the audience conspiratorially, “hypnosis- Goddess Marquesa.”

            A woman entered from the opposite side of the stage as Berghof, inducing an immediate, subtle change in the atmosphere of the studio. She wore a short, low cut dress, and had the kind of figure that would ordinarily have elicited a few catcalls from such a large audience. Something about her carriage, however, short-circuited such reflexes. Instead, the sound of many of the men (and a few of the women) shifting uncomfortably in their seats in the face of her sexual magnetism could be heard on camera.

            “Oh…Goddess Marquesa…” stuttered Bob, momentarily flustered, “that is an interesting stage name, isn’t it?”

            “It’s not a ‘stage name’ to those who worship me, Bob,” she replied, a serene smile on her face.

            “Right…” Deciding to retreat from this line of questioning, Bob observed, “So Dr. Berghof feels pretty confident. He has some impressive credentials. How do you like your chances?”

            “I admire the doctor’s dedication to science,” the Goddess answered, her face still a mask of perfect calm, “but I think he may be in for a surprise. In my experience, hypnosis is as much art as science. A true hypnotist must penetrate the body, the heart, and the soul, not merely the mind.” As she uttered these last words she fixed Berghof directly with the gaze of her luminescent green eyes. Momentarily discomposed, he looked down and pretended to wipe some dust from his glasses.

            “Okay then, let’s begin,” said Bob, still a bit rattled, “These are the rules. Each of you must remain seated, and must continue to look at your opponent for the duration of the competition. The first person to break eye contact will be disqualified. You may use any props you desire, but only one of you may speak at a time, alternating every two minutes. Whoever falls into a trance first is the loser. Do you understand?”

            “Yes,” both contestants replied.

            Reaching into his pocket and producing a coin, Bob explained, “First we will have a coin toss to see who gets to speak first.”

            “There is no need for that,” interrupted Goddess Marquesa. “The Doctor may speak first.”

            “Okay!” exclaimed Bob brightly, his show-business veneer restored. “Let’s get this show on the road. If you would both have a seat…”

            Goddess Marquesa and Berghof sat down in two large armchairs that had been placed, angled toward one-another, center stage.

            “…you may begin!”

            “Well, my dear,” began Berghof, his tone light but professorial. “I want you to listen to the sound of my voice. As you listen, you feel yourself becoming relaxed. All the tension is easing from your mind, you feel very safe and very comfortable…”

            As Berghof spoke, Goddess Marquesa continued to favor him with her cool gaze, a slight smile on her lips. She seemed to be listening intently, though the Doctor’s recitation did not produce any observable change in her demeanor. After about thirty seconds, she shifted in her chair, keeping her eyes on Berghof but crossing her legs toward him so that he could have a full view of their shapely form.

            “Ahem…” coughed Berghof, momentarily agitated, “as I was saying….”

            Goddess Marquesa produced a short black wand with a round amber jewel at its end. Without taking her gaze from Berghof, she placed the tip of the wand against her thigh and began moving it slowly along the line of her black nylon stocking, tracing a graceful arc down the length of her leg. When she reached the tapering end of her calf she came up, beginning the entire slow, seductive stroke over again when she reached the top of her thigh.

            The effect on Berghof was obvious. His concentration faltered, his breathing became shallow. “You…are getting…sleepier…” he stuttered, struggling to continue as his eyes involuntarily followed the movement of the Goddess’s wand. His pupils dilated, his speech broke. “I’m sorry,” he finally said in slurred tones. “I’m not feeling quite myself. We’ll have to do this some other time, I’m afraid.”

            The Doctor made to rise just as a buzzer went off signaling that his two minutes were up.

            “Sit still,” commanded the Goddess. Her tone was gentle but insistent.

            Berghof remained seated. “Please…” he groaned.

            “Doctor, your time is up,” interjected Bob.

            Goddess Marquesa raised a hand to silence Bob. “Let the Doctor speak.”

            “Please, my dear…” the Doctor began.

            “Goddess Marquesa,” she corrected him.

            “Please, Goddess Marquesa…don’t do this…my professional reputation…I beg you….”

            “Beg,” interrupted the Goddess, flashing an enchanting smile, “I like the sound of that word. Don’t you, Doctor?”

            “What?” asked Berghof, seemingly disoriented.

            “You like the word ‘beg.’”

            “Yes…I like the word beg…” Berghof repeated, his voice strangely monotone.

            “Since you are begging, wouldn’t you feel more comfortable on your knees?”

            Berghof slid out of his chair and onto his knees, his expression slack-jawed, his eyes glassy.

            “That’s good, Doctor. You don’t really want to go, do you?”

            “No, Goddess.”


            “I don’t…I don’t want to leave you,” Berghof breathed as if having an epiphany, the last word prayerful in emphasis. “You are so…so….”

            “Mesmerizing?” Goddess Marquesa supplied.

            “Yes, mesmerizing….” Berghof agreed.

            “You like me very much, don’t you, Doctor?”

            “Yes, Goddess.”

            “And you would like to make me happy?”

            “Yes, Goddess. Anything…”

            “Do you know what would be very sexy, Doctor? If you would act like a chicken. Mmmm…” Goddess Marquesa sighed bewitchingly, “I love a man who can act like a chicken. I might let that man kiss my feet…”

            “I think we have a winner,” Bob intoned disbelievingly, as the studio filled with clucking sounds and the Doctor rose, his arms flapping…