Written for my good friend Steph, a.k.a. the author robotunit8, after being asked to work with Ultravox’s songs.
I wove a couple of them in this one, some in an obvious fashion, others not so much. Can you spot them all?
“This means nothing to meOh Vienna”
“Planet Earth calling Susan” said a sharp, woman’s voice. “Can you hear me?”
“Huh… what?” asked Susan Hawthorne, a bit startled as she escaped her realm of daydream delusions and returned, once again, to the coldness of the real world.
“You were singing again….” retorted the voice from the cubicle next to hers. Marjorie’s head peeked at her desk. “You wouldn’t happen to be thinking about that trip you made to Austria last Christmas, right? You know, the one you didn’t tell me anything about, despite the fact you say I’m your friend….” she continued in a more than obvious accusatorial tone.
“Marge, please, not that story again!” Susan said in dismay and threw a paper clip at her.
“What? I’m merely pointing out the facts. You haven’t been the same ever since you went on that ‘adventure’ of yours and whatever is bothering you, seems to be getting worse day after day. You’re always moody and distracted and your productivity levels have been going downhill! I’m worried about you. Is there anything I can do to help?”
“No. I don’t need any help. Everything’s fine.”
“You know, for someone who works at a call center and tries to sell shady products by the phone every day, you’re one heck of a liar, but fine… Forget I said anything!” and Marjorie disappeared out of her sight.
Susan left it at that and waited impatiently for the end of her shift. When it finally came, she left the workplace in a hurry. On the outside, the beautiful city of Edinburgh appeared to her as nothing but a series of gray outlines, pretty much devoid of life because that’s the way she was feeling at the moment.
Marjorie was right in her assumptions. That trip to Vienna had changed everything in her life. She had met someone special there and certain promises had been made on account of fantasies that could never come true, except in specialized literature or movies. The week she spent there, by the banks of the Danube, had been one of the most wonderful of her entire existence, but also the source of great sadness, one that now accompanied her wherever she went, like a shadow of death with its scythe ready to strike.
“This means nothing to me….” she repeated to herself over and over again on her way home, seeking solace in the well-known words of Ultravox’s song, yet finding none.
It was already dark when she finally reached her apartment and found the front door slightly open. The smell of incense candles filled the air, and it was a scent she would recognize anywhere.
“No, it can’t be!” she thought as she walked in.
Her inner voice was wrong because the thing she had believed impossible was in fact happening. There she was, sitting on her favorite sofa, enticingly beautiful in a black mini rubber dress: Astrid, the woman who claimed she could make all of her dreams come true.
The two of them had first ‘met’ two years ago on a forum board destined for those who had somewhat kinky skeletons in their closets when it came to sexual fantasies. For Susan, everything started as a joke, but as time grew by, and she started to ‘talk’ more and more with Astrid, sharing things she never thought she would ever do, especially with a stranger from a foreign country, something grew between them. The initial curiosity of early posts gave birth to a strange fascination, an attraction to each other’s vibes that culminated on a trip in search of understanding, love and erotic bliss of both body and mind.
“What are you doing here, Astrid?” Susan asked bewildered and confused as to what she was supposed to think. Part of her was angry that she had appeared out of nowhere and broken into her house, but the other part was glad she had done so, for she had missed her so much ever since she had declined her offer….
“I couldn’t take it anymore, Susan! I had to see you in the flesh and understand why you ran away when I told you I was willing to fulfill your innermost desires!” the Austrian blonde goddess responded, with almost no accent whatsoever.
“You were just playing games with me, Astrid! We both know it can’t be done!”
“That’s not true! It can and I came here to convince you of that. I’ve been lonely ever since you left and I don’t want to feel this way ever again…. That’s why I’m here. I have come for you!”
“What exactly are you trying to say?”
Astrid got up and slid towards her. Almost immediately, synthpop music from the 80’s started playing in the background.
“Dance with me, sweetie.” she replied and rubbed herself all over her body, which made Susan fluster and tingle.
“Uh… This is hardly the right type of music for that…” Susan mumbled while Astrid grabbed her hands and had them scour every inch of her rubber-clad body.
“Actually, this is the perfect music for what I have in mind….”. All around them, these lyrics whirled:
“ Native these words seem to meAll speech directed to meI’ve heard them once beforeI know that feelingStranger emotions in mindChanging the contours I findI’ve seen them once beforeSomeone cries to meOh,The look and the sound of The VoiceThey try, they tryOh,The shape and the power of the voiceIn strong low tones”
Susan knew the song by heart as it was another hit of one of her favorite bands. The beat made her feel alive despite the warning present within the words and she started dancing wildly. Astrid smiled and danced as well, moving her body as seductively as possible despite the constraints of her outfit.
It was only after a while that Susan realized that there was something off in the sound reverberating in her ears. Every once in a while, a small buzzing sound could be heard within the electronic rhythm, some sort of sequence that, when triggered, made her body move faster and faster and, as she spent her precious energy accompanying it, she became progressively weaker, tired.
“Astrid… something’s wrong… I…”
“Everything is perfect, dear. Just let go for me….”
Susan blinked and held onto her arms. As her vision became cloudy, she noticed for the first time that her friend and lover was wearing almost invisible ear plugs which meant that she wasn’t listening to the music at all or even hearing her words, but rather reading her lips from the start….
“This is your song, Susan, the one that will help you fulfill your fantasies.” the beautiful Austrian said upon perceiving that she was starting to figure everything out. Caught in a mix of frustration and joy she was unable to understand, Susan couldn’t do a thing except keep on dancing with tears in her eyes until all of her strength abandoned her and she sank to the floor, in a semi-catatonic state.
When she finally came to her senses, she was no longer in Scotland but back at Astrid’s place in the center of Vienna, more specifically in the basement of the house, that had been reconverted to a high-tech laboratory. It was the same strange, aseptic, white and silver room she had seen the year before, and that had made her walk away from the other woman’s embrace.
As she came to learn on the last day of her trip, Astrid was a prominent researcher in the fields of neurophysiology and she had a fascinating theory about how to properly change one person’s synaptic arrays to change habits, ways of thinking, and even control thoughts. When Susan had told her about her fantasy of having her personality rewritten as if she were nothing more than an automaton, Astrid had realized that the woman she was so fond of could be the key to her project’s success and offered her the chance to participate in the experience willingly, but things didn’t work out the way she expected and… well, you already know how the story went.
Now, things were different. After months of intensive research, she had finally reached a point where her brainwashing techniques were something quite real and Susan was about to be the first subject to undergo the whole procedure. In the end, everyone would be happy: she would have a mindless lover to keep her pleased and the certainty of her genius being recognized in a near future. As for the Scottish woman, she would get to live her inner fantasies to the fullest, something only a few people are truly capable of in their lifetime.
Trapped in a cold chair, with a large set of headphones firmly pressed against her ears, Susan looked at Astrid standing across the room and now wearing a lab coat instead of her tantalizing dress. She wanted to say something, but the muscle relaxant she had been administered didn’t allow her to articulate a proper sentence, but only some random, meaningless sounds.
“Time for another treatment, my love.” cooed Astrid as she pressed some buttons and turned a couple of knobs on a console. Susan squirmed in the chair as, once again, the powerful music she adored, laced with subliminal commands, pierced her ears and began working her magic inside her mind:
“One day where I didn’t die a thousand timesWhere I could satisfy this life of mineOne small day…One day where every hour could be a joy to meAnd live a life the way it’s meant to beOne small day…”
That day was coming soon.