Michael was surprised to see the tall blonde sitting on his sofa. He hadn’t told Matthew to recruit anyone, but there he was with one anyway. Suddenly, the boy stood up, turned to him, but before he could say anything Matthew chimed “Welcome home, master.”
“What the hell did you do to Maddy,” he said ignoring the interruption. “He doesn’t even recognize his own damned name anymore.”
“I didn’t ‘hurt’ him if that’s what you mean. Hell, the very fact that you’re standing here is proof of that. C’mon, do you really think he’d drag one of his ‘friends’ here if I was? Oh and you can quit calling him that – particularly since his name is ‘Matthew’ now and he’s not a fan of stupid nicknames anyway.”
“First off, ‘Maddy’ isn’t a ‘stupid nickname’ – it’s how he pronounced his name in kindergarten. Second, what the hell was wrong with the name ‘Madison,’ anyway?”
“You mean besides being pretentious? It’s also a reminder of his life before meeting me, the life he himself asked, nay, pleaded with me to erase just as I have with countless – okay, six – others. And I’m more than happy to do the same with you almost as much as Matthew here will be to have the company.”
“Michael,” the pretty, blonde headed girl said entering her ex’s apartment. “You left this at… Ah, damn it, not ANOTHER one!”
“Damn it, Claire,” he said. “Must you barge in on me EVERY time I try to induct someone? It kills the mood and instantly stops any progress I – sorry – we’ve made…”
Matthew dutifully – and without prompting from either of them – clasped his friend’s hand as soon as his master broke eye contact with his newest subject.
“So just leave whatever it is on the counter and I’ll get it when we’re finished. Now, I apologize for the interruption, do you want to continue… or would you rather quit for the time being?”
Claire goes to leave, and as she does the boy looks directly at her and drones “continue” with a flat yet oddly defiant tone…
“I see you’re as reliable as ever,” the ginger haired sophomore said. “Let me guess, you’re waiting for your supposedly ‘better’ half?”
“Yeah,” Daniel said sitting on the sofa next to the door.
“Ugh,” Claire said entering the dormitory. “You know I hate ‘volunteering’ at these stupid events. I don’t know why I let you talk me into helping you.”
“Because you LOVE me and would do ANYTHING to make me happy,” her short, raven haired boyfriend answered.
“Don’t try to pull that crap on me. You know full well that hypno shit doesn’t work on me. God knows Michael tried it enough times…”
“Ah, Daniel,” his RA said appearing from around the corner. “There you are, we just finished setting up the event room. We should be ready to start in a few minutes.”
“Good, that means I can LEAVE.”
“Claire, wait…Damn it, she’s gone.”
It didn’t take Madix all that long to get acclimated to his new home. His “master’s” bedroom was on the left when you came into the apartment and theirs was on the right, both rooms were approximately the same size and each had their own small bathroom. Michael hadn’t replaced the furniture after his previous roommate moved out, but he kept the posters in place giving the otherwise empty room a somewhat “lived-in” feel.
“Where do you sleep?”
Matthew points downward and Madix looks at him like he’s “kidding.”
“C’mon, he has to have a mattress or something here for you?”
“There’s a blanket in the closet…”
“Okay, I see that… but, um, where are your clothes?”
“You’re looking at them.”
“I see…well… at least, closet space won’t be a problem…”
“Ugh,” Daniel said. “I swear these closets get smaller and smaller with every event.”
“No,” the Resident Assistant said. “It just seems that way. Well, it’s okay, we’re going to have to organize it again later. Thanks for assisting with clean-up, you two were a big help today.”
“We aim to please,” Scott said. “We’ll be sure to send you the pictures once we upload them to Brendan’s website.”
“I’m sure they’ll look great in our newsletter too,” she replied (though she had no clue who this “Brandon” character was). “Which I still haven’t gotten around to writing yet… well, whatever, I’m sure you have other things to do on a Thursday night than go through worthless floor gossip and half-assed ‘announcements.’”
“Thanks for reminding me, I forgot all about my staff meeting at the paper.”
“Besides, if we weren’t helping you, we would probably be feeding the homeless or reading to sick kids at the hospital.”
“Yeah, there’s never a dull moment with Captain Hero, here.”
“So, now what do we do,” Madix asked dully.
“You know we went shopping this afternoon.”
“YOU did anyway.”
“No, WE did; laundry’s tomorrow and in twenty minutes, I’m going to start making his dinner.”
“What about me?”
“Well, of course, you’ll help me.”
“I guess – I mean: anything to make our ‘master’ happy.”
“Better, but I suppose if you really don’t want to help, there’s an X-Box in the living room. Eh, just as well, kitchen’s too small for two people anyway.
“In the meantime,” he said stripping off his belt and tossing it in the corner. “If you REALLY want to be helpful, there’s another little matter that could use your attention…”
Madix didn’t mind doing laundry as much as he thought he would. It was a fascinating show of motion and colors, and it was worth every quarter he put into the machine.
“You know,” Matthew said appearing behind him. “We’re not the first ones in this apartment to be tranced.”
“Really,” he replied distractedly.
“Yep, our master used to ‘serve’ someone named ‘Master Brendan’ until they had a falling out sometime before I met him. Apparently, I was his first recruit as a ‘free agent’ and I think I turned out quite well. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Yes,” he said mesmerized by the endless cycle of clothes tumbling together and seemingly melding into each other. “But I wonder…”
“Well…” he said as the buzzer woke up from his mini trance. “He may be out of this Brandon guy’s control, but do his triggers still work…?”
Michael sat at the last remaining table inside the campus coffee shop, when he opened his backpack to get his laptop out; a bunch of brochures fell out: The Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
“How did these get in here?”
“I think you know,” Claire said taking the seat across from him. “A certain someone – or someones – is trying to tell you something. Apparently, they’ve figured out that subtlety doesn’t work on you.”
“They did seem unusually subservient this morning, and kept saying weird things like ‘your dream is our desire,’ ‘we wish we could do more for you,’ and that my smile ‘meant the world’ to them.”
“I see you remain as impervious to hints as ever.”
“What is THAT supposed to mean?”
“It means the only way they could make their wants any clearer is if they wished you a ‘magical day.’”
“Hey, those were Madix’s last words to me as I left this morning.”
“Good God, you really are hopeless.”
“I know what you’ve been doing to him,” Claire said entering her ex’s apartment. “HE doesn’t, but I do.”
“We have no idea what you’re talking about,” Matthew said.
“We would never hurt our dear master,” Madix continued.
“Oh,” she said flashing the brochures in their faces. “Then where did THESE come from?”
“Nothing wrong with dropping a few hints here and there.”
“You mean ‘hints’ like ‘your wish is our desire,’ ‘your smile means the world to us,’ and ‘have a magical day?’ You know full well he’s impervious to such subtlety… but he wasn’t supposed to ‘catch’ them, was he? They were simply plants so he would come up with the idea ‘on his own.’”
“What’s your point,” Madix said a little too sharply.
“Don’t you dare… wait a second,” she said walking up to him and staring him in the eyes. “One thing I learned from dating two tranced guys in the past year is they can’t snap at anyone when they’re ‘under.’”
“Okay,” he said with a shrug. “So I can’t be hypnotized, but HE sure as hell can. In fact, it’s ridiculously easy to do and he’s never aware of it – particularly if we do it together. We just drop a little ‘suggestion’ here and there about how much he ‘loves’ us and ‘can’t live without us’ and BAM we’re never homeless again.”
“Yeah,” Madix continued casually. “All I have to do in return is act dumb and make out with him while Matthew cooks, cleans and sucks his dick. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me. Now the only question is: are you going to rat me out or not?”
“Why? Rats like you – who give their fellow rodents a bad name – are usually smart enough to cover their own tracks. You’ve probably already ‘programmed’ him not to believe anything I tell him anyway.”
“And they say ‘blondes are dumb.’ Now go bother someone else, we’ve got laundry and grocery shopping to do. Oh, and let’s not forget graduation trips to plan,” he said practically pushing her out the door. “Cuz we’re going to Disney… and you are not.”
“Really,” she said blocking the door with her foot. “If I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that Michael is a good boy and good boys know who their friends are and you clearly aren’t one of them. See you in Mouse-land, loser.”
He locks the door behind her, waits until he hears the elevator ding and said: “Gah, she’s such a nuisance, a cute nuisance, but a nuisance nonetheless…”
Claire parked her blue Honda Civic in the “Red” lot and walked over to the long brick building on the western edge of campus. The closer she got the worse she felt, but she knew the longer she put it off the harder it would become.
She walked past the counter, not bothering to return the greeting from the girl at the reception desk. She pressed the button for the elevator and steeled herself for what would be one of the most difficult conversations she would have in recent memory.
Finally, she gets to the fifth floor and knocks on the door at the end of the hall – the one with the balloons floating happily into the sunset.
“Daniel,” she said as he opened the door. “There’s something I need to tell you…”
“Guys,” Michael said excitedly. “I’ve got some good news…and some bad news for you.”
The two followers (now wearing matching Mickey Mouse T-shirts) look at him anxiously, but say nothing.
“The GOOD news is my sister is coming by for the weekend. The BAD news is I’ll be spending the most of my time with her instead of you…which from your perspective is probably another ‘good’ as it gives you some down time. Anyway, we’re leaving for dinner in about an hour so you don’t need to worry about cooking for me. Heck, you should probably go out yourselves.”
“That’s not necessary,” Matthew said. “We enjoy pleasing our master – AND his family.”
“No, you deserve it with all the time you spend cramped up in here. Money’s on the counter, I’m going to take a shower and get dressed.”
“Well,” Madix said pocketing the envelope as Michael disappeared into the bedroom. “If you’re not going…”
Shortly after Claire left, Scott approached Daniel’s still open door. But before he could say a word, Daniel put his finger to the ginger haired boy’s lips and said “shush.”
Daniel didn’t need to say anything, Scott knew intrinsically what he was feeling and was more than willing to let him cry on his shoulder – in fact, he desperately wanted him too. However, Daniel was determined to keep a strong face for his friend, after all this was his problem not theirs.
As Scott stood in the doorway trying to find a way to comfort Daniel, a darker voice echoed in the back of his mind: “‘…and if someone – ANYONE – tries to hurt him…’”