‘Promotions’ is a story about my vampire character Morgana Black. It takes place after an event in a roleplaying session where she and a mixed group of Mages went into Virtual Reality. One botch led to another and suddenly my character and another character were standing in front of a medieval church. It was actually a Celestial Chorus data store, and they do not like vampires. When we approached, the guards lowered their pikes at us and said “Your kind isn’t welcome here.”

The words just came out. “But I thought all were welcome at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.”

The game master went “glurk” and we were eventually allowed to leave without incident. But that encounter would have consequences, later.

That was one part of the source of the story. The second part was when I attended an SF convention in Columbus, Ohio. The guest of honor that year was Katherine Kurtz, a truly excellent lady and herself am Ericksonian-trained hypnotist. I so wondered what would happen should she and my character meet, as I already documented her history and had her study under Milton Erickson.

Sunday evening after the convention, I was trying to get some sleep, but I was too tired. Instead I went into a hypnogogic state, thinking about those two elements, and this story was the result.

Morgana felt oddly claustrophobic as she entered the spacious lobby of the convention center. In its silence and emptiness, the clicking of her high heels echoed strangely from its glass walls and high ceiling. Some indistinct instinct warned her that she was being watched, but her secretive examination of the well-lit area revealed nothing. Still wary, she turned to examine the map before her.

She was not surprised, then, to hear two faint voices approaching. In the map’s reflective surface Morgana could see a well-dressed man and woman enter the lobby behind her. Indulgently, she turned her head to monitor them. She heard them wearily argue, then frowned when the man took the woman loosely by the shoulders, stopping her and turning her around.

“Erica, you know you need my recommendation to Robert if you want to get that promotion,” the man said coaxingly. “We could maybe talk about it, say, later tonight, in my room?”

Erica looked away and shook her head. “I just don’t know, Martin,” she replied weakly. “Maybe…” Over Erica’s shoulder Morgana could see the conniving gleam in Martin’s eyes, and she pursed her lips.

Martin released Erica, a smug smile on his face as he lit up a cigarette. Erica glared weakly at the cigarette: “Martin,” she said, “you should try to cut back on your smoking.”

“I’ve tried everything, Erica,” replied Martin in exasperation.

Morgana brightened. She turned and walked boldly toward the pair, politely saying “Excuse me, but I couldn’t help overhear that you’re having trouble trying to quit smoking” as she approached. When they turned and mutely stared at her she smiled broadly in apology and continued “Have you considered hypnosis?”

She surreptitiously dealt a card from the bottom of her card case and held it out to Martin. Martin took it and read it aloud: “Dr. Morgana Black, Clinical Hypnotherapy for Habit Control.” He started to hand the card back, saying dismissively “I don’t believe in any of that hypnotism mumbo-jumbo.”

Morgana pointedly ignored his gesture. Piqued, she said conversationally “Frankly, I don’t either. Hypnosis is a serious psychological tool,” as she looked up at him, her dark eyes widening, searching out his gaze. “It is not some ‘mumbo-jumbo’ where all I would need to do to hypnotize you is to say ‘Look into my eyes; you are going into a deep hypnotic trance, where you will hear and obey only my voice’,” she continued, her voice strangely resonant in the silence, commanding, dominating.

Morgana’s night-black eyes drew Martin’s gaze deep within their dark depths: when she finished speaking his eyes quickly closed and his head nodded forward under their mesmeric power. “Then again, I guess it just might be ‘mumbo-jumbo’ after all,” snickered Morgana mischievously at the sight.

Morgana chuckled wickedly as she turned to Erica, who just stared at Morgana, her mouth agape. “I couldn’t help overhearing your ‘whole conversation: you didn’t really believe he was going to recommend you, did you?” Morgana asked scornfully. “I mean, that’s the oldest pickup line in the business world.”

“Well, I didn’t know what to think,” Erica replied. “Why?”

“Because I could see he was lying through his teeth,” Morgana stated flatly.

“How?” Erica asked, her once suspicious eyes now wide with curiosity and alarm.

Morgana smiled wearily. “Being able to read faces comes in handy in therapy. But if you don’t believe me, why don’t I just ask him?”

Stunned, Erica only stared blankly at Morgana in response.

Morgana shrugged and turned to Martin. “Martin,” she commanded, “answer me truthfully: are you going to recommend Erica for a promotion?”

“No,” answered Martin flatly.

“Why not?”

“Because I was going to recommend Philip instead.”

Erica hissed in outrage. “Philip?! He’s only been with the company nine months! Why, that b–”

Morgana silenced Erica with a touch on her arm. “It sounds to me like he’s trying to work the ‘good ol’ boys’ network and get a piece of action for himself,” she said fiercely. “Not nice.

“Do you want me to arrange some sort of punishment for him?”

Erica nodded, savagely.

Morgana retrieved her card from Martin. “Martin,” she commanded, “when I snap my fingers you will count from one to ten slowly and then you will awaken. You will totally and completely forget me, forget everything I said and did, nor will you notice any interruption in your consciousness, but in the next public meeting with your boss you will remember all the times he ignored you, all the meetings you humiliated you, all the raises and promotions he refused you: you will then tell your boss exactly what you think of him.

“Do you understand?”

Martin nodded in compliance.

Erica stifled a laugh. “I want to be there when that happens. Oooh, that’ll be fun to watch.” Erica paused a moment, her eyes brightening. “Maybe I can even arrange it to be when he’s supposed to recommend Philip for the promotion. Thanks,” said Erica, grinning, “thanks a lot.”

Morgana laughed. “ ‘Let’s keep this all just between ourselves, okay?” she said conspiratorially as she looked deep into Erica’s eyes, which glazed over momentarily. “Good luck,” she continued, patting Erica’s shoulder. She absently snapped her fingers before Martin’s face as she walked away.

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