The Hypnotist

by Lena Ng

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The bed was soaked in my sweat. Burning—burning—burning—my body ablaze in fever. Still he stared at me, standing too close to the bed, his face cut away in shadows, with glowing eyes, compelling eyes, eyes that commanded me to obey. The red and green fern leaf pattern of the wallpaper trembled and shivered around the room, with low hissing sounds, like snakes.

My hands twisted around the sheets. Even without speaking, he wanted me to leave this bed and follow him. For five weeks, I had resisted. On the stage, I had done everything he had told me. He had pointed at me in the audience, and like sleepwalking in a dream, I couldn’t stop myself from going. His eyes enveloped me. As he counted down from ten, the hushed crowd of spectators disappeared from my consciousness until only the two of us remained. He whispered and my feet seemed to float. I pirouetted and sang and the audience laughed while I burned under his gaze. The stage spun until my eyes rolled back, and afterward, although I have no memory of how I returned home, I had to crawl into the bed from illness.

I had begged you not to leave. “Don’t go,” I cried. “I saw him! I saw him! You must believe he has returned.” But business was more important to you, even on our honeymoon, and someone else wants to take your place.

The shadows receded. The face half-remembered emerged. The sharply chiselled nose. The sunken, dead eyes, black pinpoints in a pool of white. Looming shoulders like the hunch of a vulture. He spread his gaunt hands, pulled, and by invisible strings, I arose from the bed. I trembled in horror, but I couldn’t stop myself from going. The lace on the hem of my nightgown swished against the stone floor. A veil appeared—the veil from our wedding—which was placed upon my head. Cold fingers brushed my shoulders, the light scratch of nails (talons?) grazing my skin. 

I floated down from the window and into a carriage. He sat in the seat opposite to me, again hidden in the shadows, with burning eyes like dull coals. I know he’ll take me far, far away. And no matter what he asks me to do, I’ll obey.

©️ 2021 by Lena Ng

“The Hypnotist,” Lena Ng, was first published on July 8, 2021 in Love Letters to Poe and can be found in Love Letters to Poe, Volume I: A Toast to Edgar Allan Poe.

Interview with Lena Ng, Author of “The Hypnotist”

What inspired your story?

This story was a take-off from the story “The Man with the Nose” by Rhoda Broughton (a niece of Sheridan Le Fanu). It shows the helplessness and horror of a woman not listened to or believed, a sinister seduction, and a mystery of what happens next to the protagonist. I’ve always wondered what happened to the woman in the original story, and I hope readers wonder what happens to the woman in mine.

What’s your favorite gothic story or poem and why?

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams… And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes…These words beg to be read aloud. I’ve tailored the last two lines of my story to sound good to the internal ear.

How long have you been writing?

Since 2010. I’ve always been an ardent reader, a glutton for books. I went through a summer where I disliked everything I read. I thought ‘If you think you can do better, why don’t you try?’ I’ve been trying, although not always succeeding, ever since.

Do you have a theme you return to time and again?

I’m mainly a horror writer, though I do write in other genres. I especially like horror as social commentary or mixed with pathos. Horror arising from noble instincts such as from love.  

Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you?

I had gone to The Little Prince museum in Hakone, Japan. On their brochure, they had printed “If you look up to the sky, all the stars seem to be laughing. There is one of me in all those stars, and I’m there, laughing.”  I don’t know how to credit the translator, but I have found those words profoundly moving.

What are you working on now?

I have a novel, a Gothic romance, that I’ve been sluggishly sending to publishers. I have another novel that has been languishing. I’m a short story writer at heart. Although I’m not prolific, I’m consistent.

What else would you like people to know? Where can people find you online?

I’m a digital hermit, but a list of my publications can be found on Goodreads and Amazon. I have a mix of stories coming out this year, many of which can be read online at Ghost Orchid Press, Dread Imaginings, and Zooscape (animal stories). My ebook collection of short stories is called “Under an Autumn Moon” and can be found on Amazon.