tagMind ControlSmells Like Teen Spirit

Smells Like Teen Spirit

byJukeboxEMCSA©

The warehouse looked depressingly ordinary to Ophelia's heavily-mascaraed eyes. She knew that it was silly to expect to find a crumbling mansion or a towering edifice of black iron with ravens nesting among the beams, but this looked completely unremarkable to the point that she checked her phone again to make sure that Hecate had given her the right address. Only when she saw the tiny placard just above the mail slot with the words, 'Sable Fire - Aromatic Sorcery' was she absolutely sure that she was where she wanted to be.

Seeing the words written in 14-point Courier font almost seemed weirder than seeing the company headquartered out of a nondescript warehouse; Ophelia had gotten used to their logo, which was done in the kind of font Tolkien would have used if he wanted everyone to think that his elves spent all their time bombed out of their skulls on absinthe. Even on the Sable Fire forums, she saw it more often as fan-art or abbreviated as 'SFAS' than she saw it typed out. She was so used to thinking of the company as an aesthetic and a way of life that she kind of forgot they were an actual business.

Ophelia rang the doorbell and stepped back, using the opportunity to check her make-up. Not that she was vain, but this was an honest-to-Neil meeting with the fucking rockstars of perfume and she really wanted to look her best. She made sure that her iridescent purple eyeshadow wasn't smeared, and added a second coat of black lipstick. She smacked her lips together, pleased with the contrast between her raven-dark lips and her pale skin. Working overnights at the bank had its compensations, and one of them was the kind of complexion her friends had to slather on foundation to achieve.

A stray lock of midnight blue hair had slipped out of her ponytail, but Ophelia ran out of time to fix it as the door opened. "Hi," she said, not even trying to affect any kind of world-weary disinterest. "I'm Ophelia, I'm here for the unveiling. Hecate said I'd be on the list?" She gave the tall, corseted woman who opened the door a nervous grin. She didn't really think that they were going to slam the door in her face or anything, but she was kind of hoping they didn't ask for photo ID. 'Betty Rosinski' probably wasn't on any list they had, except for the credit card database. (Where it probably had several gold stars and a smiley face.)

The woman's face broke into a smile that was considerably more composed than Ophelia's. "Of course," she said, stepping aside to allow Ophelia entrance. "We're very pleased to have you join us. Right this way, please." Ophelia took the invitation and stepped inside, taking a deep breath as she crossed the threshold and catching a whole world of exotic scents in a single lungful.

"Naturally," the woman said, closing the door behind her, "we'll be escorting you to a private decanting room for the initial experience. Erik designed this particular scent with a drydown component that mingles with your skin's natural oils, and you deserve to enjoy the full effect. Afterwards, you'll be able to mingle with our designers and tell them what you think of it all."

"Erik's going to be there?" Ophelia asked, knowing she was doing a terrible job of keeping her cool but not caring. Erik Midnight was the starriest of all the rockstars who designed scents for Sable Fire, the founder of the company and the most elusive of their 'celebrity' perfumers. Ophelia had been on the forums for almost two years now, and she had only seen him post three or four times at most. He seemed to know everyone, though; when he did say something, it was usually just a line or two, but it always seemed to speak perfectly to the person he replied to. People put his comments in their sig files and wore them like badges of honor.

"Oh, yes," the woman replied, walking down the hallway without checking to see if Ophelia was following. "This particular scent, Void Blossom, is one of his signature designs. Lilac musk, moonflower, snapdragon and cypress, with notes of ash and sorrow. He's quite interested to see how you react to it."

Ophelia rolled her eyes involuntarily, grateful that the other woman's back was turned. One of the things that initially drew her to Hecate was that while they both loved the ever-living fuck out of Sable Fire's perfumes, they weren't like the forum members who posted pretentious comments like 'this smells like the comfort of a woollen blanket settled over a litter of sleeping puppies, with a hint of warm oxygen'. She didn't really need to read a list of ingredients to know the stuff smelled better than sex.

But Ophelia was pretty sure that Erik wasn't like that in person. Sure, he cared about his work, but he probably had a sense of humor about it. She couldn't imagine him standing around expounding pretentiously about 'scent profiles' and 'floral notes' to an audience of doe-eyed goth girls too polite to change the subject. He seemed too relatable for that. Not that she expected to really get a chance to talk with him, or anything. He was probably going to be way too busy for that. An unveiling of a brand-new custom scent like this had to be a major corporate affair. She'd be lucky if she even got to say hello.

But she could hope.

The woman finally brought her to a small room about the size of a shower stall...well, the shower stall in Ophelia's dream home, at least. The one she shared with a herd of chinchillas and her very own life-size statue of Jareth the Goblin King. "Here you are," she said, gesturing at the windowless door set deep into the thick walls. "Go on in, apply a little perfume to your neck, and be prepared for the magic to happen."

Ophelia stepped inside, glancing at the bottles of perfume lining the shelves on the far wall. Each of them had a picture of an indigo rose, its petals opening endlessly outward from a center of starry darkness. 'Void Blossom', it said just below each rose. Her pulse quickening with anticipation, Ophelia crossed the room, picked up one of the bottles, and gave herself a little spritz.

Everything seemed to happen at once after that. The scent of the perfume hit her with an overwhelming rush, cloying and thick like the cheap deodorant Ophelia used when she was thirteen. The door locked behind her with a soft, menacing click, and when Ophelia spun to face it the room lurched sickeningly with her, leaving her unsteady on her feet for a moment. And the wall opened up to reveal a massive television behind a layer of safety glass, with none other than Erik Midnight himself displayed on the screen.

He looked just like his pictures, a slender man with sandalwood skin and a shaved head with ornate patterns drawn on it in gold makeup.. His eyes and lips were done in gold, too, as well as the highlights of his cheekbones. Even his immaculately-trimmed beard was dyed a lustrous golden color. "Hello, Ophelia," he said, his lips quirking in a crooked smile. "It's so nice to see you face to face at last, if not in person. You're looking lovely today, although I hope not as lovely as you will soon."

Ophelia waited for the recording to continue, feeling more than a little flattered that Erik had taken the time to record a greeting for her personally, but nothing happened. After a moment, he chuckled. "Oh, right!" he said, chuckling at his own foolishness. "You probably think this is-" He shook his head in amusement. "I'm not a recording, Ophelia. This is live. Say hi."

Ophelia's eyes widened in amazement. She looked around, trying to spot the camera she knew had to be there. "Um, hi," she said to the screen, after her efforts failed. She hoped she wasn't facing away from him, at least. "It's...really nice to meet you." She felt like she was being stupid and inarticulate and embarrassing herself, but his smile suggested otherwise. She set the bottle of perfume down on the shelf again carefully.

"Thank you!" he replied, his expression eager. "I saw that you tried my perfume. Tell me, what did you think of it?" Ophelia's face must have given her feelings away, because he immediately said, "No, it's okay, you can be honest. Just tell me what you thought."

Ophelia winced a little. Having to insult her idol's newest creation right to his face left her feeling like she had suddenly found a new and potent form of social anxiety as yet undiscovered by modern psychiatry. "It was...kind of terrible?" she said, trying not to look directly at him as she spoke. "It smelled kind of like Teen Spirit. One of the old ones, the Romantic Rose brand that they don't make anymore." Inwardly cringing, she followed it up with a woefully inadequate-sounding, "Sorry."

Astonishingly, he laughed it off. "No, it's totally okay. This perfume really comes into its own after a little bit of drydown. That initial hit has too many floral notes...if you don't mind my talking shop for a moment..." Ophelia shook her head rapidly, uncomfortably aware of how doe-eyed she must look. "But unfortunately it was necessary to cover the odor of the antidote. Better too sweet than too medicinal."

He didn't seem to have anything more to say, which left Ophelia playing and replaying the last sentence in her head as the silence stretched on. She couldn't have heard it right. She must have made a mistake. It didn't make any sense. It couldn't make any sense. It was... "The antidote?" she finally hazarded, hoping she was going to get another burst of wild laughter in response. Maybe it was a joke, just the playful Erik Midnight pranking his guests a little at the unveiling.

But no, he was entirely matter-of-fact as he said, "Yes, the antidote. To the hypnotic drug in the perfume. That's what makes the drydown such a beautiful process with Void Blossom-the antidote is much more volatile than the toxin, so it breaks down on contact with the air much quicker. The longer you wear it, the more passive and obedient you become and the better it smells to you. It's literally the sweet scent of surrender. I think you're really going to like it." He laughed again, a self-deprecating chuckle. "Then again, I suppose you won't really have a choice."

Ophelia looked over at the bottle. She looked back at the screen. "You're kidding, right? This is a joke?" She walked rapidly over to the door and tried the handle. It rattled, but wouldn't move. "Okay, this is scaring me a little. Tell me this is a joke, Erik." She heard a strained note of hysteria in her voice, getting stronger as it fed on itself. The air was thick with the cloying scent of the perfume, and she caught herself taking deep breaths of it, wondering if she was just starting to get used to it or if it was starting to smell better to her.

"It's not exactly a joke," Erik said, drinking her in with his eyes. "More of a challenge. The lock on that door is on a timer. In thirty minutes, it will unlock and you'll be free to leave...if you still want to. If your determination hasn't ebbed away into sweet, blissful submission. All you have to do is resist for thirty minutes, Ophelia. Assuming you can."

"I-I don't believe you," she said, uncertain whether she was talking about the drug or about being free to leave. She tried the door again, jerking the handle up and down with frantic urgency, pulling and pushing, but it wouldn't budge. "I don't believe you, I don't believe you, I don't believe you..." She could hear the rising panic in her voice as she tried to figure out how everything could have gone so bad so fast. Just moments ago she was pushing down quiet little daydreams of ending the day in bed with Erik, and now it was like she was in a bargain-basement 'Saw' ripoff with him as the creepy star. She pulled out her phone, but she wasn't getting any signal. She tried dialing 911 anyway, but all she got was a 'CALL FAILED' screen in response.

"It doesn't matter whether you believe me or not," Erik said, his shoulders rippling in a tiny shrug. Ophelia noticed that she couldn't see where his hands were. "You'll find out for yourself soon enough." She tried to tell herself that this was just part of the prank, just more of the weird gag he was playing on her...but her denial crumbled when she saw the excitement on his face. He was watching her with a fascinated intensity, as though he was memorizing every moment of her struggle. He meant every word he said, she was sure of it. Ophelia tried to come up with one rationalization after another, her thoughts tumbling down a flight of mental stairs that led to pure panic-maybe he only thought the drug worked, maybe she was secretly immune, maybe there was another way out of the room...none of it did any good. She could feel the fear rising up to overwhelm her.

"I...you..." Ophelia felt like her throat was closing up. She took deep, wheezing breaths, aware that she was hyperventilating but unable to stop. The room seemed to lurch again, and she felt a shuddering disorientation pass through her as she tried to steady herself. She finally put her head between her knees, the blood rushing to her face as she forced herself to hold her breath for a solid ten-count. "Why are you doing this?" she shrieked at the screen, fear and anger mingling in a furious surge of adrenaline.

Erik's face was beatific as he responded. "Because it's beautiful," he said, his expression almost loving in its tenderness. "You'll see, once the scent truly begins to affect you. Once you begin to struggle against the charms of obedience. There's nothing so transcendent as that slow, dawning realization that your will is fading into the blank, blissful pleasure of surrender to my will. Watching your resistance waver, crumble, and finally collapse...you'll excuse me, but it really is the ultimate ecstasy. For me as well as for you."

Ophelia raced to the door again, ramming it with her shoulder, but the disadvantages of having a sylph-like figure had never been clearer. She bounced off of it and fell heavily onto the plush carpet, grimacing in pain at the throbbing ache traveling through her whole body from the point of impact. "Please be careful," Erik said, his voice gentle. Ophelia wanted to strangle him.

Instead, she leapt to her feet and started pounding as hard as she could on the safety glass in front of the television screen. Her mind was a tangle of confused rationalizations-if she could break the screen then he'd have to open the door to see what happened to her, if she cut herself then he'd have to get her medical attention-but she really just wanted to pound his smug, stupid face in, and this was the closest she could get.

It didn't work. The glass didn't even crack no matter how hard she hit it, and within seconds her hands were throbbing. She tried giving it a desultory kick, instead, but the screen was too high up to get good leverage and she probably looked like an idiot trying. (As well as giving Erik a nice panty shot for his spank bank-Ophelia suddenly wished she had worn a longer skirt.) She sagged to the floor, sobbing in frustration and worry and more than a little bit of pain.

"I know it seems scary now," Erik said patiently, "but you'll see. Soon the antidote will wear off, and you'll find that all the fear just melts away. You'll wonder why you ever wanted to be free when obedience feels so blissfully perfect. It's going to feel so wonderful, Ophelia. I promise."

She glared at the screen, blinking away her tears. "If it feels so fucking good, why did you lock the door, huh? Why did you trick me into taking it? Why did you dose me with the fucking antidote and tell me all the stuff about thirty minutes and, and leave me to freak out like this?" Her voice was thick with anger, an anger that she knew was mingled with despair.

But Erik only smiled wider. "Because I want you to resist. The resistance is the important part of it all-if you don't resist, then I can't truly know that you've surrendered. I want you as my lover, my pet, my mindless and obedient thrall, but more than any of that I want to see the realization dawn in your eyes that it's what you want as well. That's the moment I truly live for, Ophelia. That's the reason I brought you here. Void Blossom is my special gift to my favorite girls, it's something I only unveil to the ones I want for my own. I know you'll understand, once the antidote wears off. It won't be long now."

Ophelia hugged her knees, burying her face in her arms. If she was going to give in, she refused to give him the satisfaction of seeing it. "And the door?" she said, her voice softening to dull resignation. "You were lying about that, weren't you?" He had to be, she told herself, trying to crush the treacherous hope in the back of her mind. He'd never let her go after going through all this. She'd go to the police, tell the media, get him arrested and financially ruined and drag his reputation through the mud. There was no way he would-

"Oh, no," Erik said, his voice earnest and serious. "I'm telling the truth, Ophelia. I want you to resist, and you can't resist without hope. I want you to spend every second of your time with me knowing that all you have to do is hold out a little longer, all you have to do is resist that passivity until that door unlocks and you can wash off the drug. I want you to cling to that hope until your mind forgets what hope is. It's the only way you'll ever truly be mine. Doesn't that sound wonderful?"

"No!" Ophelia snapped, curling herself into an even tighter ball. She concentrated furiously on believing that with every cell in her body, hating the tiny part of her that still got a little bit wet at the thought of getting into a kinky BDSM relationship with Erik fucking Midnight. That was the drug talking, she was sure of it. She took a cautious sniff, trying to figure out if the room smelled better or if it was just the power of suggestion getting to her.

"I know what you're doing," Erik said, his voice patronizing. "It's quite clever, but I'm afraid it's not going to work. The antidote's going to start wearing off soon, and when it does, you'll find your body relaxing all on its own. It's going to seem too much like work to keep hiding from me like that, especially when you need all your strength to resist my control. You'll show me that pretty face of yours again. Just before you sink into my will once and for all."

Ophelia wasn't sure Erik would have used the term 'pretty face' if he knew how much of her makeup had smeared in the last ten minutes, but she didn't want to point that out to him. He'd just tell her that it was obedience that made her pretty or some such bullshit, and remind her that the antidote was going to wear off any second and she wouldn't be able to resist him without it and-

Her head jerked up. Her eyes went wide. She shot a look over at the far wall, scarcely able to believe her own mind. She glanced back at the screen, hoping Erik hadn't figured out what she was thinking. "You-you're serious?" she asked, trying to distract him and get some more information out of him at the same time. "You'll...you'll really let me go if I can last the whole thirty minutes?"

"Of course," he said warmly. "You won't-nobody ever does. But I promise you that if you can resist long enough, that door will open and you can walk right out."

"And I can just wash this stuff off and it'll stop working?" she said warily, praying that Erik wouldn't understand the implications of her line of questioning. Her pulse was racing with excitement, and she felt like a condemned prisoner who'd just gotten an eleventh-hour reprieve.

"Absolutely," Erik said. "The scent is just the compounds breaking down and volatizing once they come into contact with the air. The drug itself is a contact poison. It only lasts a very brief time in the bloodstream, as well. Once you get rid of the dose that's already on your skin, you'll return to normal within a minute or two. That's why i make sure to use it as just one component of-" He broke off, his brow furrowing in irritation for just a fraction of a second before smoothing back into that same beatific calm. "But I'm getting ahead of myself. Yes, Ophelia, you really can escape this. If you want to."

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