Shock to the System
Once again the end of the year arrived along with the usual Christmas holiday slowdown. The company I worked for shuts down for two weeks, leaving me with plenty of time for leisure activities. My good friend, who so often helps me with my adventures in the Stox Box, was off visiting family for those same two weeks. That left me with a serious problem.
Despite all the misadventures while restrained in the box I was still addicted to what it offered. Close confinement within its stout construction, immobilization when the internal stocks were in place, and the isolation that came with the heavy lid cutting off all contact with the outside world. Inside that box I was in my own little world, forced to live in my head. All the cares and worries of the real world were left behind, on the other side of those thick wooden planks. I was free to focus on my own thoughts and dreams, without any distractions.
My problem stemmed from the one requirement necessary to make use of my bondage furniture. Someone else had to install and fasten down the stocks once I was inside, and that same someone had to lower the top before securing the bolts to hold it in place. And at some point in the future, hopefully not too long, somebody had to reverse the procedure so I could get out of the box while still breathing. Much as I enjoy the experience inside, I do not intend it to be my last moment in this life.
Like any addict the pressure inside me kept building and building. I couldn’t go on without my fix, that being a few days on my own in the box. But who could I call on for help? I stared at the phone in my hand and the number I selected. How many times had I started to dial that number, only to cancel at the last second? There was only one real choice, much as I hated to admit it. Either I had to make that call or do without for the next two weeks. I pushed the call button.
I held back while she walked around the empty box. “This is the first time I’ve seen it empty.” She looked up at me. “The construction alone is impressive, never mind its purpose.” Making a fist she tapped her knuckles on the interior side wall. “Solid, inescapable, I like that.” Leaning over the side she looked up at me again, smiling. “You never have any twinges of claustrophobia while inside?”
I shook my head. “No, it’s never bothered me.” I didn’t elaborate, knowing any scrap of personal information might be used against me. Yes, I called Psycho Sally and asked for her help. I felt like I had sold my soul to the devil, considering what she’d done to me in the past.
Judging by appearance Sally was the quintessential girl next door. Petite, blond hair, blue eyes, and a “straight from the farm” dress fed that image. If you didn’t know her she came across as a bit naïve, though she was always outspoken in conversation.
To those who had experienced the real Sally, her “Psycho” nickname was no exaggeration. I’d seen it myself in unguarded moments when her true personality revealed itself. She was a classic, cold blooded, emotionless monster of a psychopath; someone who’s only joy in life was destroying the self-esteem of others. Sally was very careful never to cross the legal line. In fact she was well-known for never touching her victim in a bondage scene, at least in public. No, she never got physical. For Sally it was the mental aspect, getting into someone’s head first, and then wielding the metaphorical chainsaw to chop up the poor unfortunate’s sanity.
Sally liked her victim helpless, trapped in her spider web, and unable to escape her relentless verbal assault. She preferred to wait until her prey was subdued in a bondage session before she began with her uncanny skill at empathy. It seemed like a contradiction of terms, psychopathic and empathetic, but in Sally’s case she found a way to make a convincing appearance of caring.
At first she was the epitome of the trustworthy friend. She could relate to people, draw out their secrets with her soft, persuasive voice and disarming appearance, all the while gaining their confidence with reassuring expressions of sympathy and understanding. Then she would strike, twisting all she had learned into her particular form of mental torture. From personal experience I can vouch for her reputation.
And yet, like many of her ravaged victims, I had come back for more. I suppose it’s like the moth being drawn to the flame. I knew what might lie ahead, but in some strange way I could not help but remember the way she appreciated my internal turmoil like no one else. My trust in her was still there, even after she had abused it over and over again.
“So, these boards slide into the grooves? That’s what holds you in place?” Sally held up one of the internal stocks from the cart next to the box.
“That’s right,” I told her. “That one is sized for my ankles. There are screws on top to lock it in place, so it won’t work upwards if I struggle. It fits flush with the top too, so once the box is sealed it’s impossible to escape from them.” She’d seen the stocks in action before, with me in them.
Sally nodded. “I think I see it now. You get in; I put in the panels and tighten the screws. That leaves you fully restrained. It seems easy enough. And after that, for the isolation how do I get the lid on? It looks like it weighs more than me.”
I’d guess at least twice her weight, maybe more. “It’s on an electric hoist. All you have to do is lower it until the top is just above the box. Line up the bolts with the holes in the box while slowly lowering it. You can easily move it around to get the bolts started. At that point drop it the rest of the way and use the wrench to screw down the bolts. Trust me, once it’s in place I can’t see or hear anything going on out here.”
“It’s a lot like one of those sensory deprivation tanks, except you aren’t lying in a pool of warm water.” She reached up to take hold of the lid, hanging above the box on the hoist. It swung back and forth easily when she pushed against it. “I think I can manage that.”
The rest of the controls, the camera, screen and bio-sensors she already knew about from her last session babysitting me. “Okay, so I help you into the box, close it up the way you like, and then what?” Sally looked at me across the open box. Her expression said curiosity but I was a bit uneasy when I thought about her question.
“I spend some quality time by myself. How long? You decide the answer to that question, without telling me. An hour, a day, two days, whatever you decide. That way I can’t anticipate when I’ll be released. I’ve never gone more than two days, so that’s the upper limit. Too long and I risk circulation problems from not moving around, along with bed sores, dehydration, hunger and all those unavoidable demands of the body.” The length of my stay, not knowing when I’d be freed, gave a risky edge to the experience. If my outside person waited too long then it would be just too bad for me. A week in that box and it might as well be buried in the ground, unopened.
She walked around to the head of the box. Tilting her head she studied the screen embedded in the underside of the lid. “This is your only link to the outside? Just the display and a microphone, along with the headphones? Why didn’t you put in an internal camera?”
“There’s no light when the box is closed, and not much to see either. We had a tight power budget running on batteries, so we decided to leave out the camera and light source.” I didn’t want a camera in there with me. The light would be a distraction, and knowing someone was watching me defeated my desire to be alone.
“Okay, I’ll do it.” Sally took a step back from the box. “I’ll need to go home and pack a bag. I assume if I’m babysitting you I’ll have to stay here. When do you want to start?”
It was difficult to hide my eagerness. “I’ll be ready as soon as you get back.” I dug into a pocket. “Here, take my keys. You can let yourself back in. I’ll be in here.”
The Old Friend
Holding on to the sides of the box I slowly lowered myself down onto the padding. My plumbing was in place, a catheter to drain urine to a holding tank in the bottom of the box. I shifted around so I’d line up with the stocks. It felt like a reunion with an old friend. We’d been separated for far too long.
I slipped my feet into the straps at the base of the box. That had been an oversight I quickly corrected. Total immobilization did not allow for wiggling feet. Once the ankle stock was in place my feet were solidly planted against the angled platform with the straps. It wasn’t too uncomfortable but still a constant reminder even that bit of freedom was denied to me.
The same applied to my head. Side panels held it firmly in place. Once the pillory board, the last panel for my neck, was in place I couldn’t even turn my head. I was forced to stare straight up at where the LCD screen would be once the lid was on.
I heard the garage door open and close. That had to be Sally, back from the quick trip to her home. A moment later she peeked over the side of the box, looking down on me.
“You are in a hurry. Well then, I suppose we can start. You’re ready? We begin with the boards for the stocks?” Sally walked over to the cart stacked high with the panels.
“I forgot to mention the hand covers. Since there’s no panic button this time I don’t need my hands. If you look in the bottom drawer of the cart there is a pair of nylon mitts. The police use them, so I figure they ought to work for me too. You’ll have to slip them over my hands and fasten the Velcro straps.”
I had found what were called ‘tubes’ online at a police supply website. Simple and durable, they were stiff coverings that restrained hands and fingers to the point where my arms ended in useless stubs. Once the wrist stocks were in place they wouldn’t slip off. They went on easily enough. Sally pulled the straps snug but not too tight. When she finished I tested them by trying to clench my hands. The stiff foam was too much for me to overcome.
Sally watched me with a quizzical expression. “Even your fingers? You really do have the bondage bug, don’t you?” She picked up the first of the stocks from the cart. “We start with this one?”
“They should be in order, starting with feet,” I explained. “The top drawer has the special Allen wrench to tighten the screws.” I was looking forward to my new session. It had been too long.
She picked up the first of the stocks and slid it into place. The cutouts fit snugly over my ankles, clamping them down against the bottom of the box. At my nod she continued, first with the board over my knees, to hold my legs in place, and the waist board with the cutouts for my wrists. When she pushed down on the last one, the pillory board, the extra thickness acted as a posture collar, completely covering my neck to the chin.
“Not choking are you?” she asked. “That last one seems to be a close fit.”
“I’m fine,” I reassured her. “You can start with the wrench now. You don’t have to use a lot of force in screwing the stocks down. Once the lid is in place it will hold all the panels by itself.”
The height of the board around my neck prevented me from watching Sally but I assumed she was finishing with the stocks. “You and your friend, between the two of you I have to say you’ve built one of the cleverest pieces of bondage furniture I’ve ever come across.” That was from Sally. When she reached the last board I could see her using the wrench.
“I don’t think you’ll be getting out of the box now.” She grabbed the pillory board and pulled on it. It didn’t budge. “I’d say you’re past that point of no return. Ohh, forgot this.” She reached for the strap across my forehead, pulling it through the buckle on one side until it was a snug fit, but not too tight. I was about to mention it. That was the last little touch, to prevent any upward movement of my head.
I went through my usual routine, trying to twist and turn, looking for any means to escape. I knew from experience it was futile, but part of the fun was testing my bonds. The stocks prevented any significant movement, as intended. I gave up the escape attempt, satisfied I was a helpless prisoner for the foreseeable future.
Standing next to my head I could see her amusement while I tested the stocks. “Why do you even try?” she asked. Shaking her head she turned away and disappeared for a moment. When she came back I saw some wires in her hand. “We have a little surprise for you. The ‘we’ includes your friend, who rigged up the electronics, and me, who helped with the physiology. Think of it as an early Christmas present.”
Starting at my waist I felt small discs being taped to my skin. There were several, covering my arms, torso and legs. What was she doing? They felt like the electrodes used for an electrocardiogram, but there were far too many for that. Unable to move I couldn’t see what she was hooking up to me. Was it some new kind of sensor my friend had recently found? “What exactly do these things do?” I asked.
“It’s a secret,” Sally offered with no other explanation. She went around to the controls for the hoist. “Let’s finish this off.” She started to lower the lid slowly.
When it was just above the box the hoist jerked to a stop. Sally strolled around the box, lining up the bolts and holes around the rim of the top. “That should do it.” She turned each bolt by hand to get them started
“You know, if I had set up your session you’d be punished for that little stunt, trying to get out when it’s obviously impossible. Sally is strict about her discipline, as you know. That’s not acceptable. Don’t worry though; today Sally is only here to help.” With those last words the heavy lid dropped down, completing my isolation. I couldn’t tell what she was doing now but I assumed she was using the Allen wrench to secure the top.
I stared up at the screen, expecting it and the microphone LED to turn on. She’d want to check on me. I was uneasy, pondering her last words. Switching to third person, and the way she stressed certain words, that was the Sally I recognized. What sent a chill down my back was the way she said she was going to help. Help who, me or her?
The Ordeal Begins
I eventually gave up on waiting for Sally to appear on the display. Apparently Sally had other plans on how she was going to watch over me. Whatever she planned there wasn’t much I could do about it. I had no choice but to rely on her now.
There was a nagging doubt about how far I could trust her, but at the moment I didn’t care. After so many weeks I was exactly where I wanted to be. I could feel the anxiety drain away. No sight, no sound, I was in my own little world.
I was a bit concerned I hadn’t heard from Sally. Not that I objected but it was unusual for her to let someone in my condition, under her control, get a pass on one of her friendly chats. I was sure it was coming, sooner or later, preferably sooner so I’d have some alone time afterwards. The price I was prepared to pay for her help with the box was a measure of my desperation to get into the box.
Meanwhile I was grateful for the time I was spending in my own version of solitary confinement. Supposedly this was some form of punishment, being denied social contact. Idly I wondered if that defined me as a masochist, thriving on what others perceived as suffering. I certainly wasn’t into pain, and there wasn’t anything about the box that could hurt me, as long as I remained calm.
Sensory deprivation does have that calming effect. It was so peaceful, drifting in my own universe, oblivious to whatever was happening beyond the walls of my tiny wooden capsule. I closed my eyes to concentrate on the sound of my own breathing. In, out, a regular rhythm that never varied. At some point I must have drifted off to sleep.
My eyes flew open when I was bombarded with loud, irritating music playing in the speakers next to my ears. I didn’t recognize the song or group but no one ever mistook heavy metal for any other genre. On my list of music preferences this was at the very bottom.
It finally stopped when the screen lit up, showing Sally’s face. “I didn’t give you permission to sleep.” There was a frown on her face. “Would you like to listen to some more Black Sabbath? Sally has all their albums, hours and hours for your listening pleasure.”
Her face disappeared for a moment before reappearing. “The sensors show your blood pressure jumped 20 points when the music started. Just think where it will be after three hours. Sally is in charge now. You’ve always been a bad person, taking advantage of others, caring only for yourself. Sally is going to teach you how to be a better person. It starts with learning some self-control. Each time you fall asleep without my approval I will add fifteen minutes to the music.”
The screen went dark. The microphone never came on, leaving me without any way to protest. How many other rules she didn’t bother to tell me about were now in effect? I had to give her credit for finding a very effective punishment. If anything could ruin my time in the box it was the unavoidable exposure to hours of the absolute worst music on the planet.
It was those sensors gathering data about my body that were the problem. I couldn’t fool them and there was no way for me to shut them off. Sally didn’t have to see me to know if I was asleep; she had something much better. I might as well have a lie detector permanently wired to me.
If I dozed off she’d know about it within minutes. The controller for the box was set up to send notifications if selected vital signs exceed preset limits. It was supposed to be a safety feature but if Sally changed a few numbers her phone would beep the moment I started to snooze. There was no way I wanted to spend half an hour with Metallica or Iron Maiden for company.
Dominants have one thing in common, a universal aversion to disobedience. Their preferred tool was punishment, some technique that must be unpleasant for the submissive, to be avoided at all costs. I had to remind myself Sally was an expert at those kinds of dominant skills, and I was forced to submit to her authority. From now on I’d make every effort not to cross her again.
Flights of Fancy
I expected Sally to show up on the screen at any moment so she could inflict some new kind of misery on me. What was I thinking, asking Psycho Sally of all people for help? There was an old cliché: Act in haste, repent at leisure. Desperation pushed me to act in haste; now the bill was coming due for my stupidity.
The display remained dark. I wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or an ominous warning. Either way, for the present it looked like I was to be left on my own. One of my favorite activities while in the box is a form of daydreaming, what I call my flights of fancy. It keeps the brain active, which should help to stave off the danger of sleepiness.
We’ve all fantasized about what would happen if we won a big lottery jackpot, say on the order of a hundred million dollars. There’s the usual, go on a spending spree, donate to charities, start a business, or live in a casino for a week watching the bankroll dwindle to nothing.
I’d received my property tax bill just a few days ago, so I knew exactly what I’d do, first thing, with my windfall. I’d find a nice place for a new home far from Los Angeles. I’d even picked out the town: Casper, Wyoming. By any measure it was at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to where I was now. I’d find a nice house, or build one to my specification, pack up everything and head out for wide open spaces.
To get there I’d outfit a special van for the box, so I could make the trip in my version of luxurious comfort. Lying there in the dark I imagined what the trip would be like, two days in isolation, bouncing along the Interstates, wondering where I was and when I’d reach the end. In reality I’d be a mass of bruises by the time I got there but in dreamland I can ignore all of that.
My little fantasy had devolved into a sinister plot, where the van was hijacked at a truck stop by robbers who believed the box was a crate full of silver bars. There I was, on a lonely dirt road somewhere on the vast, empty plains of Wyoming, about to be discovered when the thieves pried the lid off. That’s when I heard the voice in my ear.
“Sally never forgets, and Sally never forgives.” It was a quiet whisper, barely audible, but there was no mistake; it was her voice. The flight of fancy vanished, replaced by a cold terror on hearing those few words. I checked the screen but nothing appeared, and the microphone indicator stubbornly remained off. What did it mean? What had I done that had been so terrible she would never forgive me?
A Friendly Chat
The interruption ruined my daydream. It was frustrating, not being able to respond. That helpless feeling can be great until there’s a certain urgency to do something, anything to speak up on my own behalf. Sally was in control of the microphone, my only link to the outside. Until she turned it on I could shout and rant for hours, but no one would hear me.
I had to accept the blame for my condition. Many a night I had sat in the partially completed box, thinking up ways I might defeat its security. The result: I was locked in place; unable to move; at the mercy of anyone outside; with no possible way to escape, and no way to ask for help. I had no option but to endure whatever Sally planned for me. There would be no cavalry riding to my rescue.
The screen flashed on, catching me by surprise. The microphone light still refused to light up, so it would be Sally doing all the talking. At first all I could see was the wall of the garage, but eventually she appeared when she sat down on a stool in front of the camera.
“You’ve been in there for a while now. Sally thought you might like some company to break the monotony. I appreciate how much you like being alone, on the inside, but everyone needs a little social interaction, even self-absorbed people like you.” Sally had the charm turned on to the maximum, based solely on her image. The folksy smile, the soft, feminine voice, all seemed at odds with that last comment.
“We’ll have a nice, friendly little chat. Then Sally will let you get back to whatever you do to pass the time in there.” I had my doubts it would be a real conversation. Without the means to respond it would be a lecture, and not one I wanted to hear.
The screen suddenly changed, displaying a full length overhead of me inside the box, restrained by the stocks. “There you are,” Sally began, “in your safe space. That’s how you see it, right? The cover goes on and that’s it. All your worries and responsibilities vanish in an instant. Sally understands the attraction of bondage and confinement, leaving all the hard work to someone else.” I wasn’t sure but it sounded as if there was an undertone of disapproval when she spoke. That didn’t match her reputation as a dominant in bondage scenes. If anyone understood the psychology it would be her.
“I look at this picture,” she continued, “and I see something different. I see someone trying to hide from the burden of admitting to the damage they do to everyone around them. Someone like you: egotistical, superior, heartless, using those who would be your friends only to fill your own selfish needs without any regard for their feelings. How can you look at your reflection in the mirror and not turn away in shame and disgust at your behavior?”
She was doing it to me again. It was a theme she’d begun the last time I’d been left alone with her. “I’m not like that!” I shouted, as loud as I could manage. I wanted to pound my fists against the side of the box, demanding I be heard. Forgetting where I was I actually tried, only to be brought up short by the stiff covers surrounding my hands.
Behind My Back
“Let me speak!” I cried out. She was wrong about me and I could prove it, if only I were allowed to defend myself. I doubt she heard me. The microphone refused to turn on.
“You don’t even see it, do you?” The screen was now scrolling through a montage of my friends. “You don’t hear what they say behind your back. Sally hears it though, because she listens to what others say. Not like people such as you. You don’t care about your friends, as long as you get what you want. Sally hears it all, and she never forgets.”
I didn’t miss that last phrase. The way she stresses certain words it would be hard to ignore anyway. Was she carrying some kind of long term grudge against me for supposedly mistreating my friends? I wasn’t anything like what she described, so she had no basis to come after me. I respected those around me. There was no way they would criticize me behind my back, the way Sally told it.
“Sally knows what you’re thinking,” she started in again. “It isn’t true, they like me.” How little you know. See, they are good people. They stick by you even though you don’t deserve their loyalty. Not that you’d ever understand. Me, me, me, that’s the sum total of your world. You don’t see it because you don’t want to admit you are such a horrid, nasty little person. They look the other way, but Sally can’t tolerate it any longer. No more excuses. Sally never forgives.”
There it was, the second half. It was the opposite of forgive and forget. “I want out! Let me go, right now!” I couldn’t take being constantly badgered by her insinuations. My shouts echoed loudly in the box. In my heart I knew it was futile. My friend and I had run tests while building the box; nothing intelligible made it through the thick planks, no matter how loudly I screamed.
“You think I’m making this up?” Sally asked. “Why do you suppose your friend disappeared for the next two weeks? We can’t take your petty attitude any longer, but no one wanted to confront you with it. They left it up to Sally. It’s time you start to accept exactly who you are. Admitting the problem is the first step to fixing it.”
“Sally is going to prove to you I’m not making this up. Actually, you are going to prove it, to yourself. It all has to do with the surprise we arranged for this moment, knowing you couldn’t resist staying away from the box.” Sally sounded confident.
I had no idea what she was talking about. I was positive her attack on me was simply one of her ploys, and not a very good one by her usual standards. The surprise must have something to do with the electrodes glued to my skin, but I couldn’t see how measuring heart rhythm was going to convince me.
“Here’s your choice. If Sally turns on the microphone you behave, follow my instructions and speak only if I ask a question. If you go off on a rant then you get a nice, long session with some pleasant background melodies.” I got the message, shut up or spend the day with head banging noise disguised as music. Even the word she used, melody, wasn’t a term associated with those bands.
The microphone light came on. Finally I could talk, except I had to be very careful. Maybe if I cooperated she’d let me argue in my own defense. The display didn’t light up, which seemed odd. For some reason Sally didn’t want me to see what she was doing.
“You have all the sensors for a polygraph, a lie detector. But to get a reliable reading we need to get what’s called a baseline to distinguish between what you believe to be true, and what you know is deceitful. So, Sally is going to ask you some simple questions. A few may sound silly, others are based on knowledge anyone possesses. Now, to start, no matter what I ask, you will always answer ‘true’ to the question, and nothing else. Sally will be quite angry if you don’t follow the instructions.” A threat, plain and simple, and one I wasn’t going to ignore.
“First question: you live in Los Angeles?” Her voice had a bland, neutral tone, as if she was trying not to influence me with any reaction on her part.
“True,” I replied. I didn’t see anything sinister in that.
“You are currently located in your garage?”
“True.” Again, I was only stating the obvious.
“You recently returned from an extended trip to the planet Venus?”
I had to stifle a laugh. “True,” I answered. Yup, I was in constant contact with Ming the Merciless and the space fleet hiding behind Venus.
“Your living room couch is the color blue?”
Okay, maybe I’m not the best at interior design. “True,” I admitted. It didn’t match anything, but it was comfortable.
“You drive a brand new Tesla to work every morning.”
I wish. My old Chevy ran but it was far from modern. “True,” I responded, regretting I wasn’t being honest.
The questions went on and on, some absurd, some trivial. I lost count after a while. When we reached the end the microphone abruptly went off, without a chance for me to say anything else.
“Sally is pleased you cooperated. As a reward you may have some time to yourself. Remember though, you do not have permission to sleep. Sally will be disappointed if you fail to obey.”
That was good news. I could relax for a while. Problem was, I was starting to feel tired. I had no idea how long I’d been in the box but it must have been for quite a while. If only that display had a little corner with the time and date, then I’d know exactly how long. Which is why it wasn’t there, though I always regretted the design choice after it was too late to do anything about it.
I was exhausted, barely awake. It was a constant struggle to keep my eyes open. If Sally didn’t let me sleep soon nature would take over and I’d simply pass out. I had my doubts even the heavy metal music would keep me awake if she chose to punish me.
The screen came on. Sally was on her stool, staring down into the camera. “Enjoy your break? It’s time to go to work. But first I want to show you the surprise I promised. No, it wasn’t the lie detector. Well, not exactly, but Sally will explain later. I think the best way to demonstrate it is with a little test.”
She had my attention, which helped beat back the tide of sleep creeping over me. What did she mean, a test? If Sally was involved it couldn’t be good news.
“We’re going to go through a few more questions. Same as before: answer ‘true’ to each one, and nothing else.” Sally was smiling, which didn’t reassure me at all.
The microphone light came on. Here we go, I thought, there has to be something more to this than ridiculous questions.
“Los Angeles is in California?”
“True,” I answered. That was certainly a tough geography question.
“California is located on the far side of the moon?” There was another one of those silly questions.
“True.” I did not expect what happened next.
A searing pain struck the side of my left leg. I yelled in shock and surprise. It felt like someone had stuck a hot knife deep into the muscle, twisting as it went in. Panicked, I tried to twist and turn in the stocks, fighting to get away from whatever had stabbed me.
The pain ebbed away quickly. I was able to calm down and get my breath back. What had Sally done to me?
“That’s what your friend calls a feedback loop. Those wires, the surprise? We made some modifications to one of those TENS units, you know, the kind that stimulates nerves under the skin? Did you know if the power level goes up what starts as a tickle can become quite painful. We installed one in the box, but I’m sure you’ve figured that part out.”
My future just took a serious turn for the worse. Sally had something far more potent than heavy metal music to ensure my devoted cooperation. Terror does wonders to sharpen the wits. In a flash I ran through my extremely short list of options. The only one that made sense was to follow Sally’s lead, no matter where it took me.
“By the way, that wasn’t me who activated the stimulator. That’s what we call it, a device to stimulate and focus the mind. The lie detector app is directly connected to the stimulator. Every time you try to deceive Sally, it will encourage you to be more honest the next time. It’s all automatic; I don’t touch the controls.” She held up both hands so I could see for myself.
I didn’t believe her. “You can’t torture me like this! Let me out, right now!” I yelled.
I gasped from the sharp jab in my side. That one felt like I’d been hit with a baseball bat. The pain took my breath away. When I opened my eyes again Sally was still there, both hands in the air.
Sally was right after all. That last one I’d done to myself, by blurting out what I knew to be a lie. She could torture me, except she didn’t need to bother. I was diligently inflicting my own punishment quite well, without any help from her.
Crack in the Dam
Sally didn’t seem to be the least concerned about what was happening to me. I could see her, hands folded under her chin, staring into the camera. I was tired, in pain, and couldn’t seem to think straight. Lack of sleep was getting to me.
“Let’s try one more question. Remember, you have to answer ‘true’ or I’ll be forced to administer some disciplinary correction.” The last thing I wanted was to be punished by Sally. Maybe the lie detector was automatic, but there had to be a manual button for that stimulator, and I had no doubts she would use it without any hesitation on moral grounds. Psychopaths didn’t have to worry about emotional baggage like a conscience.
“Now think about this one: I take advantage of my friends.” This was a no win situation. Either I answered ‘true’ and got a shock, or I defied Sally and answered ‘false’, followed by her teaching me about the consequences of disobedience. I figured the lie detector would be the lesser of two evils.
“True,” I whispered, tensely waiting for the inevitable result. I waited, and waited, yet nothing happened. That meant…
“No!” I yelled. “It isn’t true. I don’t….” It felt like someone had placed a running chainsaw across my knees. I screamed incoherently.
Sally was still there on the display, calmly looking into the camera. It seemed like she could actually see me, although I knew that wasn’t possible. “Sally warned you to be careful,” she spoke slowly. “See what happens when you don’t listen?”
My own mind seemed to be turning against me. For the first time I had to face the fact Sally might be telling me the truth.
Opening the Floodgates
“I think only of myself.”
“I am a selfish, rotten little person.”
The list went on and on. Sally was enjoying my humiliation, being forced to admit openly all my bad traits. It was all I could do to stay awake, much less respond to Sally’s barbs.
“I care more for others than I do about myself.”
“True.” I answered without thinking about it. That was a mistake. I screamed in pain when my left arm was cut off. At least that’s how it felt.
On the display Sally was shaking her head. “You see? It’s all true. Sally has helped you to see yourself. That’s the first step, admitting you have a problem.”
Admit? I couldn’t explain the lie detector results, though they did confirm everything Sally described. Nor could I comprehend how I had deceived myself for so many years, believing I was a kind, decent person when in fact just the opposite was true. Doubt was eating into my self-confidence. Could I trust anything I believed in?
Sally had peered into the dark core of my soul, when I could not. I stared up at her face in the screen. She understood me better than I did.
“Sally is sorry she had to expose your feet of clay. You’re tired, you need time to digest all that’s happened. Sally will allow you to sleep. When you wake up you’ll have some of your quiet time in the box to process the progress we made. You must trust Sally; she has helped you. Don’t be fooled by your dark side, trying to draw you back into a life you don’t want.”
The microphone light went out, followed by the display fading out. I closed my eyes, welcoming the comfortable blanket of sleep. Sally was out there, watching over me, keeping me safe.
A New Beginning
When I opened my eyes I was surprised to see the box cover dangling from the hoist. Sally was working on the pillory board around my neck, loosening the screws.
She must have noticed I was awake. “Oh good, you’re up. This is what we’re going to do. After I get you out of the box the first stop is the kitchen. You need a warm lunch and plenty to drink. When you’re done you take a shower and get cleaned up. Then we’ll take a walk so you can get some exercise.”
Once I was free of the restraints I sat up. I did get some sleep but missed that alone time to meditate on all that had happened. Sally knew what was best for me though. That must include ending the box session.
I cleaned myself up enough to be presentable before heading to the kitchen. The smell of scrambled eggs started my stomach rumbling. Sally must be cooking. She is so good to me, I told myself.
By rights I should be in a deep depression now that I knew how others thought of me. What I actually felt was relief and optimism. Sally had worked her magic on me, helping me to accept my many faults. She would help me begin a new life, without all those bad habits that weighed me down.
All I had to do was put my unquestioning trust in Sally. I halted just outside the kitchen. Something nagged at me in the back of my head about that last thought. I shook my head and pushed it aside.
Sally watched her latest victim feasting on an egg burrito. This one had not required much effort to break down. She smiled, savoring the result of only one night’s work.
One of her favorite quotes was from Bobby Fischer, one of the greatest chess players of all time, and a prime example of the thin line between genius and insanity. A reporter had asked him why he enjoyed playing the game. His answer epitomized Sally’s outlook on life: I like the moment when I break a man's ego. For Sally there was no greater satisfaction than overcoming her opponent’s mental defenses, pushing them aside to lay open a vulnerable mind ripe for her exploitation.
The lie detector trick was an old one. She’d used it many times on her commercial assignments. In this case it was simple misdirection, holding up her hands while she pressed the stimulator switch with a foot. Real lie detectors were too unreliable; she preferred her intuition. Truth, actual facts, often got in the way of her work. It was only necessary to convince her quarry about the credibility of her contrived story; she had no such restrictions based on honesty or factual reality.
What to do with her latest? She had two weeks left to work it out. After all, with her new toy locked away in that box there was no need to hurry.