“Hey, Ash, c’mere; lookit this, Tiffany urged her BFF when she spotted the exhibit surrounded by a small gathering of passers-by. “Must be some kind of promotion – I wonder if it’s a giveaway?”
“Could be, or an unannounced sale; let’s get closer,” Ashley agreed. Both friends were starting college in the fall and were on the prowl for bargains. “Excuse me… EXcuse me, please?” Trying to see what was going on, they edged towards the display and noticed that most of the young women standing there didn’t move aside to let them the newcomers in. Eventually they were able to get to the front of the assembled group.
“Huh?” Tiffany mumbled when they saw what had attracted such a silent horde of curious customers, “What’s the big freakin’ deal?”
Posed on a low stage under a circle of lights and a sign proclaiming ‘The Incredible Volunteer Mannequin Show’ was a young college-age woman acting as a living mannequin, remaining very still. She appeared rather like one of the snooty 'barbie' girls who always looked down on others who were not as pretty or rich as they were. The faux mannequin was standing in a flood of swirling colored lights that made odd patterns on the background scrim. This one was doing a convincing job of being a statue and hadn’t blinked or been distracted by the crowd as time passed. Most of the rapt onlookers were probably waiting for her to make some kind of mistake.
Ashley and Tiffany had both seen these kinds of sales gimmicks in the past; it seemed like a cheap way for the store to promote their goods. The morning was passing and there were still many stores to shop. “Let’s go,” Tiffany urged impatiently, turning away from the display and almost bumping into a late-teen Asian girl who wore a cute pink velour tracksuit that was so 80’s; she had tied twin pigtails in her long dark hair. The girl made no sign of noticing that someone had almost knocked her over. Tiffany sidestepped quickly.
“Wait a sec,” replied Ashley. “I want to watch a few moments longer. We got plenty of time, Tiff…”
A very soothing male voice droned on slowly in the background, just barely above their level of hearing:
"As you gaze at the mannequin and listen to the sound of my voice in your head, you can see how peaceful she looks standing there stuck in place and how easy it would be for you also to feel the same comfortable serenity. Just let your body flow into a natural pose and then pause your thoughts, eyes open, not wanting to move, letting yourself become stuck there with your mind switching off, enjoying the peaceful moment as time stretches out. You are feeling what it might be like, rooted to the floor, stuck there in a mannequin's pose; your whole body becoming stiff and motionless and you find that sensation very enjoyable and comfortable to you. You may worry that you might fall over, but you don't as you remain absolutely still and at rest. So comfortable that if you find yourself trying to move, in vain, you find that you cannot so much as lift a finger as you become even more motionless and rigid. Staying still is bringing you such calmness that you are not able to change your position even in the slightest way as you continue to gaze at the peaceful, beautiful mannequins standing there. You want to remain here too, mind switched off, in that restful, tranquil, beautiful, timeless immobility you enjoy more and more with every passing second..."
The two girls continue to look up curiously at the posed, frozen, figure for almost a minute. Ashley, the curvy redhead, is clearly getting drawn in by the hypnotic words; she raises her arms slightly into a mannequin-like pose and continues to hold that position, staring blankly at the still young woman on stage.
The taller blonde girl pokes her friend: "Hey, quit fooling around; I've seen enough. Let's check out the sale on Hermés scarves over at Heckmann's Outlet."
"You go ahead. I want to stay here a little... longer," she says slowly, in a kind of daze.
"Ok, but I'll be back soon. We've still got a lot of stores to hit. This scene is starting to weird me out!" Tiffany heads off; we see Ashley still gazing at the mannequin figure. That gentle, persuasive, voice drones on in the background.
* * *
Miriam Parsons didn’t like the malls; they seemed too tacky to her, frequented by what she considered the unwashed masses, but today was different. The fabulously wealthy serial divorcee had made her fortune in court, but not as an attorney. Her succession of five ex-husbands (she thought of them now as ‘investors’) provided her with enough means to live a life of leisure and, of course, prowl for spouse number six. That’s why she found herself wandering through this ordinary dress shoppe, not one of the stores along the drive that knew her by name. Those places were elegant, exclusive, and slightly out of touch with reality even though their designer fashions were straight off the catwalks of Milan, Paris, and Tokyo. Miriam was trying to ‘freshen’ her image and her stylist suggested she consider something more… ordinary.
But that meant shopping among those ordinary people too, thronging together, drawn from attraction to sale like so many consumer lemmings. Take this grouping in front of her, who seemed to be blocking the center of the aisle. Girls barely out of their teens, frowsy moms on a quick break from home duties, and clerks from the other mall stores had all collected here, all looking intently at something Miriam could not see yet. Circling the crowd, trying to get past them to the tacky-sounding “Clubwear Boutique”, she spotted someone standing at the edge that looked familiar.
“Jody, is that you?” she called out to the mid-30’s ash-blonde haired woman wearing a leather scoop-necked mini-dress that revealed a dangerous amount of décolletage; matching black knee-high boots sheathed her long legs. Strands of necklaces fell between the cleavage of her modest breasts; golden bangles surrounded her wrists. She looked as out of place as Miriam did; the two knew each other from the tennis spa they both dabbled at during the week. “Jody Bisette, stop ignoring me; I can see you right there!” Miriam repeated, using the fancy French pronunciation of ‘biss-ay’, edging nearer to the silent younger woman. From this location, she could see that Jody and the others were gawking at a couple of store mannequins dressed in dreadful imitations of designer dresses she had the originals of in her wardrobe. These didn’t seem that unique, or interesting, so why was everyone collected here?
Close up, Jody was looking more like a mannequin herself as she stood in place, head tipped slightly to one side, one arm half raised, staying completely immobile and not blinking as the seconds passed. Miriam waved one gloved hand in front of her friend’s blank expression and whispered, sotto voce, “Well, you may not want to be recognized here, but you shouldn’t be so standoffish about it… say something, Jody!”
The younger woman wobbled slightly, her mouth moving slowly but no words coming out as her eyelids fluttered. “Are you OK?” prods Miriam, shaking Jody’s arm, which seems to be held very stiffly. After a few more seconds, her friend appears to thaw from her frozen stance and takes a deep breath before looking away from the display, towards Miriam.
“Oh my; that was the strangest experience,” Jody said at last with a trace of a creamy North Carolina twang. “My whole body was going numb; I felt like I was turning into a statue; that voice. It’s a good thing you came along or I’d be still stuck in place. I saw you there and tried to say ‘hi’, but I couldn’t budge as hard as I tried. Thanks, Mir!” Jody grinned, a little breathless.
“That’s alright, kiddo,” she replied with a smile. “What is this exhibit for, anyhow? The clothes aren’t very impressive at all in this store. Why so much attention?”
“Near as I can tell, it’s a stunt. Those girls standin’ up there are s’posed ta be like mannequins, but there’s something else. Some fella keeps talkin’ all the time, saying how comfy it is to be posin’ here or some other nonsense. Sounds like a bunch of malarkey, but I almost fell under the spell, afore you came by.”
“Um, that’s very interesting,” Miriam commented. “You mean those models up there are actually trying to seem artificial? How very odd; it does seem rather peaceful though.”
“Don’t you get suckered in, too,” Jody cautioned, putting her earphones on and starting a selection on her music pod that drowned out the sneaky insidious voice; words that seemed to echo in her mind even now.
“No, you can count on me, Jody; I’ve faced down rabid lawyers and persuasive pitchmen before, so this sort of thing is… kids play… to me.”
“Well, I should be getting goin’ anyway,” Jody replied, turning away. “Nothin’ really to buy, anyway. See y’all later at the club?”
“Certainly, I’ll be along in just a minute.” Miriam said to the younger woman’s receding profile before some movement at the side of the display caught her eye. There was a man wheeling a dolly cart along the edges of the crowd. She wondered if this was the person who was saying those words that seemed to catch in her mind like a nagging jingle. What he did next was unexpected and a little surprising. Miriam was even a bit shocked and she decided to stay there a few minutes longer to see what would happen next.
* * *
When Tiffany reappears a half-hour or so later, toting a new shopping bag, she sees the display has subtly changed. Not only are there even more women standing there, holding still in static poses and not saying a word, including a particularly striking late-40's lady dressed impeccably in a form-flattering gold-lamé sheath, quizzically posed with her satin gloved fingers touching her full lips, but there is also another living mannequin standing up on the lighted stage: It's Ashley! She's now dressed in a short silvery party dress and matching heels; she seems to have more make-up on, her hair looks shinier and styled. The overall effect is she looks a LOT more like a real mannequin is posed there, showing no sign of moving or even blinking.
Tiffany tries to cautiously shake her out of it, but Ashley remains motionless. As Tiffany watches intently, the subtle, entrancing voice starts to get to her, too. Time seems to blur. She tries to turn away, but the voice is too compelling. Her mind is beginning to switch off; it’s so relaxing standing there, looking at the mannequins. Her whole body feels like it’s without sensation; thoughts slowing down…
Suddenly the man behind the voice is right next to her, whispering into her ear:
"You enjoy being stuck there as a mannequin so much that you want to continue that comfortable sensation by joining the models in the display as you feel your body becoming even more stiff and rigid. Your muscles are locked in position; completely stuck in place. The stiffer you become, the more peaceful and enjoyable it is for you; as long as you remain motionless the tranquil feeling will never end as your body is becoming hard and rigid as stone while I count backwards from three. When I reach the end you will be completely solid as a perfect mannequin and you will not want to move in the slightest way even when you are picked up; your entire body, head to toe, is stiffening as you hear the sound of my voice: Three; you are frozen in place, carved from stone, timeless and serene: Two; your body cannot move as you feel only pleasure at being so still: One; You are now becoming a perfect, beautiful, mannequin and cannot move in the slightest way as things around you seem to stop at: Zero!"
Tiffany is completely under – stiff as a board; unblinking.
The hypnotist reaches over, touches her lightly on the forehead and arm; she's like a statue, her breathing is barely visible. He picks her up at the waist, she doesn't bend or flex at all, and puts her on a wheeled cart. None of the other women notice this happening, they remain focused on the mannequin figures on the platform as he wheels Tiffany behind a tall curtain into a backstage area set up as a dressing room. She doesn't move so much as a finger as he lifts her off from the cart and continues to deepen her trance. "You feel so beautiful and comfortable there, in your timeless, switched-off, motionless condition as a perfect mannequin that you want to linger that way while your clothes are being changed and you remain pleasantly stuck in position, your entire body stiff and rigid, your mind frozen in a changeless limbo."
There is no sign she has heard him, but the young woman remains in position as he unbuttons her shirt and slips it off her shoulders, then loosens the belt on her tight jeans. Underneath, Tiffany is wearing a matching lacy, pale lavender, bra-and-panty set that looks far more expensive than would ever be sold in this mall along with a sheer pair of pantyhose. She wobbles from side to side as he lifts her on one leg and then the other to remove her pants, but shows no signs of breaking out of the trance that's turned her into a living display figure. He's able to thread a satiny slip-dress over her posed arms and then down over her slim body; it fits a little tightly, but that too is a pleasing effect.
The hypnotist knew that treating his volunteer models in this way, undressing them and changing their appearance, would normally be very risky, but he had “spoken” to the store manager earlier and gotten her complete written approval. It was a good thing, he reflected, having a very persuasive way of saying things. He concentrated back on getting this latest one ready for her unwitting debut as a living display figure.
"Mannequins love to be dressed and prepared for display; in your switched-off stuck state it is very gratifying that I am giving you so much attention to make you that much more beautiful and desirable. You feel at ease while being touched and fussed over that you want to remain that way without moving at all as your face and hair are being prepared."
Tiffany remains absolutely frozen as he brushes some blusher into her cheeks, touches up her lip-gloss with a more crimson hue, and then adds a light coating of spray in her hair. Costume jewelry is placed around her neck and wrists. A few more touches and she is ready: "Perfect! Now you can go on display, where you truly belong."
* * *
The store called it a lunch break, but Olivia Edmunds didn’t do much eating; she spent the minutes walking a circuit around the mall, covering 3.27 kilometers for lapping both levels. This brief exercise time always invigorated her since she spent most of her day standing behind a counter in Keyy Jewelers. Livvy walked after work too, when the stores were mostly shut down and the clicking of her heels echoed through the empty hallways. She was proud of her sculpted, Pilates-toned body and worked to keep herself looking her best at all times, even when working at the mall. Some days this job seemed almost OK to her, though her parents had forced her into taking it and it detracted from her social schedule. Stepping into the dress shoppe to check her appearance in their tri-fold mirrors, she nibbled at a tofu energy bar and tugged on her suit jacket to settle the fitted garment back into place. Her stunningly crafted looks meant a lot to Olivia Edmunds, almost as much as her clothing and fancy car; she spent a lot of time making sure her hair, makeup, and grooming were absolutely impeccable. Today she had piled her honey-blonde curls on top or her head in a regal style that recalled a fairytale princess. Her friends kidded her about spending more time than a supermodel in front of a mirror and that her narcissism bordered on an obsession; she didn’t care what they thought, staying focused on the greater prize. Someday someone would see her behind her counter or screen one of her viral videos and give her the break she needed to become truly famous. That was her dream; being stuck in a retail job was merely temporary. But she could still make believe.
As she’s returning to work, Livvy takes a slight shortcut that brings her by the mannequin display, which by now has accumulated quite a collection of immobilized onlookers. Cool, freeze models! They look really pretty, she thinks, I remember when my drama club did that across town; I was one of the best models there, even got my picture in the newspaper. She paused only for a moment out of curiosity, never noticed the subtle voice and instead imagined hearing those encouraging words from her inner self. In no time at all, Olivia was fully entranced, frozen in place, paused forever in the midst of taking a bite out of her light meal; what was left of her thoughts feeling peaceful and comfortable being immobilized without really knowing why.
The last piece of her energy bar slipped out of her stiffened, numb, fingers just as the fellow was passing by pushing his cart and looking for new volunteers. He bends down to pick it up, taking a long appreciative glimpse at her sleek, smooth, black-nylon-sheathed legs and curvy figure as he straightens back up.
Looking into her wide-set, green, unblinking eyes he asks her, “Did you lose something, miss?” The young woman stares back vacantly with no response, her pendant diamond earrings sparkling randomly, which only emphasizes her completely suspended, motionless, state. He cracks a sly smile, saying, “That’s what I thought, my still darling.” He’s about to deepen her trance into rigidity so he can place her on the cart when he notices her name badge from the store and decides to take a different approach. “Even though you feel peaceful as you are now, you’ll wake in a few minutes completely refreshed and rested as if you’ve had a full night’s sleep and go back to your job, only later remembering to call the number you find, as well as recalling how very comfortable it is for you to stand absolutely still, frozen in position, mind switched off.” With practiced slight of hand, he slips a business card into the inside pocket of her suit jacket under the guise of straightening her lapel. Olivia would never know that calling him back wasn’t her own idea.
* * *
Sometime later, the stage now features three living mannequins as more young women arrive to become stuck as they gaze at the display platform. One recent arrival notes, "Wow, this is quite a crowd; I wonder what's going on?" while another asks "Say, those two dummies look just like Tiffany and Ashley; what's up with that?" Barely heard, the soothing hypnotic voice murmurs persistently.
* * *
Ashley blinks, not quite sure at first where she is or even who she is. It’s very quiet in the store and the main lights had been turned off, leaving only dim security lamps. She finds she is standing on a platform in the women’s section; on the other side of the aisles surrounding her, racks of clothing and accessories fill the retail space. Her arms are tired; she lowers them slowly as her memories return. Arriving at the mall this morning to shop, coming across that freeze modeling display. Then she recalled hearing the monotonous voice speaking, and how it had made her feel. Good god! He turned me into a living mannequin for the whole day… She had come here with her friend Tiffany; a quick glance around found her posed stiffly alongside, gazing blankly into the half-darkness, wearing a cute sexy slip-dress that she’d never have picked out for herself. She seems to be still out of it.
“Hey, Tiffany! Can you hear me? It’s OK to move again; the show’s over.” Ashley snapped her fingers a couple of times in front of her friend’s face and shook her lightly before she too blinked and seemed to relax a little.
“Unhuhh? What’s going on? Where am I?” She sounded groggy and shook her head a few times, yawning.
“We’re in the dress shoppe, Tiff, it’s nighttime. They’re closed. We’ve been standing here, stiff as statues, for the last eight hours!”
“Quit kidding around, Ash.”
“I’m not fooling! Check where we are; look at how you’re dressed. Try to remember that guy’s voice on the speakers.”
She glanced around curiously, then at herself. Her eyes lit up as memories flooded back. “Oh, criminy, it really happened – that wasn’t just a dream! But, he got you, too,” she said contritely.
“Yeah; we’re both a couple of dummies, huh?” Realizing her double entendre after a second or so, she chuckled. “Window dummies, that is.”
“I wonder where everyone else is?” Tiffany asked, noticing but not commenting on her different garments. “How do we get out of here? Hellooo…” she called out. There was no answer.
“Maybe we’re not supposed to,” Ashley replied with an odd smile. Maybe we’re stuck here from now on and just woke up by mistake?”
“Don’t kid about those kinds of things; the guy hypnotized us somehow. I saw a show in Vegas once. They can make you do all kinds of strange stuff.”
“Like believing we were mannequins, posed in a display, unable to move a muscle?”
“Something like that. I don’t want to find out what happens in the morning. Let’s see what that note says…”
“What note?” Ashley wondered.
“The one that’s pinned to your shoulder strap, silly,” Tiffany replied as she pulled the paper free and unfolded it. “Hmm.”
Your clothes and other things are in the dressing alcove behind the stage; I trust that everything is still there, along with a little something extra for your troubles in addition to the dresses you’re modeling, which you may keep. The service exit to the mall is behind the young misses section, or you can call security. They know of your situation.
If either of you would like to consider a career in mannequin modeling or presentation display, contact me; you both can now recall my telephone number when needed. I can assure you that you have the necessary appearance and attributes to be very successful at it.
(signed) The Master
p.s. I am also looking for some new
assistants for my stage show. M
“I’ll say: Wow. What a way to spend a Saturday.”
“So, wanta call that number?”
* * *
Look for upcoming presentations of the Incredible Volunteer Mannequin Show in a mall near you!