When the hypnotist's hand touched his shoulder, he tilted with the pressure. Blacksmyth caught him at once, thanked the other volunteers and dismissed them to a round of applause.
Things had gone too far. "I'm sorry," Jamie whispered while the sounds died away, "but I can't be hypnotized."
"Oh," replied the performer, softly. "Then what are you doing on this planet?"
The hypnotist paused, saying nothing, and began to smile at Jamie Forbes.
"What is your name, sir?" the hypnotist asked, loud enough for all to hear.
"Now Jamie," he said, "let's you and me take a little walk in our minds. You see these seven steps ahead of us, we'll go down the steps together. Together we'll go down the steps; down, down, deeper, deeper . . ."
Let's Take a Little Walk in our Minds...
Jamie Forbes didn't notice the steps at first. They must have been plastic or balsa wood, painted to look like stone, and he walked them down with the hypnotist, step by step.
At the bottom of the steps was a heavy wooden door. Blacksmyth asked him to step through, and when he did, closed the door behind him. His voice came clearly through the walls, describing for the audience what Jamie saw before him: an empty stone room, no doors, no windows, yet plenty of light.
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When he turned to see where he entered, the door had disappeared. Disguised, probably, to match the stone.
"Look around you, Jamie," said Blacksmyth from outside, "and tell us what you see."
"Looks like a stone room," he said. "No windows. No doors."
"Are you sure it's stone?" came the hypnotist's voice.
He walked to the wall, touched it. It felt rough and hard. He pushed, gently. "It feels like stone."
"I want you to be sure, Jamie. Put your hands on the stone and push as hard as you can. The harder you push, the more solid it will become."
What an odd thing to say. He pushed gently, at first, then harder, then harder still. It was solid, all right.
He looked for the door behind its disguise, but everywhere was stone. He pressed against the wall, kicked it here and there, walked around a room no more than ten feet in diameter, straining against the granite.
It was frightening but not much, as he knew Blacksmyth would have to set him free some time soon.
There Is A Way Out!
"Jamie, there's a way out," said the showman. "Can you tell us what it is?"
"Door's gone," he replied, feeling foolish. How could the door be gone?
Crossing to where he entered, Jamie Forbes threw his shoulder against what looked like stone but may have been stuccoed plywood. He tried that, succeeded in bruising his shoulder. How did the whole place get to be rock?
"There's a way out," said Blacksmyth again. "Can you tell us what it is?"
If there were a way out, some secret password that needed shouting, he hadn't a clue.
Instead of answering, he backed against one side of the room, ran three steps and gave a flying kick to the other. He wound up on the ground, the wall unmarked.
"Yeah," he said, getting up again. "I give."
The Answer Is...
"Here's the answer," came Blacksmyth's voice, filled with drama. "Jamie, walk through the wall!"
"I can't do that," he said, a little sullen. "I don't walk through walls."
"Jamie, the walls are in your mind. You can walk through them if you believe you can."
"Yeah," he said, "right."
"OK, Jamie. You don't recall this, but you've been hypnotized. There are no walls around you. You are standing on a stage, and you are the only person who believes that you've been walled in."
The stone didn't flicker. "Why are you doing this to me," he asked. "Are you doing this for fun?"
"Yes, Jamie," said Blacksmyth gently. "We are doing this for fun. You volunteered for this and for so long as you live, you shall never forget what is happening today."
"Help me, please," he said, not a trace of pride or anger.
Helping You To Help Yourself
"I'll help you help yourself," said Blacksmyth. "We need never be prisoner of our own beliefs. At the count of three, I shall walk through the stone at one side of the room. I shall take your hand in mine and we shall walk together through the wall on the other side. And you will be free."
"One," came the hypnotist's voice. "Two. . ." Long pause. "Three."
All at once, it was as Blacksmyth had said. For an instant, Jamie caught a blurry twisted place in the stone, as though it were dry water; the next instant Blacksmyth stepped through the wall into the prison, offering his hand.
Flooded with relief, Jamie took the man's hand. "I didn't think . . ."
The hypnotist neither slowed nor replied, striding toward the stone on the opposite side of the room, pulling his subject with him.
Blacksmyth's body disappeared into the stone. For an instant Jamie held tightly to a disembodied arm, whose wrist and hand moved forward, drawing him directly into the wall.
Whatever next sound he gave might have been muffled by the wall, and in the following instant there was a click like the snap of fingers and he stood back on stage, holding Mr. Blacksmyth's hand, blinking in the spotlight, enveloped in fascinated applause.
Blacksmyth turned and mouthed thank-you to the applause, his expression: Don't underestimate the force of your own belief!
Don't Underestimate The Force of Your Own Belief!
Belief? He would have starved to death in that room, trapped there by . .. by what? More than belief. By absolute, unquestioning conviction.
From the barest of suggestions: "Let's you and me take a little walk in our minds..."
I fell for some smooth talk, I was convinced into prison. How can that happen?
Years later, he learned he wouldn't have died there, left alone. He would finally have slept, and waking, recovered from the prison-beliefs that seemed so real to him a few hours before.
©2009 by Richard Bach.
Reprinted with permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Co.
Dist. by Red Wheel Weiser. www.redwheelweiser.com
Hypnotizing Maria: A Story
by Richard Bach.
Flight instructor Jamie Forbes guides a woman to landing her plane safely after her husband loses consciousness, then flies on to his own destination unimpressed by his act...flight instructors guide students every day. Only after she tells reporters that a stranger appeared in an airplane alongside hers and hypnotized her into landing, and after he meets his own guiding stranger does he solve the bigger mystery: how each of us creates, step by step, what seems to be the solid world around us.
About the Author
A former USAF pilot, gypsy barnstormer and airplane mechanic, Richard Bach is the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Illusions, One, The Bridge Across Forever, and numerous other books. Most of his books have been semi-autobiographical, using actual or fictionalized events from his life to illustrate his philosophy. Visit his website at www.richardbach.com