I had a nightclub to run - one of several such clubs up and down the country, making some inroads into Europe.

It turned out that at the centre of these clubs are rooms where people can come along to be tranced, made to act out their fantasies - hypnotic holodecks, as it were, where they could explore their own imaginations in peaceful, consequence-free environments. These hypnotic holodecks were all the rage: and I had invited a dozen full-spectrum regulars of other clubs to attend this club's opening ceremony; a quick trance, and then playtime.

Only, tonight there was one person who was protesting - a little too loudly. Someone whom I considered a friend was complaining about this evil I was doing, putting people in trances, as if I were running some sort of devil-worshipping cult on the sly.

Nothing of the sort, I promised her: also adding that these loyal customers came to me of their own free will, entering trances and enjoying performing out their fantasies, and mine, with their eyes wide open. I kept emphasising that as long as people come to me, I have no need to send my other friends, most especially her, anything that could put her into a trance. In reply, all she seemed to do was yell at me that her mind was her own and not to be manipulated.

So I put her in the vestibule, and got one of the bouncers - a pretty, petite blonde with her hair done up in a ponytail, a slender but athletic build and clear blue eyes - to watch out for her. I asked the bouncer to leave the outer doors open - it was pouring with rain outside, generally wet and miserable - and to turn up the heat in the vestibule to compensate, while they waited for the taxi. The blonde, apparently called Donna Hendricks, handed me a business card for a local taxi firm run by women, offering a safe service for local women coming home from nightclubs: I called up the number and made a note to put them on speed dial, and also to give Donna a commendation for solid thinking.

Then I came in and, despite the fact that I might be needed inside the club at any minute, sat with Hendricks and this former friend, chatting about the weather and friendship until the taxi arrived. I pointed out that a friendship based on trust is as unassailable as a partnership or a marriage; and that it was highly unlikely that I'd ever jeopardise that friendship by attempting to force a trance on another. I told this former friend that Hendricks had led a troubled life until I'd given her purpose: and, without trancing her, I'd turned her and so many other people like her around, given them the chance to find their own purpose and reason for living, and turned them loose on the world - and in return, they were rewarding me with their loyalty.

I tried to tell my former friend that loyalty, offered freely by people to me, was vital, and that trust cannot be forced upon anybody - not by indoctrination, not by drugs, not by hypnosis, not by anything.

Then the taxi arrived, and the friend made her way to the cab. I told Hendricks that it was okay to set the heaters in the vestibule to default and to close the doors. Hendricks told me that she'd watched how I'd made the former friend feel good about herself, while at the same time putting some distance between me and this erstwhile friend and not letting her know that this was a breakup. She told me that she had never seen anyone do such a subtle job of bouncing before.

But when I woke up, I felt awful inside.

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