Puppetboys (mm mc)

Copyright © 2003

Synopsis: [An obsession with puppetry and hypnosis has unexpected and dangerous results for two college boyfriends.]

The Cast:
     Andrew played by SHAWN ASHMORE
     Nathan played by WIL WHEATON
     Alan played by BEN SAVAGE

View the dream cast of PuppetboysAndrew sat in class staring at his best friend Nathan, and not for the first time, wondered what he'd look like suspended by strings.

Andrew was slender but tightly muscled. He was 19, 5'10”, with puppy dog eyes and an unruly mop of brown hair that often hung down over his eyes. His best friend in the world was Nathan. The same age as Andrew, Nathan was taller by nearly two inches, thinner, and less muscular. His dark hair was usually kept short. He had a look of innocence about him, accentuated by two ever-so-slightly oversized front teeth that stood out when he laughed.

Andrew and Nathan had had a thing going for some time now. Officially, it had been since the eleventh grade. Technically, it had been nearly since they had been old enough to crawl. The two buddies grew up together, their houses only one door down from each other's. They did everything together; little league, their first trip to the movies, camping, fishing, their first smuggled cigarette (although that escapade served only to assure them both that they'd live out the remainder of their lives as non-smokers, lest they choose to carry around a backpack at all times with a bedpan in it). And of course, the two friends served one another as confidant and supporter when they both realized they were gay.

The now-infamous secret operation to pilfer Playboy magazines from Nathan's dad had proven less than successful. They were twelve, and they were smart enough to know where the magazines were stashed. Via an intricately-planned scheme, the duo liberated the bunny-laden contraband and escaped to the confines of the basement. To no result. After safely returning the Playboys without being discovered, the two young friends moped around Nathan's bedroom, too embarrassed to talk about it. That is, until a recently-arrived copy from Nathan's Muscle & Fitness subscription arrived that afternoon and had the desired effect they sought earlier. With a chair propped against the door, they were occupied in Nathan's bedroom for the next three hours. The sore arms were attributed to a marathon set of video games.

That they were both gay was quietly understood but never vocalized. Andrew and Nathan maintained what they referred to as their “secret identities” with great care, reserved solely for covert masturbation sessions. Words were never spoken in regard to their feelings until the ninth grade, when Andrew offered the words that would define their relationship, “You know, if you liked girls I'd still be your friend.”

That was also the year that the two discovered they had two more mutual interests; theater and woodworking. It was then that their English teacher took them to their first stage play as part of a study unit on drama. The two boys delighted in the experience so much that they immediately signed up for the drama club. The Introductory Woods class was originally taken for the credit alone (and because they thought it would be a cinch, since Andrew's father was a contractor and the rudimentary woodwork assigned in class was something Andrew had been doing since he was in grade school). But contractors are rarely called upon to make toys and knickknacks, and Andrew and Nathan often collaborated their efforts to create detailed and unusual novelties. It was during Woods class that they made their first marionette. Something about being in complete control of the little wooden man's (whom they had modeled after one of the hunks in Nathan's workout magazines) every movement fascinated the boys.

It was while the two were working on their fifth puppet at home, that Nathan looked at Andrew and said quite unexpectedly, “Y'know, you'd make a great puppet, man.” The words stopped them both cold. Neither had anticipated the comment, nor did they fully understand it. After a moment's pause, they went back to their sanding and varnishing in silence, uncomfortably aware that they were both sporting sudden erections.

It was a year later, in tenth grade, that the two shared their first kiss. It was backstage after the final curtain of the spring play, “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay”--a title which both boys found hilariously appropriate. They simply looked at each other, concealed between the heavy curtains in the wings, high from the excitement of finishing a successful performance, and with one look into each other's eyes, they knew what the other was thinking. Without a word, they shared a loving embrace, a passionate kiss. When they separated, their eyes were wide, their breath uneven, neither quite sure why they had done what they had done, nor how they should feel about it. Then they both laughed, and the laughter made it alright. They hugged then, and turning to leave found that they had an uninvited audience in one of the younger girls from the show. She gave them a long, blank look, then stepped aside for them to pass. How much the girl saw, the boys never learned. As far as they knew, she never mentioned it to anyone.

Nathan and Andrew decided they were officially a couple by their junior year of high school. They also decided it was nobody's business, and were very careful not to give anything away while in public, especially where school was concerned. They enjoyed long walks in the woods or on the beach during the summers, where they could hold hands with impunity and nestle beneath a tree thick with overhanging branches or in a secluded cove to kiss as long as they wanted. Occasionally they experimented with masturbating one another, but that was as far as they dared to go.

The fascination with puppetry continued. Both Nathan and Andrew delved further into exactly how marionettes were built, manipulated, and made to perform. Their favorite movie became “Being John Malkovich” for its extensive puppet sequences. The boys blew away the parent-teacher groups when they did a flawless rendition of “The Lonely Goatherd” in their senior year talent show. And of course, there was the unfortunate experimental incident with...oversized puppeteering last summer.

Now the boys were in their first year at the Community College. Both had wanted badly to be accepted into Langston Theatrical Academy, but neither had the grades for it, due most likely to the hours lost to their studies that were spent with their puppets.

They shared most of their classes, due to careful schedule synchronizing. One was rarely seen without the other, as was usually the case since they were little. At this moment, Andrew stared at Nathan, a dopey grin on his face, as he imagined his slender friend sitting just as he was, staring blankly at his lecturing professor, but doing so stark naked. Once, Nathan caught on that his friend was staring at him, and silently mouthed, “What?!” Andrew simply gestured that Nathan should redirect his attention back to their teacher. When Nathan did, Andrew went back to imagining his best friend sitting naked in the row beside his, but with important changes. Slim lines, strong as piano wire, black as night, dangled from various points on Nathan's body. The imaginary puppet strings connected to points on his body vital to his movement; the wrists, the elbows, the shoulders, atop his head. Each time Nathan moved in reality, Andrew saw his unclothed companion being moved by his all-controlling unbreakable puppet strings that stretched upward to some indeterminate point beyond the ceiling. The mere idea of having his young and inexperienced boyfriend under his complete control was intoxicating.

Then, Andrew thought of additional strings that could perhaps control parts of Nathan that were less than vital to his body's motion. Andrew saw another string, smaller than those on Nathan's limbs, tracing down from above to attach between Nathan's legs, just below the waist. An imaginary yank on the new line brought Puppet Nathan instantly to erection, without his control or consent. Andrew smiled, envisioning Nathan's arms held in place by the taut strings, while the thin one between his legs slowly tugged, up and down, up and down. Getting faster and faster, Nathan's restrained, marionette arms unable to reach over and stop it...

“Mister Tather!”

The strident voice of his teacher yanked Andrew out of his reverie. "Is there any chance that you'd care to join the rest of us in our studies?" Andrew blinked, and saw immediately how he'd been caught. The teacher, pointer in hand, had directed every student's eyes to a pull-down chart on the far side of the blackboard. All heads were turned towards it, except for Andrew's, which was still focused on Nathan.

Andrew had no idea what had been going on in class, but he was instantly aware that he was in the soup. This didn't happen very often, but it happened enough that Andrew knew trying to cover his tracks was pointless. "Sorry", he said. "I was just thinking."

"I hardly thought that you were somehow fascinated with Mr. Woden's head", the teacher sneered, bringing a chorus of snickers from the rest of the class. The rest, that is, save Nathan, who had found a sudden interest in his shoes. "If you could trouble yourself to actually concentrate on the knowledge I've been charged to convey to you, if it's not too much inconvenience?"

Andrew shifted in his seat, looking in the direction he'd been told to, eyes forward, his mind still back with his best friend.

Psychology was one of Andrew and Nathan's favorite classes. Not for the subject matter, but because, like the class preceding it, they had it together. The duo left their last class and walked the halls together on the way to Psych. "So what was all that staring about last hour?", Nathan asked his friend.

Andrew pretended not to know what he meant. "Hmm? Oh, I dunno, just thinking, I guess."

Nathan smiled, sidling up close to his best friend. "Really? Or you just...stringing me along?" Andrew laughed, elbowing Nathan playfully in the ribs. The duo entered Psych class to find much excitement among the students already there. Nathan looked across the room and saw a stout, mustached man in a tweed jacket standing by their teacher's desk. "We got a sub today?", Nate wondered aloud.

Andrew spotted their regular teacher handing a paper back to a girl in the back row. "Guess not", Andrew noted. The two took their seats beside each other and leaned over to the cluster of jocks who perpetually occupied the front row of every class they attended. "What's up with the guy at the front of the room?", Andrew asked.

One jock in a red letterman's jacket, turned around in disbelief. "What, are you serious? Don't you know anything about Funkenwagner's Psych class??"

One of his buddies leaned forward. "Yeah, man, it's legendary. Every term he has his buddy come in and put on a demonstration using kids from his class."

Nathan and Andrew exchanged puzzled looks. "What kind of demonstration?", Nathan asked. The jocks just looked at the boys, then looked at each other. Their faces lit up, and they high-fived each other as if some success had been achieved. Andrew and Nathan simply sat back in their desks, shaking their heads.

Their teacher, a balding, squat blimp of a man paced in front of the rows of desks. "Okay, settle down. As some of you already know, I take one day out of every term during this course to have a friend of mine pay us a visit and share a unique demonstration--yes, what is it, Derek?"

One of the jocks had been waving his hand frantically. "Mr. Funkenwagner, we were talking about the demonstration before class, and Woden and Tather said they really wanted to volunteer for it!" The other members of the athletic peanut gallery chimed in their agreement. Nathan began to speak, clearly to dispute the comment, but Andrew made a dismissive gesture telling him to let it go.

"Well, if we're already so excited about it, I think we can skip further introductions and simply begin", their teacher decided. "Clifford, if you'd care to take over?"

The man in tweed stepped up and greeted the class. Then, "I understand we already have a couple of volunteers?" The jocks grabbed Andrew and Nathan and pushed them to the front of the room while the guest speaker set up a pair of chairs. As the duo took their seats, he asked their names.

"Uh, Andrew and Nathan", Andrew said.

Nathan pointed to his friend. "He's Andrew."

Andrew jabbed an indicating thumb in the other direction. "He's Nathan."

The man smiled. "Well, Andrew and Nathan, did you really volunteer or were you more or less drafted?"

"We didn't really volunteer--", Nathan began.

"But it's okay", Andrew said. "We'll help out."

"Glad to hear it!" The man turned his back on the two boys to again address the class. "Your teacher Mr. Funkenwagner may have already told you that I am a licensed psychiatrist and that I specialize in hypnotherapy. Yes, I am a hypnotist and it's that particular skill he's asked me to demonstrate for you." He made brief mention of some of the misconceptions about hypnosis and clarified some of the facts, but Andrew and Nathan didn't hear any of that, frozen as they were in place as they stared at one another in dread of what they'd gotten themselves into.

"So! bearing all of that in mind", the hypnotist said, "if you two gentlemen could focus your attention on this." He held up a simple yellow No. 2 pencil. "It's merely an ordinary pencil, there's nothing special about it, I only just borrowed it from Mr. Funkenwagner's desk. But if you, Andrew, and you, Nathan, could concentrate on it for just a moment, I'd like to point out something fascinating about it."

And that is all that Andrew and Nathan remembered about the hypnotist's ordinary yet fascinating pencil. The next thing they knew they were sound asleep.

“Open your eyes.”

Nathan and Andrew did so, without ever actually being aware that they had heard the command. One moment, their eyes were closed and they were sound asleep. The next, they felt wide awake and were looking at the hypnotist. If he was expecting some response from the two boys, his expression betrayed nothing.

The rest of the classroom, however, seemed on pins and needles. They watched the two hypnosis subjects practically from the edge of their seats. One or two other boys exchanged knowing glances. A girl in the back tried to suppress a giggle, with only marginal success.

Nathan looked at Andrew, seated close beside him. Neither knew quite what to expect, and felt as if they had come in late on a joke. Nathan said under his breath, “I thought we were supposed to feel refreshed or something.”

Andrew scrunched his brow. “Did he even do anything?”, he whispered.

“Gentlemen”, the hypnotist said, “how do you feel?”

The boys shrugged in unison. The girl in the back snickered at that. Trying to ignore her, they answered. “Okay, I guess.” “No different, really.”

The hypnotist stroked his chin and looked a little puzzled. “Hnh”, he intoned. Then, with a wave of his hand, commented, “You boys kind of slumped close together while you were under. Why don't you separate a bit and sit up straight.”

Andrew and Nathan looked at each other and realized that their bodies were touching. They sat snugly shoulder-to-shoulder and had not even realized it. They shot each other quick glances, silently conveying that they both agreed with the hypnotist's suggestion. There was also some small concern that their secret could leak out if they had become so comfortable with each other that they could be pressed together and not even notice. The boys sat up straighter and moved to readjust themselves on their chairs.

And they didn't budge.

They looked at each other, alarmed that they were still up against each other. The air in the room had changed. The other students were watching them with intense interest. Everyone was smiling. Including the hypnotist.

Nathan looked nervous. “Dude, get off'a me.” He jerked to one side.

And Andrew came with him. “Me? Man, it's you. Get over onto your own chair!” Andrew tugged the other way, only to find that he also pulled his friend back with him. The two rocked back and forth like this, and within moments, the students could contain themselves no longer and began to laugh. To his credit, the hypnotist contained himself and merely grinned. Their instructor, who'd been sitting quietly behind his desk, stifled a guffaw.

Nathan and Andrew were not as amused. The two were beginning to panic a bit, and cluelessly tried to pull each other apart. They placed bracing palms against the side of their companion and pushed hard, to no avail. It was as if they had been super-glued together from just above the waist down to almost the knee. When all their pushing and pulling served only to rock them back and forth, Andrew actually attempted to pry their legs apart with his fingers. Three guys in the front row jock cluster roared with laughter.

Nathan, still looking at his best friend--perhaps because he lacked the courage to face the derisive classroom--spluttered, “Dude, what did he do to us??”

Derek, the letterman-jacketed lead jock taunted, “Nothin' that you didn't do on your own already!” He and a buddy exchanged a high-five. Then, upon seeing the boys' still puzzled looks, the third jock said, “You're attached at the hip, dufus!”

Andrew tried to rise to his feet to respond, yanking the unprepared Nathan halfway out of his seat. Unable to get his footing in time, Nathan's dead weight pulled Andrew right back down to his chair in an embarrassing tumble. The two boys attempted to regain some of their dignity by straightening themselves out, only to find that the glue-effect was spreading. In the tangle of arms when they had fallen back into their chairs, they had made firm contact against each others' sides and were now equally bonded from the waist up to their armpits.

Nathan tugged instinctively to separate them, which only telegraphed their predicament to the rest of the class. At this point the entire room was caught in helpless laughter. Andrew looked mortified. By reflex, Nathan draped a comforting arm around his friend's shoulder, and as soon as his reassuring hand touched Andrew's shoulder, he realized his mistake. Andrew's eyes shot daggers at Nathan and he swatted at his friend's hand for him to remove it. Which he couldn't.

Nathan tried to yank his hand away from Andrew's shoulder, only to find that it, too, was stuck fast. “oh no...”, Nathan gasped, his eyes wide. Andrew saw the look in his friend's eyes and knew what it meant. Nathan kept pulling to free himself, which only served to fasten his outstretched palm even tighter to Andrew's shoulder. The physical contact, the close bond (literally) to his friend, the obvious lack of control over their own bodies was starting to arouse the both of them. They blushed both in embarrassment and from horror at the thought that their ever-hardening erections would be seen by the rest of the class. The continued to struggle, if half-heartedly, in order to hide the bulges in their pants.

Andrew and Nathan locked eyes. Despite the laughter of ridicule all around them, they both felt the unmistakable connection to one another that was only accentuated by their ridiculous situation. Their jaws fell somewhat slack, and they could feel the electricity between them. Glued together by some unseen force, helpless, their bodies controlled by someone else. They were so aroused that it was all they could do not to kiss each other right there in front of everyone.

Nathan suddenly jerked his head to the side in reaction to something. A hand had been placed on his shoulder. It was Andrew's. Andrew looked just as shocked, as he had not meant to place it there. Then they saw that the hypnotist had sauntered around behind the boys and deftly took Andrew's arm by the wrist and placed his hand upon Nathan's shoulder. The two were so caught up in one another that neither had noticed until contact. And contact was all it took. Now Andrew was also stuck fast to his friend's shoulder. He knew without a doubt that he wouldn't be able to remove his hand, but he couldn't help trying. He tugged to pull his arm back. And his palm stayed firm and fast to Nathan's shoulder. Both boys grew harder beneath their jeans.

"You boys seem to look like you're a bit on the spot here in front of the class with everyone watching", the hypnotist said. His tone was as drab as if he were giving a lecture on the history of the steam engine. "Why don't you just take your seats if you'd prefer to end this demonstration?"

That was all the prompting the boys needed. Assuming that this man had just released them from whatever hold he had over them, both Nathan and Andrew attempted to rise from their seats and return to their desks. It was a mistake. As soon as the boys tried to stand this time, their attachment to one another was increased tenfold. Their hands clutched more tightly at each other's shoulders, and it was if some irresistible magnetic force secured them together from their armpits all the way down to their knees. The result was that the now-conjoined Andrew and Nathan flopped clumsily back into their chairs, legs flailing before them.

The second their butts hit their seats, each boy's free hand snapped around to hug his partner, arms clamping tightly in place like steel girders. Now the duo struggled furiously to get loose, only to find that they were securely fastened together. The harder they struggled, the firmer their connection seemed. The entire classroom roared with laughter.

"Now just as a reminder for my sake", the hypnotist said, turning to the cemented boys, "could you tell me your names again, please?"

In response to that cue, the boys answered in unison, "We're Nathandrew." No sooner had the words left their mouths than their heads turned to look at each other in sheer horror.

The other students, especially the jocks in the front row, were convulsed with laughter. The hypnotist, showing more consideration, walked over to the newly-christened Nathandrew, and placing an index finger on each boy's forehead, said simply, "Sleep." Both Nathan and Andrew's heads nodded forward, and the two were instantly deep asleep. Both boys drifted in the most blissful and intoxicating slumber either had ever experienced. Unnoticed by either the hypnotist guest speaker or the class, both boys sprouted incredibly hard erections while under. And while both boys had some dim awareness that they were being watched, neither of them cared.

The next thing they heard was the sound of snapping fingers. Andrew and Nathan blinked their eyes open, and found themselves standing up now, though still with arms around each other's shoulders and feeling attached at the hip. Thankfully, they had stopped hugging each other. "Nathandrew", the hypnotist addressed them.

Together, the boys answered, "Yes, sir?" More laughter from the classroom. The boys looked at him as if they couldn't figure out what was so funny. All they did was answer in response to their name.

"Boys, here is a message from your teacher. If you could bring it to the front office, please." He handed them a blank piece of notebook paper, which seemed perfectly normal to Nathandrew.

"Okay", they said together. At that, they turned to walk out the door, both holding the notebook paper, Andrew with the left hand, Nathan with his right. The boys turned slightly to the side as they exited, stepping out of the door as smoothly as if they'd been attached to each other all their lives. No sooner had they taken half a dozen steps beyond the door than the hypnotist called them back.

"Forgive me, gentlemen, I think I gave you the wrong note. Could you come back here and let me have a look at it, please?"

Without missing a beat, the boys turned around smoothly and reentered the class. The precise moment they stepped through the door, however, the boys separated. Andrew took a step one way, Nathan the other. Not far, mind you, but enough to show them both that they were now two people again instead of one. They each glanced at their hands with some confusion, as if surprised to find the other's shoulder was not underneath it. A few giggles came from the class.

"And who are you, again?", the hypnotist asked, without specifying who he was addressing.

Again, the boys answered in unison. "Um, I'm Andrew." "Nathan Woden."

The hypnotist turned to face the class, one hand outstretched to indicate his unwilling performers. "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Andrew and Nathan--Nathandrew." The students applauded, and a few (the jocks) whistled and spun their fists in the air with accompanying whoops. Andrew patted his thighs nervously and Nathan stuffed his hands into his pockets. The two boys shared a long look, both knowing they had the same feelings about what they'd just been made to experience, but knowing this was not the place to say anything about it.

It was during the next period that each of the boys took a bathroom break and met up in the boys' room in the North hall. "Man, were you as turned on by all that as I was?", Andrew asked his friend.

"At least, if not more so", Nathan agreed. "I felt so calm, so relaxed, so--so--"

"At peace", Andrew offered.

"Yeah! That's a good way to put it. But all at the same time, I had this rush, this fear--"

"That you were being controlled?" Andrew's voice rose slightly with his excitement. "That you had no idea what you'd do next, what you'd be forced to do, but had no way to stop it--"

"Like I was a puppet", Nathan smiled.

"You realize we may have found the way to make that particular little fantasy of ours a reality, Nate?", Andrew said, nearly giggling.

Nathan pulled off his wristwatch and began to wave it back and forth in front of his best friend's eyes. "Gaze into the mystic timepiece. You are getting sleeeeepy, so verrrry sleeeeepy, my little puppetboy!"

Andrew took Nathan by the shoulders and begin to waltz him around as he sang an old Irving Berlin ditty he'd learned in a summer theater workshop.

"No strings, no connections.
No ties to my affections.
I'm fancy free--and free for anything fa-ancy!"

Andrew and Nathan quickly became masters at tackling all homework assignments, papers, and projects immediately and completing them efficiently at top speed. Far from being academically motivated, the boys simply wanted to have more free time to dedicate to their new studies of hypnosis.

They'd research online, check books out of the library (occasionally stealing a kiss or two among the back stacks), rent hypnosis videos oriented to both instruction and entertainment. Soon, thanks to their diligence, they successfully separated fact from myth and began to experiment using each other as subjects. It was rough going at first, for with the end result in mind, each boy found it difficult to relax sufficiently to enter a trance. Minds awhirl and hearts racing, relaxing at all was a challenge, much less to the point of achieving a hypnotic sleep. The most they ever achieved was helping the other to relax slightly, or experience a small visualization exercise. There were no successfully implanted suggestions, no taking control. But practice makes perfect, as they discovered one afternoon in May as their high school graduation approached.

The duo had just returned from assisting Andrew's dad in his latest contracting job. They had done everything from hauling lumber to pounding nails, helping excavate countless shovelsful of dirt in preparation for creating a new basement, and transporting several truckloads of decorative blocks to enhance the look of the garden areas in the backyard. By dusk, the boys were physically exhausted. They were primed for their first step toward puppetdom.

Nathan collapsed on the couch when they got back to Andrew's house. "God, I'm beat."

Andrew flopped into a nearby easy chair. "You and me both. I'm so whipped I can barely move." He looked at Nathan, his lanky form draped over the couch, legs splayed, arms limp, energy spent. Andrew propped himself up a bit in his chair. "Hey."

Nathan grunted. "Huh."

"Begin to take deep, steady breaths."

Nate groaned. "Ohhhhhh, not now, Andrew. I can barely think, much less try to focus on a trance state. I'm too damn tired."

"That's the whole point", Andrew said. "You're too tired to be excited about it. You willing to give in to being tired? To surrender to everything I tell you?"

With some effort, Nathan lifted his head a bit from the couch, and looked at Andrew. "Dad's overseeing the last of the basement work", Andrew reminded him. "Won't be back for at least a couple hours. We've got a quiet house to work in."

Nathan saw the determination, the hope, in his eyes. This could work. Nathan laid his head back down upon a throw pillow, and stuck his legs straight out before him, arms at his side. He took a deep breath and let it out. "My will is your will, master."

Andrew leaned forward in his chair, arms resting on his thighs, and rubbed his palms together. "Okay, start with your breathing..." In short order, Andrew had Nathan breathing deeply, steadily, in through the nose, out the mouth. Sometimes holding it for a moment, sometimes forcing it all out. Soon Nate was breathing deeply, fully, his body working automatically, his chest rising and falling as if he had been napping for hours.

Andrew used his favorite of the techniques they'd researched, the knotted body technique. "Listen to my voice, Nathan", he said, repeating his friend's name as often as possible to reinforce his attention. "Only my voice, nothing else. No other sound interest you. Any background noise fades away, is dismissed or unheard." Nate appeared for all the world to be sound asleep, oblivious to Andrew's near-mechanical ramblings. "Imagine that your body is made up entirely of a long length of tightly knotted rope. Every joint, every limb, composed of stout, braided rope, tied up tight in repeated knots. Picture your feet, both made of large, constricting knots. Picture it. Do you see it?"

Almost imperceptibly, Nathan's chin dipped by a fraction of an inch. Twice. He was nodding. Andrew's heart sped up a bit, and he consciously had to force himself to stay clam and focused. Licking his lips, he continued. "Look at those knots, Nathan. Now watch them as they slowly untie themselves. Slowly, but steadily, inevitably, they come untied and the rope that makes up your feet unwinds and straightens. As it does, you can feel all the tension leaving your feet, feel them relax, and relax totally."

Nathan's toes twitched ever-so-slightly. Andrew's eyes flashed as he caught it. He swallowed. "It feels so wonderful, Nathan. So good to be relaxed, to be free of the tension, to be rid of the knots. God, it feels soooo good to be relaxed. Now picture the knots that make up your ankles..."

Systematically, Andrew made his way up Nathan's body, untying knots and releasing tension along the way. Nathan's calves, knees, thighs, rear, abdomen, chest, back, shoulders, biceps, forearms, fingers, and neck all unwound themselves, knots straightening and tension banished. Nathan's breathing grew even deeper, if such a thing were possible, and his body looked as heavy as an iron beam, sunk into the cushions on the couch. Andrew took a deep breath, flexed and unflexed his fingers, swallowed, then took the final step.

"Nathan, I want you now to picture your head. Your head is the last remaining portion of the long rope that is your body. It is the only knot left. A large, tense mass of knotted rope. Picture it. When it unwinds, you will feel the last of the tension within you unravel and leave you completely. You will be a fully relaxed being. You will be completely and utterly hypnotized, unable to come out of your trance, unable to even move without my say-so. Do you understand?" Nate's chin dipped an eighth of an inch. "Now. The knot that is your head unties." Nathan's mouth fell open and his head sank just a bit deeper into the throw pillow behind his head. He reverted to mouth breathing.

Andrew held his breath. Gingerly, silently, he stood up and padded the few feet across the carpet to Nathan's prostrate form upon the couch. Hesitantly, Andrew held Nathan by the wrist. Carefully, he lifted the limp limb that was Nathan's arm and raised it into the air. He held it there for perhaps twenty seconds, gathering his courage. Then he let it go.

It fell like a brick back onto the couch, plopping against the cushions like a lifeless plank. Andrew gasped in joy and surprise. "Oh my God", he whispered. "I did it!" Then, looking at Nathan's face, so peaceful so helpless, Andrew leaned down and kissed his beloved friend upon the forehead. "No", he said softly. "We did it."

With considerable effort, Andrew resisted the overwhelming urge to have Nathan start quacking like a duck or believe his name was Jack Meoff. He instead returned to his chair and, as he research suggested, tested Nathan's trance state. He had Nate sit up, and seeing that he was still under while he did this was a success in itself. Andrew narrated Nathan's arm into a lighter-than-air state and watched it float gently toward the ceiling. he increased its weight and brought it back down. He had Nathan extend his arm before him and feel it stiffen to immobility.

In Nathan's mind, he saw his arm take on the aspect of an steel I-beam, frozen in place, not so much connected to his body as welded there. Andrew informed Nathan he could not bend, lift, or lower his arm. Nathan's imagination created two steel braces with massive bolts secured to either side of the beam that was formerly his arm. It wasn't going anywhere. Now came the big test. "Attempt to move your arm", Andrew commanded. "You'll find it impossible, but try anyway."

Andrew knew that most fakers would huff and puff and clench their teeth as they pretended to fight with their frozen arms, a sure sign that they were not under. Nathan just sat there, unmoving. Arm stretched out before him, his face utterly placid, eyes closed, breathing deep and steady, his mouth slightly open. Inside, Nathan thought for certain he was pushing with all his might to budge his cast-iron arm. And yet he felt as if he were just sitting there all at the same time. It was like nothing he had ever experienced before.

Outside of Nathan's awareness, Andrew smiled. Mission accomplished. Andrew returned Nathan's arm to normal and allowed him to lower it to his side. Then he had Nathan fall even deeper into a trance, and as he did so, had his body rise to a standing position. "You will still be deeply under, in this very relaxed state", Andrew assured him, and reinforced it several times. "Until such a time as I release you, you will remain completely and totally relaxed and entirely susceptible to everything I say."

Nathan stood before Andrew, body straight, shoulders relaxed, eyes closed, looking as if he had fallen asleep standing up. "Now open your eyes", Andrew ordered. Nathan's eyes fluttered open. He appeared a bit groggy. "Can you hear me, Nathan?", Andrew asked.

Nathan blinked. "Yeah, I can hear you fine."

"How do you feel?"

"Pretty good. Relaxed."

"Lift your arms out to your sides, like you're a crossing guard at elementary school." Nathan did as bidden. "Now your arms are frozen in that position, Nathan. They're stuck there and they're going to stay there until I say otherwise. They won't get tired, you won't feel muscle strain. They're as stiff as concrete posts and you can't move 'em." Nathan's eyes widened a little. "But try anyway", Andrew said. Nathan just stood there, staring at Andrew. He repeated, "Go ahead, try."

"I AM trying", Nathan said, slightly annoyed. He turned his head, looking at his right arm, then his left, both of which jutted out at his sides like a scarecrow's. Nathan's body showed no signs of strain, but his eyes did. "Dude, what did you do to me?? I really can't move my arms at all!"

Andrew's eyes twinkled. "You serious?"

"Swear to God! It's like they're resting on top of something. Something solid, like an oak table. It feels like I'm not even the one holding them up! I-I've never felt anything like this!" Andrew grinned, and began to walk in a tight circle around his best friend. "Andrew, how long are you gonna leave me like this??"

"Take a step forward", Andrew said. Nathan complied. "Take a step back." He did. "Hop on one foot." Nathan did, but looked annoyed.

"Andrew, c'mon, enough's enough. You have me under. It works. Just let me put my arms dow--"

"Both feet flat on the floor", Andrew said. Instantly, they were. Andrew looked at Nathan's shoes, then back up at Nathan's face. With great confidence in his voice, Andrew announced, "Your feet are glue to the floor. You can't lift them, you can't budge them." Andrew took a step back to get a better view. "But you're welcome to try."

Nathan's knees bent a little, his twisted a bit at the waist, but his feet weren't going anywhere. His soles may as well have been epoxyed to the rug. As far as Nathan was concerned, they were. "What the hell--", Nate began.

"And your legs are now as stiff as your arms, Nate, frozen where they are." And like that, Nathan was a veritable statue. He looked down at himself, then up at Andrew. twice he did this. Inside, he was fighting to move, on the outside, he was the Rock of Gibraltar. Andrew moved right up to Nathan's face, draping his arms around his friend's shoulders.

"Wh-what are you doing?", Nathan asked.

"What's it look like I'm doing?" Andrew began to nuzzle his nose against Nathan's, to kiss the nape of his neck. Andrew leaned forward and nibbled the lobes of Nathan's ears, to kiss the side of his head.

"A-A-ndrew, wait---I-I can't do anything--!"

"That's the idea", Andrew smirked. Andrew kissed his best friend on the lips, once, twice, three times, four. Then he held Nathan's shoulders, saying only, "Let me in." Nathan opened his mouth and let Andrew kiss him more deeply, his tongue probing, massaging his friend's. Slowly, Andrew pulled away, lingering a while on Nathan's lower lip. Andrew took half a step back and looked downward. Smiling, he reached down with one hand to the front of Nathan's jeans.

"Whuh-what--what are you doing??", Nathan gasped. Though his body still felt strangely relaxed, his heart was racing, his blood pumping through frozen limbs.

"I'm looking for something", Andrew answered. There was the quiet noise of Nathan's fly being unzipped. Then the light rustle of fabric as Andrew slipped his fingers into the opening. "Ahh. Therrrre it is." Carefully, Andrew pulled out Nathan's very erect penis.

The frozen, or at least partly-frozen, Nathan looked down with wide eyes as Andrew stroked him. "What are you doing?"

"I was thinking", Andrew said, his fingers running gently up and down his best buddy's shaft, "that we've whacked off in front of each other, beside each other, we hug, we kiss like all the time, but one thing we haven't ever done..."

"Dude, I'm serious, knock it off." Nathan's voice was growing tense.

Andrew began to pump his friend's member slowly, up and down. "We've never actually...helped each other at this."

"A-Andrew, I am so not kidding here..." Nathan's breath became more ragged.

"Why don't you just grab my hand and pull me off you?", Andrew teased. Nathan focused his eyes on the ceiling, concentrating with all his might to move his arms down form their petrified, outstretched position. Nothing doing.

"Andrew, you know I can't! You totally hypnotized me, I'm still under now, aren't I??" Andrew nodded, giving his friend an affectionate squeeze. "Okay, that's it! Experiment's over! We know I can be hypnotized, we know you know how it works, we also know that you have to stop--"

Andrew snapped his fingers as something occurred to him. "You can't talk!", he said suddenly. Nathan went silent and looked at him as if trying to figure out what that remark meant. Then Andrew put his face right up to Nathan's nose and said in a voice that was almost a hiss, "Until I tell you otherwise, Nathan, you can't talk. Your voice is gone. I just took it away." Nathan looked at him, tight-lipped and stunned. "Oh, you can try to talk--in fact, I wish you would, it'd be funny--but no sound's gonna come out."

Nathan's mouth moved a bit. He had just tried to say a word. Silence. His mouth moved again, an attempted sentence this time. Nada. Then his mouth was moving furiously, silently screaming at Andrew. His buddy the budding hypnotist cooed. "Ooooh, hypnotism is so fucking cool when it works right!" Andrew went down on his haunches and began to pump Nathan's penis feverishly. Shivers of pleasure rippled through Nathan as he stood there like a T-pole, unable to do anything but experience the sensations Andrew was causing. Andrew's pumping reached considerable speed, and he glanced up to look at Nathan's expression. Nate's head rolled on his shoulders, his eyes closed and his mouth muttering unheard obscenities.

"Gee, good thing there was no soundtrack with some of those words", Andrew mumbled. Then, he pounded at Nathan with all he was worth. Nathan gasped, his head bobbing, his eyelids fluttering, his shoulders moving up and down as best they could, his arms still pointing straight out, his legs still as rails.

Finally, his entire body went as stiff as his extremities, and Nathan shot a tremendous load in one of the biggest orgasms of his young life. Andrew just barely ducked out of the way before the massive stream rocketed past him, just over his shoulder. A few more pumps led to a few more streams, Nathan's head now rocking up and down like a bobble-head doll, and a few more strokes and he was dry. Andrew bounced up to his feet. "Damn! That was one hell of a burst, Nathan! You never shoot that big a load when you do it yourself." He looked down at the puddles scattered around his feet that he'd need to clean up and said, "Thank goodness for hardwood floors, though, huh?"

Andrew looked at Nathan, standing helplessly in his frozen pose, his head now lolling to one side, his breath coming in snatches and wheezes. Fun time was over, his friend was exhausted. Andrew zipped his friend up and drew close to him. "Nathan, you have your voice back. You can say anything you want at any time, just like before. Just like always."

Nathan, eyes still closed, head still nodding to one side, muttered, "...tired...so tired..."

Andrew set his hands upon Nathan's arms. "I am in control of your body, Nathan. I can move it even if you can't. I can lower your arms." With that, Andrew gently brought Nathan's arms back down to his sides. "I can dissolve the glue holding your feet to the floor, and command your legs to take a few steps backward." Easily, with great care, Andrew backed his friend up and then lowered him down to the couch. He rested his palm upon Nathan's forehead and told him, "You'll fall back asleep now. Deep, deep asleep, drifting on a sea of relaxation and pleasure. Just sleep now, Nathan."

And with that, Nathan was sound asleep. He slept like a rock for about five minutes. Then he heard the sound of snapping fingers.

Nathan opened his eyes. He was laying on the couch, but now he was wide awake. He was wide awake and feeling absolutely fantastic. His eyes darted about the room. He saw Andrew slumped in the easy chair. "How long was I out?"

Andrew ran a hand through his hair. "I let you snooze for about another five minutes after you shot your load."

Nathan fairly sprang up to a sitting position. "No way! I feel like I just got in a good eight hours! I feel fantastic!"

Andrew twirled his fingers like a magician. "I gave you the standard deal. You'd wake up feeling very rested, very relaxed and refreshed and yadda, yadda, yadda. You really feel okay?"

Nathan beamed. "Man, I feel like I could take on the world!"

Andrew rested his chin in his palm. "How much of it do you remember?"

"All of it."

"Have fun?"

"You know it."

"Good." Andrew let his body collapse within the chair, his arms flopping over the sides, his head falling back onto the cushions.

Nathan got up. "What's wrong?"

"What's wrong is I'm fucking beat! We just did all that work with my dad's construction stuff and then I did all that focusing and concentration hypnotizing you. I need a nap is what's wrong."

"Fine", Nathan said. "Now it's your turn. You take the couch."

Andrew smiled bemusedly, then dragged his limp body over to the couch to meet his fate.

Andrew awoke in a sitting position with his arms resting limply at his sides. He felt remarkably relaxed, as if all the muscles in his body had been transformed into some kind of gelatin. It was then he realized he wasn't awake at all. His eyes were merely open.

"Can you hear me?", Nathan asked.

Andrew blinked lazily. "Yep."

"How do you feel?"

"Relaaaaaaxed." He smiled brightly.

"That's good, Andrew", Nathan said, using the stolen technique of repeating his friend's name. "I'd like to try a simple test. Please touch your finger to your nose."

"Which finger?"

"Doesn't matter."

Andrew simply sat there. His eyes glanced to the left, then to the right. Then he looked back at Nathan. "I can't lift my arms."

Nathan just stared at him. "Really? Try again."

"I am trying. I can't lift my arms at all!"

"Well, if that's too hard, then just cross your legs at the ankles", Nathan suggested. Andrew sat there, unable to budge. His feet remained flat on the floor. "Okay, try just nodding your head then", Nathan said. And Andrew continued to sit there, locked in freeze frame, only the movement of his eyes and the steady rising and falling of his chest giving any indication that he was alive. Until he spoke, anyway.

"Okay, you got me. Now what?"

"Now we have some fun", Nathan declared. He hopped over to the couch and sat beside Andrew, resting his arms upon his friend's shoulder. "So, you feel really relaxed and comfy?"

Andrew did his best to look at Nathan, which wasn't the easiest since he couldn't turn his head. "Um...yes, and I guess."

Nathan continued, "Does knowing that you can't move unless I let you--does being helpless like this make you feel, well, you know..." Nathan rested his hand upon Andrew's crotch and felt the stiff bulge beneath his zipper. "Hey, looks like it does."

Andrew squinted his eyes shut. "Ohh, I know where this is going..."

"I doubt it", Nathan grinned. With that, he freed Andrew's penis from his pants. And then, much to Andrew's surprise, he reached over, took Andrew's right hand, and firmly wrapped his fingers around his own erection. Nathan then hopped back over to his chair and put his feet up on the coffee table.

"So what's this", Andrew asked, "you torture me by putting me in this position and I can't do anything about it?"

"You can't", Nathan said, "but I can. Pump." At that trigger word, Andrew's hand started to pump his own cock.

"Holy shit!" Andrew looked down at his hand which was quickly masturbating himself. "I-I'm not doing this! I swear I am not trying to make my hand do this--this is incredible, Nathan!"

"It gets better. Speed up." And Andrew's hand pumped faster. In a matter of moments, Andrew was groaning with pleasure as his remote-controlled hand masturbated him at high speed, rapidly bringing him to the edge of orgasm.

"Nath-Nathan--", Andrew panted, "I-I'm gonna shoot...gonna shoot--!"

Nathan grinned. "No you're not. But you can pump faster than that."

And sure enough, Andrew did. His hand was pounding away at his meat rapidly, ruthlessly, making his groan become a whine. "N-n-n-no, I m-mean it, man--I'm gonna blow--c'n feel iiittt--!"

"No you're not", Nathan reiterated. Andrew's eyes looked like they were going to roll back into his head. He bit his lip, squinting his eyes tight. "Y'know, all the time that we were working together researching hypnosis", Nathan explained, "I looked at a lot of the same stuff you did. But whenever we were researching separately, while you looked up hypnotherapy and stuff, I found these really cool hypnosis story sites online. I picked up a thing or two from those."

"Wh-wh-what's h-h-happening?!", Andrew said, baffled, overcome by overwhelming erotic sensation, yet without achieving any climactic gratification.

"When you were under, I gave you a little command that I guess you accepted pretty well", Nathan said. Andrew looked at him, his filled with an aching look. Nathan smiled. "You can't cum until I tell you to. You can go faster than that, though."

Remarkably, Andrew sped up. His hand was almost a blur, his inevitable teenage orgasm brought right to the brink yet held in check. "Y-y-y-youuu BAStard! You c-can't do this to me! Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh shshshshshiiitt--!"

"Had enough?"

"Yes! Let me fire already!!"

"Call me puppet master?"

"Yes! Puppet Master Nathan, that's you! Now let me shoot, you little fucker!"

Nathan got up and walked over to his friend, placing hands upon his vibrating shoulders. "When I next say the word 'release', you'll respond as I told you to while you were under." Andrew's eyes widened. So that was it. That was the word that would let him loose his load. Nate went back to his chair and sat down. "Ready?" Andrew actually nodded his head (which wasn't that difficult, as his whole body was shaking at that point, due to the fury of his hand pumping). Nathan smiled, and said, "Cum one, cum all."

And the torrent of semen that had been held in check by hypnotic suggestion burst from Andrew's member. At the second it did, Nathan yelled out, "Release!" And unconsciously, Andrew responded to that command, which was implanted to release his body from it's frozen position. Andrew lurched forward, spent, and caught the force of his orgasm full in the face.

Stream upon stream blasted into Andrew's face, ricocheting against his forehead, nose, and mouth. His spasming hips made matters worse, prompting repeated bursts, catching him in the neck and the chest. Gobbets of his boy juices spattered his shoulders and arms, before cascading down onto the hardwood.

"You fucker!!", Andrew cried. Nathan laughed convulsively. Finally, after the better part of a minute of repeated orgasm, Andrew slumped forward, arms thudding upon his thighs, his right hand coated in a thick glaze of cum, but finally able to release his hold on himself. Semen still oozed steadily from Andrew's dick, even as it grew soft. As the cream puddled on the floor, Andrew lifted his head to look at Nathan with half-lidded eyes.

"Y'know, this isn't exactly what I had in mind when I suggested we try hypnotizing each other."

"Really?", Nathan beamed. "Cause it's exactly what I had in mind."

"All over my shirt, in my hair, God, didn't think I HAD that much in me..." Andrew paused. "Hey, don't you have to put me back into a deep sleep and then wake me up completely?"

"Nah, I suggested that you come to full wakefulness when you, well, cum. You feel awake?"

Andrew spit a drop of cum off his lower lip. "Phtt! Yeah", he said with disdain. "Wide awake."

"Hey, I wanna see you lick the cum off your face", Nathan smiled.

"What? No fucking way, asshole!"

"Ohh, come on! Do it for me--at least just lick your lips and chin, it'd look so hot!"

"Screw you, puppetboy! If you wanted to see that, you should've programmed it in!"

Nate flashed an evil grin. "Maybe next time I will." Then he sat forward. "You know what this means, don't you?"

Andrew met his gaze, a glint of understanding in his eyes. "We hypnotized each other. We really, really, hypnotized each other."

"This is gonna be the best summer of our fucking lives", Nathan said.

"As soon as I get cleaned off, it is." Andrew leapt over to Nathan, shaking his head and spattering Nathan with the semen caught in his hair. Nathan wailed in protest, but Andrew grabbed him in a headlock, running his sticky-coated hand through his best friend's hair. The two beautiful boys grappled, tumbling to the floor where they laughed, wrestled, and kissed, sliding here and there on the wet streaks of their own making.

The boys' summer was pretty much a repeating loop of that evening's experiment. They'd work, eat, sleep, and put each other under as a means of enhancing their sexual experiences (and torment). Once Nathan suggested they kiss with the posthypnotic suggestion that they'd be unable to pull their lips apart until they heard a timer go off. Nate thought that the timer had been set for fifteen minutes, when in fact it had been fifty. Whoops.

The biggest drawback was maintaining their encounters in secrecy. They took secluded camping trips, made late night trips to their respective basements, and so on. But since this summer vacation came at the end of their graduation, such sneaking around would soon be a thing of the past.

"College at last." Andrew's comment was met with both boys dropping their duffles and book bags to the floor with a thud. They were away from the prying eyes of home at last, in their own dorm room, humble though it was. Andrew and Nathan had already made the trip to the campus earlier to register as well as to clean up their new dorm room and build the space-saving loft bed to better accommodate two full-grown teenage boys living together in cramped quarters.

"I call the top bunk", Nathan said quickly.

Andrew grinned, knowing full well that they had deliberately neglected to construct a lower bunk. "Hey, I get the top bunk, man", Andrew said with mock menace.

"First one up there gets it", Nathan answered.

In a rush of taut teenage muscle, the slender boys grappled/ran to the bunk, arms and legs tangling and twisting around each other as they clambered up to the elevated bunk. Caught in an embrace, the twosome landed on the mattress in an affectionate tackle.

Pulling off Andrew's shirt, Nathan said, "God, I hope this thing doesn't collapse."

Working to undo Nathan's pants, Andrew said, "Not a chance. I made sure it was reinforced to support at least as much as--"

"Shut up", Nathan said back, yanking off his own shirt and kissing his boyfriend.

In less than two minutes, the boys were naked and kissing and caressing with a passion that surpassed anything they had enjoyed before.

"Is the door locked?", Nathan managed to gasp out between kisses.

"Who gives a shit?", Andrew answered. Nathan didn't respond, but surrendered to the moment. Both of them were high on the moment, the freedom of being away from home, to lose themselves within each other's arms with an abandon to which they were completely unaccustomed.

An hour later, Nathan lay awake while the naked Andrew lay sleeping softly beside him. Nathan watched intently as his boyfriend's chest rose and fell, listening to his soft breathing. With gentle fingers, Nathan stroked the hair at Andrew's temples, then leaned over to kiss him atop his head. Andrew made a contented humming noise and then rolled over onto his side, falling deeper into sleep.

Nathan rolled over the other way, pressing his bare back against Andrew's. He sighed as well, allowing his mind to wander, conjuring images of all the things the boys were now free to do together, and to each other. In his imagination, Nathan saw Andrew standing on the dorm room floor before him, close to the door. He was as naked as he truly was at that moment, his smooth chest, abs, and legs telling of hours spent running cross country. His impish grin and elfin looks made Nathan grow hard, and he knew he wanted him all over again.

Very softly, Nathan whispered, "Come here."

The imaginary Andrew started to take a step forward, but was suddenly stopped in his tracks. He tried again to make some forward progress, but his momentum was halted. Andrew could see there was nothing in front of him blocking his path, so he attempted to turn around to see if something was holding him from behind. Again, he could only move so far, then he was stopped. Then, he saw what was happening. Incredibly thin lines connected to Andrew's body became visible as he tugged his way back and forth, causing them to catch the light. Slender as spider webs, stronger than steel, the strings glistened here and there as the light reflected off them. Each time Andrew tried to move, the near-invisible strings, secured to his joints and shoulders, tugged him back harder. The imaginary Andrew made one more Herculean effort to move toward the bed, only to have his magical strings yank him both backward and upward, leaving him dangling on the tips of his toes, his arms jutted out at his sides, forearms hanging limp at the elbows like a marionette.

Nathan draped one arm off the edge of the bunk, making lazy arcs with his forefinger. In response to his playful conducting, Andrew's strings pulled and tugged at him, making him engage in a clumsy puppet dance. Despite himself, Nathan laughed aloud at his friend's imagined confusion. Beside him, the real Andrew grunted softly, then sniffed, going back to sleep.

Biting his lip to hold back any further outbursts, Nathan watched again as the puzzled dream Andrew stared upward, watching as the glistening strings pulled him this way and that, disappearing into the ceiling with no apparent anchors, pulleys, or any physical means of support. The puzzled, naked puppetboy looked up at Nathan perched atop the bed.

Nathan tapped his head. Silently, he mouthed, "It's all up here, buddy."

After making his fantasy boyfriend dance a bit more, Nathan waltzed him to the center of the room. With a bit more melodrama added to his gestures, Nathan's fingers directed the web-like strings to pull Andrew's arms out far to his sides. Then he had his legs pulled out to a very wide stance. Slowly, Nathan imagined Andrew's shoulder strings lower him gently backward, so that soon he was spread-eagled and leaning back on his heels, supported solely by his puppet strings, with no real leverage or his own.

The imaginary Andrew looked to Nathan with concern in his eyes, which Nathan met with a caring smile. Holding a finger aloft, Nathan then pointed with great flair at Andrew's penis. Instantly, the semi soft member began to bob and weave slightly. It was then the helpless puppet Andrew saw the string, slim and gleaming, attached to his penis. His eyes grew wide and he shot a look at Nathan that said, "Don't you dare."

With two fingers, Nathan gestured for the string to pull up, up, up. Andrew's expression tightened as his penis was made fully erect against his will. Then Nathan jerked his thumb up and down, up and down, causing the magic string to pull at Andrew's penis, over and over with increasing force and frequency. Andrew's head lolled back, his ecstasy growing, the sensations exacerbated by his helplessness. His mouth hung open, his eyes squinted shut, as Nathan balled his hand into a fist and jerked it back and forth madly. Puppet Andrew's penis was jerking up and down with all the speed and ferocity of Nathan's gestures, his face now red with anticipation of his inevitable orgasm.

Puppet Andrew forced his eyes open and looked again upon his master, giving a slight nod to Nathan. Do it. With that, Nathan gave one final tug with his hand, and Andrew jettisoned a powerful load of semen upward in a thick stream, his mouth locked open in a silent scream of joy. The geyser of boy juice spewed above him, then spattered back down upon the helpless puppet, dispersing the fantasy now that it had reached its climax.

As the semen sprayed down upon Andrew, he disappeared in tiny shining starbursts, vanishing in a silvery glitter of bliss.

Nathan sighed, then rolled over in bed to press himself tight to his fantasy come true. His daydream having made him very hard, Nathan pressed his erection to Andrew's back, his stiff member pushing against the boy's firm, sculpted buns. Wrapping a loving arm around his friend's torso, Nathan lightly kissed Andrew's shoulder, then drifted off to sleep with his head resting upon the back of his neck.

The dorm room was a flurry of activity as the boys darted around each other, gathering books and homework papers, making sure each had his shoes, writing utensils, keys, etc. "Folder, Trig book, where the hell did I put that--?", Andrew muttered, squeezing past Nathan to the desk where they kept their pens and pencils.

"Toss me that folder while you're over there", Nathan asked. Andrew picked up a purple binder and tossed it over his shoulder without glancing back. Also without looking, Nate snatched it out of midair while moving quickly to the bathroom to brush his teeth.

Andrew took a quick look at his day's agenda, jotted down on a sheet of lined paper. "Damn, every friggin' second is accounted for it seems like", he grumbled, shoving the note back into his pocket.

From the bathroom came a spitting sound, the rush of a faucet, the clink of a toothbrush landing in a glass. "I know, we hardly ever see each other anymore outside of class", Nate commented, giving Andrew a kiss as he zipped past.

"And it's not like we have all that many of those together this term", Andrew said. "Meet me for lunch?"

"Can't. World Lit study group. Oral presentations Friday. Tonight?"

Andrew frowned. "Industrial Design. Guest speaker at Evans Hall. Mandatory."

Nathan shoved papers into his binder, patted his pockets to verify the presence of a pencil. No luck. "I can't remember when was the last time I jerked you off."

"Forget that, when was the last time we hypnotized each other? I need you as my puppet buddy, man." Andrew tossed him a pencil. "And this", he said, lobbing over a small pocket sharpener. "At least I got us that spot doing cleanup for theater class. You know, the backstage rooms and all. We'll have time together during that."

Nate tucked his folders under one arm. "That's not for, like, two weeks, though. Any ideas until then?"

Andrew sighed, moving towards the door as he checked his watch. "Nothing comes to mind. The only time we're really together for any decent length is in bed, and then all we're doing is sleeping. We've been too bushed to fool around. God, I miss you and we're living in the same cracker box of a room!"

Nathan snapped his fingers. "Almost forgot! There is something I came up with." He pushed past Andrew and started pulling open the drawers of their desk. "I put 'em in here somewhere...they've been in here for like three or four days, I keep forgetting to mention it--"

Andrew checked his watch again. "Leave it for now, we can at least walk to class together partway. But let's get a move on, or we're gonna be late."

Nate spun around. "Found 'em!" Nathan held up the cassettes he'd picked up at the New Age shop off campus. WHILE-U-SLEEP self-hypnosis tapes. Andrew raised an eyebrow. "You want us to--", he leaned close to read the labels. "--lose weight and quit smoking?"

Nathan grinned. "Not exactly."

Two weeks later, Andrew and Nathan lingered in the makeup room after their theater class to clean up, as well as to familiarize themselves with the facilities in preparation for their upcoming work study. The had already swept up and returned the dozens of compacts and vials of foundation, powder, and rouge from the stage makeup workshop back to the plastic tubs where they were kept. Andrew looked at his watch and observed, "We're done early. That didn't take as long as I thought it would."

Nathan wiped down the last countertop before the long row of lighted mirrors. "Probably 'cause we were both working together."

Andrew's eyes fell upon the makeup stores and then upon Nathan, his face lit by the repeating rows of large circular bulbs. Andrew began to snicker.

Nathan looked up at him. "What?"

"You wanna try something fun?"

Nathan tossed the moist rag into the sink and began to smirk. "Like what?"

The next thing the boys knew, they were seated side-by-side in two makeup chairs, blinking themselves awake.

"Um, okaaayy...", Andrew said, feeling a bit disoriented.

"Bud, we did the hypnosis thing to each other", Nathan said.

"I guess. What's the last thing you remember?"

"You asked me if I wanted to try something fun. And I--" Nathan lost his sentence in a burst of laughter.

Andrew, still rubbing the sleep from his eyes, said, "What's up with you? What's so funny?"

"Dude, look at your face."

Andrew looked into the lit dressing room mirror and saw painted upon his face two candy-apple red circles. Both strategically placed over each cheek, both bright and shiny, of the type found on a toy soldier, or a puppet. "Sonnuva bitch..."

"Man, you look like a Raggedy Ann doll!", Nathan howled.

Andrew spun around to return a retort, when he too began to laugh. "Well, at least I've got company." Nathan's laughter died off as Andrew thumbed towards the mirror. Nathan took a good look at himself and found that he, too, had been made up with shining red puppet cheeks.

"Oh, man. I got it, too." Then he looked at his friend and the two of them burst into uncontrollable laughter.

After taking a moment to compose themselves, Andrew said, let's get this shit off ourselves. The two pushed away from the makeup tables and began to stand up. It was only then that they noticed that the puppet cheek makeup was all that they had on them. Anywhere. Both boys were buck naked. They froze, looked at themselves again, and once more lost it to gales of laughter. This time their fit lasted close to ten minutes.

"Oh, Jesus", Andrew gasped, wiping away a tear of joy. "Don't we look like two anatomically-correct fruity puppet dolls." Nathan snorted out another burst of laughter. "Come on, let's get this shit off and find our clothes." Andrew moved up close to a mirror and ran his finger across one of his painted cheeks. "Uh-oh..."

"What?", Nathan approached him, still laughing slightly.

Andrew ran two fingers up and down his cheeks. "Go like this."

Nathan did as bidden, then looked at his fingertips, expecting to see smears of red grease paint there. His fingers were dry. "What the hell--?"

"It's not makeup, buddy. It's nail polish."

"Well, damn. No wonder it looks like shiny puppet varnish. It practically is." Nathan looked at Andrew in the mirror beside him, their twin reflections those of naked college boys wearing nothing but bright red puppet cheeks that gleamed in the light. Unmoving candy-colored shells clung to their faces, making them appear just slightly unreal. Nathan turned to face his best friend, who moved close to him as he did.

The two boys began to run their hands over each other's bare arms, to gently rub one another's thighs. "Is--is it hot in here, or is it just me?", Andrew asked.

"It's not you", Nathan said. "Must be all the lights."

"Must be", Andrew agreed half-heartedly, leaning in to kiss Nathan's face. Nathan wrapped his arms tight around Andrew's back, his slender fingers massaging his spine.

"God, Andrew. How do you feel right now?"

"Fantastic. I feel so good--so happy, so, so--hell's bells, I'm horny."

"Me, too", Nathan admitted. He caressed the sides of Andrew's head with his hands, the soft brown hair falling between his fingers. "I can feel the warmth of your body right up against me. You feel so smooth, so good. I love you so much."

With no further prompting, the two boys kissed each other passionately, hungrily, and toppled upon the makeup counter in a twist of arms and legs. As they feverishly kissed each other's mouth, face, and neck, each boy grabbed the other's member, pumping rapidly. One atop the other, the two naked boys pumped and kissed, tongues probing, members throbbing. their warm young bodies pressed tightly together, producing a heat that neither of them thought possible.

"Too hot", Andrew said, beginning to pull away.

"Don't stop", Nathan said, pulling Andrew back down upon him. "We're so close."

Andrew surrendered, giving himself to Nathan, grasping him even tighter, causing the slim friend to whimper with pleasure. The whimper was smothered beneath more kisses. In response, Nathan gripped with equal pressure, his other arm wrapping around Andrew's back and keeping him close. The two red-cheeked young men pumped and kissed with growing intensity until they simultaneously fired a veritable geyser of jism all over one another. Backs arched, shoulder locked, Andrew and Nathan tensed every muscle in their bodies, their hips thrusting uncontrollable with the throes of orgasm.

Once spent, the duo clumsily let themselves slide to the floor, where they flopped onto their backs, gasping, holding hands. They were covered in each other's semen from chin to crotch, a thick glaze that still held the warmth of their passion. For several minutes, all that could be heard was the sound of their ragged breathing.

"So", Nathan said finally. "Is this what you meant by something fun?" The two began to laugh uncontrollably, still lying on their backs.

After regaining some composure, Andrew said, "Yup. I think so." He began to sit up, but Nathan placed a gentle palm upon his sticky chest, holding him down. Slowly, Nathan swirled two fingers around Andrew's chest, collecting spunk. He then placed his fingers slowly into his mouth and sucked them dry. Andrew grinned, ruffling Nathan's hair with his free hand and then kissing his boyfriend on the forehead.

"Let's de-puppetize ourselves, man", Andrew said.

"If we gotta."

Andrew went to the makeup drawers while Nathan dampened some paper towels at the sink for cleanup. As Nate finished cleaning himself up, Andrew said, "Go check the coat rack."


Andrew held up a note scribbled onto a sheet of yellow scratch paper which read, "Go check the coat rack". It was in his own handwriting. Behind him, every drawer in the makeup cupboard was pulled open, with everything accounted for but one thing. No nail polish remover. Just an empty space where it had been.

Nathan stepped over to the far corner of the room, by the door, and stood before a metal bar of empty coat hangers. Taped to one of them was a pink receipt. He took it down and read it. A messenger's coupon. For one parcel. It's contents: two sets of clothes and a large bottle of nail polish remover. To be sent to Andrew and Nathan's dorm room. Nathan showed it to Andrew.

"This has stopped being something fun."

Nathan nuzzled Andrew's neck. "Oh, I dunno. Maybe it means we'll just have to live here now. Bare naked puppetboys, making love on countertops." Nathan began to nibble Andrew's ear lobe.

Andrew pulled away quickly. "Eek! Not the ear thing!" He shivered under the affectionate assault.

"What? I thought you loved that." Nathan pointed to Andrew's growing erection. "I know you love that."

"Nathan, we're naked and cheeked, and before we did our self-hypnosis trick, we messengered our clothes away. How do we get back to the dorm without getting arrested?"

Nate felt the slick surface of his puppet cheeks on his face. "Oh. Right. Or without getting our asses kicked."

The boys began a frenzied search of the premises. Everything was locked tight. The wardrobe room, the bathrooms (and with them the bath robes), the laundry room. Andrew ran a worried hand through his hair. "I said fun. Fun. Which implies I wanted to do something to us that would be fun."

"Too bad we've gotten so good at making ourselves forget stuff."

Andrew went and sat down on a small chair in the back hallway behind the stage. He must have left them some way out. But what--and where was it?

"Um, Andrew?"

"Yeah?", Andrew answered, now staring at the ceiling.

"You might wanna come look at this."

Andrew got up and walked back to Nathan, who stood in the dressing rooms again, before a small closet used for excess wardrobe. Nathan held the door open, and stared into the closet, his face blank. Andrew stepped up beside him and looked inside.

There, in the closet, were two costumes obviously pilfered from the wardrobe room. One was that of a rag doll; baggy powder blue corduroy overalls with gigantic canary yellow buttons, little black slippers, a red-and-white striped shirt with matching tights, and a red yarn hairpiece. Beside it hung a toy soldier's uniform, complete with blazing red jacket with criss-crossing yellow braid, white trousers with a broad red outer stripe, tall black riding boots, a towering red hat with black brim and yellow feather topper. In the back of the jacket was a giant silver wind-up key that strapped over the wearer's shoulders beneath the jacket. Taped to both costumes was another note simply reading, "Have fun!"

"No fucking way", Nathan said.

Andrew burst into laughter. "Way!! You get to be the rag doll!" He grabbed the costume and tossed it to Nate.

"Like hell! I'll look like a pansy. I want to be the toy soldier!"

"Too late. Already called it." Andrew was already jumping into the white trousers and working his way into the jacket. He couldn't get the pants to stay up, despite the fasteners, and the jacket sleeves were too long. The corduroy bib overalls hit him in the face.

"They're too small for me", Nathan said. "Give it up."

Reluctantly, Andrew conceded, and in moments, where once stood two naked college boys now were an adorable rag doll and a stalwart tin soldier. With a kiss for luck, the two locked up the theater behind them and made their way across campus, in broad daylight, back to their dorm. Andrew and Nathan waved cheerfully to passersby who stared at them, wide-eyed. Here and there, the boys passed a handful of classmates they knew, to whom they tossed off hasty explanations that they had just come from (or were going to) a theater class workshop on costuming (or characterization, or children's theater). It varied from person to person.

Back in their dorm room, Andrew shed his mop of yarn hair and Nathan tossed aside his tall hat. They shared an additional kiss, then saw the parcel they had sent themselves, waiting them on the bed. "Now wasn't that fun?", Andrew asked.

Nathan grinned, looking like an extra from The Nutcracker Suite. "Too much fun."

Andrew looked into his lover's eyes and saw something was amiss. "When did you remember?"

Nathan sighed. I started to remember us putting ourselves under while we were whacking each other off, but I tried to ignore it. Once I saw the closet door, I remembered everything."

Andrew nodded. "I remembered most of it when I saw the first note. Probably because I wrote it. I knew about the costumes, I just couldn't remember where we stashed 'em."

"It was still fun, though", Nathan said quickly.

"Oh yeah, yeah", Andrew agreed. "Still, it'd be nice if I could find a way to make us forget everything totally until we wanted it to come back. Compelled to do something without knowing why, or what would come next. It'd be more exciting that way. It'd be hotter."

"Not that you don't look hot now", Nathan commented. Andrew looked down at himself in his rag doll costume, and raised an eyebrow. Nathan amended, "In a boyishly adorable sort of way."

The two elected to remove their elaborate theater costumes before wiping away their polished cheeks. There was no rush. Andrew undressed Nathan. Nathan undressed Andrew. It took the better part of an hour.

Andrew and Nathan stood gaping outside the door of their World Econ class. They had never seen such a glorious sight. Gently, tentatively, Andrew began to reach for it, to touch it, if only to prove that it was really there. Nathan gripped his shoulder, a silent caution not to rush, lest it vanish before their eyes. Andrew reached out, extended his fingers, and touched it. It was indeed real. Lightly, he fingered the object, and licking his lips once, he began to read.

"To all students of World Econ 101: Due to a severe case of strep throat, I am unable to deliver the lecture scheduled for today's class. Please continue with the previously-assigned reading and I will see you next week. Prof. Tillema."

Andrew looked to Nathan, and they both sighed. "Nathan, have you ever seen anything so glorious??" Nathan only shook his head, mouth-breathing.

A surly kid behind them jabbed Andrew in the shoulder with a pencil. "For Christ sakes, Tather, would you just sign the goddamn attendance sheet so the rest of us can get the fuck out of here?"

In a thrice, Andrew and Nathan scrawled their names and were gone so fast the paper on the door fluttered in their wake. They raced each other back to their room with a playful glint in their eyes. They had three hours to themselves. They knew exactly how they would spend it.

They sat on the floor of their dorm room, facing each other with eyes closed. "Deep breaths", Andrew said.

"I remember", Nathan said.

"We're gonna put each other under, we're gonna implant suggestions that we will consciously surrender ourselves to follow, and we will proceed on to the resulting delight." Andrew took a deep breath. "In through the nose, out the mouth. Feel your belly expand as you inhale, flatten as you exhale."

Nathan opened one eye. "I get all this, but do we have to be naked?"

Andrew open his eyes, leaned forward and took Nate's face in his hands. It's all about the mood, my man. It's all about the mood."

Nathan grinned. "Okay then, try this." He slid his bare feet forward and pointed for Andrew to uncross his legs. "Put the soles of your feet flat against mine."

"What for?"

"Just do it. Trust me."

Andrew did, and took a slow intake of breath. "Whoa. That feels--"

"Kind of intimate, huh?", Nathan agreed. "We just read about it in Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle."

Andrew sighed. "So Contemporary Lit finally pays off. Deep breaths."

Nathan breathed deeply. "In and out. Feeling more tired and relaxed."

Perhaps an hour later, Andrew and Nathan stood (fully clothed) at the edge of the busy quad. Students bustled to and from class, kids ate lunch on benches, played frisbee on the lawn. Andrew looked at Nathan. He was breathing hard, as if he'd been running, even though they had walked there. Nathan nodded. "You ready?", Andrew asked. Nathan nodded again. "We can always try this somewhere less occupied."

Nathan shook his head. "The risk is what makes it fun." He held up his hand. "Let's go for it."

Andrew clasped his left hand into Nathan's right. They held hands, looking into each other's eyes. They looked at their hands, clutched tight. "Do you think it took?", Andrew asked.

"One way to find out", Nathan said. "Pull." The two boys tried to pull their hands apart. They were stuck fast. "Are you really trying to let go of me?", Nathan asked.

"Yes, are you??"

"Yeah! I am!" Nate reached down and attempted to pry their fingers apart, but it was no use. They may as well have been welded together. He looked at Andrew with eyes filled with exultation. "Holy shit, we did it! It worked!"

Andrew swallowed. He began to speak, but saw a handful of students approaching, so he pulled Nathan to the side, behind a nearby tree. When the coast was clear, he said, "That's only half of it. Let's see if the whole thing works." Nathan nodded. The two boys kissed, long and full. As their lips parted, so did their hands, smoothly and easily.

Nathan held up his palm. "Try again?"

Andrew looked around the trunk of the tree, down to the end of the quad. Buildings all around, very few places to avoid being seen. Bright day. People everywhere. Andrew held up his hand. "It's what we're here for."

With the sound of a firm clap, they clasped their hands together. Andrew tugged his way, Nathan his. Their hands were stuck fast. They smiled, almost laughing at the lunacy, the danger, of their experiment. Nathan wiggled his eyebrows, Andrew winked in response. And they were off.

Andrew and Nathan strolled onto the quad as if it was the most natural thing in the world for two apparently straight boys to saunter along hand in hand. It felt so right for both of them that they even swung their arms back and forth slightly as they walked.

That is, until a group of three guys tossing a toy football amongst them came close. When Andrew spotted them, the boys were almost on top of them, but Nathan saw them in time. With his free hand, he grabbed Andrew behind the head and forced him down to the ground, where they tumbled behind a hooded trash can. Quickly, but with no small amount of satisfaction, Nathan kissed Andrew fully, and their hands came apart.

As soon as they had, Andrew leapt to his feet, Nathan right behind. Andrew punched Nate playfully on the arm, as if chastising him, guy-like, for catching him off guard with a sudden wrestling move. "You jerk", he scoffed, smiling. The boys with the football passed by without giving them a second glance. Andrew and Nathan fell together slightly, shoulders bumping, as they laughed at their narrow escape. Then, with a curt nod to each other, they slipped their hands together again easily, fingers interlacing as if they were meant to fit together.

The duo smiled as their palms made contact. It was almost as if there was a magnetic tug as their hands drew close, drawing them together like a natural force. They gave their hands a quick jerk and found them tightly glued once more, and continued their stroll.

They made it only a little ways farther when they came upon a study group clustered together on the lawn by a massive shade tree. Andrew stepped to the side, leaving Nathan alone exposed to the group, which he almost walked into. The students, upperclassmen mostly, looked up to see what for all the world looked like some kid frosh leaning against the tree, one hand resting behind its trunk. The study group leader, a lanky girl with straight blond hair, shot him a look as if to say "Do you mind?" and Nate nodded a quick apology, one hand up, urging them to carry on. He waltzed around the tree, as casually as possible, and ran right into Andrew's kiss.

It was long and tender, longer by far than need be, but it worked to release the grip they had on each other's hands. For a moment, they rested their foreheads together, smiling. Then they walked out from behind the tree with hands in pockets, ready to start their little game again.

They barely avoided two teachers squatting behind a bench. They waited until literally the last second before stepping around a column in front of the science building when its main doors released a crowd of students departing class. They experienced a close call when two kids on bikes tried to sail between them, causing Andrew to fake a startled stumble into his best friends in order to hide their hands. In fact, all was going well, the two boyfriends having a ball with their hijinks, until the infamous gossip girls appeared.

Jenny, Miffy, Kathy, Cindy, and Tammi (with an "i") always traveled together, despite being unafflicted with a hypnotic suggestion compelling them to do so. In fact, all they ever seemed to do was to walk and to talk. Incessantly and about anyone but themselves. They had been labeled The Gossip Girls by any other students unfortunate enough to know them, and they were headed straight for Nathan and Andrew. If these girls saw them holding hands, the boys knew they'd be outed to the entire campus before the end of the day.

Upon seeing the girls, or more importantly, seeing who they were, Andrew and Nathan bolted and ran as one man. More accurately, they bolted and ran as one man with his hands glued together trying to run in opposite directions. The two made it exactly three feet, respectively, before their welded-tight hands stopped them, and they snapped back, caught in full sprint, and slammed back into each other, collapsing to the pavement in a tangle of arms and legs.

Andrew and Nathan looked around furiously for some form of cover, someplace to hide. No good. They were out in the open with no means of camouflage. They tried to get up quickly, to simply run again (this time in the same direction), but they were too well tangled up. It was too late anyway. The girls were upon them.

"What is the matter with you morons?", Miffy sneered, towering over the boys sprawled on the grass.

"Yeah, walk much?", Jenny commented, crossing her arms, finding herself too clever for words.

Kathy noticed it first. "Wait a minute, are you guys holding hands??"

Cindy was mortified. "Oh my God, you are! Eewww, homos!"

Tammi (with an "i") snapped her gum. "Should'a known you guys were queer. You are like always hanging around together."

"Never see one without the other", Miffy agreed.

"IN-separable", Jenny said, snapping her fingers.

"Kinda like you five, huh?", Andrew said.

"What?!", Tammi said, scandalized. "WE don't wander around school holding hands, which is clearly the damning evidence here."

"Told you we should've sent out for the solvent", Nathan said, shaking his head. "But noooo, you had to walk to the hardware store and pick it up yourself."

Tammi scrunched her brow, not following. "Huh? What's he talking about?"

Nathan and Andrew exchanged a quick look, and that was all they needed to understand one another completely. Andrew looked back at the girls and said with confidence. "We're glued together, ladies."

Tammi put her hands on her hips, disbelieving. "Yeah, right", Kathy said.

Then Andrew and Nathan tugged at their hands in a valiant effort to separate them. It was readily apparent that they were not faking, and they truly were attached to one another. Andrew even threw a little extra effort into it, pulling his arm back harder than he had previously, causing Nathan to yell, "Easy! Easy! You're taking my skin with you!"

Andrew eased up. "Oh. Sorry."

Tammi looked at them with disdain. "You glued your hands together? How dumb are you?" She snapped her gum again.

"Frat prank", Nathan said.

"You two are so not in a fraternity", Kathy said.

"No", Andrew conceded, "but a friend of ours is. A friend who we told that all fratboys were fags, and well--" He waved their glued hands about. "See for yourselves."

Tammi shook her head, still feeling superior but apparently satisfied with the explanation. The Gossip Girls, tossing off a few more forgettable remarks they were sure were glib and inspired. Andrew and Nathan stood, hand in hand, and waved a mocking goodbye. As the girls turned the corner, the boys burst into laughter and dashed into the covered walkway that ran along the West side of the quad. Hidden there by brick columns and shadows, they kissed again, long and lovingly, hands in hair, fingers tracing lines up and down each other's backs. After nearly a minute, the boys pulled apart. They smiled at each other, Andrew gently brushing a shock of hair out of Nathan's eyes. Then they looked down at the 20-some yards that remained of the quad.

Andrew grinned at Nathan. "Race ya." And the twosome bolted with all speed the rest of the way.

Reaching their destination, the two boys leaned against the wall at the end of the quad, laughing hysterically. They had made it. They had nearly gotten caught in the process, but they had made it. It was an insane idea, but it paid off in thrills sought and risks taken. Nate said, as he caught his breath in between guffaws, "You know the only thing that could've made this better? Made it more intense?"

Andrew wiped a tear from his eye. "What's that?"

"If we could get ourselves to forget the suggestions we'd implanted in each other, and THEN do this stunt."

Andrew burst out laughing again. "God, can you imagine?? We feel this irresistible compulsion to come out here, we have the sudden urge to high five each other--"

"Or whatever."

"Or whatever, and voila, we're stuck together with NO fucking clue of how to undo ourselves." He laughed some more, but then contained himself. "Somehow I think it's funnier just imagining it. But boy, would we ever feel like a couple of puppets. Dragged along, made to do what we're told, whatever the ol' strings command."

"Too bad there wasn't some way to get even more into making ourselves puppets that wouldn't lose anything by us remembering our hypnotic suggestions." As Nathan said this, a strange look came over Andrew's eyes and he stared intently across the hall at nothing, his mouth fr

ozen in the beginnings of a grin. "What?"

Andrew snapped out of his momentary daze. "Huh? What's the matter?"

"I was about to ask you that. You had this look just now."

"Oh, that. It's nothing. I was just thinking."

Nathan lightly rapped his knuckles on Andrew's head. "Knock it off. Little wooden heads aren't supposed to think."

Andrew smiled. "Can't help it."

Nathan opened the door to the dorm room and saw Andrew seated on the floor, intently staring at a carved piece of wood, which he supported in the inside crook of his elbow and held in place with his palm. He was running a tape measure along it's outer edge and nodding. "So what's that?", Nathan asked.

Andrew jumped up, obviously having no idea that Nathan had entered. "Oh, hey." He fumbled awkwardly with the piece of wood, whatever it was, as if searching for some way to conceal it.

"That a new assignment for your Woodworking/Practical Design class?"

"Something like that, yeah."

"Can I see it?" Nathan really had no great interest in Andrew's shop project, but his friend's furtiveness made him curious.

Andrew let Nathan take it. It was similar in shape to an old-world table leg, bulbous on one end, trimmed at the other, but that it was only 11 inches long. It looked more like a designer softball bat, if designer bat's were called for in pee-wee league. Nathan scrunched his nose, puzzled at what such a thing would be used for. "This the leg of an end table or something?"

"Not exactly."

Nathan turned the piece over in his hands and saw that it was hollow. "It wouldn't be a very sturdy table if it was", he observed.

As unobtrusively as he could, Andrew reclaimed his work and tossed it into the corner. "So what's the word on the work study?"

Nathan produced two work study forms from his pocket. "We's in."

"Man! That is awesome! I am so impressed with you."

"Don't be too much. I don't think anyone else in the student body wanted to earn their credits by helping a cranky drama coach clean out an old college theater."

"But you spend all the time there doing just that", Andrew smiled, giving his boyfriend a quick kiss for emphasis.

"This is spay-shull, though. This is for us two to go ballistic-crazy with cleaning without any cranky drama coach supervision." Nathan sported an evil grin. "Gonna take an awful lot of time."

Andrew grinned too. "Just the two of us, all alone in a big ol' theater with no one else around? What a hardship!" Nathan tackled Andrew, the two of them wrestling playfully to the floor, their work study sheets fluttering in their wake to alight in the far corner.

"Aisle 15."

Andrew and Nathan blinked. The librarian never looked up from her busy work behind the counter. The boys looked at each other. Did this chick really know the entire library that well, or was she just blowing them off? Andrew cleared his throat. "I don't think you heard us. We're looking for in-depth texts on brainwashing techniques, proven incidents of mind control, and--"

The librarian looked up, and with one hand, slid her glasses down to the end of her nose. Her lips a thin line, she said, "Nonfiction. Aisle 15. History/Historic commentary & discussion." With that, she returned to her work. The two boys might as well have been invisible.

Andrew and Nathan shrugged, then Nate leaned forward. "Well, thank-yo--"

The librarian had fire in her eyes. "SSHHHH!!"

Nathan backed away, hands up in surrender. He turned to Andrew. "I think we should look in aisle 15."

"Yeah, I had a hunch."

In aisle 15, the boys slowly made their way down the rows in search of the reference books they hoped would show them how to elevate their hypnotic playing to a new level. Andrew pulled a small bag of chips from his jacket pocket and began to munch on them.

"I'm not even sure if these will help much", Nathan whispered. "These historic accounts probably won't lay out a how-to for us, I'd imagine."

Andrew nodded, placing chips in his mouth at regular intervals. "Chip?", he offered, between bites. Nathan shook his head, eyes scanning the shelves. Andrew asked again. "You sure?" Nathan nodded. Andrew tapped his buddy on the shoulder. Nathan waved him away, eyes still glued to the stacks. Andrew tapped again. Nate finally turned around.

"Look, I don't want a stupid potato chi--" Andrew was smiling, holding a thing potato chip between his teeth, extended to Nathan for the taking. Nathan grinned. "Well, maybe just one."

Nathan leaned in close, taking the chip from Andrew's mouth into his own, their lips lingering as the brushed together, the duo quickly melting into a kiss. Nathan rapidly munched down the chip but did not dislodge from his boyfriend's mouth. Andrew let the bag of chips drop to the floor as he put his arms around Nathan. Nathan in turn grabbed Andrew by the shoulders as he pushed him against the shelves behind them. Their search for the reference books was forgotten. The two boys rolled against the shelves, standing up, moving down a stack at a time, lips locked, tongues delving deeply into the other's mouth, hands groping and massaging shoulders, arms, waists, and asses.

On one forward roll, Andrew grabbed Nathan by his shirt collar and pulled him forward forcefully, bringing their lips together with fervor, his hands bracing Nathan's head, finger massaging his temples. Nathan gripped at Andrew's hair, fingers sliding down to caress his boyfriend's neck, then further down to grasp his shoulders.

Andrew turned Nathan around and pressed his back against the shelves, his own body pressing tightly to his friend's. Nathan's arms fell to his sides, his fingers gripping the bookshelves for support. Andrew's lips never left Nathan's, his tongue pushing and prodding. Then Andrew's hands found their way into the waistband of Nathan's pants. Smoothly, Andrew reached in to clutch Nathan's rear, one hand sliding easily around to the front of his jeans, groping, searching for the hard, strong erection--


Andrew pulled back. He recognized the tone in Nathan's voice. Something had caught him off-guard. Had someone seen them? Had they been making too much noise? was the librarian on her way over? "What?", Andrew whispered. "What's wrong?"

Nathan pointed behind Andrew, to the opposite row of shelves. Andrew turned around. There, on the shelf at eye level, was a gap in the otherwise tightly-wedged books. At least one and a half feet wide. On the shelf beneath it, easily three books were missing. Two up and to the right, another gap, eight or nine inches wide. On the bottom shelf, two more blank spaces. One to the left, another far right.

Nathan braced himself against Andrew's shoulders. "Leggo, leggo." Nate leaned in close to the recently vacated shelves. "The books we want are gone. Someone took our books."

Andrew smoothed down his ruffled hair, tucked his shirt back in. "How do you know they're the books we wanted?" Nathan tapped a tiny sticker label along the edge of the shelf, marked for library student assistants. It read: "History of Brainwashing and Mind Control in Concentration Camps and on Prisoners of War."

Andrew hunched forward, rereading the label to confirm it. "Son of a bitch. Who the hell would want to take this shit?"

"Somebody who wants to become a human puppet, maybe", Nathan commented. Then he frowned. "You're not seeing any other marionettes on the side, are you?"

Andrew slapped his shoulder. Then, a light coming on behind his eyes, he suggested, "Psych books. Everything on the subject can't be taken out."

In short order, the boys found their way to the Psychology section. There were the books they needed on in-depth hypnosis and mind control, the power of suggestion, and indoctrination. Or at least they found the shelves where those books would be.

"They're taken out." Nathan exhaled through his nose.

"What, all of them?", Andrew balked. "How can every book we need be taken out?"

"Dunno, but they are."

As Andrew and Nathan left the library, the nearly collided with a determined student moving quickly down the steps. He grunted a quick, "Scuze me", and kept on without stopping or looking back.

"Well, somebody's in a hurry", Nathan said. Then, as an afterthought, watching the student with the armload of books bustle away, he mused, "Isn't that Alan Eisenberg, from back home?"

Andrew looked a bit dazed. Nathan nudged him. Andrew blinked. "Hmm? You say something?"

Nathan scrunched his brow. "I said, isn't that Alan?" Alan was a childhood friend of Andrew and Nathan's. In kindergarten and grade school, the trio was inseparable. They went on trips together tot he mall and to movies, had camping adventures in each other's back yards, and played at soldiers in the woods near the edge of town. By junior high, the trio began to drift apart, with Alan becoming increasingly studious and the puppetboys becoming more into puppetry, among other things.

Andrew's eyes squinted as he focused on the departing Alan. "That's him alright", Andrew said. "What's more important, he's got our books."

Back at their dorm room, Andrew and Nathan went online via laptop and searched the student directory. There he was. Eisenberg, Alan. Freshman. Psychology major, minor in history. Nathan leaned forward, looking over Andrew's shoulder. "Didn't he graduate valedictorian or something like that?"

Andrew scrolled down, running his tongue across the front of his teeth as he thought about it. "Full academic scholarship too, I think."

"Smart. I mean, it's not like we're stupid or anything, but he grew up to be quite the brain trust."

Andrew searched Alan's name under club memberships and focus studies. "Dig it. Psych major, Psychology Club, Human Behavior studies group, Insights Into the Human Psyche lab, and he's president of the psychology department's..." Andrew paused. "... he's president of the psychology department's Intro to Hypnotherapy focus committee."

Nate and Andrew looked at each other. Nate took a breath. "You thinking what I'm thinking?"

"If he can help us like I think he can", Andrew said, "he can have the damn books."

"Wanna begin our search for him tomorrow?", Nathan asked.

"Yup. And I have a pretty good idea where we're gonna find him." The boys kissed. For luck.

Alan was, as usual, hard at work in the library. Andrew and Nathan found him surrounded by stacks of books, a flurry of notebooks and sheaves of papers spread before him. He was scribbling madly and pretended not to notice the boys as they stood at the end of the table where he'd set up shop. They waited silently as he continued to write, flip through oversized tomes, organize and reorganize his notes. He was so involved in his studies that Andrew and Nathan kept quiet as they waited for an appropriate moment to speak. Finally, not looking up from his work, Alan began to talk to the desktop.

"I assume that you want something, unless you two just came here to watch me. If that's the case, sit over by the card catalog so you're not blocking my light."

"We need your help with something", Andrew said.

"Mm-hmm." He still didn't look up. He began to shuffle note cards furiously.

"We need to know some stuff about hypnosis and mind control", Nathan added. "Like, how to do it."

"How to do it safely", Andrew amended. "You know, if like, just two friends were experimenting with it."

"For fun", Nathan clarified.

Alan stretched over and grabbed a crumbling paperback and carefully turned pages by their post-it bookmarks. "Mind control is not something you do for fun", Alan said into the book. "Whoever it is you want to play mind games with, you do not want to venture into this territory. Forcing someone to do something against their will can devolve or even explode into multiple disastrous outcomes, but I can guarantee it won't be fun. You may notice I'm working here."

"We wouldn't do that!", Andrew said quickly. "We're not gonna force anyone to do anything they don't already want. They really, really want this, trust me."

"Doesn't matter. And I'm still working."

Desperate, Nathan blurted out, "Look, it's for us. We want to try this with each other. It'll just be between the two of us. We won't try it on anyone else, ever. We swear. It's just, you know, for us."

For the first time, Alan looked up. "You want to mind control each other? What the hell for?"

Andrew stumbled a bit, "It's just, like we said, for fun. There's the whole feeling of being made to do something against your will, the loss of control, having someone else pulling your strings--"

"You said this was something you wanted to do. If it's something you want, then how can you be doing something against your will?"

"No, no, it's not like that! It's just, like, not knowing what suggestion--"

"Or command", Nathan interjected.

"Or command", Andrew agreed, "that your friend is going to give you next. It's this kind of rush, or high, but without doing drugs or getting drunk or anything. I mean, that's safer, right?"

Nathan smiled broadly. "Like becoming someone's puppet." Playfully, he nudged Andrew, who smiled back at him.

Alan went back to his work without another word. Seeing his reaction, Nathan amended, "We're not going to be programming someone to kill anybody or anything. It's nothing like that."

"It'll be for fun, not to recruit assassins", Andrew said.

"Then try looking up stage hypnosis techniques", Alan said gruffly. "Then you can make each other cluck like chickens to your heart's content and I can get some work done."

"Alan, come on--"

Alan looked up, his eyes hard. "Guys. No. I'm not going to waste my time teaching you what I know so that you can pursue some kind of drugless high. Just go get stoned like the rest of the male student body."

Andrew felt hurt and irritated. "We don't want to get stoned. That's the whole point."

"Well, I have a senior thesis to nail down, which I can't do if I'm playing mind games with you two, and that's my whole point.

Nathan spluttered in surprise. "Your senior thesis? Dude, you have like four years to come up with that! Give it a rest for a weekend and come hang with us--!"

Alan slammed one of the heftier books closed. A few other students at nearby tables looked up in surprise. "I. Said. NO." His eyes darted towards the door and he continued to stare at the boys until they got the hint and departed.

As the duo exited the library, Nathan stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked at Andrew. "So now who do we go to?"

"No one. We're on our own."

Back at Alan's table, a shadow fell over his books. Alan felt a surge of resentment in his gut and began to speak with an edge in his voice to match. "Look, I told you to get lost. Take a hint and just--"

It wasn't Andrew and Nathan. It was Joshua Muskcovicsz. And he was smiling, which is never a good sign. Alan sat back in his chair and tapped his notebook with his pencil. "Josh. What trifling info do you have to subject me to today?"

Joshua waved a thick wad of papers enclosed in a clear three-ring presentation cover, his grin widening. "Not trivial, boyo. I think it's pretty damn fucking relevant for you. And your precious thesis."

Alan's eyes widened. "What about my thesis?"

"It's all been done, it's all been done, its all been done...", Joshua sang the chorus of the Barenaked Ladies song off-key. He then tossed the large report over to Alan. Alan read the title page. "Mind Control Techniques and Their Unfortunate Results" by Seth Greenwood. Seth Greenwood was a legend among the college's Psych department. He was in grad school and was on his way to a promising career in psychology.

Alan flipped through the report, skimming over the text. "He covered the brainwashing techniques of the Cold War? Of Vietnam and Korea?"

Joshua rocked back and forth on his heels. "Better. He starts in World War I and traces it all the way through to Iraq. He was pretty thorough with it. Department heads are awfully impressed." Joshua, clearly loving that he was the bearer of bad news, began to shuffle around the study table and fiddle with the many papers, books, and note cards. "Hmm...already put in a few hours on this little project of yours, huh? What was it, again? Redundancy in university academia and it's sorrowful waste of our nation's brain power?"

"You could have told me about this."

"Mm. Could have."

"Don't tell me you didn't know about it."

"I knew. For a couple months. Maybe three."

Three months? Alan looked at the mounds of work he'd done in that time, all of it now for naught. "I could have been working on something else", he grumbled. "Something original, something unexplored."

"But you seemed to be having so much fun in your own little world of intellectual superiority. And you kept telling me to go to hell every time I came by to help."

"To hinder, you mean. Or get me to do your assignments."

"So, I stayed away. Besides, it was better to have the finished product on hand when I told you. Enjoy." Joshua turned to walk away, then commented over his shoulder, "Oh, and you can just go ahead and keep that copy. I have an autographed one back in my room." He laughed, a humorless snort, and made his exit.

Alan felt sick. All those hours of work, and for what? Alan chewed his pencil, something he hadn't done since high school. The taste of that yellow paint splintering away in his mouth brought back memories of early SAT's, scholarship contests, and long hours of grueling work studies. He couldn't simply cast everything aside and start fresh with something entirely different. Not after so much research into the psychology of mind control. But where would he find a new spin on the topic that had been so completely explored?

Nathan pushed opened the back door to the theater and groped around the corner for the light switch. With a dull click and a soft hum, dusty and cobwebbed fluorescents blinked to life overhead. Nathan stepped inside, pushing over a large cast-iron doorstop to hold the door open. Andrew walked in behind him, giving a low whistle as he gazed around at the squalor and collective filth.

"What a dump", he marveled.

"You should'a seen it before I started my work study", Nathan remarked. He slapped Andrew on the shoulder. "C'mon, I'll give you the whirlwind tour." Nathan gave his buddy the three dollar fly-by of the dilapidated old theater that had fallen into disrepair since the induction of the university's new auditorium and convention center. While hordes of students were fleeing the campus for their hard-earned break after mid-terms, the duo of Nathan and Andrew planned to spend their time cleaning up, organizing, and revitalizing the disused theater. And then, of course, putting it to good use as their own personal playpen as puppet boyfriends.

The more they walked around, the less Andrew realized they truly had to do, thanks to the hours on end Nathan spent with the school's drama coach, learning the ropes of running a theater while he mopped and scrubbed.

"What's in here?", Andrew asked, pointing to a darkened side room just off the backstage.

"Prop stuff, old flats, set pieces, extra building material that never got used, like that."

Andrew stepped through the threshold and flipped on the lights as Nathan continued his tour, unaware he was talking to himself. "Found this awesome stash of old show posters. They're wrapped up in plastic bags, so they should still be in pretty good shape. We can hang 'em up once we've got the walls cleaned up. Oh, and look at this!" Nathan stooped to open a dusty cardboard box. "Old music stuff. Not just sheet music, but phonograph records, cassettes--dig it, some of these are actually 78s!" Nathan began to read the labels. "Ain'tcha Comin' Out?, some old Glenn Miller song. Oh, oh, and I love this one--these two British guys singing The Dancing Marionettes, whatever that is. There's, like, all this background Vaudeville music, and--Andrew?"

Nathan stood up once he realized he was alone. He walked slowly around, retracing his steps, wondering what had become of his companion. "Andrew? Where'd you go, man?" Finally seeing the light coming from the prop and set room, Nathan checked inside to find Andrew, standing slack-jawed, staring.

"Andrew, bud, what the hell are you doing in here?"

Andrew slowly turned his head to look at Nathan. "Dude, you never told me there was so much fucking wood in here. There's so damn much to work with! And most of it's good, too! Almost none of it's warped, no knotholes, damn, it's a carpenter's paradise!" Andrew threw his arms around Nate and hugged him tight. "I love you, man!"

Nathan peeled his friend off, laughing. "Okay, okay, I love you too." Nate kissed the top of Andrew's head. Then the two boys stared into each other's eyes, frozen for a moment. Slowly, Andrew began to move closer to Nathan, his lips reaching his friends.

Nate suddenly grabbed Andrew's hand, saying, "Wait. I gotta show you something first." Leading his boyfriend by the hand, Nathan led Andrew down a side hallway, through the main house, and to a small anteroom at the back of the theater. Nathan pulled the string on a bare bulb overhead in the close quarters and indicated an old, metal spiral staircase.

"Well, this is good setting for a horror movie", Andrew mused.

"Better than that", Nathan answered. "Come with me." Still holding Andrew's hand, Nathan led him up the curving stairway to a cramped room at the top. Nathan stepped inside, letting go of Andrew, who stood puzzled in the dark.

"Where'd you go?", Andrew asked.

"Not far", came the voice from the darkness. "Hang on." With that, there was a soft click and lights came on throughout the room. Only it wasn't a room, it was a control booth. The lights shone from desk lamps strategically placed throughout the room, illuminating work stations filling the booth from left to right.

Andrew stepped slowly inside all the way, his mouth slack as he took in the modern equipment, lighting controls, switchboard, floor director's station, and music setup that seemed wholly out of place in the otherwise dated theater. "Holy shit...did you do all of this?"

"I set up most of it", Nathan beamed. "Turns out a lot of this stuff had already been paid for when the plans for the new auditorium were announced. "No asked for it to be returned or exchanged, so here it sat, gathering dust."

"Until you came along", Andrew said with pride.

Nathan ushered him over to the main controls. He flicked a few switches and stage lights came alive before them in the distance. Andrew smiled, laughed. From their vantage point, they could control everything. With an exaggerated gesture, Nathan waved about his index finger and then brought it down upon a large white button on the sound console. There was a small screech, making Andrew's shoulders hunch, followed by the recorded fizz of an old gramophone record, and then big band music circa 1939 blared to life.

The theater was filled with the affected yet sweet voice of some forgotten vocalist as she belted out a corny song saying she wanted "A Hat With Cherries". Andrew laughed louder as Nathan's fingers deftly flitted over the controls, bringing up the curtain and stabbing spotlight beams across the stage.

Together, the two giddy boyfriends engaged in a makeshift jitterbug there in the tiny control booth, their party only just beginning.

Andrew and Nathan showered together, as they had been doing since they got their own dorm room. "To conserve water" they joked. Their smooth, slender bodies pressed tight together, their hairless arms caressing each other's backs as foam and suds caught in the crook of their elbows and spilled down the back of their legs. Puddles collected on the worn tile floor as the warm spray cascaded down upon their shoulders and drenched their hair.

Andrew reached his hands around and massaged Nathan's ass. Nathan sighed, resting his chin upon his best friend's shoulder. Nathan gently traced Andrew's spine with his fingertips and nuzzled Andrew's neck. Andrew kneaded Nathan's waistline, prompting Nathan to kiss Andrew's neck. Both boys wished the affection they shared so freely behind closed doors could be disclosed in public, but both knew that neither had the wherewithal to do so. It had once been called "the love that dare not speak its name" for a reason.

Nathan began to nibble Andrew's ear, his one great weakness. Andrew gasped, a shudder of delight arcing through his chest and back. "Wh-whoa-oa..."

"You like that?", Nathan muttered, knowing full well he did.

Andrew felt his body going weak, which was something he both disliked and adored.

"N-nathan", Andrew said.

"Hmmm?", Nathan kept nibbling, his hands now massaging Andrew's neck.

"S-say the oath. Take the oath for me."

Nathan moved down and was kissing Andrew's shoulder. "Mmmm...now?"

Andrew braced Nathan's head with his hands. "Yeah, right now. Do it for me."

Nathan held onto Andrew's wrists, and said, "I do so solemnly swear to be a good little puppet." Andrew tried to keep his expression serious. "To relax, submit, and have a lot of fun." Nathan began to run his hands up and down Andrew's smooth, wet arms. "I will accept every suggestion, and obey every command." Nathan placed his forehead against Andrew's. "Without thought or hesitation." Andrew's face broke in a beautiful smile. "And to move forward of my own free will nevermore, but only at the pull of my strings." Nathan leaned forward and kissed his boyfriend tenderly. Pulling back only an inch, he then whispered, "I am now, and ever shall be, a puppet. I am your puppet."

Andrew ran his hands through Nathan's soaking hair and kissed him again. Nathan looked into Andrew's eyes and said softly, "Now you."

Arms intertwined around each other's shoulder's, the two began to slowly sink to the floor of the shower stall. "I do solemnly swear", Andrew began. The two settled down on the floor, the drain between them. "To be a good little puppet." The boyfriends sat with legs outstretched in the cramped shower, pulling together in a tight embrace. As Andrew pressed his head beside Nathan's, he went on, "To relax, submit, and have a lot of fun." He completed his puppet oath and the two sat together clinging to each other, apparently unaware that the water had ceased to be warm some time ago.

"Andrew, you have got to see this."

Andrew dropped the endless coils of rigging he fought to untangle in the wings, and followed Nathan to a separate control area where his friend was bouncing with delight. Once there, Nathan revealed a strange looking pair of body harnesses, each attached to a thin but surprisingly strong cable. With a grand gesture, Nate said, "Ta-daa!"

Andrew stared at the contraptions. "What am I looking at?"

Nathan tapped the control board with his finger, drawing Andrew's eyes to the label written in black magic marker on strips of masking tape. It read: FLYING RIG Harness #1FLYING RIG Harness #2 One set of levers were marked "UP and DOWN", the next marked "SIDE to SIDE". Andrew's mouth dropped. "No fucking way."

Nathan was nearly giggling with glee. "Way."

Andrew spoke softly. "Man, do you realize what this means?" Nathan nodded, and the two boyfriends hugged, leaping up and down and squealing like little kids. After composing themselves somewhat, Andrew smiled, saying, "Looks like we can finally retire that oak tree setup, huh?"

A change came over Nathan's face for a moment, whereupon he slapped Andrew on the arm. "You asshole."

When Andrew and Nathan were still kids and freshly obsessed with puppetry, the two had devised their first scheme to turn themselves into puppets. Using the massive oak tree in Andrew's backyard, the two attached a series of bungee cords, complete with Jim buoy harness, to a set of athletic knee and elbow pads. Then Andrew, clad in a set of coveralls, wore the harness and pads with the bungee attachments. Nathan, too frightened to try it himself, was relegated to the role of puppeteer, which he tended from a high bough in the tree he scaled using a ladder.

The brilliant plan involved Andrew stepping off a lower rung of the ladder to dangle from the tree as Nathan manipulated his limbs. Presto, instant puppetboy.

The unfortunate result involved Andrew plummeting to the ground, and upon the ankle-spraining impact, the bungees yanked him up into the branches at dizzying speed. Andrew was knocked nearly senseless while a panicked Nathan tried desperately to control his flailing limbs as the elastic bungee cords jerked him this way and that.

The end result was that Andrew was left hanging, upside-down, from the tree, his arms pinned to his body (one to his side, the other across his chest with his hand over his face) and Nathan's own arms tied securely to the same branch by the tangled control ropes. They were stuck that way for nearly two hours.

That was the summer they officially vowed to find a new method if they were ever to experience life as puppets. It looked as if they'd found it.

Nathan was covered in dust and grime. He had just finished cleaning out the prop room, and swept up all the connecting hallways. Everything was neatly stacked, sorted, and organized. It looked as if a team of a dozen theater techs had been at work for a week, rather than two determined college freshmen for a few days. It had taken late nights, early mornings, and even sleepovers for early starts, but they had made truly remarkable progress.

"Nate." Nathan turned around to see Andrew standing in the doorway, no less filthy than he was. "You must see this. Come with me." Without pausing to question, Nathan set the push broom against the wall and followed his best friend at a brisk trot.

They stopped at a large, open room not far from the lighting equipment storage area. Nathan crossed the threshold and was amazed at the sight. It was the woodworking area Andrew stumbled upon earlier. Only now the room was spotless. Jigsaws, plywood, nails, hinges, and a plethora of various other devices and materials were neatly arranged on pegs for the creation of sets, props, flats, and whatever else might be needed for a stage production. Andrew had been hard at work seeing to it that there was a place for everything, and everything was in its place. Saw blades sparkled from polish, the concrete floor shone from scrubbing.

"Nice job, man", Nathan admired. "You really got into this. Good work."

"That's not what I brought you in here to show you, though." Andrew motioned for Nathan to follow him to the far end of the work area, to a work table over which he'd thrown a tarp. "You ready?" Nate nodded, and with both hands and a mighty yank, Andrew whipped away the tarp to reveal his finished project. It glistened a bit under the work lights, the varnish still fresh on the smoothly-sanded surface. Nate could only stare, open-mouthed with amazement.

"Andrew, you are a fucking god, man."

Andrew smiled, pleased with the result of his efforts. "I like to think so."

The two laughed a bit, as high from their exhaustion as the fruits of their labors. They held one another, and gently, slowly, they kissed.

The two boys stood in the doorway of the theater, their arms loaded down with overstuffed duffles and boxes. "God, this is gonna be so fucking awesome", Andrew said, his voice a bit higher than usual.

"Awesome isn't even the word for it", Nathan agreed.

Andrew leaned over, stumbling a bit due to his burdensome load, and gave his boyfriend a quick kiss. "Let's get started." And they did. They had been planning this for months, dreaming of it for years. It took them just under two hours to do their setup, to check everything, then double-check. With another kiss for luck, the duo stripped their clothes off each other, then immediately helped each other get dressed.

Not long after, they were both soundly asleep, blissfully unaware of absolutely anything.

Alan sat in his academic counselor's office, sullen. He leaned back in the visitor's chair in front of the counselor's desk, tapping the end of his pencil on the chair arm, a nervous habit he'd picked up in grade school. The habit resurfaced every time Alan thought he had reached an insurmountable obstacle.

The spectacled, and relatively clueless Mr. Bob Driscoll sat with fingers interlaced atop his desk blotter, trying his best to look concerned and supportive. "Now really, Adam--"


"Alan, yes. Well, Adam, I fail to see any real cause for alarm. Your grade point is 4.0, you have a full scholarship to cover your financial needs, and according to my most recent memos, no one in your immediate family is ill or recently deceased." Mr. Driscoll took off his glasses, placing one bow in his mouth in a pathetic attempt to appear attentive, and said, "Feel better?"

Alan stared as if he couldn't believe he shared the same planet with this moron. He gave his pencil two very sharp raps on the arm of his chair before returning to his rhythmic tapping. "No, I don't feel better. My senior thesis has been uprooted by Seth Greenwood, leaving months of hard work wasted. And it's ALAN."

Bob Driscoll looked confused, a common occurrence for him. "Seth Greenwood? How is he my concern? I only handle students with surnames A through F."

Alan leaned forward and tapped the copy of the thesis on Driscoll's desk viciously. Mr. Driscoll looked at it blankly, and then, putting his glasses back on said, "Oohhhh, is THAT what that's doing here! Yes, yes, well, are you saying this young man cheated by copying your work? Serious, serious accusation to make--"

"NO", Alan stressed, "I'm saying he beat me to the punch and did the same topic I had in mind for my own senior thesis and now I'm lost. Adrift. I need some academic guidance. That is what the sign on your door says I can get here."

Bob Driscoll blinked. He looked at the thesis on his desk, he looked at his computer screen, then looked at Alan. "Well according to my transcript for you, you're a Freshman. And you're doing a graduate thesis?" He took off his glasses. "What kind of advanced program are you taking, Adam?"

"It's. Alan. And I'm starting my grad thesis NOW so I can take four years to make it perfect. That's all. Or it was, until I lost my subject."

Mr. Driscoll looked over the thesis cover page, reading aloud. "Mind Control Techniques and Their Unfortunate Results. A historic overview of manipulative terror. My, my. Doesn't anyone do a thesis on things like the intricacies of the life of the tetsie fly anymore?" He looked at Alan and smiled. "You know, I did my thesis on the tetsie fly."

"Which could explain how you wound up here", thought Alan. He rested his chin in his palm and sighed, pencil tapping, saying nothing.

"Now, Alan--" Mr. Driscoll paused. It is Alan, isn't it?" Alan nodded, rubbing his brow with three fingers, attempting to stave off a mounting headache. "Alan, this really isn't the end of the world."

Alan continued to just sit there, tapping the end of his pencil against the arm of the chair.

"It's only your first year, for heaven's sake. No one begins their graduation thesis in their foundation year."

"They do if they want to accomplish the level of thoroughness that I do", Alan grumbled, speaking into his palm.

"Look, Alan, I can understand your drive to succeed, your motivation in academics, and I applaud you. We need more students like you. But you've got to let this one go. Seth Greenwood has it locked up, as they say. He's covered every possible aspect of this--what was it--brainwashing and mind control business that you can think of." He flipped to the extensive bibliography. "If even half of this is right, it would seem that every important case that's been documented is addressed in his paper."

Alan stopped tapping his pencil. A light came on behind his eyes. "Did you say documented--?"

"Yes, son", Driscoll said, a bit of an edge coming to his voice, "every documented case that--"

"What if I found a case that had never been documented? What if I happened upon, through my research, a case of mind control so rare and current that nothing like it had every been documented or analyzed? What then?"

Mr. Driscoll sighed, adjusted his glasses, and leaned forward on his desk. "Alan, you've really got to let it go. If something as important as what you're describing existed, it would have already been documented or would be in the process of same." He sat back, arms gesturing in annoyance. "The only other option would be to actually recruit subjects to undergo such an experiment. And considering the heinous nature of the subject matter, you can hardly expect people to...I don't know...chase you down in the research library for the purposes of volunteering." He crossed his arms in defiance and glared. "Well, Adam?"

Alan began to chew the end of his pencil. "You know, sir, that's a very good point."

Andrew woke up first. He felt groggy, but had no recollection of why he would feel that way. He tried to roll over, only to find himself swaying back and forth as if he'd fallen asleep in a hammock. “Hmmn?”, he murmured, as his eyes fluttered and he attempted to get to his feet. Again, he swayed lazily from side to side, this time in a greater arc, and was unable to get his feet beneath him. He could feel his toes barely scraping against the floor. He attempted to steady himself with his arms and sit up, but found that his arms, while hanging limply at his sides, were being restrained all at the same time. What was going on?

Andrew shook his head and blinked his eyes as he brought himself to full wakefulness. He looked around and realized that he was on the stage of the auditorium. The lights were dimmed, but it was certainly light enough that he could take in his surroundings. There was a blue overhead spotlight gently shining down on him from the catwalk above. As he glanced upwards at it, Andrew felt something brush against the top and back of his head. He tried to reach up and swat away whatever it was, but his arms couldn't reach that far. He rolled his shoulders and tugged his arms forward to no avail, save to add to his swaying motion. He kicked his legs a bit and tried to place his feet flat against the floorboards, but proceeded only to swing around in a circle. He bent forward and found that whatever was brushing against his head would pull him back hard if he leaned too far.

As Andrew dangled there, wondering what was going on and how he had gotten into this predicament, he spun slowly around to see that he was not onstage alone. Nathan, sound asleep, hung not far from him on the stage. His sleeping friend was supported by stout body harness cables that stretched up beyond the catwalk, presumably to the elaborate and sturdy flying rig the boys had discovered previously. Whether or not Nathan was held in a harness, Andrew could not tell. Because Nathan was covered head to toe in an incredibly elaborate puppet costume.

“Costume” may have been too casual a word for it. Nathan's entire body was covered in immaculately crafted wooden sections, each conforming to him perfectly. His arms and legs were encased in smoothly sanded and brightly varnished braces, with impressive hinges at the elbows and knees. Larger pieces covered his torso and pelvic region, both carefully carved to imply the chest, ribs, and groin. Rounded wooden boots covered Nathan's feet and wooden mittens encased his now-fingerless hands. More hinges were visible at the ankles and wrists. His head was braced with a wooden skullcap that mimicked the wave and shape of his hair, painted in a harsh, flat caricature of his true hair color. The hairpiece/head brace seemed to be attached in the back to a wooden brace around Nathan's neck.

The first of the stout and formidable-looking suspension cables (or to call them what they really were, puppet strings) extended up from atop Nathan's head. There were eleven in all. Two more at the elbows, and two at the wrists, and the same again at the knees and feet. The main support looked to be from the two heaviest wires, set in the shoulders.

Nathan's face had been delicately painted so that when it caught the light properly, it actually appeared to have a soft wood grain finish. His cheeks had been painted with stage makeup blush, his eyelashes were thick with actor's mascara, making them long and lush. His face didn't appear as garish as it had with the red circles painted on his cheeks, but he still looked strangely unnatural. As Nathan hung there, slowly rotating into the light, Andrew saw the final surreal touch on his friend's face. A bold black line ran across his lower lip, with two more connecting lines painted down his jaw from either corner of his mouth to curve under his chin. Once in the light, Nathan's face was no longer his own, but that of a marionette, complete with jaw hinge.

Andrew stared wide-eyed at his transformed buddy, and swallowed hard. Then, he slowly and hesitantly looked down at his own arm. It too was encased in a wooden shell and ended at the hinged wrist with a fingerless wooden hand. Andrew didn't need to look around at the rest of his body to know the truth. He was in the same predicament as Nathan. He was a puppet, too.

Andrew stretched his mouth in a yawning motion and could feel the heavy makeup painted on his lower lip and jaw. He was done up as fully as his friend, from wooden body to jaw hinge. But the big question now was who had done this to them, and why? And the next question, which caused a cold knot to form in Andrew's stomach, was what was going to happen to them now?

"Nathan." Andrew's voice sounded cracked and hoarse. It came out no louder than a whisper. Nathan continued to doze as he dangled peacefully from his puppet strings. Andrew swallowed, cleared his throat. "Nathan", he said again, louder. "Nate, wake up." Nathan the marionette moaned contentedly, wrinkled his nose, and kept sleeping. Andrew kept calling to his best friend, but as he raised his voice, a thought began to nag at the back of his mind and grow in intensity. "A good little puppet shouldn't speak unless his strings are pulled to make him."

Dimly, Nathan could hear something just on the edge of his perception. It sounded like his own name, the one he used back before his dream came true. What was his dream again? It didn't matter, he felt so peaceful right now. Warm, comfortable. He sighed softly as he hung in his rightful place. Hung? Wait a minute. Had he said hung? No matter, this felt right, it felt good. There was his name again. It was being spoken by his best friend. His friend Andrew who also fulfilled his dream. Their dream they had held together in secret. "Nathan." Andrew's voice was getting louder. No, don't rouse me, thought Nathan. I feel so good just like this, so at home as a--"Nathan!"

Nathan groaned a bit, feeling as he did on the first day of school when he was little, being pulled rudely from a sound sleep to do something he'd rather he avoid. His first response was to burrow under his covers. He tried to move his arms to yank the blankets up over his head and roll over onto his side. But there were no blankets to be found. And his arms only moved the tiniest bit. Rolling over was of no use, either. Then he felt himself swaying, as if he were caught up in a tire swing. Nathan blinked his eyes open, and as his focus cleared, he saw his beloved friend Andrew, dangling not far from him. Nathan's heart jumped a beat, as he realized Andrew was as Nathan had always fantasized seeing him. A puppet. A living, beautiful, human puppet on strings, no control or will of his own, but a mere plaything for whomever held his strings.

Nathan reflexively moved to reach out to Andrew, to perhaps grasp those strings, to bring his friend under his control and love him as he never had--as he never could have before. That was when Nathan found his own arms were restricted. He tried to straighten himself, to stand up tall and gain his perspective, but found that his feet were suddenly ineffectual. Nathan looked at his arms and saw the heavy, taut strings. He glanced down at his feet and saw them, now smooth and wooden, hovering above the floor. Nathan's heart sped up as he began to understand his situation. "Oh no..."

Nathan began to call to Andrew, but was stopped as he realized Andrew, his head drooping, was muttering something over and over. "But I am a good little puppet. I am, I am. I am a good little puppet..."

Nathan hollered to his friend. "Andrew!" Andrew kept muttering his mantra, as if he were caught on a continuous loop, his head shaking slowly side to side. Nathan looked over his head, seeing the suspension rig wires stretch upward past the catwalk above, the glare of the few lights focused on them making him squint. He was caught but good. They both were. "Andrew!" Andrew continued to mumble as if he were apologizing to someone, asking forgiveness. A thought occurred to Nathan. He wasn't Nathan anymore. And Andrew wasn't Andrew. Nathan cried out, "Puppetboy!"

Andrew's head snapped up, suddenly wide awake. "Nathan--?" His eyes grew sharp a she once again was aware of where he was. "Nate! Dude, what the hell happened to us? We're puppets, man!"

"Yeah, I got that. You remember how we got like this?"

"Nope. I just woke up like this." He looked around as Nathan had, seeing no way down from their strings. "Nate, I'm freaking out. And I--and I feel like--" Andrew stopped himself, trying to kick his feet and move his arms to grab his strings, to no effect.

Nathan completed Andrew's thought. "I feel it too. Like we belong here. Like we were born to be puppets and we've finally come home, like we shouldn't try to get down--"

Andrew began to struggle more aggressively, trying not to let the thoughts take over again. "I know."

Nathan just dangled from his wires, spinning ever-so-slightly. "We shouldn't get down, Andrew. We can't. Good little puppets only move with their strings, and if we try to get down and break our strings we're not being good little puppets, it's weird, but I can't stop thinking about it, we should stay here and wait to be moved, because otherwise we're not good little--"

"I AM A GOOD LITTLE PUPPET!!", Andrew shouted. "Stop saying I'm NOT!!"

Both boys froze, equally shocked at Andrew's outburst. After a moment's silence, Andrew swallowed. Quietly, he said, "Jesus, we are so screwed."

At that, the spotlights above them clicked off. Before the duo could panic at being plunged into darkness, bright colored lights burst on from the control booth far above the auditorium. The footlights came alive, and a mirrored ball descended from above to provide a sea of cool white flashes sparkling along the flat against the back wall of the stage. The sound speakers at either side of the stage crackled to life and an automated tape began to play. Their show was about to begin.

Both Nathan and Andrew could feel their strings grow a bit more taut, their arms and legs suddenly being manipulated by some unseen puppeteer. They could feel their self-control slipping away, replaced by an overwhelming desire to submit to the pull of their strings.

Andrew looked over to Nathan in panic. His eyes were wide with worry and he licked his lips, his tongue feeling the thick latex paint covering his lower lip with his mock jaw hinge. Nathan gasped as he tried to speak again. "Andrew, I love yo--"

That was as far as he got. Nathan's face split into a beautiful, broad smile, his eyes bright and his expression seeming sincere. His arms spread wide in a welcoming gesture and his legs jutted out in a frozen dance step. Before Andrew could question what was happening to his friend, he felt himself smiling broadly as well, his own body striking a similar pose to Nathan's. As he did so, he could feel the strings attached to his harness controlling his motion. Whatever fix they were in, it had now started in full swing. They were now quite literally puppets in reality as well as appearance. Andrew's eyes stayed wide and his expression cheerful, but inside his puppet gear he felt terribly frightened. He looked to his smiling, ecstatic-looking puppet pal and knew that beneath his happy veneer, he was equally afraid.

"I love you too, Nate", Andrew thought. And the music began.

Alan was less than thrilled with the idea that he would have to apologize to Andrew and Nathan for his abrupt dismissal of them in the library. But if the two of them were going to serve his purpose, he'd have to start by sucking up a little.

The idea itself seemed amicable enough to Alan. The two boys wanted to learn about hypnosis and mind control. To, in fact, experience control by an outside source. Alan needed a unique subject for his thesis without letting all his prior research work go to waste. Provided the boys would submit to being used as guinea pigs (and let's face it, if they made responsive enough subjects, how would they know?) each party could get what they wanted. It was win-win.

Alan knocked on the boys' dorm room door, only to have it come open a crack under his knuckles. Alan pushed the door open the rest of the way and peered inside. The place was a mess--typical dorm room--but looked unoccupied. "Um, hello? Anybody home?"

Alan stepped over piles of clothes strewn about, discarded schoolbooks, a couple backpacks, and the occasional empty pop can. The floor was filthy, but at second glance, Alan could see it wasn't the usual dust and tracked-in dirt. Alan knelt down and touched the floor with his fingertips, picking up a bit of the grainy debris to examine it. Alan scrunched his brow. "Sawdust."

Brushing his hands off on his pants, Alan rose and continued his investigation of the cramped quarters. This was a classic two-man dorm room. Unlike those cavernous suites always featured on television programs, there was barely room to turn around, with what little space made available by a rickety student-built loft for the bed. Alan glanced around looking for a cot or sleeping bag, but saw nothing. Odd. There was only the one bed. Flipping through stacks of books and homework papers confirmed, however, that there were indeed two students staying here. Alan's mind did a quick tumble. Just how close were these two college buddies?

All over the one desk, atop the tiny TV with the tinfoil around the ancient little antenna, and scattered upon the bed were books about puppets and puppeteering. What was it they'd said they wanted? To be someone's puppet? It looked like they may have meant that literally.

There were two doors in the room besides the one that led to the hallway. One went into the small bathroom that was shared by the dorm room next door. Nothing unusual there. Toothpaste, razors, and shaving cream crowded the miniscule counter top and the tiny wastebasket overflowed with wadded up kleenex and Q-tips. the shower stall floor was lined with various shampoos and gooey-bottomed bar soaps. On the floor beside the toilet was a small stack of magazines. Where you might expect a college boys' lavatory to have girlie mags a'plenty, these were all men's workout and other exercise and fitness monthlies. Not overly suspicious in and of itself, except that neither of the boys were terribly buff. They were no weaklings, but at most their builds were fair to average.

Alan went to the second door in the room, and found it was a closet. Out of which came tumbling a variety of woodworking projects in various states of completion. Tools were stacked on the closet floor helter-skelter, each one showing signs of considerable use. A small model stood out among the various pieces of carved and sanded wood. It was a wooden marionette, about 12 inches tall, with carefully articulated arm and leg joints. It had notes scratched on its surface indicating how it might be taken apart and then put back together. Alan snapped it open easily, for it's front was hinged to it's back. It opened like a door to a tiny keepsake box. Or a miniature suit of armor, perhaps. Inside the hollow mannequin was more writing, scrawled notations to where padding might go. Padding for what? Alan looked back in the closet to see if he could find the little puppet's head. After two minutes of searching for the head, he felt a light bulb come on over his own. This puppet was a scale study for something larger. Much larger. It would not have a head. But what went inside it would.

The two puppetboys were being jerked about lightly on their strings, arms and legs moving about nimbly but limply, devoid of any thrust or force. On the overhead, Nathan and Andrew's giggling voices sang along to an old-fashioned recording they'd discovered during their theater inventory. On stage, the real boys moved their mouths as they'd been hypnotically programmed when they heard the musical cue, eyes bright and lips moving just slightly out of sync with the dated lyrics.

"Summer holidays are here
Kids are gathering on the pier
Come to see if we're still here
The dancing marionettes!"

"Legs forever tangling,
Jokes we can't resist.
Little arms a-dangling,
Fleet of foot and limp of wrist!"

"Now you know just why we're keen.
Keen to show you what we mean
Take you through the full routine
Of the dancing marionettes!"

Then the tempo of the music changed. The recording lost it's aged crackle and Andrew and Nathan were suddenly engaged in a highly energetic synchronized song and dance of the Disney production number variety. Their arms and legs were manipulated with precision, causing their every move to seem exaggerated and overblown. They leapt, high-stepped, and even two-stepped, and for all the enthusiasm they displayed, you would think each movement were for a grand finale.

The boys' voice were raised loud in song, their faces masks of sheer delight. They looked as if they were performing for a national children's TV program before a live audience of youngsters. Neither boy was all that accomplished a singer, despite their participation in high school choir, making their vocal efforts all the more comical.

Neither boy felt particularly jovial, however they may have looked. They belted out a happy song about being puppets, never having heard the song before (or at least that's how it felt), yet not missing a beat nor skipping a verse. They clomped about on their wooden feet, their strings yanking their elbows and knees high. The chipper tone of their chorus expressed joy at having gone through the reverse of the Pinocchio fairy tale, of having been transformed from real boys into puppets.

Andrew and Nathan winked at each other, clicked their heels, and were pulled up off the stage to do a slow back flip. Every step, every movement seemed well rehearsed, yet each of the boys felt he was experiencing it for the first time. Technically, they were right. They had never gone through this elaborate choreography before, but mentally they had been running through the routine again and again in their heads for weeks on end. They had it down pat. Yet each had a creeping sensation that they were about to made to do something neither of them had ever done before.

Alan sat in the boys' dorm room, making use of a tattered beanbag chair. He was looking over everything, the books, the magazine, the notes. It was becoming clear that Andrew and Nathan truly were intent on turning themselves into puppets.

The thing that most fascinated Alan were the recordings. Cassette tapes were now clustered into little piles all around the room, but had been secreted away in such a fashion that he'd never have found them if he hadn't looked for them specifically. Had he not read of them in several of Andrew's notes, he wouldn't have thought to do that much. The boys had recorded them together. All of them done in accordance with their research into brainwashing and mind control. Their tapes were in many ways a step-by-step How To guide in messing with your best friend's head while he did the same to you.

On the recordings, Andrew spoke to Nathan, Nathan spoke to Andrew. They gave loving instructions in soothing voices, using the other's name in direct address often. They always spoke in the present tense, as if the desired commands were in a constant state of execution. "You want to be a puppet, Andrew. You can feel the hinges, you can feel the strings, Andrew." "Nathan, you want to be a puppet. You were born to be a puppet, Nathan. It feels good to be a puppet."

Alan fast forwarded to get the jist of the subliminal messages. "Andrew, you can feel control slipping away, a little more each day. You can move, but you feel you are being controlled by your puppet strings, Andrew." FFWD. "Nathan, it feels so good, so peaceful to just let go and allow yourself to be controlled. It's soothing to know you are a mere puppet at the will of another, Nathan." FFWD

After the commands cassettes, there was hours of mantra tapes. "You are a good little puppet. A good little puppet is easily controlled. Repeat this. I am a good little puppet. I have no will of my own. I am aware of my puppet nature, but am unable to alter it. I am a good little--" FFWD

Next came the instructions to hide what they were doing to each other. "Andrew, you will listen to these tapes faithfully each night while you sleep. You will retrieve them each evening from their hiding place and return them in the morning. It will become reflex, Andrew. You will do it without thinking." FFWD "Nathan, each time you hear this tape the truth of the words becomes more and more set in your mind. You cannot sleep without your tapes, Nathan. You cannot rest without knowing your commands are in place." FFWD "Andrew, you will continue to create new tapes with Nathan of increasingly advanced suggestions." FFWD "Nathan, each time you record new command tapes with Andrew, you will hide them immediately afterward and forget what you have done."

Alan began to feel a shiver running up his spine. He began to dig through the tapes in search of something very specific. FFWD "You will listen to your tapes at least three times a day, in your walkman as you go to and from class, in the background while studying." FFWD "You now think of yourself as a puppet, in the back of your mind." FFWD "Andrew, you want to obey--" FFWD "Nathan, you are compelled to obey--" FFWD "Repeat to yourself, I am a puppet--" FFWD "I am a puppet--" FFWD "I am now and ever shall be--" FFWD "--a puppet'--"

Alan threw down the small handheld recorder. The boys had done an admirable job in brainwashing themselves, in mind controlling each other. But there was something missing. Something vital. The off switch. Where was the tape, where had they put the message that would snap them out of it, or would gradually change them back? The two had become so obsessed with their mind control puppetry that they never considered planning a way out. And with the care they'd taken in masking their own progress from themselves, they were probably experiencing their much-desired puppetdom with absolutely no clue of how they got there. Far from being fun, they were most likely scared out of their wits.

The puppetboys were still captive of their own two-man command performance. The overhead recording's next track returned the boys to their Vaudevillian style disjointed puppet dance, complete with poorly-timed lip sync.

"Watch our tiny tootsies fly!
Step so neat and jump so high!
Kick each other in the eye!
The dancing marionettes."

The two boys found themselves crossing their arms over their chests, leaning in shoulder-to-shoulder, and began to speak loudly, as during a play. Each completely unaware of what he was going to say, each unable to stop the words from coming out.

Andrew called out to his puppet buddy as if he were a block away. "Hey, Nathan!"

"Yeah, Andrew?"

"I sure am glad we like boys instead of girls! Girls are dumb!"

"Yeah, Andrew! Y'know, I once knew a girl who was SO dumb, she thought a football coach had FOUR WHEELS!"

The two living puppets burst into hysterical laughter at their funny, mitted hands slapping wooden thighs, carved arms clutching polished sides. Then, as the laughter began to die down, Andrew perked up. "So, how many wheels DOES it have??"

And at that, they were dancing again. This time, there was a specific direction in mind, they both felt it. Andrew and Nathan formed a two-man single file, Nathan in the lead, feet high-stepping like a classic buddy number.

"We'll have a puppet box, big enough for two!
Big enough for two, my buddy--just me and you!
Our strings will guide us, direction they will lend!
Puppet buddy front pulled right up to the end!"

And just like that, Nathan's shoulder strings went slack, and he bent over at the waist like a novelty drinking bird. Andrew was lifted off his feet, a mere inch or so but enough to quickly glide him over to Nathan's posterior. There was a quiet sound of dual wood panels sliding back, as in a roll top desk. Both boys knew what was happening, and what was about to.

"No...", Nathan whispered. It was all Andrew could do to fight his forward progress with every fiber of his being. It wasn't enough, not nearly. A large panel in the backside of Nathan's puppet suit was now open, exposing his virgin ass. The crotch panel in the front of Andrew's suit had also slid open, exposing his penis which, much to Andrew's mounting horror, was painfully erect despite his fear and trepidation.

His member and Nathan's rear glistened under the harsh stage lighting. As their panels had opened, small chambers had released generous amounts of lube. Without even remembering having done so, when Andrew constructed their suits he had thought of everything. Andrew began to speak. "Nathan, I can't stop myself, I'm so sorry--" But his words were cut off as the overhead soundtrack switched to a playfully upbeat love ballad.

Slowly, painfully slowly, Andrew slid inside his best friend. Nathan groaned in pain as he was violated, and once firmly in place, Andrew's strings made him rock back and forth, pumping and pumping repeatedly as the music played on.

Andrew had no idea how long he'd be a prisoner of this deranged sexual puppet dance, but he knew he could only hold out for so long against his increasing arousal. He had reached his limit. The motion, the heat from wearing the wooden suit, the lube, and the indescribable feeling of being forced inside his friend had taken their toll. Andrew fired an incredible load into Nathan as he reached orgasm. Now his body pumped and pulsated in response to something more than the flying rig strings as climax wracked Andrew's body. He felt incredible and terrible, all at the same time.

As if on cue, the strings pulled Andrew out of Nathan's behind, and Nathan's own strings yanked him forward and upward to stand tall again. He was spun around to face Andrew. As tears welled up in Andrew's eyes, he began to apologize again, but was stopped by the look of brainless joy on Nathan's face. His eyes were wide, his grin plastered across his face, his head titled slightly to one side. The only indication that there was a real boy inside the wooden puppet costume was the dim light deep within Nathan's eyes crying for help.

Smiling, appearing gleeful, Nathan's mouth began to move again as the overhead played a solo verse he had prerecorded.

"We'll have a puppet box, big enough for two!
Big enough for two, my buddy--just me and you!
When we're together, how happy we'll be!
Taking turns upon our knees! "

At that, Nathan's shoulder strings went slack again, this time in unison with his leg strings, and he went down to his knees before Andrew. Arms dangling limply at his sides, held aloft by his elbow strings, Nathan's mouth opened wide and he was slid forward to accept Andrew's member.

Andrew tried to shake his head, to beg his friend to understand that he had no control, but instead his puppet mouth split into a broad smile and his eyes shone with delight. When Nathan's lips made contact with the head of Andrew's penis, he was brought quickly back to erection, and the strings slid Andrew deep into Nathan's mouth. Once again, Andrew was made to rock back and forth, in and out, as Nathan drew upon his best friend as they had programmed themselves to. The lube having been cleared away during their prior exchange, Nathan drew deeply of Andrew's sweat, the thin spill of his precum, and then considerably more as Andrew was again brought to climax.

His blank, staring eyes bright and shining, Nathan swallowed it all without hesitation.

Alan tossed the tapes aside and dashed for the door. Tearing into the hallway, he nearly bowled over another student. "Dude! Watch where you're goin', man!"

"Sorry", Alan mumbled as he began to run again. "Lookin' for somebody."

"Well, you're going the wrong way I think", the student said.

Alan turned around to take another look at the shaggy sophomore in the hideous floral shirt and the pants that could have either been boardshorts or simply too small for him. "How do you know which way I should be going?"

"Well, you just lit out of Tather & Woden's dorm like your ass was on fire. What, you afraid you're gonna miss all the fun or somethin'?"

Alan was now right up in the kid's face. "What fun? Where are they?"

"Geez, dude, chill! I just figured, since you came for their room that you were one of those theater geeks. They actually volunteered to spend the break cleaning the whole theater; backstage, auditorium an' stuff."

Alan had just been saved who knows how much searching. "Are they there now?"

"I guess. They've been gone for like and hour, hour an' a half, about that."

Alan whirled around, tearing towards the stairs at high speed, but stopped short on the landing, realizing he'd just been told that was the wrong direction. He spun back to the slacker, eyes a bit wild. "Where--?" The student pointed one finger down the far end of the hall to the West exit. He was barely able to sidestep Alan as he sped down the hall, the stairwell, and out the side door.

The kid shook his head, lowering the shades held from his loose tangle of hair down over his eyes. "Theater geeks."

Andrew and Nathan were caught up in a high-stepping dance the likes of a Broadway musical. Cheerful music blared from the speakers to match their broad smiles. Their legs kicked up high as their arms swung pendulum-like at their sides, both boys moving together in perfect unison. Their kicks ended as the reached the far side of the stage, whereupon the final dance step served as a kind of launch, and their strings lifted them high over the floorboards. Nearly shoulder-to-shoulder, their elbows hooked one around the other, the boys spun gracefully, facing in opposite directions.

Their spin arced wide around the stage, then lowered them both gently to the ground. Nathan came to a halt upon his wooden feet, but Andrew swept once more around his friend to settle upon his knees before him. The music continued to ring out as the panel over Nathan's crotch slid open and Andrew's shoulder strings lurched him forward to take his friend's member in his mouth. Andrew's eyes were wide with shock as he was forced to take Nathan deep down his throat.

In time to the music, Nathan was made to pump his hips, and Andrew's head was jerked just enough to draw upon Nate's penis, back and forth, back and forth. Andrew wanted for all the world to keep his mouth open in some effort to resist the action his puppet body was being forced to take. But something within his subconscious was compelling him to close his lips upon Nathan's dick, to keep back his teeth, to use his tongue to lick and massage. It was impossible to resist.

Nathan gasped with pleasure, intoxicated by the feeling of being blown, something he'd fantasized about but had never before experienced. At the same time he felt terrible that his best friend was supplying this service under some hypnotic coercion. Nate was only dimly aware when the strings on his arms pulled his wooden hands over to hold Andrew's head in place. At the same time, Andrew's hands, which had been dangling limply at his sides, jerked about here and there at random, now curled around Nathan's legs and held on as the sucking, the pumping, increased in intensity.

The festive show tune music built to a crescendo as Nathan's body did as well. He knew as the feelings within him swelled that he was programmed to fire at a certain point in the music. In another few moments, the music hit its finale and Nathan could not contain himself any longer.

"Oh, Andrew", he whimpered, "I'm so sorry..."

And Nathan shot an incredible orgasm into his friend's mouth and down his throat. Andrew's own body spasmed as he received the onrush of semen, swallowing the load as best he could to prevent gagging on it. His hypnotic commands were still well in place as he licked and sucked on Nathan until his friend ran dry.

Short of breath and humiliated, Andrew was pulled off of Nathan and brought to his feet. Both puppetboys felt their arms spread out wide as a recorded trumpet blared two notes as if to say "Ta-Daa!" Then their high-step music began again, this time with their legs taking wide steps to the left and to the right. Nathan and Andrew were pressed close together, Nathan's chest flush with Andrew's back. Nathan's hands rested upon Andrew's shoulders as the twosome were made to dance around to more lively show tunes. Then, at another dramatic juncture in the score, Nathan's arms flew high up in the air, and in an exaggerated arc, swung down to tap Andrew on the back.

Reacting with clownish surprise, Andrew's arms pinwheeled, and his entire body went limp. Then his legs stiffened and he bent over at the waist, his hands scraping against the stage. Andrew heard and felt the back panel in his puppet suit slide open to expose his posterior. Nathan slid right up against him, his crotch panel opening once again. In less than another second, their lubricating gels were thoroughly coating Nathan's member and Andrew's behind, bringing them both to a renewed state of arousal.

Nathan wore a massive smile and his eyebrows wiggled as he slid inside his friend, his stiff member invading his buddy's virgin ass. Andrew's head turned to face the house, his playful expression showing eyes sprung wide and mouth open in stunned surprise. Nathan felt his tears stream as he forced out his own words through his cemented happy expression. "Andrew, forgive me. I can't stop..."

Andrew likewise pushed his own words out past his foolish-looking mask of gleeful surprise. "I know, man...I'm sorry, too."

And happy music blared and boomed as the two human marionettes continued their obscene puppet show, humping in time to the music.

Alan had been on the track team in high school, and it was readily apparent as he sped madly toward the college theater. "How long ago had I told them to piss off, that day in the library?", he asked himself. "How long had they been doing this to themselves?" Alan hopped over benches, dodged those few people lingering in the walkway who were still on campus during the break. As he came upon a cluster of friends who had pulled their cars up together, blocking the way, Alan leapt deftly over one car hood, and landed running. He didn't even hear the applause of the mildly-inebriated students who marveled at his agility in bounding over their vehicles. He was too busy with his own thoughts and concerns. Not the least of which was, "Whatever the two boys had done to themselves with their mind control experiment, was it too far along to undo?"

Nathan continued to thrust into Andrew. His arms were splayed wide at his sides, his hands dangling limp at the wrists as the strings controlling him caused his body to buck and pump his member into his best friend. It felt so good, so intoxicating, and yet was so horrifying all at the same time. Andrew, slumped over and bent at the waist, accepted Nathan inside him time and again. Andrews arms hung like dead weight from his shoulders, his hands dragging ineffectually upon the floor. His eyes welled with tears as he felt both revulsion and joy at being made love to by his truest friend. This was everything he had dreamed of, and yet the fantasy had been perverted into something twisted. Thoughts collided within Andrew as he simultaneously prayed for Nathan's passionate assault to be over all the while feeling waves of physical ecstasy at the sensations.

From behind him, he heard Nathan gasp as he reached climax, then sob. Nathan fired copious geysers of semen within his friend and wept as he did so. Andrew felt his insides burn with new warmth as his friend's seed surged into him. "A-andrew", Nathan sobbed. "I am so sorry. I love you, man. I swear to God I still love you. I didn't mean to hurt you, I swear it!"

Before Andrew could respond, Nathan was jerked back and away from his position, withdrawing from his friend's posterior. Andrew was yanked up to his full height and whirled around to face Nathan. Andrew could feel the back panel on his posterior slide shut easily now that Nathan had disengaged. He looked at Nathan's face and saw there a reflection of his own. He was painted and disguised as a living puppet, but his all-too human eyes welled with tears and moist streaks ran down his cheeks, making Andrew think the absurd thought that it looked as if Nathan's tears would damage the woodwork of his face.

Nathan swallowed hard, suspended on his strings, and felt himself being swept smoothly over to his friend. Andrew was also carried over to his best friend, both their arms stuck out at their sides, their elbows hiked high with forearms hanging limp. Nathan blinked away fresh tears and mouthed again and again, "I'm sorry. I love you. I'm sorry."

Andrew felt his own tears flow from his eyes and streak down his marionette face. "I know", Andrew said, softly. "I love you too."

With that, the puppet duo felt their shoulder strings haul them up high above the stage as their arms were made to wrap around each other, and they felt an overpowering compulsion to kiss. They did, long and passionately, momentarily escaping the horror of their predicament with shared comfort.

When they broke from their kiss, they found themselves turned to face the auditorium, still hanging high above the stage. The sound system crackled to life again and the opening chords of N'Sync's "No Strings Attached" began to pulse from the speakers. Dramatically, the boys were lowered to the stage as the strings began to manipulate them and guide them through a mock boyband choreography. In any other situation, Andrew and Nathan would have been in their glory doing this. Unfortunately for them, this was not any other situation.

Alan reached the theater in record time, bounding up the front steps, prepared to burst through the front doors. They were locked. Locked and chained. "Dammitt!!", Alan snarled.

He leapt over the railing at the top of the steps and landed lightly before a side entrance which led to the orchestra pit. Also locked. He jerked on the handles again just to make sure the door wasn't merely stuck. It wasn't. Alan kicked the door in frustration, furious to be held back now that he was so close.

He catapulted himself out of the lower stairwell and sprinted around the corner to a side entrance leading to the main backstage area. Locked. Alan swore, but wasted no time in double-checking the door. He ran in search of another. He would meet seven more dead ends by way of locked doors before he's find his way inside.

Andrew and Nathan did not think they could feel more tired until they began the boyband routine. The moves called for the strings to jerk them about with enormous energy and rapidity, making them feel more like rag dolls than puppets. They were bounced up and down and then back and forth, bopping and hip-hopping as teen idol voices egged them on from above.

At a rare instrumental interlude, Andrew's strings swept him to one side and up into the air as Nathan's made him slide dramatically down onto his back upon the stage. Andrew was then flown superhero style above his friend, to then settle down upon him.

As Andrew descended, Nathan's knee-strings brought his legs up. Nathan mouthed a silent protest. "Oh no..." As he feared, his rear panel slid open and so did Andrew's crotch panel. The arousing lubricants did their work and Andrew was instantly erect and made to slide into Nathan.

Andrew slipped into place, Nathan's hole now softened to accept him, and Nathan's legs were lowered to settle upon his friend's shoulders. The lyrics began again in force, seeming to inspire the strings to make their puppets pump and grind along to the merciless beat. Andrew plowed into his boyfriend as high-pitched teen heartthrobs wailed about knowing they'd been hurt in the past, but as compensation they offered their hearts with no strings attached.

Andrew and Nathan should be so lucky.

Alan had just left door six and was on the verge of giving up. He trotted with a bit less determination to another door, his mind already formulating ways to track down someone with keys, with access to the theater, as well as some excuse as to why he'd need to get inside.

But he needn't have bothered. The seventh door, the one used by janitorial staff (and work study interns) opened when he pulled it. Reinvigorated, Alan ran with renewed speed inside, skidding to a stop as he found himself plunged into darkness, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the light.

He heard the music blaring and could tell even from where he was backstage, that the colorful reflections spilling out upon the distant walls came from stage lighting. Given what he knew and had surmised about the boys, Alan was certain what was going on was no production dress rehearsal.

"Shit." Alan did not know his way around a theater by any means, but he knew he had to figure it out, fast. He ran toward the flashes of colored lights and found himself amongst a series of ropes, cables, wires and pulleys. Massive weights and gears worked like oversized clock tower parts as he stared at them with amazement. A panel of various switches and tiny colored lights hummed beneath some of the more archaic-looking switches held within a rusty control box. From below the box extended a variety of fiber optic cables that could have been used for a computer setup. Alan knew as little of computers and electronics as he did about theaters.

But he did know enough to follow the cords and see where they led. Alan jumped out of the way just as one of the massive weights dropped suddenly and swung on a trolley to lock into place with an impressive clang just as another rose upward on its line. That alone was enough to convince Alan not to simply start flicking switches or pulling plugs. He touched his fingers to the newer wires and followed them as quickly as he could.

His search brought him to a dimly-lit hallway decorated with a slew of theater posters, commemorating season after season of stage productions presented at this theater. He paused only momentarily when he realized that all of them but one had been arranged in a massive circular formation. In the center of that circle, framed by the other playbills, was a poster for a bygone production of Peter Pan. Alan frowned, then continued his run, tracing the wires secured to the wall. He followed them to the end of the hallway, around a corner, and through a metal door.

Right to the bottom of a spiral staircase.

Nathan and Andrew's lovemaking had been ended, but the song lyrics, burned as an extended mix, still blared from the speakers. The puppetboys Andrew and Nathan rose up via their strings once again to fly further into their boyband-styled choreography. Each of them knew, without a doubt, that they were total puppets. Their limbs ached from exertion and their muscles felt limp from ongoing strain. Underneath their puppet bodies, their actual bodies were slick with sweat, making them feel stuck to, as well as stuck in, their wooden marionette shells. Their strings pulled and tugged at them, flailing them about in preprogrammed steps, and the boys were utterly helpless to prevent it. They no longer even had sufficient strength to even think to resist, much less attempt it. As their strings pulled, so they went, both young men surrendering at last to their situation, their circumstance, their fate.

At precisely that moment, Andrew Tather and Nathan Woden truly became puppets.

Just that quick, the music stopped abruptly. The stage lighting dimmed and the house lights harshly flared to life. Andrew and Nathan's limbs stiffened as their strings jerked them to an awkward halt, ending their dance. The two puppetboys hung there suspended for a few seconds, and then their strings went slack, and the duo tumbled with a hollow wooden clatter to the floorboards.

Andrew and Nathan lay on the stage, utterly exhausted. Their strings had gone slack, and still lobbed about here and there as their lengths gathered upon the floorboards. The boys were spent, worn, and frightened. Andrew lay on his back, staring up into the harsh light. Nathan was face-down, laying on his chest, flecks of stage dust moving as he gasped for breath.

"N-nathan--?", Andrew wheezed. "A-are you okay, man?" Nathan just continued taking his breaths in ragged gasps. "Nathan! Answer me! I can't move, man! The suit feels so damn heavy--I'm so tired." Nathan began to cry again, tears flowing silently from his eyes to drop to the stage beside his cheeks. "Nathan, answer me, please! Oh God, don't be hurt. Say something!"

Softly, Andrew could hear his best friend sobbing. "I am a puppet. I'll be a good little puppet. I swear it, just please, let me up. I am a good little puppet...I am..."

Hearing his friend speak, Andrew felt a rush of relief flood through him. Then, realizing they were both still trapped as puppets upon the stage, he allowed himself to weep. He knew they were both responsible for this state of affairs, even though he could not remember how. This was all their own fault. Or possibly just his. "I am so sorry, Nathan", he sobbed. "God, man, I swear I am so sorry. We're puppets now. We're just a couple of puppets. That's all we'll ever be..."

The boys heard footsteps coming up the stairs at the side of the stage. They continued across the stage toward them. Both boys were too exhausted to lift their heads and see who it was. They silently prayed it was a rescue, although on a deeper level they wondered if it was their puppeteer, and hoped they would have their strings pulled again.

"You guys need any more examples of why I didn't want to teach you about mind control?"

"Alan!" Andrew blinked back his tears, as his arm was still too heavy to wipe them away. "Man, are we ever glad to see you. You gotta get us out of this, please. We're trapped here."

Into the stage, Nathan spoke, "You gotta get us out of these suits. Please, Alan, they're so heavy. We can't move."

"You two were moving pretty darn well when I came in here. That was some dance number. How the hell long did it take you to program all that into the flight rig computer, anyway?"

Andrew shook his head. "I don't know. I don't remember."

"We don't remember anything", Nathan confirmed. "Just being puppets. Just waking up here, being forced to dance around, and to--to--"

"Nate, he gets it", Andrew interrupted, fearful his friend would say too much.

"What the hell were you guys thinking, anyway? Turning yourself into real-live human puppets? How they fuck did you even come up with that?"

Andrew swallowed hard, his throat dry. "Please, man, you can give us the lecture later. Just please, get us out of this. I'm begging you, man. Please. At least undo the suits."

Alan squatted down beside the boys. "Okay, I'll get you out, I promise. But first, this is the Psych major talkin' here. What the hell were you two thinking??"

"Al, just let us up", Nathan pleaded.

"Just answer my question first", Alan said forcefully. "Truth first, then freedom. Talk."

"We wanted to feel what it would be like to be controlled", Nathan said.

"Yeah? Was it fun? You into it?"

Nathan closed his eyes, more tears spilling upon the stage. "No..."

"It sucks, okay?", Andrew said, an edge in his voice more from fear than anger. "We get it now. We wanted to feel what it would be like to be puppets, to not know how we would be made to move, what we would do, or say, or anything. We just...we just wanted to know. But we don't like it! We really don't."

Alan rubbed his chin. Then asked, "So why? Why go to all this trouble? And why do it alone, just the two of you? Why not get your theater major buddies to help, in case anything went wrong?" The prostrate duo remained silent. "Well? I'm waiting."

Andrew sobbed a bit, then choked it back. "Please, Alan. Just let us up. That's all we want. Just let us out of here--"

"Okay, fess up. What ARE you guys, really?"

In unison, the boys said with conviction, "We are good little puppets. That is all we are, that is all we ever were, that is all we ever shall be." As soon as the words left their mouths, both boys broke into a full crying jag.

Alan rubbed his eyes with his fingertips. "Jesus." He let the two go for a while, hoping they would get the sorrow out of their systems. It didn't slow down much after a few minutes. "Okay, okay! Guys, calm down, I'll get you out of here. Just--just take a breath, alright?"

Andrew spat out, "You see? We're puppets now! That's all we are, just fucking stupid mindless puppets!"

"No will of our own...", Nathan moaned.

"WHY?", Andrew wept. "Why the hell did we DO this to ourselves? We're only puppets now, we're not even human, not even real boys..."

"Okay, stop it!", Alan snapped. "That's enough! Now I'm talking to Andrew and Nathan now, guys. NOT the puppetboys. You got me? And I'm asking you what you are. The truth."

"I don't know what you mean", Andrew said.

"We're your friends", Nathan said. "From high school. From before that, even."

"And we're puppets...", Andrew concluded.

"No!", Alan yelled. "You KNOW what I mean! What are you guys? What have you always been? Probably since you were little kids, I'll bet! What have you always known you were?!"

The two boys simply lay there, weeping softly.

"Come on, answer me! You have to say it if you ever want to get up off this stage!"

Andrew shook his head slowly, side-to-side. Nathan started to cry harder.

"Okay, fine", Alan said, getting up. "You wanna be puppets, be fucking puppets. See if I give a shit."

"Don't leave us like this", Andrew begged. Nathan's sobbing grew louder. "You can't just leave us--"

"Then SAY it!!"

"No...don't make us say it...please..."

"Fine! Fuck you! Can't even help yourself, you deserve to be puppets. Assholes." Alan stormed off toward the stage steps.


Andrew's voice stopped Alan. He turned around and walked back to the boys. "You wanna try that again?"

Andrew was weeping as openly as Nathan now. Softly, he repeated, "...we're gay..."

Alan looked to Nathan. "Well, Nate?"

Nathan nodded his head, the dust from the stage getting onto his face and molded hair.

"No, you have to say it. You need to say it", Alan stressed.

Between the sobs, Nathan confessed, "Wuh-wuh-we're g-gay. Andrew and me, we're gay. We love each other, I love him, he's my boyfriend. O-ohhh Goddd..." He sobbed again, unable to continue.

Tears streamed from Andrew's eyes down the sides of his head. "Fudge packers...rump rangers...just a couple of queers..."

Nathan's sobs grew in intensity. "God h-help us, we-we're bad people..."

Alan sat down beside them. "No, that's not true. You're good guys who just happen to be in love with each other, that's all. It's okay. It'll be okay. This is an important first step. Things'll get better now, I promise."

"I don't wanna be gay", Andrew cried. "I just can't help it. And Nathan...I can't help loving him, I just can't."

"It's okay, it'll all be okay", Alan assured them. "But now, think! Why become puppets? Why did you do it?"

"Can't remember", Andrew said.

"It doesn't matter! You know! Deep down inside, you know why! Just face it!"

"...already puppets...", Nathan whispered.

"What was that?", Alan asked. "Again. Say it again."

Nathan whispered a bit louder. "We were already puppets. Going through the motions pretending to be something else. Acting straight when we weren't...we never had control...like puppets..."

"So you thought you'd just make that concept a reality?", Alan surmised.

"No", Andrew said, realization coming into his eyes. "We wanted to be able to be open about it. To admit we were in love. But we couldn't. We can't."

"So in a way, you had too much control", Alan said. "Restrictive control preventing you from being yourselves."

"But not if we were puppets", Nathan said, burying his face into the stage.

"What do you mean?"

Andrew completed the thought. "If we were being controlled by something else...if some force...made us come out about who we really are...we wouldn't be responsible for it. Not if something made us do it. If we could only react to the pull of our strings."

"If we were real puppets", Nathan said.

"We could finally be real boys", Andrew said. "If we were puppets."

Alan sat in silence for a moment. Then he thought aloud, "So you had to be prisoners in order to be free. Incredible."

He looked and saw Andrew and Nathan groping for each other's hand. But they were still too tired, their puppet costumes still too heavy, and their wooden hands were just barely out of reach. Alan set his palms down upon their puppet arms. "That'll take some time, guys. Let me get you out of these things." Quietly, Alan set about releasing the duo from their puppet bodies. Both boys were so relieved to be free that neither of them wondered how it was that Alan knew exactly how their costumes worked.

Alan escorted the boys back to their dorm room. It was getting late, and the campus was virtually deserted due to the break. The boys had washed off most of their makeup and appeared relatively normal. Andrew and Nathan were dressed only in robes they'd scavenged from the theater dressing rooms. They had been naked inside their puppet suits, and neither knew where they'd stashed their clothes. Naked (but for the robes), shivering, exhausted, and still worried and frightened, they were extremely grateful for Alan's assistance in getting them back to their room.

Alan led the shaking boyfriends across the room, making an effort to push aside all debris haphazardly to better disguise that he had been there earlier. Removing their robes, Alan helped the naked boys climb up into their loft bed, where they clung together, already drifting to sleep as their heads rested against the pillows.

"Al--Alan", Andrew whispered.

"Yeah, buddy."

"K-keep our secret. We-we're not ready...for anyone to know..."

"Just rest now. We'll talk tomorrow. I know a lot about hypnosis. I can help--work on putting you guys back the way you were." Alan pulled the blankets over the top of the boys as their breathing slowed and steadied. Alan rested a hand briefly on Nathan's shoulder. "You okay?", Alan asked softly.

So very quietly, Nathan whispered in response, "...'m a puppet..."

Alan just patted him on the back and slipped out of the room, shutting off the light as he made his exit.

Once in the hallway, Alan's mind kicked into high gear. Swiftly and silently, he made his way down the dorm hallway and then dashed down the stairs at top speed, burst out the door and sprinted back to the theater. He had to be absolutely certain that what he had seen there when he discovered the boys was indeed what he thought it was.

Back in the university theater, Alan climbed the stairs to the control booth. Once inside, he looked over the equipment he had disrupted earlier when he had arrived the first time. He fumbled around in the dim light for a particular button, or switch, and after some desperate groping, he found it. Flicking the switch, Alan stepped back and watched.

The mixing board before him came to life, all bright lights and soft humming. A video screen blinked to life, a blue screen announcing that play had been interrupted and prompting Alan to press any key to continue. A timer blinked on, counting down to something--Alan was uncertain precisely what, but suspected he had a pretty good idea. The timer was paused at 00:01:56. Earlier, Alan had arrived just in the nick of time, apparently. Alan pressed a key below the blue screen, which declared it was resetting automatically.

The lights above the stage readjusted themselves and focused upon the empty, headless puppet bodies laying limp upon the stage. The wires attached to them grew taut and slowly lifted the suits up to a standing position. Alan saw the timer click back to life and continue it's countdown. Music restarted and blared the pop song from the speakers, and like magic, the puppet suits began to dance. In time to the music, the vacated puppet shells executed their choreography, bouncing awkwardly here and there, flying a bit too high, even bumping into each other once or twice. Alan assumed the discrepancies must be due to the loss of the boys' weight inside the suits.

At the end of the song, the puppet suits struck a dramatic pose that indicated they had reached their finale. The timer had reached 00:00:20 and the loudspeaker followed their pop dance routine with twenty seconds of thunderous prerecorded applause.

The timer hit zero, and the lights dimmed. The puppet bodies were slowly, gently, brought to a standing upright position and were turned to face the back of the stage. An automated screen was lowered from the above catwalk and a VCR in the booth clicked to life and began to play.

Upon the screen appeared a poorly-made video of none other than Andrew and Nathan. Both were in their full wooden puppet costumes, their faces painted as they had been when Alan found them. They appeared as happy as could be. They were moving about freely, with no flying rig wires fastened to their suits. They had no string attached. Onscreen, the cheerful marionette boys began to speak. At first, Alan thought they were greeting him, but then it became clear they were addressing themselves--as they would have been onstage had Alan not interrupted them. Their dialogue ran:

ANDREW: He-eeyy, guys! Surprise! It's us!
NATHAN: It's you!
ANDREW: That's right, kids! We welcome you to the Andrew & Nathan Puppet Parade! Starring us! Ta-daa!
NATHAN: Starring you!
ANDREW: Indeed, indeed. (he paused, laughing)
NATHAN: Dude, c'mon, this is serious. We're puppetized. We probably don't know what's going on right now. Explain an' stuff.
ANDREW: Okay, okay. I'm sorry, puppetboys. I've just been waiting for this for so damn long! We're gonna be puppets! Wheee!
NATHAN: (to audience) He's a little excited.
ANDREW: Okay, so here's the deal. For the last few months, Nathan and I--
NATHAN: That means you.
ANDREW: Yepper. We--YOU--have been experimenting with mind control techniques. Using tapes and hypnosis, we have been programming ourselves--that's you--to become living puppets. 'Cause damn, we want to know what it'll feel like.
NATHAN: So basically if you were all like, "Ahh! Who did this to us?!" Well...
ANDREW: That would be us.
NATHAN: That would be you.
ANDREW: Exactamundo! So you, boys, have just been through a rigorous three-hour marathon session of life as puppets, starring in your very own puppet show.
NATHAN: And since we've only ever made out or jacked each other off, you'll be having your very first hot sweaty puppetboy sex!
ANDREW: That, too. So anyway, we made this-here tape to show you--to show ourselves, that is--after we'd had the experience. That being the whole no-control, no say in the matter, I'm-just-a-marionette experience.
NATHAN: Dudes! Did you like it? Were you scared? Was it fun? Like, what was it like??
ANDREW: Woden, don't be a dick. It's not like we can hear them. Us.
NATHAN: You can't blame me for being curious.
ANDREW: No, just for being a dick.
NATHAN: Asshole.
ANDREW: Moron.
NATHAN: Puppet fag.
ANDREW: Can't argue that! So anyway guys, basically everything you just went through is the accumulation of years and years of mutual fantasy. Getting to BE puppets. Rockin' huh?
NATHAN: And now we give 'em the word, right?
ANDREW: We give 'em the word. On three. 1...2...3...
ANDREW: What you are experiencing now is the flood of memories of every single thing you've been doing since this whole experiment started up until today.
NATHAN: (bashfully) Had to do the memory wipe, cover-up deal, or it wouldn't have been a surprise. The whole being a puppet thing. You know.
ANDREW: They do indeed. And, I'm sure you not only remember all the brainwashing tricks you'd played on yourself, but also the most important decision you've made in your entire lives.
(the two boys move close together and lovingly drape their arms around each other)
ANDREW: We've decided to come out.
NATHAN: (to audience) Not right away!
ANDREW: No, not right away, and not to everyone, either.
NATHAN: But we've decided, since we've been in love for like, forever, that we can't keep on--well, keeping it a secret. And I'm sick to fucking death of not being able to hold my boyfriend's hand in the halls, for starters.
ANDREW: So here's the deal. We're gonna come out to our closest friends. Then, a little bit at a time, we'll tell other friends, students, a few teachers, like that.
NATHAN: We figure our folks might be ready for the bomb to drop by graduation.
ANDREW: Around then. But first we come out to each other. (adjusting his posture) Hello there! My name is Andrew, and I'm gay. This is my boyfriend, Nathan.
NATHAN: Hey. I'm Nathan, and I'm gay, and this is my boyfriend, Andrew.
ANDREW: Cool. Now, Let's become puppets. So, we're gonna hit each other with one of the trigger phrases we've been implanting in each other for months now, so we're not gonna remember this until we're where you are, there on the stage, all puppeted up, watching this video.
NATHAN: That's part of the surprise. And in case you're wondering who it was hooked you up to those puppet strings--
(Nathan produces a bulky handheld remote control and there is a grinding noise. Formidable cables lower from above them and descend to different lengths around them. There are 22 in all. The boys proceed to attach the cables to each other, starting at their feet and moving up their bodies, taking turns as each one fastens cables to housings in the other's suit. The last cables to be attached are those atop each boy's head, but the wires are still slack, allowing for free movement.)
ANDREW: Okay, that's it! Time for the big experiment. We're about to knock ourselves out, and then wake up as human puppets. It'll be keen.
NATHAN: Oh, hey! Don't forget the other tapes, man!
ANDREW: Good call, almost forgot. Up in the booth, there's a series of cassettes we set up to change us back. Listen to those every night until it says to stop. (looking to Nathan) That it?
NATHAN: (shrugging) I think so.
ANDREW: (waving hands in panicked gesture) Oh, dudes, wait! One last thing, most important for you. You've had your fondest wish come true. You got to be puppets. But you're real boys now.
NATHAN: Right! Gotta be, if you're gonna come out and everything.
ANDREW: Thus, you ought to get let down from those strings you got goin' on. (to Nathan) Did we time it right?
(Nathan produces a second remote, smaller than the first, checking it's surface, presumably a display of some kind)
NATHAN: Damn near.
ANDREW: Okay, our time for being puppets is coming up, but yours is totally over. Time to stand on your own two feet, Andrew and Nathan. No strings attached. Ever again.
NATHAN: Countdown to liberation, 5...4...3...2...1...0.
ANDREW: Stand proud, gay former puppetboys! (he stares at Nathan)
NATHAN: You think it worked?
ANDREW: Guess we'll find out, won't we?

On stage at that moment, in synchronization with the video playback, there was a twanging sound and the cables on the puppet bodies rapidly grew slack. The excess length used for the manipulation of their limbs arced to the floor, gathering in wide loops. The headless puppet suits sagged and flopped around as their tethers lost tension. Finally, there were multiple snapping noises, like prop gunshots, and the cables detached from their housings above the catwalk to clatter upon the stage. Had Andrew and Nathan still been wearing the suits, the result would have been a dramatic release of the puppet prisoners. As it was, the two empty puppet shells clattered to the floor like the lifeless mannequins they were.

"Right on time", Alan remarked. Onscreen, the narration continued.

NATHAN: So now we're ready to do the John Malcovich?
ANDREW: Kiss for luck. (the two kiss) Okay, let's do it. Tighten the cables, set the tape to rewind, and the whole show to start in--when do you think is good to wake us up? Ten minutes?
NATHAN: Fifteen--no, twenty! Just to be safe.
ANDREW: Sounds good. Hit it.
NATHAN: You think three hours is too long for the puppet show?
ANDREW: Don't be a pussy. We can handle three hours of mystery and horseplay. It won't hurt us.
NATHAN: Yeah, I guess. And we need extra time to appreciate finally taking the big plunge of going beyond our usual kissing and jerking each other off. Here goes. (Nathan presses the remote, the boys' cables grow taut and begin to lift the boys up off the stage.)
ANDREW: Wh-whoooa! This is gonna be so fucking cool--! We set?
(Nathan aims smaller remote toward the audience and a small digital display appears in the lower corner of the screen, counting down to the tape's end and auto-rewind.)
NATHAN: We're set. (with flair, Nathan tosses first one, then the other, remote offstage deep into the shadows of the wings)
ANDREW: (to the audience) See you on the other side.
NATHAN: (giving a quick wave to camera) Yeah, see ya.
(The two look at each other, and Andrew waves his hand, counting down with three waves, two, one.)
(At the trigger, both boys' heads slumped forward and the image of the limp, dangling puppetboys is deathly quiet. The duo hang there, sleeping, for the better part of a minute before the screen cuts to snow.)

Alan let out a deep breath. "Sweet Jesus..." He realized that if he had been but two minutes later in arriving at the theater, Andrew and Nathan would not have needed him at all.

Alan stepped over to the desk in the control booth and saw that one drawer had a blazing orange sticker on it with the legend "In here!" on it. Alan pulled open the drawer and saw a series of twelve cassette tapes, neatly arranged and numbered, clearly labeled. "Back To Boyhood- 1", "Back To Boyhood- 2", and so on.

"They had it all figured out", Alan mused. "They just didn't realize how much their little memory-wiping trick would freak them out."

Alan began to pace. Theoretically, all he had to do was collect the boys from their dorm in the morning, and show them the video. He probably wouldn't even have to put them back in the suits, although the moment the cables were released at the vid's climax was a powerful image and could prove essential in helping them getting their heads back on straight. If they were willing, he'd suit them up again and let the show run it's course as it would have without his interruption.

Alan looked at the cassette tapes again. Each one ran two hours long. They may have been toying with dangerous mind games, but at least the boys were thorough. This experiment of theirs alone would make an extraordinary thesis.

And yet...

Alan thought about that sizeable report created by the legendary Seth Greenwood. Andrew and Nathan had run their experiment for weeks, months. Greenwood's study spanned years. And Andrew and Nathan at this point knew nothing of the video or the mind control reversal tapes. Alan rubbed his chin, running a finger along the top of the twelve cassettes, listening to the rattling sound they made.

He then went to the mixing board console and turned on an overhead light. With the added illumination, he could better see the controls. After a cursory glance, he found what he was looking for. He flipped on the video playback and called up a control selection display. There were his choices. PLAY. REWIND. FFWD. SAVE. and ERASE.

Alan's finger hovered over the keyboard connected to the monitor's display. 'S' for save, 'E' for erase. Alan let out a deep and heavy sigh. He thought of that bulky, phenomenally in-depth report by Greenwood and wondered how he could ever hope to equal it on his own, much less top it. If the two boys were held as puppets, the amount of research and experimentation he could do with them defied description.

Then he thought of the boys. His childhood friends. Now naked and alone, shivering in their bed with no idea of what had happened to them, their months of personal growth erased, having no concept of the strength of character and courage they'd developed as young gay men. They were prisoners of their own misconceptions. Had he the right to keep them there?

Slowly, Alan shook his head, and made his choice.


Andrew and Nathan walked proudly down the college hallways, arm in arm. It had only been a day since classes had resumed following the break, but already the other students knew to clear the way when the two boys approached, side-by-side with arms draped affectionately around each other's shoulders. Even in some of the more crowded hallway intersections, filled with tight clusters of students, Andrew and Nathan were reluctant to break contact with one another, usually waiting patiently for the crowd to subside, or at most choosing to hold hands while they weaved their way through the crush of bodies.

Some of the guys took steps back from the duo as they approached, others took pains to avoid them by stepping down separate hallways. Most of the girls thought the open show of affection was charming. One girl even said they were “adorable”. Andrew and Nathan didn't seem to care what they thought.

The two boys had a couple hours before their next class. They had just left a lecture hall, which they greatly enjoyed because the auditorium-style seats allowed one of them to put his arm around the other. In standard classrooms, they had taken to selecting desks in the back row, where they could slide their seats closer together and hold hands during the lecture without disrupting anyone else.

Now they made their way down the cramped dorm halls, having switched to holding hands for easier travel. The reached room 314, Alan's room, and knocked. “Come on in, guys. You're right on time”, came their friend's voice from within.

Andrew and Nathan stepped into Alan's dorm room single, and as soon as they were inside, took up their preferred stance beside each other with their arms on each other's shoulders. The two smiled broadly at Alan as he reached for a sizeable notebook he kept beside his bed. The boys had been smiling a lot lately. In fact, whenever they were together, it was nearly impossible to find them not smiling.

“How you fellas doing today?”, Alan asked.

“Real good”, Andrew beamed. “Great.”

“Better than great”, added Nathan. “I'd say better than we've felt in a long time.”

The two turned their heads to look at each other and Andrew mouthed silently, “I love you, man.”

Nathan returned the silent phrase, “I love you, too.” And they kissed each other, right there in front of their friend and apparently not caring one way or the other. Alan scribbled furiously in his notebook.

Then, Alan looked back up after taking a moment to inspect what he'd written, and remarked with stressed clarity. “My two favorite guys—Pinocchio Tather and Howdy Doody Woden.”

The two boys broke contact with each other instantly and struck pantomime marionette poses. Their eyes had suddenly gone blank and appeared glazed over. Their mouths hung slightly open, their faces devoid of all expression, their minds seemingly empty.

Alan calmly sharpened his pencil. The boys stood there before him, hanging on invisible strings, knees bent inward, their arms straight out at their sides, bent at the elbow with forearms swaying ever-so-slightly back and forth.

Alan spoke to the boys, keeping his eyes on his writings. “Identify yourselves, please”, he said flatly.

“We are puppets, sir.”, Andrew and Nathan answered in unison, without a trace of emotion.

“Mm-hmm”, Alan mumbled, still writing. “And I am--?”

“You are our puppet master, sir.”, came the reply.

“Good, good. Fine.” Alan wrote for a moment longer, then looked up at his subjects. He looked at them for a few seconds, brow furrowed in scrutiny, then returned to his pad. Speaking into his pages, he asked, “And do puppets wear clothing like that which you have on?”

Again, in unison, the boys replied, “No sir, master, they do not.”

“You might want to do something about that, then, gentlemen.” Alan continued to make notes while the two puppetboys stripped off their outer clothing. Beneath their street clothes were lightweight plastic puppet forms encasing their bodies. These were very much like their previous puppet suits, but were far slimmer, less exaggerated and much more form fitting. Except for the neck, heads, and hands, the marionette casts covered their entire bodies, and were easily concealed beneath their baggy sweatshirts and loose-fitting trousers. With their heavy shoes cast aside, trim toeless puppet feet were also visible.

Alan cast a quick glance at the puppetboys, now stripped of their student disguises. “That's better”, he remarked. Jerking his head toward a small case at the head of his bed, he said, “Puppets, please don your traditional puppet garb.” And returned to his writing.

Andrew and Nathan plodded mechanically over to the case and withdrew two outfits appropriated from the drama department's costume wardrobe. In moments, the two boys had dressed themselves in old-fashioned European travel wear over their segmented puppet bodies. High-collared short-sleeved shirts, lederhosen, short pants, fanciful tall boots, and feathered caps completed their look as puppets. Once so attired, they stood at attention, backs slightly bent, eyes glazed and appearing lifeless.

Alan looked up from his notes and then quickly glanced at his watch. “No…”, he mumbled to himself, “no time today for the puppet cheeks and jaw hinge makeup. Got a lecture inside of an hour.” He scribbled a few more notes and flipped to the next page.

Tossing his notebook onto his bed, Alan brought out a video camera. Training it on the boys, he clicked it on and its little red light flared to life. “Puppetboys”, Alan said, “go through your poses and tell me what you did today.”

Andrew and Nathan began dancing and swaying about, their bodies jerking here and there as if they were still trussed up by the formidable suspension rigs in the theater. They looked puzzled and surprised as they jerked about, unaware which way they would be made to turn next, not realizing their every movement was dictated by their own subconscious.

They danced on stiffly, awkwardly, as puppets, pausing regularly in frozen poses for Alan to snap with his still camera in addition to his video record. The puppetboys told of their day thus far, of their new open displays of affection for one another. They spoke of holding hands, walking arm in arm, and even allowing themselves to be caught kissing each other.

Alan raised one eyebrow. “Who saw you kissing?”

The puppetboys said that it was one of the college's star athletes. His reaction had been one of disgust when he rounded a corner and caught them, but even then he lingered there a moment watching in fascination before moving quickly away.

“Interesting, interesting”, Alan remarked, advancing the film and then reaching for his notebook to jot down a few more thoughts. After making his notations, he allowed the boys to halt their puppet display and stand still once again. “Puppetboys”, Alan said, “your bodies remain at my command, but your voices are temporarily your own. You can speak freely of your experiences.”

Andrew and Nathan's bodies remained stiff and motionless, but their faces suddenly came to life. Andrew spoke first. “Dude, you can't keep doing this. You gotta let us go. Don't make us keep this up, I'm serious.”

Alan scribbled again. “Uh-huh, uh-huh, and why is that?”

Nathan jumped in. “Alan, we're friends. So you know we're gay. You know we were into puppets and mind control. God, isn't that enough? You got us by the balls, Alan.” Then, softer, he added, “We're begging you, let us go.”

Alan never looked up from his notes. “You did admit you wanted to be puppets.”

“Each other's puppets, man!!”, Andrew yelled. “You are gonna get us fucking killed, man! Hangin' all over each other in front of jocks! You can't just out us outta nowhere and parade us around like a couple of overeager fags—“

Nathan began yelling simultaneously. “We don't want to be puppets anymore! We don't want to, I swear to God, Alan, just let us go—“

Alan remained stoic, scribbling faster to keep up. “Ventriloquist puppets”, Alan said calmly. “You have no voices but what I give you.”

Instantly, the duo fell silent. Their faces were caught in freeze-frame, Nathan's mouth closed, Andrew's still open, having been stopped in mid-sentence. Alan kept his eyes on his notebook. “You know”, he said aloud to no one. “I'm debating having the two of you sing a romantic duet together during one of your theater classes. That could provide some interesting responses all around.” He tapped his chin with the end of his pencil. “Of course, I'd have to skip a Humanities class to attend. Just hearing the account wouldn't be the same as witnessing it firsthand.”

Alan flipped open a date book and checked off a few listings. “But”, he said, “I think it would be wise to have you both come out to your parents first.”

The boys still stood frozen, but their hearts began to race and a wave of helpless fear flooded their bodies. A single tear rolled down Nathan's face as he imagined the shocked response of his mother when his puppet self was forced to act out the dictates of his new master. Alan looked up just in time to see the tear upon Nathan's cheek. It took the psych major a moment to fully register the truth of what he was seeing, of what this helpless boy was experiencing. Without another moment's hesitation, Alan returned to his notes to archive Nathan's response, saying, “Fascinating. I almost missed that.”

Alan set down his notebook and stood before his subjects. “Truthful puppets”, he said. “You cannot lie to me. How do you feel about each other, puppets?”

“I love him”, said Andrew softly, looking at the floor. “I love Nathan.”

Alan looked at Nathan. Nathan choked back more tears. “I love Andrew. I love him so much.”

“And what are you in relation to me?”, Alan asked.

Together, the puppet lovers said, “We are only puppets. You are our puppet master and we are yours to command. We can do only as you bid us.” By now, both the boys were gently weeping.

“Goooood”, Alan said, checking off one last item on his agenda for the day. “Now get that whole crying thing out of your system and return your puppet uniforms to the case and get dressed. And remember that your standing orders remain. You may tell no one about me controlling you, you may never speak or your true identities as puppets. And the most important command stays intact—“ Alan let his sentence trail off for the puppetboys to finish. They did.

“We now behave toward each other in public as we've privately always wished we could behave.”, they intoned.

Within a few moments, the two puppetboys stood attired in their normal clothing with their arms around each other. The physical contact alone sent a shiver of pleasure through each of them, taking a little of the edge off the fact that they were now both nothing more than human marionettes. With dry eyes and smiling faces, the two exited Alan's room and returned to their life in the outside world. Forever performing, forever feeling helpless to cut their strings and move free of their puppeteer.

Alan gathered his things for his next class, idly toying with what was to come of his new role as puppet master. His two subjects, formerly his childhood friends, were going to make a fascinating study. Here he was, only a freshman, and already a spectacularly successful grad school thesis was assured. In his mind's eye, he saw the paper's conclusion, with the two boys in full puppet ensembles, painted faces and all, dancing their way joyously through the next nationally televised Pride rally parade.

He had taken his friends and made them mere playthings, but in the end it would be for a worthy cause. His study, and possibly his future career was tied to the strings of two gay puppetboys. Alan paused for a moment, considering what future "control" tests awaited the boys. He grinned, wondering if they would ever realize that all their previous hypnotic suggestions had been removed, and not a single command had been laid down in their place. They had both sunk so far into their roles as puppets, and had kept their affections for each other repressed for so long, that the mere implication that they had been hypnotized was enough to make them believe it utterly. All either Andrew or Nathan needed to do to break their strings was to consciously choose to do so.

And so far, they didn't. Or they believed they couldn't, which in the end amounts to the same thing.

Slinging a backpack over his shoulder, Alan sauntered off to his next class, cheerfully whistling “I've Got No Strings”.

If you enjoyed this story, please write the author and let him know so he'll write more, at [email protected]