Not the cold metal of the folding chairs. Not the stage. Not the dim outlines of the figures watching. Neither the suggestion, nor the trance.
I’m not supposed to remember any of it. Not even the fact that, for a few brief moments, I became, or rather, was possessed by the Late Charles Dickens.
Is there still a circuit known as the National School Assembly? Its members a bunch of traveling “entertainers” wandering from one rural spot of the Heartland to another? troubadours roaming from woebegone elementary school lunchroom, to high school gymnasium? Are school budgets such that they can still pay to book Bob the One Man Band, Simon the Mathematic Magician, Maryjo and her “School Violence is Wrong Puppet Show”?
In those days Wyoming schools had more than enough oil money to hire anyone who’d brave the winds and black ice to drive out 120 miles from nowhere to entertain a bunch of schoolkids. No one cared much for the likes of Bob or Simon or Maryjo. At least you didn’t have to sit in class for an hour, but truth be told most school assemblies suck. Real talent doesn’t play the Middle Schools in towns like Mud Lake, Idaho.
I bet the hypnotist didn’t come cheap, because everybody loved the hypnotist. I never expected him to call on me as a volunteer. I thought I’d be watching from the audience while freshman footballer clucked like a chicken, or an eighth grade cheerleader climbed on a chair, but then wouldn’t get down once she became convinced she was standing at the top of a cliff. It was late in the show for a special segment. I was an awkward middle schooler, lanky and thin as a GULAG survivor; I was used to not getting picked.
But he pointed to me. Said come up with about six others. He put us under, no watch, no candle, no psychedelic light, just his finger. Look directly at his finger, he kept saying. Then, snap. We were out.
I was especially susceptible to suggestion, he told the audience once I had fallen back against the metal chair, chin to chest, my legs sprawled on the floor before me.
“When I count to seven and snap again, Jon, you will awake, but not as yourself. You will awake as a famous person. Anyone man, woman, living, dead. You will not know who you will be until I snap my fingers, until I ask your name again, until I count to seven, six, five, four, three, two, one and snap.”
“Will you stand up please? Would you give us your name?”
“I will,” I announced to the audience in BBC British. “My name is Charles Dickens.”
It's like I told you--possessed.