One day in Arizona, in a town on the borders of Tempe, a girl of 21 named Gail Partridge discovered that whenever she placed a finger in the left ear of one of her Mexican-American friends and blew on his nose, he fell at once into a deep and obedient trance.
At the local hospital, the doctor was naturally sceptical of Gail’s account.
“I’m afraid I’m not convinced,” he said with a weary shake of his bald head.
“I assure you,” Partridge returned, “that’s exactly what happened. Bring him out of it and I will make it happen again here in front of you.”
And so the doctor administered a strong form of amphetamine and slapped the patient back into something resembling sobriety.
“Go on then,” the doctor said to Gail, who then dutifully repeated the action, putting a finger in her friend’s left ear and blowing gently on the tip of his nose. And in an instant, whatever sobriety had been restored promptly faded from the patient’s face. His eyes glazed right over.
“Kneel down in front of me,” she instructed him.
He obeyed without saying anything.
“How odd,” the doctor, whose name was Parker Barnet, said, stroking his chin.
“I told you,” Gail said proudly. “He just becomes like a zombie. Can you explain what’s happening, I’m worried about him.”
“I would if I could,” Barnet shrugged. “But I’ve never beheld anything like this in my life. We’ll need to keep your friend here tonight for observation.”
Gail left the hospital and returned to her home in Tempe. Still intrigued and haunted by the mystery of what had happened, she called several of her closest friends and asked if they could think of any rational explanation for it.
They couldn’t. But the next morning, Gail switched on the local news and found that one of them had notified the media of the story, which was now the leading headline of the day. It was no longer centred on her friend, but was being reported as a general outbreak afflicting the Mexican-origin community across Southern Arizona.
“It’s a terrifyingly simple procedure,” a stone-faced blonde reporter declared in front of a Mexican volunteer. “You just place a finger in their left ear, blow upon their nose, and Mexicans fall into a deep and impressionable trance. The condition seems to last for just over an hour; at most, for two.”
“Mexicans?” Gail mumbled, frowning at the screen, “Only Mexicans?”
“It’s important to note that this only seems to affect people of Mexican origin,” the reporter continued, as if reading Gail’s mind, “Several experiments have been performed on Dominicans and Guatemalans with little result.”
Gail grabbed her coat and set out for the hospital. When she arrived her friend had already been discharged.
“Did you find out what’s causing it?” she asked Dr Barnet urgently.
The doctor shook his head. “No,” he confessed, “I’m afraid we’re no closer to understanding the process. But we’ll know soon. It’s a national issue now.”
“Is it correct that it only affects Mexicans?”
“That seems to be the case, yes. It also seems to be gender-specific. Whatever it is would seem to exclusively affect males of Mexican descent, not females.”
“Are crimes being committed?”
The doctor laughed sarcastically. “Ms Partridge, have you been paying attention to the media? People are taking advantages of Mexican men up and down this continent. They’re being manipulated into doing all sorts of things; robberies, murders, agricultural slavery. If we don’t find a way to explain and prevent this the world will never be the same.”
Gail looked down at the floor, her face frozen in shock.
“If you feel like doing something useful,” the doctor added, “I’d go and shelter any men of Mexican descent that you care about. Do you have any Hispanic friends, relatives?”
“My ex-boyfriend is half-Mexican.”
“Find him, Gail. Find him now.”
Jose Moreno was sheltering in his apartment when Gail rang the buzzer. He was surprised to see her.
“What are you doing here?” he said, blocking the doorway. “Are you here to gloat or something?”
“I’m not here to gloat,” she assured him, “I was worried about you. Can I come in?”
“How can I trust you?”
Gail, seeming genuinely offended by this question, refused to answer it. Jose turned around and walked back into his apartment, leaving the door open for Partridge to follow after him.
“I’m scared, Gail,” he confessed tearfully when she had closed the door behind them. She smiled at him warmly, pityingly, and held out her arms. They embraced.
“You’re too trusting,” Gail whispered into his right ear, a forefinger surreptitiously inserted into his left. Before this comment could fully register in his mind, Gail pulled her head away and blew directly at the tip of his nose, immediately putting him under the trance he had been sheltering for fear of.
When it was clear he was fully pacified, Gail burst into giggling laughter. She slapped his face with increasing viciousness. He said and did nothing.
“Muy bien,” she smiled. “Now go into the bedroom and lie on the bed.”
Jose walked towards his room with the stiff gait of a robot. Gail slapped him on his buttocks as he left.
“Muy bien” she giggled once more, watching him obey her orders without complaint.
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