As featured in OCD-UK’s members magazine:

Aaron’s face lights up in a way she’s not sure she has ever seen in him before. He leans in toward her as if about to divulge a great secret, his face almost too close to her for her liking. ‘I’m going to the Compulsion Factory today,’ he whispers, and even Marie is impressed.

‘Really?’ her eyes dilate feverishly like a child given the key to a forbidden room. ‘I’ve been wondering about that place ever since it opened, but I haven’t dared try it yet.’

‘Why not?’ ‘I’m not sure. I guess I’m a little scared of it. What if it’s just…too real….’

‘Well…but isn’t that the point?’

Marie is forced to laugh at herself. ‘I guess you’re right. So…what are you doing, there?’

Oh, it’s a good one this time–‘

‘Wait! You mean you’ve done it before? You already know how it works?’

‘I do. And I’ll admit it is a little scary. I’ve heard that’s common when it’s your first time–it gets easier after that. More natural.’

‘So what did you do the first time?’ she wonders, absently touching her nails again.

‘Oh, something really small. You have to start small, build your way up, you know? So I just smashed some glasses.’

‘Wow, they can make it that vivid?’

‘That’s just the beginning,’ grins Aaron conspiratorially. ‘Tonight, I’m going to put my hands on a lit stove.’

Marie almost cries out loud at these words. ‘Aren’t you frightened?’

‘Of course I am–but it’ll feel wonderful to do it, to get that out of my system. You have no idea how hard it is for me to cook dinner–‘

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‘Do they include the pain?’

‘Yes, definitely. That’s a legal thing. If it weren’t painful, people would wonder about the real thing and try it outside the Factory.’

‘But what about addiction, you know? People returning again and again to get out the same compulsion, because they doubt themselves, doubt their memories. Or what if people then still want to try it for real, to see how accurate the Factory is?’

Aaron shrugs. ‘I guess those are all valid points. But right now, I think this place is a Godsend.’

* * *

‘Um, listen, Aaron, I know you’re busy there, but I wonder if I could ask you something.’

He holds up one finger to stay her and finishes the page. ‘…10, 11, 12, 13.’ He draws his head from the paper and stares at it for a moment. Then, in a burst of inspiration, he chooses a negligible word and scratches it out of the line. ’12,’ he announces happily. Looking up, he smiles invitingly. ‘What can I do for you?’

‘Well, that Factory–‘

‘Ah, I knew you weren’t as opposed to it as you said,’ he laughs.

‘Yeah, well…so…does it work for thoughts?’

‘Of course. Isn’t that the idea?’

‘No, I mean like…memories. Things I’ve been dwelling on for years. The kind of thing we’re meant to vent before we go to work. Can the Factory re-enact those memories, so it’s not just in my head?’

‘Aw, Marie, I’m sure they can. What kind of thoughts do you have in mind?’ he grins.

‘Just thoughts. Listen, could I go with you, after work? To the Factory?’

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‘Certainly! I’d love the company. To be honest, I’m still a little nervous there, myself.’

Marie says nothing. She just stares back at him, right into his eyes so he has to look aside.

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