I say to him, “I know she has some sort of dark past. Something bad or…” And I catch myself.
Jason laughs. “Don’t you already know?”
Don’t you know everything?
I hate him. I can only reach the first layer of his thoughts and it’s always dripping with sarcasm.
“In one memory, I saw you, Jason.”
“Did you?” His eyes grow shiny. They look like dew drops reflecting the color of the brown earth beneath, but it’s still misleading as to what I actually see.
“What do you know?” I pry, but Jason says nothing. He knows how to block me out. I can’t read him, and he’s just about the only person who can do that.
It’s easy, after all, to slip myself into the mind of another. I can’t take over. Nothing of that sort. I can’t even make them aware of my presence, but I can sift through their memories and watch through their eyes.
But there’s too many memories, and it drains my strength. A few minutes is all I can stand before my head is ready to split open.
“Jason, you sent me with her because you didn’t trust her fully. Was that a lie?”
I hate him.
“Why are you so guarded around me? It’s not like I’m going to use anything against you or the guild.”
“No, but you’re annoying. Like a kid brother. Who knows when you might let something slip.”
I stare at Jason for a few more minutes, but he gives no signs of letting up. When he gets too tired of blocking me out, he’ll just leave his office to go to his quarters or something. I can’t follow.
I close my eyes and try to exit my mind. I see myself inside the room. It gives off a dark, static energy with vague outlines for Jason’s desk and chairs. I see Jason’s energy, a bright red and orange, like a glowing fire in the midst of this shadow world. I manage a wobbly step towards him before I feel like I’ve been axed in the head. My energy crumples to the ground and dissipates back into my body.
“Hey, you okay?” Jason’s voice rings in my ears. Tears have actually gathered in my eyes. My face has contorted to keep back the pain. How could I be so weak!
I never imagined a true mindreader’s power until encountering Niles.
I was just walking on the street, head down, doing my best to block out the voices around me, till I heard a distinct Hello.
The voice sounded like it was right in my ear. A lot of people around me looked around, some glancing as they walked, some turning around at vendor’s booths, asking if others had also heard, but I made the mistake of knowing exactly where to look. I should’ve known better. Stupid.
He was across the road. Clear blue eyes, peppered hair, and a neatly trimmed, silver shadow.
You’re a mindreader? I asked.
His laughter resounded in my mind, but not the slightest trace of a smile emerged on his face.
You’ve never heard of mindreader traps, kid? You fell right in!
My mind felt fuzzy. The soft fur of my brain was gently petted and poked by a stranger as if it were a bunny’s corpse. My insides curl in on themselves at the memory. Is that what it feels like? I shuddered violently.
You’ve never met another mindreader? Kyle? That’s your name?
I’d never met another mindreader, but I knew there had to be a way for me to kick him out of my mind. We both went still until I heard his laughter in my mind again.
That’s the best you can do?
“Get out,” I muttered audibly. Sweat was gathering on my forehead, back, and palms.
I’ve not met another mindreader in a long time… He began casually looking around and walking down the street. Across from me! He didn’t even have his gaze fixed on me!
Wait – what are you doing!
And at that moment I realized that other people had heard his Hello. I’d never been able to speak to anyone else from my mind. Let alone more than one person. I didn’t even know it was possible!
Kyle, you’re going to hurt yourself. Stop fighting my presence.
He stopped walking when he reached the point straight across from me and leaned over, pretending to look at some vendor’s wares.
Who… who are you!
Wow, kid you are pathetic. He laughed again. My name is Niles. So you didn’t even know mindreaders could communicate with other people?
How could he have known my thoughts when I wasn’t thinking them at that moment? I didn’t understand, and frankly, I was terrified.
“Hey, dude… you okay?” I glanced to the side at a guy with a pulled back afro staring at me from behind neon yellow glasses. The guy looked several times across the street to where I’d been staring and back to me. “…Something wrong?”
You going to say something, Kyle?
“Uh, it’s nothing. I was just thinking.”
“Ha! Okay, chillax dude. No demons on this street. I’ve been living here for twelve years.” He lightly punched my shoulder and kept walking.
Out of habit, I tried to slip into this guy’s mind, but this freak Niles was holding me hostage in my own. Yellow glasses was probably thinking that I was a freak.
You need to work on your poker face, kid.
Why can’t I push you out of my mind! You’re not even looking at me.
You’re far too weak… I’m impressed. And by impressed, I mean utterly shocked at how weak you perceive your powers to be. Well, potential powers. We’ll say that. I can’t remember the last time I was actually as weak as you. Maybe five years of age? And you’re… seventeen.
He’d been there a while, and I assumed he would soon get tired.
On the contrary, Kyle. I could stay here all day. I could go to the park, catch a movie, be on a train to a different city, and so long as I’m aware of your location, I can slip into your mind.
I focused. I wasn’t going to let him know any more about me by being carelessly allowing memories to slip into the forefront of my mind. I could somehow guard myself the same way Jason does.
Ha! Really Kyle?
The scorn in his voice was sickening, and as hard as I concentrated, I could still feel him going through my mind like it was a filing cabinet. Picking out memories here and there then putting them back. What was this guy!
Hm… pretty girl, that pathfinder, Leilani. Oh, you don’t want to invade her privacy. How adorable.
I had to get away from him! I thought that if I could just get far enough away to where he couldn’t find me…
As I was running, my body came to an abrupt halt. My heart pounded against my chest, and my mind screamed out at the rest of my body, but it wouldn’t listen. The cold sweat on my body grew profusely worse. I had only made it a few steps up the street.
I turned around to see Niles standing up straight, his back to me, fists clenched, finally appearing to be concentrating on something.
You can’t run. And you’re not even strong enough to fight this.
My legs started moving. I walked into the road, turned my head back and forth, and walked right up to Niles. My insides were panicking and trembling, but they had no choice but to obey him. He turned slightly and opened his eyes. They narrowed on me.
You think that they would want to kill you? No. When you think of people hunting mindreaders, they’re talking about people like me. You’re so weak that no one would ever bother with you. Niles closed his eyes. His sigh echoes through my mind. But what should I expect from someone who does everything they can to suppress their power.
You can… control my body?
The corner of his mouth curved upward. He wore a dark, long coat and dark pants. Tall. He was a stereotype for a detective.
Think I’m a stereotype do you? He laughed again. A very degrading laugh. That might be so, but you’re such a typical modern specimen that I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve been jumped in an alley several times and always look over your shoulder in a dark parking lot.
He was an attractive older man. I could only hope resemble him when I reached my fifties or however old he is. Thank goodness I was too freaked out to think this at the time.
Child’s play. I can do much more terrifying things.
We both turned and began walking up the street. We turned down an alley. I still didn’t have control of my legs.
Anything you can imagine that someone with access to the mind can do. Rewrite your memories. Convince your mind that certain parts of the body no longer function. Turn your nightmares into a reality, at least on a mental dreamscape. They call us mindreaders because there exists a misconception for where our powers truly lie. No one knows. Because if they did… well…
We stopped in the middle of the alley before it opened into another vending street. This one primarily for selling clothes.
I can imagine why people would want to kill you.
His half smile resurfaced. If I were someone else, I would probably want to kill me, too. He glanced around. Kyle, do you wish to remain pathetic the rest of your life? I know you use your powers to help people. And something you should consider, with more power comes more control. I never have to worry about the overwhelming voices around me. Let me teach you.
I… I don’t know.
Kid, this power isn’t going to show up all at once. It takes years of painful practice. You have to master your own mind to begin mastering others, a feat nearly impossible in itself… But I understand. The prospect of having such power is a bit terrifying.
“Stop resisting,” he said aloud, grabbing my head, his thumb on the center of my forehead. “Stop…” His timid voice was nearly identical to the one that’d been echoing around in my mind.
I slowly lowered my guard. It happened in an instant, like he took a computer chip out of his mind and stuck it in the hardwiring of my brain. I fell backwards. I blinked away the fuzzy vision to see him standing over me with an expression that blended well with other faces… unless looking closely at his eyes. The pale blue was piercing, though it was protected by a glossiness. Once past the glossy outercoat, I could see that his eyes were analyzing every fiber of my being.
I felt normal. A little dizzy, but at least he was out of my mind.
“What did you do?”
“Nothing much. Now I’ll be able to communicate with you from abroad.”
He told me to contact him if I ever wanted to learn. It’s been three days. Maybe if I could just get control of my own mind.
“Weren’t you ever afraid of all that power corrupting you?”
Niles never answered. Did that mean he was evil? But he had acknowledged me using my power to help Jason and the guild. We walked back out of the alley together.
I’ll give you one week to decide if you want to be my pupil.
And what after that?
You’ll come with me. And learn.
I’ll leave my –
And if I refuse?
I’ll erase your memory of our encounter.
How long will it take? You know, to –
That depends on your abilities. He looked at me, and I could tell by his face that it wasn’t going to be a weekend. Or even a month vacation… or even a year of training.
Was I really willing to give up everything I had just because I let some guy get to me about being weak? But if I could just control my own mind without feeling like my head was splitting in half! I wasn’t worried with Leilani anymore… and that concerned me. Because being more concerned with power than other things in life is a very worrying situation. But what if this was my only chance! But after he erases the memory, it won’t even matter. I’ll never know the true extent of a mindreader’s abilities.
I wish I could talk to Jason about this. I mean… I know I could, but… I’m actually afraid of what he might say.
“Welp, guess it’s time for me to go in here.” Jason closed his book and got up.
“Jason, can I talk to you about something?”
“I’m not going to tell you about –”
“No. Not that. Um…”
“What?” He crossed his arms.
“I met another mindreader the other day.”
Jason’s dark eyes widened.
(Photo: Frankie Cordoba)
This is a part 2 to an earlier story “Ash and Snow.”
I just felt like continuing it because the main character in my cousin’s book has similar powers to Niles.