Energy and Matter: Part 10

10.

Bonds Remote and Near

The girls’ first week in the bunker passed in variants of their first days. However unknowingly, their training progressed with similar rapidity. Before long, Elise was onto self-defense training. Her confidence grew, however shakily and more disheartened she felt from their hiding.

Meanwhile, Hailey’s training had surpassed even Valerie’s expectations. They’d progressed from mindfulness, empathic projection, and instinct honing, to Active Link Training. Activating the Link was already second nature. Often Hailey activated it just to reassure herself she could at whim. Her daily meditations, too, had eased her fears of the Link. She’d even begun speaking through it, as any Seer might. Valerie’s training sessions had gone from silent instruction and audible response, to full-on silence to anyone without an active Link.

More importantly, she’d begun remote viewing– taking in distant or foreign sites merely by focusing on their surroundings. As if a psuedo-picture-in-picture engaged, the Link-view of the training room dissolved into the hazy place she focused on. Presently, that was home. Specifically, the front of her house.

A police cruiser sat outside where she and Valerie stood, as if specters haunting the place. Cars crept past, passing through them as the air particles they were. The remote viewing merely connected them to it. The cushion of energy and matter was mental wifi. The Seers immersed themselves in it, and through its universal pervasiveness, projected them along it as sentient data along a net connection. That wifi was what Hailey’s author would’ve called Dark Matter, and what Valerie called psychokinetic, or PK, energy.

Whatever it was, an active Link might stretch out a mental hand along it. By reaching out and following it, she might go anywhere. Her mind was a vast, unending entity through it: Hailey closed her eyes, activated the Link, and reached out. Invisible fingers felt along tendrils of energy that connected all of reality. They permeated in and around the room. The city. The state. The planet. The universe. She pulled herself along, as though dangling off a precipice. Once reaching the top, a rightness in her gut apexed. Active images of the place she sought appeared.

Presently, Valerie’s golden form accompanied her outside her home. The police cruiser hardly affected the scene. Sorrow stung her chest. It wasn’t hers. She’d long been separating her emotions from others. Along with Link activation, such emotional control was second nature. It was her parents. A bitter-sweetness beneath marked her mother from her father’s sour anger.

“Is it a violation of the tenets to go in?” Hailey’s harmonious whispers asked.

Valerie’s head shook in silence. Hailey took a deep breath; the street flickered. She was inside and out, dissolving from one place to the next. Then, she was inside, the street now her living room. Her parents sat at the dining-room table, at the head of the adjoined room, their hands clutching one another.

One officer stood beside the other whom sat at the table. “Mrs. Ferguson, I’m sorry, there’s simply nothing more we can do.”

Hailey felt his genuine regret. Dad’s anger and grief smothered it. “What do you mean there’s nothing more? You haven’t done anything.”

“Sir, I understand you’re angry, but in cases like this, there’s usually something to go on. We’ve found nothing outside the initial scene.”

“My daughter just disappeared into thin air, is that it?” Her father blurted.

“Mr. Ferguson, I’m telling you there’s nothing more the BPD can do. We have APBs and Amber alerts out for both your daughter and Elise Brennan, but there’s nothing more our investigators can do. They’ve combed the available evidence, but aside from a few eyewitness reports, there’s nothing else to track your daughter’s movements.”

Hailey’s mother choked back tears, “She’s still alive.”

The officer winced, “I sincerely hope you’re right, Ma’am. Unfortunately, the BPD cannot devote any further resources to this case. I’m sorry.”

Hailey’s father rose from his chair. “Get the hell out of my house.”

The first cop eyed the second, then shook his head, “I’m sorry.”

They filed out. Her father’s eyes bored holes into their heads the whole way. He stepped to the front, bay window, and watched the cruiser pull away. Hailey’s mother suddenly appeared beside him, gripping his left arm with both of hers.

“She’s alive, Alex,” she said, tearfully. “I know it. She’s alive and she’s safe.”

Hailey choked out a sob. The dream-like Link shattered and fell away. Valerie found herself once more sitting before Hailey in the training room. She remained silent, allowing Hailey time to recompose herself. She did so only after a gentle reassurance.

“Grief is a difficult emotion, Hailey,” she said quietly. “It is the deepest-rooted. Rare in its true form. There are many levels between sadness and true grief, but you’ve yet to truly experience the latter… Until now. Seeing them thus, and not reacting, would be more dangerous than you realize. This is normal.

“Rather than let it control you, use it to hone your focus. Know, that one day, you will feel their love again. They, in turn, will feel yours. They will know their suffering was not in vain. When they understand what’s happened, their love will allow them to accept it. For now, know it is there. Know, that when you are ready, you will lighten their hearts with your return.”

Hailey wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. She gathered all her grief into her breath and exhaled it. She closed her eyes and reactivated the Link. Valerie followed suit.

Were you not so adept, you would not have been capable of that, Valerie said without prompt.

I know that should be comforting, but it’s not.

It is what it is. How you take it is your choice. Rejoice that you have one– and that there are those who love you.

Hailey cleared the grief from her throat. “I know. But I’d rather not revisit them yet.”

“Then we will focus elsewhere. Another place your memory is strong.

Hailey relaxed, mind once more stretching out. This time, it grasped along the mental paths for Bacatta High-School. Before long, they stood in the Commons, unchanged since their disappearance save a few new posters, including one of the girls’ disappearance.

“Good to know some things never change,” Hailey said sarcastically.

“What would you rather they do? Seek you where you should not be found? Perhaps rally behind your faces for mischief?”

Hailey shook her head. “No. You’re right. Life goes on within and without you, right?”

Valerie cracked a smile. “A wise sentiment indeed.” She waited to see if Hailey would speak, then continued. “Tell me of this place. Why return here?”

Hailey wasn’t sure. She searched the faces, found the same melange of emotions she’d come to expect; excitement. Lust. Happiness. Depression. Indifference. A half-dozen others that comprised the average teenager during an average day of average life.

“I don’t know. Maybe ‘cause I feel out of place, and this is sort of where everyone does.”

“An astute observation,” Valerie said.“Do you wish to return here some day?”

Hailey had to think about it. Valerie allowed it. Whether she wanted to return to school seemed to hinge on whether it, and her life before, could be separated. Everyone there was out of place, but that gave them a place to be. She would be even more so now. Before, she’d just been another angsty teen, however eclectic or eccentric. Now, she was literally a breed apart from normal humans. Though she’d always technically been, it mattered now.

“I’m not sure,” she finally admitted. “I’d like to return to my life some day, but…”

“But is this truly your life anymore,” Valerie finished. “It is a question we all must ask ourselves when reflecting on what is left behind. Trust in me when I say that there is not a Seer whom knows the truth and has not asked the same question.”

Hailey’s projection eyed Valerie’s. “Is there an answer?”

She frowned, “Not a satisfactory one, so far as I know.”

“I can do this. The remote viewing. Can we move on?”

Valerie nodded. The Commons dissolved back to the training room and Valerie before her. They sat in silence for a moment, allowing Hailey’s inexplicable desperation to abate. When it did, Valerie re-focused her attention.

“I will next instruct you in manipulating your environment.”

“Meaning?”

“You will learn to control objects via telekinesis.”

“Telekinesis? I thought that was just a myth.

Valerie rose and motioned for Hailey to follow. They stepped to the room’s center, as before, the Link no longer active. Valerie produced the small stress-ball they’d come to use for various trainings. She presented it to Hailey, palm flat beneath it, and closed her eyes. The ball rose, unaided.

“Woah.”

It zoomed away, followed a wide arc, soared through long loops. As fast as it left, it returned, settling gently into a hover over Valerie’s hand. She opened her eyes, ball still hovering.

“In time, you will have this control. For now, we will keep things simple.” The ball came to a rest in her hand. “Activate the Link as normal.” Hailey did, settling her mind where the Link was most stable. “Now, reach out through your empathic connection. Feel the ball as you would my presence. It is not living, but inanimate. It does not exude energy, but rather occupies a space in it– a mass of matter.”

Hailey understood her meaning; living things had an aura, a sort of halo of magnetic repulsion around them. The nearer you were, physically, the stronger the field. This field allowed a Seer to feel out others from objects, and distinguish them through the Link. Once discerned, it was there the empathic projections could be read from, directed to. Ordinary objects merely existed. There was no aura. No faint trace of energy. Only minute repulsion generated by subatomic bonds.

The easiest way Hailey had found to explain it was that living things were chaotic, warm. Their energy and matter constantly shifted, rearranged, altered by the infinitely smaller organisms and bonds forming them. Regular matter was different. Cold. It was a tight-knit amalgamation of specific atomic and subatomic bonds, that ostensibly, never changed.

Hailey felt for the cold object now resting in Valerie’s hand. Not being as adept as Valerie made her like a blind child groping for a goal. Thankfully it was only mentally. Otherwise would have been significantly more uncomfortable.

Valerie sensed that she’d located the ball. “Now, as you would pull yourself toward a remote destination, you must pull the object toward you. Meanwhile, maintain its vertical position by keeping the tether from slacking.”

The instructions were clear enough, but the ball slid forward and immediately hit the floor. Hailey lost control. It rolled away. Valerie levitated it back.

“Again.”

Hailey grasped the ball. It slid off Valerie’s hand, hung in place. Then, like Wily E. Coyote, it plummeted to floor. Her confidence went with it.

“Sense the fields of the ball and your PK meeting. Repelling. Steady them. It is subtle. Again.”

The ball hung a full-second longer than before. It fell again. Hailey’s frustration rippled through the Link.

“Relax,” Valerie snapped. “You cannot control an object without first controlling yourself. Do not regress. Again.”

Hailey wanted to snap back. It would only be answered with greater fury. Instead, she took a deep breath, let her emotions run their course and fizzle out. She re-focused, grasping the ball. A moment later, it hovered between them. Hailey’s concentration had become so fixed she almost didn’t hear Valerie’s praise.

“Very good. Now across the room and back.”

Hailey felt the ball levitate, as if a series of pistons thrust endlessly at one another to keep the ball in place or move it along. She let herself grasp the resting rhythm. Then, as if manipulating select pairs of pistons, began rocking the ball forward. In reality, the ball neither rocked nor rolled, and instead began to drifting forward. She pulled back, the imaginary pistons shifting. The ball drifted back. It sank back into a hover between them and Valerie smiled.

“We will hone this technique now. Do as I instruct without question and as quickly as possible.” Valerie began to issue commands. For a half-hour the ball zoomed back and forth, up and down, sketching a variety of two, then three-dimensional shapes. All the while, Hailey kept her focus attuned, refining her broad control so that finer control could come easier. By the time she’d finished training for the day, her confidence had all but returned.

She was headed to the bathroom when she ran straight into Elise. Her eyes had been focused on a tablet of paper. Elise had meant to silently escape the bathroom, freshly showered after training with Yaz. The two smacked into each other, almost simultaneously falling to their asses. They rose together, apologizing. Elise recognized it was Hailey, hesitated.

“Sorry,” Hailey said again.

“Yeah, me too,” Elise replied, less sincere than before.

She began to step past. Hailey stopped her, “Hey.” Elise eyed her. “Everything okay?”

Elise chewed her lip, “No, Hailey. It isn’t. I’m coping, but I can’t pretend like I’m not affected. If you want an honest answer, that’s it. If you want me to lie, don’t bother asking.”

Hailey winced. Elise took her chance and escaped. She headed back to her room. Hailey’s heart sank. On top of everything, she’d as much as lost her best friend simply by trying to save her. She deflated with a sigh and pushed through the bathroom door, her heart sinking into her stomach.

Energy and Matter: Part 7

7.

These Truths We Hold to Be Self-Evident

Elise stared at the closed door to Hailey’s room, more lost than spacey. She’d managed a few hits from a joint by blowing the smoke through a tube of fabric-softener sheets. It was the usual way of hiding smoke, and she always kept an ample supply of softener sheets in her pack. Though she doubted anyone would care– she’d seen ashtrays here and there with snuffed butts– avoiding confrontation was at the top of her priorities. At least for the moment.

So, she focused elsewhere; Hailey’d only been gone a few minutes, but it felt longer. She was anxious and paranoid before the high. Now she sensed the lack of reasoning for it. The bunker was safer than anywhere she knew of, outside perhaps Geosynchronus-orbit above the Bermuda Triangle. Unfortunately, that didn’t change how she felt.

Hailey had a place with the Seers. Elise didn’t. In school, Elise and Hailey were their own clique. They weren’t smart enough to be nerds. Not athletic enough for the jocks. They weren’t musicians or quite inebriated enough to be true burn-outs. Hailey had drifted, using her curiosity and aloofness as a form of extroversion. Elise on the other hand, only ever had Hailey, and groups she felt out of place in. To say nothing of how she’d feel about them now. She was utterly alone.

Her eyes fell to her pack with a longing sigh. So much had changed so fast. Too much. She rose for her pack and slipped outside for the room next door– her room. The door opened on an identical room, and to another heaving sigh. She set her pack at the foot of the bed, began sifting through it. Everything inside was school related. Only a few, minor things like a wallet represented the life she’d left behind. At least the open door behind her partially combated the loneliness.

In a flash, a hand laid on her shoulder. Her heart leapt ten stories. She whirled ’round, chest heaving, to see Yaz, recoiling.

“Jesus Christ!” She swallowed hard. “You scared the hell out of me.”
Yaz apologized. “Occupational hazard, I’m afraid.”

Elise took a few, quick breaths, then shoved her pack onto the floor. She sat at the foot of the bed still trying to shake off the last of her shock. Yaz gave a look, as if asking if she were welcome. Elise shrugged, motioned to shut the door. Yaz acquiesced, pulled the desk chair over, and sat nearby.

She watched Elise mindlessly sift her belongings. “She’ll be gone a while. You need anything?” Elise shook her head. “Well, don’t hesitate to ask. Everyone knows how you feel. And empathizes. You don’t want to be here, we know, but we’ll do our best to make it bearable. We all know what it’s like to be displaced. At the very least, I’m here, if you need me.”

Elise was silent. Her eyes fell to the bed beneath her pack. “I can’t help feeling like the odd one out. Everyone else here has something to do. Everyone has a place.”

“It’s the same for everyone, at first. Me too.”

“How’d you deal?”

She chewed her bottom lip with an uncharacteristic hesitation. It was out of place, especially to Elise. Something of the young girl beneath all the gore-covered armor shone through. Since they’d met, Yaz had been sure-footed. Confident. In charge. Elise saw now how deep that facade was required to go to keep her from losing it altogether.

“I made my own place. Eventually.”

“How?”

“Learning to fight,” she said simply. “Not just to defend myself, but to fight. As a warrior. Then, I learned to think, like a General. Even when I was good, I knew I could be better. So I learned to be. I studied battle tactics. Stratagem. Everything down to schematics for known security systems. I read history books, practiced, simulated, and examined famous war-battles in PC games. When the time came for a major move– the others began looking to me for advice. Once they took me seriously, they saw my aptitude and put me in charge of security. Since then, I’ve worked to earn that trust by keeping everyone safe and bringing in Seers.”

“It must’ve been hard,” Elise said, wondering how she might react in Yaz’s place.

“It wasn’t easy. I can say that. But difficult is a matter of perception. Around here, there are more difficult things then deciding who’s walking where at what time of day.”

Elise stared off, hopeless. “Guess Hailey’ll know those too, soon.”

Yaz eyed her as she broke her stare. Their eyes met, and Yaz did her best to impart her courage. “You need something stronger than survival. You need confidence. You’re not the silent bench-warmer type. Not in matters you’re adept at. Here, the only thing you know is you’re a liability.” Elise agreed. “What you need’s something to ensure you aren’t. I can provide that, if you choose.”

Elise’s brow furrowed, “You mean training me?”

“As I have been, yes. No-one here is better qualified. Plus, we need all the security we can get.”

Elise visibly thought about it. Yasmine allowed it, watching her mind work in her downcast eyes. There was a certain sense to the idea. If the others looked to Yaz for guidance and security, there was no reason she shouldn’t. As skilled as she was, learning from her was as good as learning from any master infinitely her senior. Above all else though, she agreed with Yasmine’s assessment; she was a liability and felt like it.

When it came to being out of her element, confidence was her last trait. Elsewhere, an argument might be made for, but until mathematics, drugs, or music were relevant, she’d remain a burden. The only way she saw to ease her mind seemed to be training, as Hailey was.

The crucial difference was Elise’s complete lack of ingrained talent. She met Yaz’s eyes again, as if to ask about it. The silent answer was already poised on her brow and stilled lips; what she lacked could be made up for in practice. If Yaz was the expert she appeared to be, training Elise would be as natural as training herself– ingrained talents or no. In any event, it would give her focus, allow her to keep at-bay the fears and concerns cropping up.

She nodded with a blink and met Yaz’s eyes, “Alright. Teach me to fight.”

Yaz rose to full-height, her commanding presence taking over. “Then there’s no reason to waste time. We’ll begin now.”

Elise followed her from the room toward the Seers’ training room. They entered another, identical room beside it. The concrete walls made it impossible to hear anything between the two, but somehow, Elise sensed Hailey’s presence in the other training room. Yaz focused her attention on weight-training equipment. Gym-mats lined the floors of all but a small, outer perimeter where training dummies lined one side, lockers another, and chairs a third. The room was like something from an old martial arts film, complete with punching-bags and various training implements.

They stopped at a weight bench. Yaz directed Elise to sit on its edge. “We’ll gauge your abilities to better facilitate training. I’ll show you proper form and technique along the way, but take it easy. If you need a break, say so. Now, lie back and show me what you can do.”

Next door, Hailey sat cross-legged on a mat in the room’s center. A similar evaluation was progressing despite the varied context. Hailey’s eyes were closed. The room outlined in the tell-tale white of the active-Link. Valerie sat a short distance away; an ethereal figure of golden light whose essence undulated and swirled, obscuring its features. Her voice rushed in with a series of harmonies above and below it. The whispers were much like the thoughts of the students’ had been, save the words were intended only for her.

“You have great power, Hailey,” Valerie relayed inside her mind. “In time you may harness that power. But you must first recognize the care and mindfulness required to wield it. To ensure we do not violate another’s essence, we have established and agreed to three tenets to be upheld.

“Tenets?” Hailey asked aloud, uncertain of how to speak via the Link.

Our “Code of Honor,” if you please. The Three Tenets are these: Firstly, you must never violate another’s mind nor privacy. Either by reading them, remote viewing them, communicating with them without their continued or prior permission, or by using the Link to harm them via physiological manipulation.”

“What’s physiological manipulation? And why can’t I do it?”

Valerie inflected an indomitable gravity to the air. Her words turned discordant, grating Hailey’s mind and commanding they be taken seriously. “In this context, it means to use one’s power to harm another’s mind. Specifically, via shutting down autonomic functions such as the heart-beat or breathing. Though the first tenet may be flexible, it should only be when all other avenues are exhausted and death otherwise imminent.

“So I can’t use it to defend myself?” She asked, wondering what the point of training was, then.

“You misunderstand. Once you have learned to control your power, you will know of many more ways of handling aggressors. You will also find then, that it is not difficult to overcome most situations without such drastic action.”

“Okay. So. Don’t kill anyone with heart-attacks or force-chokes,” she half-joked. Valerie’s ethereal head tilted with disapproval. Hailey winced.

Valerie pushed forward, “As well, it is unfair for such power to be used to willfully violate another’s privacy.” Hailey wondered at the depravity necessary to, but Valerie continued. “The Second Tenet is to never reveal your abilities to those not circumstantially bound to, or with prior awareness of, Seers as a whole. We must never speak of our existence without good reason. Even here. Knowledge of Seers should be guarded, for the sake of others, as well as ourselves.

Hailey knew first-hand what she meant– and how bad it felt to drag someone into the fight unintentionally. She couldn’t imagine doing it voluntarily. Her heart sank. She exhaled a sigh, mind on Elise in the next room. Her energy was barely visible through the dense light-wall, still beside Yaz’s somewhere nearby.

Valerie sensed the bend her thoughts had taken. “And thus you see the peril faced by those whom know.” Hailey nodded. “The final tenet can be seen as an extension of the preceding two; never abuse your abilities as a Seer for personal or material gain. It is amoral to cheat others via the Link. We carry great power, Hailey. That power requires vigilance. Our darker urges are vastly more dangerous because of it, but so too is our capacity for goodness. These rules are held to not because we are superior to others, but because they humble us, rely on us, to otherwise protect them from ourselves. In time, you too will better understand why these feelings drive and guide us.”

“I’ll do my best to uphold them,” Hailey promised, thoughts lingering on Elise.

“Then we shall begin with mindfulness.

For the next few hours, Hailey and Valerie sat before one another amid the active-Link’s white-light. It reminded her of the old movies where a teacher imparts their wisdom to a student through guided meditation. Much of it was meditation, Valerie assured her. Through it mindfulness could be found: She would learn to control her thoughts and feelings. Through that, her actions and reactions. It would be slow-going at first. Eventually, she’d hold enough sway that mindfulness would become second nature, autonomous.

This, Valerie explained, was crucial to harnessing the Link. Without mindfulness, simple matters such as the Link’s continuous activation, were unattainable. Lack of it was also the sole reason Hailey remained mute through it. Maintaining the Link, and using it to speak, required a level of concentration yet beyond her. Until activating and maintaining the Link was as automatic as breathing, anything beyond remained impossible.

Thus, their time was spent mostly in theory and instruction. Hailey said little more than she had to, the afternoon an otherwise endless call and response of instruction and practice; Valerie, the former; Hailey, the latter. When she was finally released for the night, she made her way to the bathrooms down the hall. The bunkers’ layout had allowed for only one, excessively large bathroom to be retrofitted into two, smaller ones. Thick, steel walls divided them. Their interiors were further sectioned by toilet and shower stalls, and a row sinks.

She entered to find a shower already running, Elise’s clothing piled inside a sink nearby. Hailey called over the running water, “Elise?”

“Yeah?”

“How are you?” She asked, stripping down and feeling as if back in gym-class’, dread included.

“Alright… I guess.”

Hailey stepped into a shower, fiddled with the knobs, and immersed herself in the warm wetness. Her legs turned to rubber, almost buckled from exhaustion. Her stomach instantly growled. She kept her mind off it, “Were you and Yaz training?”

“Yeah. Starting to, anyhow,” she replied, sounding more confident than before.

Some of the weight rose from Hailey’s chest. Hailey soaped herself with a bar from a holder in the wall. “Are you sure that’s what you want?”

“What d’you mean?”

“You were against being here earlier. What made you change your mind?”

Elise was quiet. She let the water drum against her, head down and eyes closed in search of an answer. It was true she didn’t want to feel like dead-weight, but that didn’t feel enough of an explanation for herself. All the same, she settled on it for Hailey.

Hailey was dismissive, “You’re not dead-weight, Elise. I’d be lost without you here.”

Elise went quiet again, longer this time. Her shower shut off and she stepped out to dry herself. Hailey rinsed herself a last time, twisted the shower off, and stepped out nude and dripping. She wrapped herself in a towel while Elise dressed, slowly.

“You’re not going to say anything. Are you?”

Elise rolled a shirt down her torso. “There’s nothing to say, Hailey. Even if you don’t feel it. Even if I can’t explain it. I do feel alone. Maybe that’ll change with time, but I just wanna’ go home. I know I can’t yet, and I understand why. But it doesn’t make it easier– especially with no purpose.”

Hailey eyed her skeptically, “What makes you think it’s any different for me?”

Elise breathed deep to speak, hesitated, then exhaled. “It just is. Just like how you know the vision wasn’t a dream. I know I don’t belong here.”

Neither of us do,” Hailey countered, unconvinced.

Elise finished dressing. “You’re my friend, but you do have a place here, whether or not you accept it. I don’t hold it against you, I’m just telling you how it is.” Hailey looked about to argue. “And trying to say otherwise is discounting my feelings.”

Hailey’s face sank. Elise grabbed her old clothing and towel, and left. The door shut with an echo it resounded through the empty room with metallic reverb. Hailey’s heart was stung by it. For better or worse, Elise was right. But if Hailey’s instincts were half as good as Valerie insisted, it was for worse.

Already, she could feel a chasm separating them. It no doubt widened with each event and word that put them further in and out of their respective places.

Hailey’s head fell, her eyes mournful. Her shoulders slumped. She started forward, knowing the path ahead would be grievous, rough.

Missed Part 6? Read it here!

Energy and Matter: Part 6

6.

What Do You Want From Me?

Hailey and Elise sat at the kitchen bar with Yaz, devouring plates of expertly crafted pierogi. Despite the meager lifestyle required, the resident’s palettes weren’t left wanting. Ken Anderson, one of Yaz’s security, was an bonafide chef. Before getting roped into things, (how the girls weren’t certain) he’d been a chef in Chicago at a five-star restaurant. Whatever had led him there, life in the bunker was better for it. He took his leave after cooking and strolled away with a smile.

The girls sank into silence to eat. Yaz was up a few minutes later, promising to return as soon as possible. The silence thickened. It broke long enough for the pair to finish their meal and make their way back to Hailey’s room. Elise sat before Hailey on the bed, quiet for a long while. When she finally worked up the courage to speak, the weight in her heart visibly weighted her breaths.

“What am I doing here, Hailey?”

She shrugged, “I figured being alone wasn’t–”

“No, why’m I here. In this place.

“Same as me. Trying to stay safe.”

“Safe from what, Hailey?” She asked, high-voiced with despair. “What’s really going on here? I mean, Seers? Kids with weapons? Security teams? This is heavy shit. How can we know we’re safe among these people, let alone with them?”

“What’s our alternative?” Hailey asked seriously. Elise frowned. “You heard Yaz. We’re being hunted. You saw it yourself, those Hunters are hell-bent on getting to us. Are you forgetting this morning? Or my vision? We can’t–”

Elise was irate. “Hailey; step. back. Examine this.” Hailey stared, failing to see her point. Elise whispered, “We don’t know these people. Now they’re talking about training us like soldiers or something– and against our will.” Her voice strained itself in emphasis, “And you have no idea if that vision was real or just a dream!

Hailey sighed, blowing frustration like a steam pipe’s release-valve. Depression crept into its place. Valerie’s remarks on inner-knowing returned: The dream-vision was different than dreams alone. It felt different. Even now, the feeling of knowing it wasn’t just a dream lingered in her gut, her heart, her mind. It was confirmed first by feeling rather than logic, as Valerie had said to expect.

But Elise couldn’t understand that. She hadn’t felt Hailey’s terror. She didn’t ache with distant, cracked bones, or whiplash, or the clutching of grotesque, foreign hands. Hailey had, did. Dreams were different. They came with mono-sound. A distance to signify a separation from reality. This vision was surround sound, V-R, full-sensory stimulation.

“It was real, Elise,” she said finally. “Whatever you believe it, I know it. It was real.”

Elise lowered her face into her hands. There was no denying the girls were at odds on the subject– not to mention everything else going on. As much as Hailey wanted to go home, to let Elise go home, she knew they couldn’t. Her gut confirmed it even more-so now than before. Whether or not Hailey would stay after training remained undecided, but her same inner-knowing was beginning to admit Valerie might prove right, in the end.

“We have to find some way to let our parents know,” Hailey said after a few, silent minutes. “We need to ask Yaz when she gets back.”

“And if they say no?”

Hailey grimaced. She wasn’t sure. The more she considered it, the less likely they’d be allowed to communicate with the outside. The bunker was obviously secret, well-guarded. And if what they’d said about the Hunters was true, for good reason. It wasn’t a comforting thought; it only served to further highlight their distance from normality.

Hailey laid back on the bed, eyes shut and mind swirling:

Seers. Hunters. Kids with swords and guns. Training. Hiding. That– this, was her world now. It seemed ludicrous, but reality often was. Fiction writers so aspired to pinpoint reality because only reality could be quite so outlandish and yet remain believable. It followed no plots. It held no logic but its own. And Unlike books or movies, it had no clear beginning or middle. Despite a guaranteed end, one could never know how or when it might manifest. Thus, reality was its own form of ludicriousness. Anyone that wished or claimed to understand or believe it wholly was admitting to a form of voluntary insanity.

It wasn’t until she heard Elise involuntarily sniffle that Haiey’s eyes opened again. She inched upright, sat against the wall, and eyed Elise. Slick wetness ran from beneath her glasses. It matted blue hair to one of her cheeks, and tainted the air with a putrescent grief.

Hailey’s heistated. “A-Are you okay?”

Elise gave a tearful shake of her head. Hailey’s heart ruptured. Of all people, Elise shouldn’t be here. This had stemmed from Hailey’s issues. Elise was just swept up in it. The thought of never seeing her family again, of them worrying for her, was overwhelming. Contrary to their usually reversed positions, Hailey was taking everything in stride. She’d been on the cusp of something far beyond her when everything began, making the transition easier. But Elise was so far from her natural element Hailey doubted she could ever empathize properly.

“C’mere,” she said gently, beckoning her over with open arms.

Elise didn’t move. Hailey pulled her over by an arm and held her. Elise trembled with an internal quake. Something gave at its height, and she broke into quiet sobs. Hailey merely sat, allowing Elise’s grief to flow freely, stroking her hair with a sibling-comfort.

It was a long while before Elise’s grief had exhausted itself. By then, she lie against Hailey’s chest listening to her heart beat. A fugue state filled with a warmth that flowed into her from Hailey. It was too intense for ambient body heat. Too internal. It was as if she were intentionally projecting it to soothe her.

A passage on Seers played through Elise’s mind: Inherent sensitivity and control of emotions means Seers are capable of Empathic Projection: their manipulation of the Link may be augmented so that their emotions are projected to better control their enviornment…

The passage went on, positing pseudo-technical explanations regarding Seers, their energy, and its effects, but Elise’s mind had wandered by then. Now, Hailey seemed to be employing such an ability. As unconscious as it may have been for Hailey, there was no denying what Elise felt.

For Elise, the feelings were an unexpected comfort. Their existence itself was disconcerting, but their presence imparted a warmth and clarity she desperately needed. It was as if her own, usual aloofness were turned back to her, affirming that “everything would be alright.” She couldn’t be sure of that, but Hailey’s feelings assured her of it, calming her. In spite of an undeniable fear they manifested, Hailey’s feelings seemed to say; regardless of the future, Elise wasn’t alone.

It was enough to eventually compel her upright. She pulled herself into a sitting position, smearing eye liner with a hand as she wiped at the last of her tears. “Sorry.”

Hailey’s voice held a sort of soft finality, “Don’t be.”

Elise suppressed what was left of her grief with a sigh. “I know you don’t want to be here either. I just feel like the odd one out.”

Hailey’s brows pinched in perplexity. “How?”

“If you’re a Seer, you’re one of them.” Her head tilted at the door. “I’m not. I’m just… stuck here, more a drain than a help.”

“That’s not true. Without you, I’m alone too.”

Elise was about to speak, but a knock sounded. Hailey beckoned. Yaz appeared, lugging two backpacks, sword over her back and gun at her hip. She set the bags beside the desk, “I managed to get your stuff from your car.” She eyed Elise specifically, “All of it.”

The two girls sat up. Elise suddenly recalled the weed in her glove-box. Hailey eyed Yaz, her mind elsewhere. “Why wasn’t it easy?”

Yaz stretched, “Cops. They roped off the scene. I managed to get in and out undetected, but it was close. Point is, they know something happened. You’ll be reported missing soon, if you aren’t yet.”

“Did they… did they find the bodies?” Hailey asked, stomach churning. Yaz nodded. “Jesus. That won’t come back on us, will it?”

“Maybe,” Yaz admitted. “But we’ve got bigger problems. Once your parents find out you’re missing, it won’t be long before the Hunters move– either against them or us.”

“Them!?” Elise’s eyes bulged. “Why would they do that?”

“I’d do the same. To lure you out.” She eyed Hailey directly, “Your training needs to begin A-SAP.”

“And me?” Elise asked helplessly.

“We’ll get there.” She gestured Hailey to the door, “C’mon. Valerie wants to meet with you.”

“Uhm, okay.” She glanced at Elise, unwilling to leave her alone. “What about–”

“I’ll be fine,” Elise interrupted. “Go. Learn. I’ll see you later.”

Hailey hesitated, but Yaz left the room. Elise shoved her toward the edge of the bed. A moment later Hailey disappeared out the door with a pained breath. She hurried after Yaz, entered the training room to find Valerie behind a desk at the far wall and facing an interior section of room. Her attention was fixed on a notebook beneath her that she scrawled into with purpose.

“Leave us, Yasmine,” she said without looking.

Yaz half-bowed, left. Hailey wandered toward Valerie, stopped a few feet from the front of the desk. She stood in place for a few minutes, waiting patiently. Soon, the hypnotic scratching of Valerie’s pen echoed almost imperceptibly. It rang through the silence and awkward tension between them. She was just beginning to wonder if Valerie would acknowledge her when she slid back in her chair and stood. It gave Hailey a start.

Valerie stepped around the desk, hand dragging along it, and stopped before Hailey. She half-sat atop it, arms bracing her at her sides. She crossed them and began sizing Hailey up. There was more display than purpose behind the movements. Valerie could’ve examined her just as easily from the chair.

“There,” Valerie thought. “Your instincts are good. You wonder why I might rise in such a way. Obviously my eyes are no more impeded from one side of the desk than the other. So why the displacement then?”

Hailey expected the question to be rhetorical. Valerie’s eyes awaited an answer. She cleared her throat, “Uhm, I don’t know. To make a statement… or something?”

“Close enough,” she said, in her headmistress-way. “The actual answer is to show rather than tell. I, and others like us, have trained ourselves to sense others’ emotions. By relying on our instincts and intuition first, we are guided toward otherwise obscured truths through doors pure logic might otherwise close. It is in this way that we know our world and those whom inhabit.”

“But why? Isn’t that dangerous? To rely on gut-feelings rather than logic?”

“Truth does not require logic, only existence. The unconscious mind governs all human action. Thus, the human world is built and driven by it. It is also the foremost human connection to the Link. Through it, we may follow feelings and instincts to learn the truths they surround.”

“The Link” rang in her ears. It was the same phrase found time and again during her research; the connection that facilitated Seers’ powers. It meant nothing to her otherwise. It was fiction until now. Hearing someone so obviously knowledgeable and confident, refer to it so factually, made her discount any doubts of its existence.

“So it’s real? The Link?”

“Indeed. It is the thing in which all Seers must be trained. The source of our power.”

Hailey winced, “Can it be turned off, or removed?”

Valerie’s face darkened. Her voice turned grave. The room went cold. It seemed to Hailey she could almost see her breath.

“There is only one way we know of, outside death; the fracturing of a Seer’s mind.” Hailey listened, unchanged, but lost at her meaning. Valerie’s orbits caught only shadow. “When overwhelmed by powerful forces, a mind may fracture, splitting apart. A thing once whole becomes shattered. Fragmented. Memories break. Reality and its connections fade. The body only remains alive through sheer autonomy. Will no longer exists. Nor do dreams. Emotions. Speech is all but impossible. When it comes, it is incomprehensible, never lasting more than a few disconnected words or ideas.

“Among these things, when it is a Seer’s mind, their energy becomes fragmented. Their power disintegrates. They are all but dead, despite physiological fitness. Even in the best cases, only glimpses of the person they were shine through. A twinkle in the eye. A remnant of twitching facial muscle. Insubstantial given what is lost.”

“So the Link can’t be severed then,” Hailey surmised, unsure of how to feel about the alternative.

Valerie lightened, the headmistress returned to her place amid the well-lit room. “There is no known reversal of the condition, nor is there any other method to it. The Link is as much you as the undeniable connection to a greater thing. Once activated, a Seer cannot become deactivated. As for losing the Link, death is the preferable alternative.”

Hailey agreed with wide eyes, realizing she’d been considering whether or not brain-death was the better alternative to her current situation. Valerie recognized as much, but rather than outright address it, she allowed Hailey’s mind to work its way there alone. She understood the lesson, suddenly eager to have anything else occupying her mind.

“So, you’re going to train me?” Valerie gave a slight nod. “How?”

She straightened upright, “We will begin with mindfulness training. You will be taught to quell your emotions. To sense your environment. And when to trust your instincts alone. Then, you will be instructed on more adept-level mental techniques; the inner-sight, remote viewing, and inner-communication. If you continue to show proficiency in it, you may also receive training to control your precognition. The sight is powerful, and each Seer has some connection to it, but not all have control, nor can they. We will know by then the extent of yours.”

Hailey nodded, mentally preparing for what was to come. Valerie straightened from the desk and bridged the gap between them with a single step. She re-examined Hailey, this time more analytically, possessing a singular purpose.

“Finally, if you show the proper grasp, both Yasmine and Rachel will train you in self-defense. The choice to pursue such lessons outside my requirements is yours. I recommend it. But some of us are not fighters, and it is best not to attempt to be, lest we endanger others. When your training is complete, I will inform you, but you will know regardless. Then you may choose to leave.”

Hailey’s eyes gleamed at the thought, but Valerie’s were too stern for it to gain much purchase. There was no denying there was a road ahead. Undoubtedly, it would be long, but most certainly it would be difficult. More than anything, it needed to traversed with the utmost caution.

Hailey breathed deep and slow, in anticipation of the long path forward. “Okay. Where do we start?”

Missed part 5? Read it here!

Energy and Matter: Part 3

3.

Go Google Yourself

Hailey and Elise found a place beneath a massive oak tree to sit and smoke. By all accounts, it was the perfect day for it; not too hot or cold, lively wildlife, and just enough of a breeze to keep the air from stagnating without blowing the weed away. The pair soaked up the spring afternoon in peaceful silence. Elise’s whispers were quieted by Hailey’s continual concentration on not hearing them. Hopefully, it would become second nature. For now, easing the throbbing headache was enough.

Despite the serenity, obvious tension clung to the air between them. Hailey’s newfound ability had met its match in what Elise had revealed. Given the emotions brewing beneath both subjects, there a conversation or two was to be had. For the moment, they were occupied by the bag in Elise’s lap. She gave the joint a final lick and her tongue ring glinted at Hailey’s eye.

The signs of her changing sexuality seemed more obvious now, but nothing was so glaring out of context. The conversations they hoped to avoid were entwined now, but Hailey kept quiet to enjoy the clean air and pure bud.

She blocked out the whispers by focusing on the wind: whoever had these abilities naturally must hide them expertly– or was incurably insane. She wasn’t sure which direction she was headed yet. Elise passed the joint. She took a deep hit, exhaled a plume of smoke. Her head fogged over to obscure the whispers. The vise lifted from her head, allowing her to relax against the tree-trunk.

“Damn, that’s good weed. Where’d you get it?”

Elise chuckled, “That’s like asking where the bodies are hidden. You know you aren’t getting an answer.”

Hailey managed a snort, “There’s bodies now?”

Elise winked over a wavy smile. Hailey managed a laugh. Elise took another hit. The joint made its rhythmic passage between them without need of acknowledgment, but the tension was nearer than they liked. Elise took the joint back and inhaled a massive drag.

She spoke from a shallow throat, “Guess we should talk ‘bout the elephants, huh?”

Hailey blew a long, defeated cloud of smoke. “I guess.”

Elise passed the joint, “We did ditch class for it.”

Hailey worked up her courage, “You wanna’ go first?”

“Oh no.” She gave a firm shake of her head. “You brought us out here, you spill it. Besides, it’s not like there’s much to say about… my thing, anyway.”

Hailey wasn’t sure she agreed, but went ahead. “I told you, I was… meditating about this book, and now I can hear people’s thoughts. It’s weird. And scary. And I want it to stop.”

“Not to mention pretty intrusive. No offense.”

Hailey deflated, “I know. Who would want this? And why me? And what about that vision thing? Is this how my life’s going to be now? Hearing people’s deepest secrets and living stuff twice while passing out? What the hell kind of life’s that?”

Elise shrugged, “Sort’a sounds like a gift to me.”

“A gift!?” Hailey blurted. “You’re out of your mind.”

“Think about it. It’s like a super power. You get the cool stuff, like hearing what your crush thinks, and the not so cool stuff– like, well, having to see bad things before they happen.” Hailey’s mouth squirmed with dread. “Maybe though, being able to see it happen means you can keep it from happening, like a superhero.”

Hailey’s mouth continued to make funny shapes, “Elise, you’re nuts. This can only be a bad thing. Why would you want to hear what people think?”

She cocked an eyebrow up, “It’d be a lot easier to date… But yeah, I get it.”

Hailey whined, head in her hands, “This is not happening. It’s a dream. A hallucination. Too many mushrooms– are there such things as ‘shroom flashbacks?”

Elise shrugged, “Never heard of ‘em.” She took the last hit off the joint then snuffed it in the grass, “But if you wanna’ know about something, check the ‘net. You know, google it.”

“Google what? How to tell if you’re psychic?” She snipped derisively.

“Why not?”

Hailey groaned, “This is so not good I can’t find a word for it.”

“Bad?”

“It’s beyond that.”

Elise stared off into space, “Beyond bad. Hmm…”

Hailey let her words ring for a moment, “I’ll look into it, but… can I ask you something?”

“Hmm?” She said with a glassy-eyed look.

“What made you realize–”

“That I’m Gay?” Elise said with a raised brow.

“Yeah, sure… gay.”

Elise considered it, “Probably rubbing off to girls instead of guys.”

Hailey’s face crumpled, “T-M-I.”

“You asked.”

Hailey rolled her eyes. “You haven’t told anyone else, huh?”

“Technically I didn’t tell you. But no.”

“Is it hard? Living with that secret, I mean?”

Elise pawed at her hair, flattened it from the breeze, “Not really. It’s not like anyone’s asking. My parents like that I’m not dating and the rest of my family wouldn’t care anyhow.”

“What about your other friends?”

“You mean the invisible ones here now?” She asked with a smart-assed, sweeping hand.

“C’mon, it’s not like I’m you’re only friend,” Hailey argued. “What about Trent and those guys? Or Mal and her group?”

“They’re more acquaintances than friends. Trent and his friends mostly want to bang me. And Mal and the others just mooch my weed. You’re the only one I’d consider a real friend.”

The admission stung her heart a little. “Quality over quantity,” Hailey reassured her.

Elise’s mouth puffed out a little. The rest of her face rose and fell, “That’s what I keep saying.” An awkward silence descended. Hailey broke it to move on, “So, um, any crushes then?”

Is this your way of trying to get me to say I like you?

“Don’t think that,” Hailey corrected. “I’d just ask.”

“Sorry, but no. I’m still trying to figure out what my, uhm– type?– is, I guess. Not you.”

Hailey laughed, “No wonder we can only stand each other. We’re like a couple of whiney old ladies; the haggish psychic and the smart-ass lesbian.”

Elise chuckled, pushed herself up “C’mon, let’s head to your house and google psychic stuff.”

“Okay,” Hailey said, following her up. “And maybe some lesbian porn, if there’s time.”

She shoved Hailey playfully, “Jerk.”

Hailey shoved back, “Lez-bo.” Hailey gave her a sideways hug as they walked. “This person loves you at least.”

“Enough for me,” Elise said, less sarcastically than usual.

They headed back to Elise’s car and made for Hailey’s house. On arrival, they piled their stoned arms full of pantry-booty, then headed to Hailey’s room to sit side-by-side at her desk, surfing the net for anything even remotely related to psychics. Eventually, they ended up on her bed propped in various positions with the high wearing thin. Elise lie near the bed’s edge, feet in the air on a wall, and reading from an e-tablet. At the head of the bed, Hailey sat cross-legged to sift search results for anything outside conclusive proof of human insanity.

“Check this out,” Elise said, righting herself to face Hailey. “Separation between Seer and norm is genetic, but requires the activation of the Seer’s latent abilities. Most usually, through accessing The Link, an otherwise cryptic name for the state of mind connecting Seers to their sight-based power and the energy that they rely on. Sound familiar?”

“The Link? What the hell kind of name is that? How reputable’s this site?”

Elise shrugged, “How reputable are any of ‘em?” Hailey saw her point. “Anyway, I don’t think there’s a “Psychic Handbook.”

“Probably not,” Hailey despaired.

A knock sounded on her door and she was suddenly glad her psychic abilities were suppressed. The last thing she wanted was knowing her mother’s twisted thoughts. Her head poked through the door, her face an aged version of Hailey’s. She stuck it into the room with her top-half, held on the door’s edge as if about to be swept away on a rapid.

“Hi, Elise.”

“Hi, Mrs. Ferguson,” Elise said with a wave.

“Hailey, your father and I are going out to dinner. There’s money on the kitchen table. Order whatever you want, but I want the change, okay?” Hailey nodded. “Have a good time and be good.”

“You too,” Hailey said. “Have fun I mean.”

Mom let the rapid pull her from the door as it shut. Elise chided her, “Your mom’s kinda’ hot.” Hailey faked gagging. Elise laughed, half covering her face, “I didn’t mean it. I just wanted to see your reaction.” Hailey gagged again. “C’mon, free food’ll help.”

They grabbed their respective tech to head for the kitchen. Before long they’d settled on a pizza from a place down the road. Delivery meant more time to waste on the net– and sneaking to Elise’s car for another joint. They returned lighter than before and in time for the pizza to arrive. For a while, Hailey forgot the world, soaking instead in the ambrosial mix of food and grass so often the cherry atop a good night.

Tonight it felt less good. Something about her fainting spell nagged at her. Contrary to expectations too, even the less tinfoil-hat websites hadn’t mentioned anything about it. Whatever had happened to her, however similar it was– if the web were truthful– there was a definite difference in her. Nowhere had she read anything about fainting or migraines. The most common side-effects ranged from minor paranoia to full-blown psychosis. She didn’t need either of those. Part of her was grateful for headaches and faints instead, but the rest wondered what made her different from other Seers– if indeed she were one.

The more she thought, the more the word seeped into the cracks of her mind. “Seer” had been defined as one whose mental abilities allow access to future, or present, remote events. Her vision at school easily fit the former definition, but what about hearing voices? Was “Seer” separate to her, like she was separate from a “norm?”

Her mind fell to The Link. Supposedly Seers used it to access their powers. If her suppositions and experiences aligned, it was the thing linking them to the “dark energy” her book’s author had presented as the force through which such abilities manipulated reality. If that was true, there was no telling what a Seer was capable of if properly trained.

Dark energy and dark matter were said to be the counter-balances to the universe. In ways, as much had already been proven via Relativity and the blunder of the cosmological constant. In others, the sole question remained of whether or not the “dark” affected them. In no way were there questions of if these things existed. Unfortunately, if that book’s author proved right, Hailey had just been given a sizable chunk of power over the universe– or at least, access to said power.

She didn’t like the idea, liked where things were heading even less. Being a psychic wasn’t high on her list of priorities. Had it been on the list at all, it would’ve been nearer the bottom, far below things like; “don’t flunk out of school,” and “get a job, or get a car.” It made her squirm to think of it being on the list, but it wasn’t the thing bothering her most about being a “Seer.” That was something else. Something beneath the factual tones of net-articles, and even the incredulity Elise used; fear.

Fear dominated all of the information she’d taken in. Seers were simultaneously respected, awed, and terribly feared. She could only think of Tolkien and his “affairs of wizards” when she considered it. Even after her high wore off, and Elise left for the night, Hailey couldn’t help but wonder at it:

What would her life would be like now? Anyone that learned her secret, and accepted it as truth, would be leery of her. She doubted Elise would ever outwardly show it, but she was obviously uncomfortable with someone listening to her most private thoughts. Hailey wanted everything to be a bad dream or a bad joke.

She forced herself into a restless sleep, peppered by dreams of random nothingness. Midway through, one dream hit her hard. She found herself lucid, conscious of the dream-state. Terror stirred her gut. Bile burst up her throat.

Elise slid into her car outside her home. Morning fog rolled beneath overcast skies warning of ill omens. Half-way through Elise’s trip to school, Hailey’s gut wrenched into a knot.

Then, glass shattered. Metal twisted. Elise’s head hit her window. The impact’s bloody orb splintered in a spider-web. In a blink, hands went ’round Elise’s half-conscious body. She was grappled out the door over aggressive shouts.

As if time skipped, Hailey saw a darkened room. Elise was lashed to a chair. Hailey could neither move nor speak. As if stuck on-high, helpless and consigned to watching. A muffled voice demanded something. A silhouetted figure knelt behind Elise. A moment later, a resounding crack of bone echoed through the room. Hailey was ripped from sleep by breaking fingers.

She yelped, upright, sweating, and feeling her hand where the finger had been broken. It was fine. The residual pain from the dream was already fading. No other explanation was needed. The dream was a vision. Another one.

Far from being benign as the last, if reality held true, Elise would be kidnapped and tortured. As the seconds passed, residual guilt from the dream told Hailey it was because of her. She wasn’t sure how or why but her gut confirmed it. If she wasn’t careful, Elise would die soon.

Missed part 2? Find it here!