She should not loiter however. She felt as if there was something she must be doing, but she could not think what. So, she stared at the body longer, tracing a scar just peaking out of the collar of the woman’s shirt. It was terribly disconcerting though; she really must be doing something. But what was it?
Was she supposed to meet someone? Was that it? She couldn’t remember. Maybe if she woke her body, she would remember then.
She turned back to herself and tugged at the orchid hair. “Wake up.”
Therese gasped herself awake, breathing heavily. She didn’t think she would ever like the color purple again. It had refused to leave her. Even though it was now physically possible for her to sleep as long as she desired without ill effects, she couldn’t. Old habits died hard. She didn’t have normal dreams anymore. Even at the worst of it, she sometimes dreamed of other things that weren’t purple. Not now. Whenever she closed her eyes, she would open another set, and stare at herself as she slept while getting increasingly incensed that there was something she must be doing. Then, she would wake herself up and not be able to get back to sleep.
Cerebrally, she knew that there was no one to call to her anymore in her dreams. There was no one to whisper the name, “Yvette,” but it didn’t stop her subconscious from waiting to hear the word again.
She yawned heavily. She slowly stretched her shoulder. A month and a half after her surgery, it was still stiff. She went through the motions her physical therapist had taught her then glanced at the clock. 4:38 AM.
She still had almost an hour and a half until they would come for her. She yawned again, rubbed her eyes, and then flipped on the light. She glanced at the handle leading out of her room. She thought it was funny. It seemed like such a normal handle. It locked from her side of the door. It didn’t even have a dead bolt. But for all that it stood for, it might have been a bank vault door.
Beyond it, there were people upon people that stood between her and the outside. People that would stop her with increasingly forceful commands of “Please, Miss Evans, let me escort you to your room.” She might as well have been imprisoned.
It was funny. She hadn’t slept properly in years, but lately it seemed to be giving her headaches. They had offered her all sorts of sedatives, even prescribed things for her, but she refused them. The idea of being chemically put to sleep every night was repulsive. When she had as little bodily freedom as she did, she was determined to cling onto every last morsel. Even if that meant sleeping fitfully at night and living each day more tired than the last.
She flipped on her desk lamp and took out a notebook. They had given her a computer, but she had quickly realized they monitored her activities carefully. Every website she visited, they analyzed. If she looked at a news article about alternative fuels, she suddenly found herself being quizzed on why she was looking up nuclear reactors. God forbid if she ever did light research in the Middle East.
So, she kept to pen and paper and a small treasury of books they had gifted her with. That would be harder to analyze, she thought. They couldn’t tell what books she looked at, and she didn’t think they would stoop so low as to go through her journal.The psychiatrist guy had given her the notebook. On that alone, she almost immediately rejected it. She didn’t particularly like him, and she was pretty sure he didn’t like her. They said something about post traumatic shock, but it felt like an awful lot of meddling into her psyche to her. She didn’t understand how asking about her relationship with her mother was relevant to anything. Or how she slept the night before. Or asking about her dreams. They were shameful enough to herself that she couldn’t get over what had happened. She didn’t want to talk about it with anyone. They could never understand.
She looked out the window at the vast sprawl of government buildings. It had been so long since she had just walked around people. She’d never repaid that Jason kid for his help. She may have never stopped the murders without him.
They never let her contact outside people though. They had warned her explicitly about it, how she could not send emails or letters. They hadn’t even attempted subtlety. They were boxing her in.
She drew a bird in her notebook. It wasn’t a very accurate representation, but it offered a suitable diversion as the minutes clicked ever forward into the next day. She got out one of the books, an encyclopedia, and used it as a reference for her next attempt. After she had completed the sketch, she purposefully drew a cage around it.
There was a knock at her door. She shoved the notebook into the back of her drawer, draping a stray hair on top of it. She would know if they were meddling through her things. “One moment,” she called hastily. She threw on some clothes quickly, struggling a little with tying her shoes. Her left arm still didn’t feel quite right, and she had some trouble with fine motions in her left hand. The doctors had spoken of nerve damage.
With trying patience, she managed the task. She then quickly stood up and opened the door.
“Good morning, Miss Evans,” the psychiatrist said in an oiled voice.
“Good morning, Dr. Ott,” she returned, attempting to remove any sourness from her expression that naturally appeared when Ott was near. They began the walk down the hall to his office together.
“How did you sleep?” he asked. He asked it every morning, although the answer never varied.
“As I always do,” was her curt response, glancing down at the floor.
He scribbled something down on a sheet of paper. “Hmm,” he said daintily. She had grown to dislike that“hmm” and what is signified. It was a giant sign pointing to some demeaning lecture where he would treat her like a distressed little girl and resume attempting to pick apart her brain.
“So, um, I saw out my window there’s been a lot of rain lately,” she said, trying to fight her way out of the approaching didactic.
“How often do you look out your window?” he asked, pen poised. She inwardly groaned. Why did everything have to seem have some deeper implication for her emotional stability? She was talking about the weather.
“Well, its kinda hard to ignore thunder and lightning,” she murmured, attempting to brush the question. He wrote something down.
“What does it remind you of? What were your experiences with rainstorms in the past? How does it make you feel? Sad? Angry? Frightened,” he asked encouragingly. He opened the door of his office for her.
“I’m not afraid of a rainstorm, Dr. Ott,” she said. She felt like emphasizing she wasn’t a child to him, but she decided against it. Every word she said would probably be analyzed a thousand times to the nth degree. It was best to say as little as possible.
Two comfortable, cushioned arm chairs sat across from each other with end tables holding a breakfast for two. She was never hungry when she was being questioned about everything, but if she didn’t eat to his satisfaction, then she’d end up being questioned about her body image and the like.
Thus, she obediently picked up a bagel as she sat across from the man. He crossed his legs, propping his clipboard on his leg. He took a sip of coffee, and looked across at her expectantly.
“What did you dream of last night?” he asked. She wished she could effectively lie to him, but she couldn’t.
“The same thing I always do.”
“How did you feel when you awoke?”
“Same as always.Tired.” She was honestly very tired of being tired. However, she was more tired of having this psychiatrist ask her about it.
“What about the headaches?”
“Anything else you feel?”
“The usual stuff,” she mumbled.
“Could you please elucidate what that might be?”
“I dunno.” She didn’t think she should mention how she felt lost or trapped. Those were very bad thing to tell a psychiatrist. It was like catnip to them. Instead, she gave a shrug. He gave up on the line of questioning.
“And regarding my continued offer for a sleep aid?”
“No, thank you,” she replied. She took a sip of her herbal tea. He had recommended that she not be allowed coffee or anything with caffeine anymore. She thought it was ridiculous, but the movers and shakers behind her stay in the building seemed to disagree.“How have you been attending to your journal?” he asked. He had mastered the open-ended question, which was always difficult to answer in the one word, ambiguous, answers she desired.
“I look at it sometimes,” she shrugged.
“How often is that? What is the sort of things you like to record?” he asked.
He looked her very directly in the eyes, arching his eyebrows. He knew what game she was playing. The two had played it for quite a while now. Therese promised not to lie, but never to reveal any more information than could be avoided. He, in turn, would attempt to squeeze all her feelings from her.
“How do you feel about your arm? I see you still have some difficult in grasping,” he said, gesturing towards her fumbled attempt to pick at a grape. She felt herself blush.
“It’s slow. It’s annoying. But, it’s improving,” she muttered. She felt like hiding it, as if it represented a failure. As the wound was self-inflicted, he seemed to take great pleasure in bringing it up in discussion, which Therese disliked. She didn’t like going back to that time.
“And, how are you improving? How are the deaths affecting you now?” he asked.
“I didn’t think I was that messed up to begin with,” she shrugged.
“How often do you think about what happened?” he asked.
“I dunno. It’s hard to forget it.”
“How does it make you feel, when you do remember it?”
“I’m glad it’s over, if that’s what you mean.”
“No one doubts that. But, I want to help you, Miss Evans. I must understand what you are going through. It was your grandfather. And then with your mother and your friends. What do you think about when you remember?” he asked, taking on a slightly pleading tone. Or maybe, it was just the more wonted exasperation. It was difficult to tell.
She hated how he brought it all up and threw it in front of her like that. Maybe he was attempting to rile her, as she certainly felt peeved. “I killed my grandfather as he wanted to use me for murder. I do not regret it, as I’ve told you. I do regret that my grandfather was able to use me to kill so many of my friends, and, indirectly, my mother and my father. However, there is nothing to be done about it now. I’ve told you this many times. Meditating on it won’t change it,” she replied as calmly as she could.
“Repressing your emotions won’t either, Therese. It is okay if you need to cry. It is okay to let yourself feel.” He reached out gently, condescendingly, and patted the air above her left hand, the one she could not feel very well. She thought that was very much on purpose.
“Thank you for your concern, Dr. Ott.”
He smiled. “Just tell me when you are ready to discuss it. So, how are your activities here going?”
“Alright. That reminds me that Agent Necker wished to start on today’s activities early. If it doesn’t bother you, I would like to go meet him,” she said, attempting to restrain her enthusiasm for the departure.“Very well, Miss Evans. I look forward to talking with you further tonight,” he said pleasantly, although she could see that dangerous glint in his eyes as he turned to his clipboard. Apparently, she had done something noteworthy.
Once Therese closed the door to his office, she ran into Agent Necker.
“I can’t keep making excuses for getting you out early, Miss Evans” he said with a subtle grin as he noticed her obvious relief upon seeing him.
“I don’t like talking to a psychiatrist,” she said, shaking her head.
“I’m surprised you find that the most unnerving out of everything,” he said, as they began walking down the corridor.
“My head’s my head. I kinda like to keep it to myself, you know?” she replied slowly, still looking at her feet.
“Understandable, but Dr. Ott is only looking to help. He is the best in his field. Your head, as you say, is safe in his hands,” replied magnanimously.
“So they say,” she said. She rubbed her temple unconsciously as the headache needled at her temple. He opened the door for her and led her into the large, open room.
“Miss Evans, this is Dr. Henderson. She will be assisting us today,” Necker said, indicating the woman standing near the center of the room. She had gray hair and a peculiar curve of her lip to suggest some unrestrained cunning.
“Hello,” Therese replied, somewhat shyly. It was still difficult for her to be introduced to some many new people on such a regular basis.
“I have heard much about you, Miss Evans,” Henderson said, nodding politely. That was the worst part. They all seemed to know so much about her when she knew nothing about them.
“I believed Dr. Henderson first wished for a quick demonstration of what you are capable of. I would like you to make Dr. Henderson happy and find out the name of her first dog,” Necker instructed.
She held out her hand to the older woman, “If you please.”
Therese could not tell if the woman seemed excited or frightened, or somewhere in between. Therese summoned all the happy emotions from the pit of her stomach as the woman put her hand in hers.
Therese released the torrent of emotions carefully, with the control wrought over many hours of practice in the last several weeks. Ever so carefully, she began to look into Dr. Henderson, first name Polly. She tried to retain privacy, but it was difficult to not seem the major life events that overclouded everything else like her husband’s affair or the day she graduated from medical school.
Henderson pulled her hand out of Therese’s. The connection couldn’t have been much more than a second. Therese noted, with some satisfaction, that the woman was smiling ear to ear.
“So?” Necker asked.
“That was a trick question. Dr. Henderson has never had a dog or any other pet. She named her rosemary bush ‘Horatio’ once,” Therese responded carefully.
“Oh my, that is quite incredible,” Dr. Henderson exclaimed giddily. It was almost humorous to see the transformation from sly, serious, elderly doctor into the vision of a giggling teenager.
“Miss Evans, I now request that you tell me what I got for my tenth birthday,” he said. Therese almost sighed with relief. This was going to be easy. Usually, when he brought other people in, it always meant some difficult assignment that would result in her complete and utter failure a thousand times before there was a spark of improvement.
She held out her hand, but he did not proffer his own. Instead, he added, “But, you cannot touch me.”
She wrinkled her nose. “I can’t do that.”
“Dr. Henderson here has hypothesized you can. While there is substantial amount of research still needed to elucidate how you can manipulate the neural circuits of others, there is some inductive proof that you can without touching. You were nowhere near the girls in your dreams,” he said in a way to suggest the logic was elementary.
She paused, attempting to control the dropping pit in her stomach. Why did he have to mention that? It was true though. She’d been miles away from all those girls. She had always assumed it was just some trick of her grandfather’s, that he was responsible for it all. She didn’t think she was able to effect others without touching them, could she? It was impossible. Of course, she seemed to be doing many impossible things these days like reading minds and controlling emotions.
“Let’s try it. Here, you can start off easy. You can almost touch me, but don’t,” he held his hand slightly under hers. There was about half an inch between them.
She ordered her mind while taking several deep breaths, as she had learned to do before attempting these things. Then, carefully, she let the build of energy percolate through her body and to her fingers. She tried to push it through the air, but it wouldn’t budge. Nothing was happening.
She built up another round of energy, and pressed it forward. Still she could not find him. She felt as if every fiber of her nerves was vibrating from this onslaught. It was draining all of her energy from her. She was feeling very tired.
She would try one more time before she would break. She summoned up another round, and pressed it forward. Then, the tiniest blip of something. She couldn’t be sure of what it was, but there was something. She broke off, gasping.
“I felt something,” she exclaimed through haggard breaths. “I think I felt something.”
“Good. When you are collected. Try it again,” he said as she sat down on the floor, draping her arms over her knees. Her brain hurt.
“Is this physical exhaustion normal?” Dr. Henderson asked, returning to her pre-happy state.
“Only if she is un-conditioned to the activity. It is a bit like physical training. She grows stronger every time,” Agent Necker said. “Are you read for another try, Miss Evans?”
No, she really didn’t feel ready, but she nodded anyway. She regained her feet and hovered her hand over Agent Necker’s. She took several steadying breaths. Here went nothing.
She summoned everything again, pressing it into the space between their hands. She summoned more, forcing it, berating it, calling it into that space and beyond. She felt as if electricity was crawling through her with the intensity of the will.
She could hardly see, hardly hear, hardly think, besides that small space between them. Then, she felt the blockade slide slightly. She felt Agent Necker. She ran through to his memories, but stopped short. It was if she ran out of rope and could not travel any further. She attempted to summon more energy, more propellant, to free her of the superficial entity that surrounded the deep of Agent Necker. Each second, however, she lost ground, lost traction, falling back into herself.
“Are you alright, Miss Evans?” someone asked. She looked up. She was sitting on the ground again, pain radiating in the hand she seemed to have caught herself with. She shook it out.
“I’m fine,” she whispered. She was very tired. “I was so close. You were watching me, I think, Agent Necker. I couldn’t go further though.”
She rubbed both hands on her face, attempting to regain herself. It felt hot. Her headache was pulsating. She felt like sleeping, although she knew she was really bad at that particular task.
“Are you ready to try again, Miss Evans?” he asked.
Some part of her wanted to say, ‘no.’ She was very tired. But it felt as if this was all of her these days. She couldn’t help but think to these people, she was her ability, wrapped in a rather cumbersome personality they disliked the presence of. She had to keep going, as who was she without it? The girl she once knew had been left far behind many years ago.
She nodded. She staggered to her feet. She placed her hand over Agent Necker’s. She forgot the steadying breaths and the control she was supposed to you. She gave it everything. She could not restrain a flow like that. She felt as if she was thrown into a river, the world twisting around her. but then, she caught it. She found Agent Necker. She grasped onto the thread and pulled deeply into it. She searched and chased and pursued the memory. In her rush, she could not as carefully block out all of the things she was not looking for. She found glimpses of high school romances, boyhood pranks, and siblings rivalry as she closed onto the day.
She was running out of steam. Such an onslaught could not be maintain. She was slipping quickly away. She kept searching, holding on tightly to what she found, but the current was too great.
“I think that is enough for today, Miss Evans,” Agent Necker said. “You were not controlling yourself.”
She opened her eyes slowly. She was looking at the ceiling. To add to her headache, it felt as if she had whacked the back of her skull against the floor when she fell. She slowly crawled to her feet, stumbling as she stood up. Dr. Henderson reached out to steady her, placing her hand in Therese’s.
The onslaught of experiences was very unsteadying. After trying so hard to jump the gap, the easy connection of flesh felt like a torrential flood. The boundary between Henderson and herself was wavering precipitously. She felt the emotions, the memories, the essence of the doctor. It was only when Henderson broke away that Therese could see straight again.
“I’m sorry about your student, Dr. Henderson. It wasn’t your fault,” Therese whispered. Dr. Henderson was staring at her, biting her lip. Therese had meant to comfort her, as she knew the distress she was having on the subject. However, it was not only Therese who disliked other people getting into her head.
“Do not worry, Dr. Henderson. Miss Evans is trustworthy. Whatever she saw will stay safe with her. I would recommend refraining from touching her if there is anything you wish to keep private,” Agent Necker said.
“You got a stringed instrument, I think a ukulele for your tenth birthday; it was your uncle’s,” Therese said quickly, with sudden realization. She looked up expectantly. Agent Necker nodded.
“So, then the reception and projection of this isn’t just chemical, but must have something to do with electric field created by the brain,” Dr. Henderson exclaimed. “Perhaps the touch is just a conditioned physical stimuli.” Therese couldn’t help but note the almost salacious eyes of the woman darting about her scalp. No doubt in a few days she would be called up into another lab so they could perform more tests.
“I think I will take Miss Evans to lunch. I believe she is rather fatigued by now,” Necker said suddenly, for which Therese was relieved.
She walked down the hall with Agent Necker. She was very tired, and her head hurt. It seemed like those two emotions overwhelmed everything else in her life these days.
She bumped into an open door as they walked. It was sometimes hard to focus on what was happening around her when it got this bad.
“Are you alright, Miss Evans?” Necker asked.
“No, I’m fine. It’s just that I think my headache’s gotten worse. I’m just tired,” she said.
He smiled somewhat grimly. “You’ve been progressing very well, Miss Evans. I know this is all very difficult for you and that you have been working very hard. We are very glad of your cooperation.”
“Well, I’m not all that altruistic or anything. I mean, people that murdered my mom are still out there. I think anyone in my situation would want to stop them,” she murmured. She thought of that bullet exploding through her mother’s forehead. Images like that are hard to shake. She would bring those men to justice one day.
“That doesn’t belittle your efforts, Miss Evans,” he said softly.
She thought about adding she didn’t really see much alternative. They held over her head that she had been a participant, albeit unwilling, in several murders. She could go to prison, or she could stay here. She decided against telling Agent Necker that.
Once they reached the empty cafeteria, they ate lunch in silence. That training, or whatever they called it, always worked up Therese’s appetite, so she consumed the three sandwiches in quick succession. She liked how Necker never bothered her with questions or made comments on how much she ate. He was a much better dining companion that Dr. Ott.
Afterwards, Therese met with the physical therapist, Lawrence, who had her do several intricate activities with her left hand. One of his favorite was always to make her write long passages in cursive when she wasn’t even left handed. They were usually full of laborious words that required delicate finesse that Therese lacked to complete.
After he felt he had exhausted her patience enough, he let her go swim laps in the pool. It was her favorite part of the day, when she could forget about her brain and her surroundings, but just be. Her left shoulder always bothered her enough so that she would have to stop before she would’ve like to. Especially since afterward, she always went to meet Dr. Ott.
Only once her shoulder was throbbing and it began to alter her stroke so that Lawrence called her out did she reluctantly remove herself from the pool and dry off. Dr. Ott was waiting for her.
“Hello, Miss Evans. How was your day?” he asked, opening the hall door for her.
“Fine,” she said. Her hand reached up to massage her worsening headache, she tried to bring it back down before he noticed. He always made the biggest deal out of things like that. He was like some busybody mother.
“I’ve heard your headaches are getting worse. Tell me about them. How do they make you feel?”
She bit back a biting response that pointed out the stupidity of his question. Instead, she attempted something more subdued. “They aren’t terribly fun.”
“When do you get them?” he asked.
“All the time.”
“Hmm.” He marked something on his clipboard. “How do you feel about medication for it?”
“I’ve told you before. I don’t want to be medicated,” she said quietly. Its not that she would’ve minded a Tylenol as much as she didn’t want the man prescribing her drugs that might do anything.
“Of course, of course,” he opened the door to his office for her where dinner sat on the side tables. She sat down and began poking at the meal. She hated having the man examine her as she ate.
“So, how was your training today?” he asked.
“I’ve been informed you’re progressing rapidly, that you don’t need to touch anymore,” he said. There was something behind those bespectacled eyes that Therese could not identify. It was something different from the normal condescension and false empathy. “How was that?”
“Okay,” she shrugged. He switched subjects.
“Tell me about your dreams,” he said.
“It’s the same dream. I’m not sure how much more I can tell you,” Therese said. If anything, these sessions were a lesson in patience.
“No, not dreams in that sense, but your dreams for later in life. Where do you see yourself in ten years?” he asked.
This was definitely a new direction. “I don’t know,” she said. It was such a silly question. What were those sort of dreams when you had so little personal freedom?
“Have you considered careers? Have-”
She cut him off. “Listen, I know I’m a mutant. No one has any idea how long I’ll live or if I’ll suddenly develop Alzheimer’s or dementia or amnesia or something. I can’t really plan for a future I don’t know I’ll live to see. I don’t know what your purpose is in asking me about it, but I assure you, I know that a ten-year plan is inane.”
That set him off writing. Admittedly, it was the largest number of sentences she had said to him in a long time. She was tired, had a headache, and was irritable. It annoyed her more to think that he obviously felt he had scored a point.
“Is that so, Miss Evans? So, tell me more about how you feel being a ‘mutant’ as you say. Do you feel lonely, afraid?” he held his pen at the ready over his clipboard. She sometimes wondered what he wrote about her on it. How he construed her words into some sort of image of instability. Who did he think she was?
“Listen, Dr. Ott, I’m really tired right now. Can we just talk in the morning?” she asked.
“Of course, Miss Evans. Of course. Let me walk you back to your room,” he said.
Therese was exhausted. The moment she walked through the door, she collapsed onto her bed, kicking off her shoes lazily. She’d let Dr. Ott get to her. Why did she do that? Was it the headache? The fatigue? She had no escape from these people. She never got to walk alone anywhere. She’d never left the building and its small yard that Lawrence sometimes told her to jog laps around. And, she didn’t know what she was anymore.
She hated to admit it, but some part of her did feel lonely. Agent Necker and Lawrence were alright, but it wasn’t quite the same as her old life. She would just have to get used to it. Her father had taught her to be entirely self-contained. She could do it.
She stared up at the ceiling for a long time. It never mattered how tired she was. Sleep came slowly and fitfully. Every time she dozed, she would awake what seemed like seconds later. She turned on her side, pulling her knees up to her chin.
Hey, at least today she figured out she could read people’s mind without even touching them. That was pretty awesome. Dr. Ott may be a jerk, she may be imprisoned in a government facility, but she was telepathic. She had that.