“Mum?” I called out as I unlocked the front door to my house.
“In the kitchen!” she yelled back at me. I kicked off my shoes and stowed them away in the cupboard before following the delicious smell of baking cookies. That meant my best friend was here. Before I even enter the kitchen, I hollered, “Hi Haley!”
Haley is my best friend and neighbour ever since she and her mother moved in next door when I was twelve. She’s a year older than I, but we click really well and that, in itself, is weird. She isn’t my best friend because I know her every thought and always understand where she’s coming from. Heck, I could be anyone’s best friend if that was just the reason. No, she’s my best friend because I can’t shift into her mind. It’s weird. She’s the only person I’ve met that I can’t shift into, voluntarily or involuntarily. The first time we shook hands I got so confused because I just saw her as she was, through my own eyes.
She and my mother both know about my mindshifting ability, though they can’t do it themselves.
“Zack-Zack!” Haley greeted me as she always does. She’s been calling me that ever since she found out my mum used to do that when I was a child. My parents brilliantly named me Zachary Isaac. Ha ha.
I grabbed a cookie off the cooling rack and took a huge bite. Mmm… Chocolate chip, my favourite. Mindshifting always leaves me hungry for sugar and Mum knows it. She poured me a glass of milk, which I accepted gratefully and started dunking the rest of my cookie.
Gotta love Mum.
“So what was it this time?” Haley inquired, nibbling on a cookie herself. I gave them a brief rundown on what happened at the cafe.
“I just wish people would just talk to each other more,” I complained as I finished my story.
“Well, not everyone is as blessed as you are,” Mum reminded me. I sighed.
“Awww, that’s so sweet, what you did! You should be proud of yourself, Zack,” Haley mock swooned. “You’re like a romantic superhero!” She’d been quiet the whole time I was recounting my tale. That’s what I love about her; she knows how to listen.
“Yeah, saving the world one uncommunicative couple at a time. Woohoo.”
I’m not a superhero. I’m not a good person and I don’t want to be. It’s only because I’m exceptionally curious to find out about other people’s lives that I bother at all. I have a personal bugbear with people who don’t communicate with each other, so I always feel compelled to fix relationship problems.
“You don’t have to save everyone, you know,” Mum said as she tousled my hair. I shifted into her mind for a moment. As usual, she’s worried about Dad. She was also thinking about the twins, who were supposed to be home by now.
“Hey, it’s almost four, where are your sisters?” Haley echoed my mother’s thoughts.
As if on cue, my twin sisters Allison and Annabelle entered the kitchen at the same time and greeted all of us in unison. They turn 17 this year, six years younger than I, and we’re very tight. We have been, ever since Dad had to leave for the war and I’ve had to help take care of my family.
Ally and Anna can mindshift too, but they don’t interfere with other people’s lives as much as I do. We suspect our abilities were passed down from our father, but both our paternal grandparents passed away before I was born, and dad was an only child. How convenient.
Interestingly enough, they’re also telepathic. They can communicate with each other mind to mind. I think it’s a twin thing. They used to have to be in skin contact to mindspeak, but recently they’ve been able to move short distances away from each other and still retain mental contact.
This telepathy is nothing more than two people mindshifting to each other and then thinking what they want to say. One person thinks what they want and the other person “hears” or feels her thoughts and emotions, then responds. As far as we know, only the three of us can mindshift, and thus mindspeak. We can’t project our thoughts to another person, so there’s no mindspeaking with a non-shifter.
And now the twins have a new trick. It’s so unfair.
They each took a cookie and Anna touched my hand. It’s our little ritual: we update each other on our day without speaking a word. Since they’re both always in contact with each other, only one of the twins has to be in skin contact with me to swap updates. Mum and Haley waited patiently for a few seconds.
Ally and Anna each gave Mum a kiss then went up to their room.
“They stayed back a bit to finish their school project. Yes, those guys are still hitting on them. No, the twins can handle them. They also went to visit Dad. He’s no worse, but no better either. Dad sends his love,” I reported to Mum as they leave.
Mum nodded her acknowledgement without comment.
“You know, it’s still freaky how you guys do that,” Haley muttered.
“You know, it’s still freaky how you’re still shielded,” I threw back. Even the twins can’t shift into Haley.
“Thank goodness for that!” she said. “You’re so not welcome in my private thoughts.”
“I don’t need to be in your head to know what you’re thinking, Hales.”
“Oh really? What am I thinking now?” She challenged me.
“You’re thinking about having another cookie,” I said with confidence. I broke off a large chunk of my cookie and stuffed it into her mouth.
“You know me so well,” she mumbled through a mouthful of cookie and rolled her eyes at me.
After Haley left, I went up to my sisters’ room and knocked on their door.
“Come in,” they chimed in unison.
“Okay I covered for you guys. What’s up with Dad?” I asked as I closed the door.
The twins are sitting at their computers, updating our notes on Dad. I put my hand on Ally’s arm.
Dad’s thoughts are getting more erratic. He’s still in a coma, but his thoughts are more jumbled and fragmented. We could only get a bits of thoughts and flashes of memories. He couldn’t even talk to us today.
I felt their sorrow, and a bit of fear.
What’s happening to him?
We think his mind is overloading. He can’t repair his body and contain the minds he’s consumed at the same time anymore. They’re fighting him, and he’s losing.