Monthly Archives: September 2014

Learn – Chapter Seven

Click here for Chapter Six

“People are slaves to their emotions. Emotions are slaves to me.”
-Monique Lavern

Haley followed Monique down the corridor to a pair of elevators, where Monique pressed the call button.

“We’re going down?” Haley asked in puzzlement. She’d noticed that the building was only about four levels high at most.

“Yes. Most of our facility is underground. We have more space and we have a more controlled environment for our patients that way. And less people escape too,” Monique replied.

“Escape?”

“Oh yes. Before we started going underground, they say that this one guy somehow managed to get on the roof and glide over our fence with a homemade hang glider from bed sheets and poles he broke off from cleaning supplies. I’m not sure how true this is, but isn’t it just brilliant and romantic?” Monique bounced excitedly.

“How is that romantic?” Haley raised her eyebrow, just as the elevator dinged and the doors slid open. Both girls entered and Monique waved at the security camera in the corner of the lift before pressing the button for Basement Four. Haley saw that there were fourteen buttons in total: four upper levels, including the ground floor, and ten basement levels.

“Oh yeah, I suppose he’d probably be like, sixty now. Eww.” Monique made a face.

Haley shook her head and the doors slid shut.

“Do you like Zack?” Monique asked suddenly, fixing Haley with a meaningful and piercing glare.

“What? Oh no, not like that. We’re just really good friends,” Haley squirmed a little at Monique’s audacity.

“Alrighty then!” Monique’s bright smile appeared again as she returned to her bubbly demeanor. Haley was a little stunned and thought back to Dr. Michael’s sudden warmth after vetting Zack. Do all shifters have these random mood swings? Then she thought of Zack, the most calm and collected person she knew. No, as long as she’d known Zack, he’d never had a sudden mood swing. At least, not when she was around.

The elevator dinged again and the doors slid open to let cool air slid in from the corridor. It looked like a typical hallway one might find in a hospital: brightly lit, clean, and several doors on either side. Each door had a small window on it. A few people in white uniforms similar to the one Monique wore were unhurriedly going about their business. Another person in a wheelchair that Haley assumed to be a patient was being escorted away from the girls by uniformed staff.

“Come on!” Monique grabbed Haley’s hand and gently tugged her out of the lift. Haley saw that there were two more corridors running down her left and right, similar to the one Monique was leading her along.

“Where are we going?” Haley asked.

“To meet some friends of mine!” Monique bubbled happily.

“I thought you were supposed to show me around,” Haley remarked.

“Well, yeah. But we can do that with my friends. They know more about some places than I do, anyway,” Monique smiled back at Haley reassuringly.

As they passed door after door, Haley couldn’t help but peek into the windows.

“What’s going on in there?” Haley asked Monique and gestured to a man in one of the rooms with his hand on the forehead of a patient lying on a bed. There were several younger people in staff uniforms clustered around the man and they each had a hand on the man’s free arm. They all had their eyes closed, including the patient.

Monique and Haley stopped.

“That’s Professor McNeil. He’s teaching them something. I don’t know what it is, since I’m not connected. Probably some memory thing. Professor McNeil is one of our Architects who live and teach here. Hmm, it’s very serene in there…” Monique replied dreamily.

“What is an Architect?” Haley inquired as they started walking again.

“An Architect is the general classification for someone who deals with memories. Usually, when we ConEx – I mean, mindshift – we’re unable to control what we see in the head of the person we touch. Architects, however, can. They can’t actually control the person, but they can look inwards and call up the person’s memories at will. They say that memories are just neuropathways in the brain, and that recalling a memory is simply a matter of finding the right path. If you forget something, it means the path is broken. The main job of Architects here is to help find and fix broken paths of patients suffering from memory related disabilities, like different forms of dementia and amnesia. Architects are also responsible for our organizing our security personnel.”

Haley recalled the way Dr. Michael dug through Zack’s head.

“Interesting. I suppose Dr. Michael is an Architect as well?”

“Yep! Professor McNeil is a pure Architect, and Dr. Micheal is primarily an Architect with some Mimic abilities. He can create illusions to mess with your senses, both of which are classified as Mimic skills. Professor Michael is also an Architect/Mimic, but he has more than just sensory manipulation.”

“Okay, what are Mimics?”

“Oh Mimics. I hate Mimics, they’re always so arrogant and think that they’re the best of us, simply because that can learn anything they want. Hmph,” Monique pouted.

“You said Zack was a Mimic. He’s not arrogant. He helps people,” Haley countered.

“Hmm… Yes I suppose Zack is alright,” Monique conceded. “Anyway, Mimics are defined by having hypercongnition, the ability to perform mental processes at superhuman speed. Mimics can and usually will branch off to become any of the other three classifications, since they can learn things almost instantly. You’d seldom find a pure, fully trained Mimic. A Mimic’s job here is pretty much jack-of-all-trades. They can work with the Historians on research, they also work well with Empaths for entertaining patients and guests, and can help Architects with solving logistical puzzles.”

Haley was reeling from all the information, but she craved more.

“Tell me about Empaths. That’s what you are, aren’t you?”

“Correct!” Monique clapped her hands joyfully. “I’m an Empath in training. Empaths deal with emotions. We can change the mood of a person by projecting our own emotions into them. The really good ones can do it from a short distance, but most of us have to touch a person. We’re excellent at calming a group down or motivating people or even making someone angry.” Monique giggled. “And we make excellent speeches,” Monique declared unabashedly.

“Yes, you most certainly do,” Haley responded with a smile. Monique was just so likable.

“Our main job here is to interact with the patients. We’re very in tune with how they’re feeling, so we monitor them and make sure they’re comfortable. If needed, we can sedate a patient without using drugs. And, we’re experts in body language. Like, right now I can tell you’re really into all this, even if you’re suffering from information overload.”

Haley blushed. “Sorry, it’s all just so fascinating. It’s a whole new world of stuff I’ve never explored. I’m just really curious, I guess.”

“Oh it’s not a bad thing! Don’t apologize! I enjoy talking and you enjoy listening. Win-win!” Monique squealed. “You really are a Historian yourself. Always curious and mostly quiet. Not to mention your shield. Historians are the only set of people with extracognitive abilities that cannot mindshift. They all have a natural mental barrier that not only blocks people like me from entering, it keeps the Historian themselves from entering the minds of others.

“Remember I said Mimics could learn to be Historians? I meant that they could pick up abilities that Historians have naturally, such as developing a mental shield and holographic memories, which is the ability to revisit a memory and examine it from a different point of view. Of course, it doesn’t work as well if you don’t have an eidetic memory.”

“Wow.” Haley had so many more questions.

“A Historian’s job here is mainly to do research and conduct experiments. Some also help the Architects take care of this facility’s security, since they can’t be attacked mentally. Architects and Historians also usually have reality grounding, meaning they can tell if a memory is true, embellished or an outright product of imagination. They’re also unaffected by a Mimic’s sensory manipulation. See why they’re great for security?”

“I do. But why do you need such tight security?”

“To prevent people from escaping and to prevent people from infiltrating this place. We do have some hardened criminals here for research,” Monique answered blatantly. “They’re here voluntarily, because let’s face it, this place is better than prison. And here we are!”

The girls had reached a door that was labelled ‘Common Room’. Monique opened the door and let Haley go through first. There were quite a few people around their age, some relaxing in front of the TV, some playing board games and some chatting around a coffee table. They all looked up when the door opened.

“Uh… Hi,” Haley said nervously.

“Hey guys! New visitor. Just taking a tour,” Monique called out to the people in the room. Some gave Haley a nod or a wave, but most returned to whatever they were doing. Monique turned to Haley. “Come on!” she said, moving to one of the doors on the opposite end of the room and gesturing for Haley to follow. Haley hesitated, then caught up with Monique.

“Daryl! Ethan! Sasha!” Monique called out to people in the room without breaking stride. The three that were summoned immediately headed to the same door Monique was walking towards. Monique opened it and all five of them piled inside.

Haley looked around. It was a simple discussion room. A round table, six chairs and a white board with markers. Everyone took a seat as Daryl closed the door.

“Haley, let me introduce to you… Beta team. I’m Team Captain!” Monique beamed.

“Um… your cheer squad?” Haley asked.

Sasha snorted.

“We’re not all as high as Little Miss Perky here, darling,” Sasha told Haley.

“Haley is a visitor, but I brought her down here because I wanted to introduce us. She’s an untrained Historian, but her shield is different from a normal Historian’s,” Monique told the group. “Go ahead, touch her!”

At that, Sasha rolled her eyes, Daryl coughed and Ethan’s eyes lit up.

“If you insist,” Ethan joked and reached out towards Haley’s chest. Monique slapped his hand.

“Kidding, just kidding!” Ethan extended his hand to Haley in a handshake. “Ethan Crenshaw, Mimic in training,” he gave Haley a smile that made her heart beat faster. She moved her hand towards his and he took it, raising it up to his face even as he bowed to gently kiss the back of her hand, never once breaking eye contact. Haley giggled.

“Oh wow, you’re good,” Haley said to Ethan.

“I know,” he gave a flirtatious smile and let go of her hand.

“No! I mean,” Haley got flustered. “People like you usually get confused when they realize that they can’t shift into my head, but you were so smooth and didn’t show a change in facial expression at all.”

“I know,” Ethan repeated, his grin growing wider but said nothing more. There was an awkward pause.

“Oh for Heaven’s sake,” Sasha spoke up and extended her hand to Haley. “Sasha Capelia, Architect.” Haley gripped her hand in a firm handshake. Sasha’s eyes widened and she let go.

“Daryl Summers. Historian, like you,” said Daryl with a kind smile, and Haley shook his hand.

Haley’s eyes slid back to meet Ethan’s. In a room full of people who could read minds at a touch, Haley was, not for the first time, extremely grateful for her mental invisibility cloak.

Click here for Chapter Eight

-Jace

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Learn – Chapter Six

Click here for Chapter Five

“Judge not a man by his thoughts, but by his actions.”
-Professor Adam Michael, in
Understanding People

The door opened behind Haley and I and we turned to see a man in his early thirties enter the office. He wore a uniform similar to the one Monique wore, but with jeans underneath the coat. Haley and I stood. The man did not offer a handshake, so I took that as a cue not to offer mine.

“Hello,” he greeted us. “I’m Dr. Michael. What can I do for you?”

My ears pricked up. We were looking for a Professor Michael, not Dr. Michael. Besides, this Dr. Michael guy looked a little too young to have founded MIND. I said as much.

“My name is Dr. Dax Michael,” he clarified. “Professor Adam Michael is my father.”

“Oh,” I said. “Where is he?”

“My father does not see visitors until they’ve been vetted through, at least by me. Now, what can I do for you, Mr…?”

“Call me Zack. This is my friend Haley,” I gestured towards her and she gave a small wave. Dr. Michael acknowledged her with a nod. “My dad is in the hospital and he’s recovering from a coma. He told me to get him to Professor Michael.”

“Well, Zack, as I said before, Professor Michael does not meet with anyone not vetted by myself. Besides, he’s a busy man.”

“What do you mean by ‘vetted’?” Haley enquired.

“I believe you already know.”

Suddenly it clicked in my mind. If Dad needed Professor Michael to help him with the Historian, then Professor Michael at least must be aware of people like us. More likely, he’s a shifter himself, and since Dr. Michael is his son, Dr. Michael must be a shifter as well.

Dr. Michael wanted to look into our heads. He wanted us to submit to a mental polygraph test.

Two things bugged me. First Monique wasn’t related to either Michael, yet she was a shifter, an Empath. How many more shifters were in this place? I mean, my whole life I haven’t met another shifter outside my family despite the many interactions and overseas trips I’ve taken, and yet I meet two non-blood related shifters in one day?

The second thing that went through my mind was, What would Dr. Michael need to vet us for?

I realized Haley and Dr. Michael were staring at me while I’d been having my epiphany.

“Just figured it out, huh?” Haley sniggered. “So much for reading all those detective novels.”

“Shut up, Hales,” I mumbled, embarrassed that I had zoned out.

“Well? Will you both allow me to vet you?” Dr. Michael prompted.

I hesitated, but then I thought, I had nothing to hide. Anyway, I would be in his head just as much as he’d be in mine.

“Okay,” I acquiesced.

“Fine,” Haley chirped. “But I don’t think you’ll be able to do anything to me. Zack’s been trying ever since we met and he still can’t get in me. My head, I mean,” she added quickly as I looked at her and Dr. Michael raised his eyebrow.

“She has a shield,” I told Dr. Michael. Haley extended her hand towards him and he took it in a handshake. I watched as a confused expression formed on his face, just like my sisters and Monique showed when they first made contact with Haley.

He let go of Haley’s hand and his brow furrowed further.

“So it is true. That is most unusual…” He looked at me. “I will be sifting through your memories and background. It will not hurt, but I will require full access to your entire mind. You may tell me to stop at any time, but if I do not conduct a full search, I will not permit you to speak to the Professor. Do you understand?”

“What are you looking for?” I asked. “It seems to be very tight security for a psychiatric hospital.”

“First of all, this is for Professor Michael, not MIND. You are free to enter as visitors without being vetted, but an audience with my father is not possible without a thorough search. And I need to ascertain your intentions are exactly what you say they are, as well as ensure that you’re not hired for corporate espionage or assassination,” he replied bluntly.

I blinked.

“Also, Ms Lavern tells me you’re what we call an untrained Mimic. I’m curious to find out more about you.”

Interesting. I shrugged and extended my hand.

“One more thing,” he said, raising a single finger. “I must ask you not to extend your consciousness into my mind. I understand that since you are untrained, you will not be able to control yourself. I will construct a temporary mental containment around your mind and as long as you relax, it will hold.”

Okay so I wouldn’t get to see the inside of his head. Bummer.

“Sure,” I acknowledged.

He turned to Haley and said, “You may stay, but please do not interrupt. This should only take a few minutes.”

Haley nodded and Dr. Michael took my hand.

I actually felt myself being stopped from entering Dr. Michael’s mind, even as I felt his presence flow into my head. It wasn’t like the Historian’s shield or Haley’s mental invisibility. It was more like a flowing wire mesh veil. I prodded it and a hole appeared, but it quickly repaired itself.

“Stop playing around,” Dr. Michael admonished out loud. Of course, he can’t mindspeak if I’m not in his head.

I mentally forced myself to withdraw. It was then that I realized Dr. Michael wasn’t just in the conscious part of my mind. He was literally, forcibly digging through my memories. Immediately, I resisted and he stopped.

“Relax, Zack.”

I made a conscious effort to relax and I felt him sifting again. How was he able to do that? I couldn’t control what I saw in someone’s mind, much less look through their whole life story. If Dr. Michael “heard” that thought, he didn’t answer. It was the weirdest feeling I’d ever felt. It literally felt like someone rummaging around in my head. I have to be honest: my head isn’t exactly the most organized place in the world, so it was more of burglar-ransacking-a-house rather than rifling-through-a-drawer-of-files.

But it didn’t hurt one bit, which was good. It was just… weird. Dr. Michael drew and threw up memories into the conscious part of my mind and I felt him slowly organize my memories into chronological order. I found memories I’d forgotten I’d had! Damn, he was good. He pulled up every single memory I every made, even the embarrassing and personal ones, which I blushed at, but made no comment. It was very professional and I appreciated that. It was as if he’d done it many times before.

That thought hit me hard. How many times had he done this before? Before I could dwell on that, Dr. Michael withdrew from my mind, let go of my hand and walked around the desk.

“Well! You are the empty vessel, huh? Other than that, you are who you say you are. And a pair of sisters, too! You must bring introduce me to them one day. Would you like some candy?” he grinned at me as he opened a cabinet in the side of the desk, which turned out to house a fridge chock-full of various chocolates, sweets and candy bars. He pulled out a KitKat, some Hershey’s Kisses, a long Toblerone chocolate bar and offered them to us.

“Umm… Sure, I guess?” I was craving sugar. I grabbed the Toblerone, broke it in half and gave one half to Haley. His sudden friendliness was a radical shift in his behaviour. Dr. Michael unwrapped the KitKat bar and turned to Haley again.

“Since I can’t ascertain your intentions so I’m afraid I can’t allow you to see Professor Michael. You are most welcome to visit the rest of this facility if you wish; I can have Ms Lavern show you around.”

Haley looked at me and I shrugged as I took a bite out of my chocolate bar. I guess I could see Professor Michael alone while Haley explored. Dr. Michael opened the office door and gestured for us to exit. As we exited, Monique emerged from the adjacent room.

“Ah, Ms Lavern! Would you kindly give Haley a tour while I bring Zack to see Professor Michael?” Dr. Michael asked Monique.

“Yes, sir,” Monique replied and gestured for Haley to follow her.

After a beat, Dr. Michael said, “Come, Zack, my father is waiting for you.” He headed off in the opposite direction of Haley and Monique. I lingered a while longer, watching Haley and Monique’s retreating backs, then turned and caught up with Dr. Michael.

Click here for Chapter Seven

-Jace

Learn – Chapter Five

Click here for Chapter Four

“I have a bad feeling about this. I mean, they say it’s a research lab. Does that mean the experiment on people?” muttered Haley.

“Always the cheerful one, aren’t you, Hales?”

Haley and I stood outside MIND, which loomed somewhat creepily over us. The welcome sign on the gate seemed cheery enough and the building itself wasn’t dilapidated, but still, knowing that this was a psychiatric hospital gave us chills. The gate itself looked like it could be part of a horror flick. There was a short path from the gate to the building it looked like a typical garden in front, but we didn’t see anyone at all.

“Your dad wants you to bring him to a loony bin?”

“Dad said Professor Michael could help him. He seemed nice enough when I called. At least, his assistant was. Besides, we’re just here to check him out and make sure he can actually help my dad.”

“Yeah, well, I still don’t like this place,” Haley grumbled.

“Thanks for coming with me Hales.”

Haley sniffed noncommitedly as I took a deep breath and pressed the buzzer beside the gate. After a beat, the gate unlatched and opened outwards on it’s own with a creak. We automatically took a step back and Haley grabbed my arm.

“I told you this place was creepy!” Haley hissed. I couldn’t argue with that.

Just as we were about to step in, a girl popped into view from behind the wall beside the gate with a chuckle.

“That gets the visitors every time!” She giggled happily as she pushed the gate open wider to let us come through.

We stared at her. She was pretty and petite, about a head shorter than Haley and I. She had a mischievous grin, two pigtails coming out of the back of her head of her platinum blonde hair that bounced every time she took a step, and she was dressed in a white uniform with the MIND logo over her left breast pocket. She had black eyeliner, black nail polish and black platform shoes. She couldn’t be more than 20 years old.

And she had a really nice laugh.

“Come in, come in! You must be Zack,” she beamed and extended her hand towards me. I took it and was surprised by a firm handshake.

Immediately, all my worry and anxiety left me. I felt relaxed and refreshed instead. I was looking at myself through her eyes and getting bits of thoughts here and there. I could feel her bubbliness and I was aware that she was making a conscious effort to do… something. I wasn’t sure what it was exactly, but it was definitely affecting my mood positively.

My eyes widened in shock as I finally registered her consciousness in my head. My sudden change in emotions had momentarily caught me off guard and I hadn’t felt her entering my mind. She was a shifter! The first shifter I’ve actually met outside of my family! Her name was…

“Monique!” I said as I recognized her as Professor Michael’s assistant, the girl I talked to when I called beforehand.

Monique mentally acknowledged the use of her name and my awareness of who and what she was, then let go of my hand. All the positive feelings I felt took a noticeable dip as my worry for my Dad and whatever unknown things I’d find in MIND returned. She definitely did something to me, but as far as I could tell, it wasn’t harmful.

I realized she must have felt my attraction towards her and flushed.

“Hello, Hales,” Monique turned her thousand megawatt smile at Haley and offered her hand as well.

“Um… my name is Haley,” Haley replied coolly. Monique’s smile faltered. No one but I called her Hales. As they shook hands, Monique’s brow furrowed when she realized that she couldn’t shift into Haley at all.

“Hales, Monique is a shifter too. She’s just being friendly,” I told Haley. Haley’s eye widened in surprise and then understanding.

Monique closed the gate and we started walking up towards the building.

“What did you do to me?” I asked Monique.

Monique turned to me and smiled brightly again.

“I’m an Empath,” she said simply, as if that explained everything. There was a pause.

“What’s an Empath?” asked Haley.

“Okay, normally I wouldn’t tell this to a regular person, but you seem to be aware of our existence and I suspect you aren’t a regular person at all. I can control and change the emotions of other people through touch.”

“Excuse me,” Haley replied indignantly. “I am a regular person. And I didn’t feel you do anything to me.”

“Nope, you’re not regular. And I didn’t do anything to you because I couldn’t. You’re shielded, but not in the conventional way Historians are. It’s like you’re mentally invisible. You’re definitely one of us, though I’m not sure what exactly you are. Perhaps a sub category of the Historian class…?” Monique trailed off.

Haley and I exchanged looks at the word “Historian”.

“What do you know about the Historian?” I asked quickly. We were inside the building and climbing a staircase to the next level.

“Um.. perhaps I’d better let the Professor answer your questions,” Monique said, a little nervously.

We stood outside a door with a label that said “Professor Adam Michael – Head and Founder”. Monique opened the door without knocking, stepped through and held the door open for us. There was no one else in the room.

“Professor!” Monique sang out.

I took a quick glance around the room. It looked like a typical office. A desk with a swivel chair, a bookshelf on the right wall and a window on the left.

“Hmm… He’s not here,” Monique pouted. “Why don’t you two take a seat and I’ll go find him?” Monique gestured to the two chairs in front of the desk. We obliged and Monique disappeared through the door we entered by, shutting it as she bounced out.

Haley and I sat in silence. My mind was whirling with the new information. Empaths, Historians, a new shifter. What was this place?

“So… She’s pretty,” Haley teased and nudged me.

“Shut up, Hales,” I replied, although I couldn’t prevent a goofy grin from forming on my face.

***

In the adjacent room, a man was watching a live video feed from a camera hidden on the bookshelf in Professor Michael’s office. He watched as Monique directed the two visitors to their seats and left the room. A few seconds later, the door behind him opened and Monique entered quietly.

“Sir, they’re in,” she said to him.

“Yes, I can see that. Report,” he commanded. He extended his hand towards Monique without looking away from the screen. Monique moved closer and placed her hand in his.

He’s one of us, probably of the Mimic class. I felt no shield, no emotional manipulation and there was no mental structure of any kind. Untrained, and a lot of potential. He calls it Mindshifting, which sounds better than “ConExing”, if you ask me, Monique huffed. He called me a “shifter”. I can’t enter the girl – Haley – but it’s not because she has a shield; she seems to be invisible. Could she be a variant of the Historian class? Monique informed him, sharing her memories.

It’s possible.

He dropped Monique’s hand without further explanation and steepled his fingers together. They both watched the video feed and the sounds from the other room came through clearly.

“So… She’s pretty,” the girl called Haley was saying.

“Shut up, Hales,” the boy smiled reluctantly.

The man glanced at Monique and raised an eyebrow. She blushed, and he turned back to the screen.

“Is there anything else you need, sir?”

“No, thank you. Tell Dax he can go in.”

Monique nodded and left. A few minutes later, the man watched on his screen as Dax entered the room and greeted the guests.

Click here for Chapter Six

-Jace

Cafe Fest 2014

Two days ago, Song and I went to the Cafe Fest, which was a two day event beside Marina Bay Sands. If Song hadn’t asked me to go, I would not have bothered about it at all, let alone be aware of it. I’m not a hardcore fan of cafes, although I do love me a good cup of joe. But I thought, what the hey, I’d just follow Song wherever he went. Besides, we wanted to do something together to celebrate nearly exactly one year left in NS. I’ll ORD Sep 4 next year, while Song will be out five days after me, on Sep 11.

I’m gonna start by saying I didn’t really enjoy it much. It’s not that I hated it, but I guess you could say…. it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Okay I liked the food we had there, and Song’s company, but I think the event wasn’t all that I thought it would be, so I felt it was a waste of my time and money.

01 Cafefest Redemption

We had to pay $25 for regular passes, so I bought two for both Song and I. Turns out, the passes don’t do much besides give you $0.50 to $1 off most items the twelve cafes were offering. The goodie bags we received weren’t that exciting either. The best thing we got in there was a water bottle. The rest of the items were flyers and a voucher book. I was pretty excited about that at first, until I found out that the vouchers were all for grooming services like waxing and eyebrow trimming and massages and manicures. -.-

02 Oreo Milkshake

I decided to start off with a standard Oreo milkshake from Cake Love. It was priced at $6, 10 cents more expensive than a milkshake from Carl’s Junior, but it turned out to be almost exactly the same. Since I had the cafe pass, I got $1 off. Woohoo. I think a milkshake from Carl’s Junior is better because it comes with whipped cream. I can’t complain much about the milkshake though; it WAS a good milkshake.

03 Mocha

04 Chocolate Muffin

Song and I didn’t have lunch because our plan was to keep snacking from late morning to early afternoon on sweet treats and coffee. We didn’t like the crowd of the festival so we moved away a little. There was a van from Coffee Bandits nearby, but it didn’t seem to be part of the festival. I got myself a chocolate muffin and a mocha for “lunch” anyway.

I learnt that mocha was a mix of chocolate and coffee. Interesting.

The meal was actually pretty decent and filling. The muffin was warm and gooey, all round chocolatey goodness, though not something I’d kill for. We sat by the river for a bit while I consumed my lunch and pondered how we were gonna kill the rest of the afternoon until dinner.

We ended up taking a bus to Little India to our favourite chicken wing rice stall and having an early dinner at 4pm.

At the time of this writing, I’ve just received a notification from Song about Cafe Fest giving us some sort of compensation for people who only came on Saturday and not Sunday. I’ve already sent off an email to request for the compensation, as per the instructions, so now I’m waiting to see what compensation we’ll get. I doubt it’s gonna be cash, although vouchers to the cafes that came down would make some sense.

Might not be totally wasted after all.

8 Sep 2pm Edit: Wow it seems I was too lenient on my judgement of the festival, since I put it down to just me not being a cafe person. There’s a lot of unhappiness on the FB Page, a good summary and a sassy article. It even made the news!

-Jace

Learn – Chapter Four

Click here for Chapter Three

“I have good news and bad news,” I told Anna over the phone. “The good news is that Dad’s awake.”

“He’s awake?!” Annabelle shrieked with joy. I heard Allison shriek in the background at the same time Annabelle did. I rolled my eyes. Twins.

“SHHH! Anna!” I hissed. “I said I have bad news too. Dad’s awake, but it’s not Dad.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Look, come down to the hospital and I’ll show you. But don’t tell Mum yet. I don’t want her to worry.”

“Too late. She heard us.”

I groaned. It was going to be harder explaining to Mum.

“Fine, all three of you should come then,” I sighed.

“Okay! We’ll be there in ten,” Anna said brightly.

I hung up and peeked back into Dad’s room. He was asleep again. It had been about half an hour since he awoke, rasping my name, before falling back asleep a few minutes later. Dad hadn’t responded to any stimuli, but the doctor said that it was normal for a comatose patient to gradually recover, sometimes coming awake only for a few minutes at a time. The waking moments would slowly lengthen as the patient – Dad – recovers. Apart from the obvious, the doctor had proclaimed Dad to be in good health and ought to be able to make a full recovery.

I hadn’t touched him since he woke up.

As I waited for the rest of my family to arrive, I pondered what had happened in Dad’s mind. I started with what I was sure of. Three of Dad’s four prisoners had been faded, the last one being the Historian. I was sure that what I saw wasn’t Dad himself. The way he had looked at me, plus the fact that Dad had wrapped himself in his own prison had convinced me of that. That meant that the Historian was in control of Dad’s body. I wasn’t sure if the Historian’s expanding shield had destroyed the prison walls and faded Dad or not, but I maintained the hope that Dad was alive and still in there somewhere.

I hesitantly extended my hand to touch Dad’s arm, fully expecting a shift to happen, but I felt… nothing. Wait, not nothing. I felt a resistance, like the shield that the Historian had around himself while imprisoned in Dad’s mind. That confirmed my suspicions: the Historian was now in full control. I didn’t feel Dad’s presence at all.

I heard a knock on the door and looked up, pulling my hand away as I did so. My family was here. I got up and gave them all a hug, at the same time updating Anna and Ally on what had transpired in Dad’s mind. Anna pulled away to move to Dad’s side. She touched him, but shook her head. I knew that she, too, wouldn’t be able to get past the Historian’s shield.

Mum looked at us expectantly.

“Zack, you said your father was awake,” she said a little accusingly, gesturing to my sleeping father.

“Yes he was, but he fell back asleep. The doctor said it was normal for a recovering comatose person to have short waking moments.”

Mum moved over to Dad’s other side, sat down and shook him gently.

“Dear, are you awake?” she asked, her voice cracking at the end.

He didn’t respond. A tear slid down Mum’s cheek as she caressed his face. The twins and I took that as a cue to leave our parents alone together for a while. Once we were outside, Ally touched my arm.

Dad really was awake?

Yes. He awoke for a few minutes, called my name and fell back asleep. I shared the memory of Dad waking up and the moment I realized that wasn’t him behind his eyes.

Okay, we can’t get into Dad or sense him at all.

He’s still there. We have to find him. I insisted adamantly.

Yes, we do. But not now. We don’t know what we’re dealing with. Let’s go back and do some research. Besides, he’s resting. Attacking the shield might only hurt Dad.

I paused, knowing that logically that was the right thing to do, but also feeling the urge to just go back in and smash the barrier with the twin’s help.

Fine. I acquiesced.

We went back in to collect Mum before going home.

***

We explained to Mum what had happened, but she was reluctant to believe us. We hadn’t told her about Dad’s ability to consume minds before, so our tale about the Historian taking over Dad was just a little too far fetched for her. She just wanted Dad back, as did all of us.

In the days that followed, the twins and I took turns sitting beside Dad and monitor his condition, so that there at least one of us would be around whenever he woke up. I was there most of the time since the twins had school. Besides, I was due for a break on my job anyway. It was too far for Ally and Anna’s mental link, so we updated each other the old fashioned way: touch.

Dad still woke up intermittently, but each time I knew it wasn’t him. I tried quizzing the Historian about who he was, but he maintained that he was Dad. He probably had access to Dad’s memories so his act was quite convincing. If his eyes hadn’t betrayed him and I hadn’t experienced the Historian’s takeover of Dad first hand, I would have believed he really was my father. Also, the fact that I was still blocked from his mind kept me grounded.

It had been about a week after Dad woke up the first time. I was in my usual spot with my laptop, checking Facebook, watching YouTube videos and generally surfing the web. I hadn’t found much with regards to the Historian; I kept getting the definition of a historian, famous historians and the like.

Dad stirred. I looked up and saw that he was awake.

“Hi Dad,” I said.

“Hey Zacko,” he replied, just as Dad would, though he sounded strained.

I frowned. Something about that made me reach out and put my hand on his arm. Instead of encountering a giant wall, I felt Dad’s consciousness for the first time flowing back into me since he returned. Dad’s mind was quite spacious and for a moment I thought the Historian had disappeared. But no, I felt him and his wall, albeit smaller. Much smaller.

Dad?

I’m here, son.

What happ-

Zack, he interrupted. I don’t have much time. I’ve managed to temporarily block the Historian and regain control. Don’t know how long it will last, but you have to get me to Professor Michael at MIND. Got that?

Who’s that? I asked.

Someone who knows a lot more about our abilities and what we can do. He’ll explain everything to you, and hopefully he’ll be able to fix me, or at least, extract the information he needs.

The wall was pulsating outwards again. I had a thought.

Dad! How do we break the shield?

We don’t. He can’t hold the shield up indefinitely. Professor Michael should be able to do something about it, but in the meantime, don’t attack the shield.

Okay.

The pulses were getting stronger.

He’s recovering. I can’t keep him down anymore.

I know. I love you, Dad.

Love you too, Zacko. Remember, get me to MIND.

He gave me the mental equivalent of ruffling my hair, then released whatever he had holding the Historian down. Dad’s consciousness retracted and the shield slammed back into place. It wasn’t painful, but it felt like my senses had been dulled.

I lifted my hand and opened my eyes. Turning back to my laptop, I started searching for Professor Michael. It was quite easy to find him online.

Professor Adam Michael was the head and founder of Michael’s Institute for the Disturbed, or MIND, a privately owned sanatorium and psychological research lab. He takes in any patient with a severe mental disorder and has published many research papers on his experiments and results.

I decided to pay him a visit.

Click here for Chapter Five

-Jace

Don’t be a Hiro

After the kicking session last Saturday, Mark and Tomo brought me to a place called The Original Little Hiro for lunch, formerly known as The Burger Shack. It’s a 7-10 minute walk from Botanic Gardens MRT station, along Bukit Timah road. It’s small but it wasn’t very crowded and it was mostly just Hwa Chong students.

I ordered a Chicken Karaage Ramen Burger which cost me $9.90 and I added $2.80 to make it a meal, which means to add on a soda and fries. This is what it looks like.

01 Ramen Burger

It’s really just two bundles of noodles fried on one side each. The fried noodles had an oily aftertaste (duh) that reminded me of hae mee, or fried prawn noodles. In between is a piece of fried chicken, lettuce and some egg mayo. The lettuce and egg mayo were exactly what I expected them to taste like, although I didn’t expect egg mayo at all, so that was a nice surprise. The fries weren’t bad, but they weren’t outstanding either. And I can’t complain about fried chicken. You can’t go wrong with fried chicken, unless you over or under cook it. This fried chicken was not horrible, but it doesn’t measure up against Mummy’s Honey Chicken.

02 Honey Chicken

Then again, nothing ever does, not even KFC.

But I don’t think it was worth that much. Perhaps it’s the novelty of the Ramen Burger. Heck, remember Rice Burgers from Mos Burger? I think Mos Burger still has those.

I would have been happy with just plain burger buns at a cheaper price, but since it was my first time there, I just followed what Tomo and Mark had ordered, only checking to make sure it was chicken. Out of the four choices of soda (Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite and 100+), I chose 100+ because we had just finished a very sweaty kicking session. While it was served with a cup of ice, the can itself wasn’t chilled, so it wasn’t very nice.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the meal on the whole; I just think that it was too expensive for me.

-Jace