“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.
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.