Imagine... You're Me

by MJ Dunn 5 months ago in fiction

Part one: Who wants Annebelle Dead?

Imagine... You're Me

Chapter 1

Imagine, you’re me.

You’re 14, living with your mom, visiting your dad every other weekend. You’re a girl. You rate an “OK” on the scale between “Yuck” and “WOW.”And you’re tall, like 5’10” tall. Which guarantees that up to this point, no guy has even looked at you… because they are all shorter. But your mom has assured you they will catch up in College.

Now, imagine. Looking in the mirror. You decide that the color black is your new best friend, you wear black clothes, black nail polish and you’ve dyed the tips of your blonde hair black. “Without the black tips” you tell your mother) “your hair just looks like straight pieces of hay.” That’s your honest assessment.

Pretty typical, right?

You’d think at this point all I’d have to worry about is starting my Freshman year in high school or getting the tickets to my favorite bands next concert. Nope.

I have a bigger problems.

Are you sitting down?

OK?… I’m just going to say it, and you must promise to listen to the whole thing before you interrupt.

The fact is, I see people that don’t exist. I don’t think they're “dead.” You know like ghosts or something but then sometimes I think they aren't. Sometimes they seem like they are alive just on a different plane, you know like shadows or nonphysical.

That’s the only way I can explain it, as far as I can tell I'm the only person that can see them.

Now that I’m older I realize that maybe they’re spirits or a parallel universe I don’t know, but I do know… they don’t physically exist in this reality, in this immediate place.

But they are here. They make it seem very crowded and noisy.

Some of them can see me, some of them can’t. But it makes for a freaking ridiculous walk down an already crowded hallway in School.

Seriously dude, imagine you’re me. You’re walking the school hallway filled with kids. Some of them real… some of them not. So, yeah, I can walk through the shadow people, but I can’t tell they’re shadows, they look as real as the real people.

See what I mean? I get it, from the outside looking in, I must have seemed like a freak show. Talking to empty spaces, walking down the hallway swerving around non-existent obstacles. And never talking to anyone.

Really. never. It's one thing to walk weird, but I learned early not to get caught talking to people that no one else could see. AND since I couldn't tell who was real and who wasn't... I talked to no one. Except Jeff. I always talked to Jeff.

Oh yeah, and I'm a genius. Yeah. I know. My mom thinks it's amazing, I have near perfect recall of anything I've ever read with innate intuitive understanding.

So... that never goes over well. Teachers sort of always think I'm cheating. Yeah, it never goes over well to be smarter than most humans in most situations, especially your teachers.

Perhaps that was my undoing. I'm not sure, I just know that over the summer there was a special meeting called and me and both of my parents (including Amanda, my curiously young step mother) were summoned to the principal's office.

Sitting in the principal's plush chairs watching him talk to my Mom, Dad, and Amanda, was boring. He, like every other adult that had never met me, treated me like I probably wouldn't understand what was going on. I just sat back and let him believe.

My dad was asking questions about how much it will cost, my mother asking questions about the student to teacher ratio. Amanda sitting there looking at her finger nails wondering if she’ll make her 1 PM nail appointment.

We are all listening to the school administrator yammer on.

Out of all of the people in the room (and there are a lot of people in the room... remember my seeing shadow people thing?) that really know what’s going on… there is Jeff.

The problem? I love Jeff, he’s my best friend. Through thick or thin, he’s there! He’s like my brother. Little problem with Jeff, no one can see him but me.

Yup, you guessed it, he’s non-physical. My parents used to refer to him as my invisible friend, which is funny because actually, he’s only invisible to them! (ha ha)

So, Jeff is standing behind the principal and he’s totally making faces. Like putting his fingers in his mouth pulling his mouth wide like a huge terrible smile and then doing bunny ears and I’m trying my hardest NOT to laugh.

I look at my parents, they seem... upset. I had tuned out the droll of the administrator's voice but I heard the usual, "gifted" and "challenged" and "better equipped to handle."

My mom knows I'm special even if she can't quite wrap her brain around it, and I love her for it. She has always encouraged the discovery of my gifts and listened to the stories I tell her but deep down, she just wants me to be normal, like everyone else. She's afraid she'll make the wrong decision and it will hurt me. I love her for that too.

I can see by the expression on everyone’s faces that this is serious and that’s when I notice one of the non-physical shadow people pull away from the crowd milling about the room and whisper in the principal’s ear.

The room gets smaller. I focus. It’s just me, the principal, and that thing. It’s different. It’s a milky darkness like coffee and kind of smells like decay. Then I notice the other non-physicals are gone.

Creepy. As I watch the shadow exchange information, no wait, it feels like he "planted" information in the principal's head. It moves back and the disturbing non-physical shadowy alter-dimension guy... is looking at me.

I realize that I'm standing now, looking at him.

He’s looking at me sort of shocked as he realizes I see him and he smiles. A super creepy smile.

That's when I realized, every physical person in the room is now looking at me.

I am totally disturbed by the look on the face of spooky invisible dude, but I have to cover my ass, So I say:

“I ah… ouch… I think I have a splinter,” I say pretending to look for a non-existent splinter on my butt cheek. “I’m, ahhh… I’m ok” and I sit back down, looking at the non-physical dude and then he was gone.

I hear a whiny snicker and realize it's Amanda. I throw a murderous look at her. I'm not a member of the Amanda fanclub. (You’ll need to put on the “imagine you’re me” hat again.) My mom and dad get along pretty well as long as they aren’t in the same room. And, they think I’m brilliant (of course, that could be because I am... you know IQ test scores and all)

Amanda thinks I’m retarded. Literally, she used to call me “Idiot Savant” thinking I couldn’t hear her when she was on the phone with her girlfriends. Of course, she never said that when my dad could hear. It didn't really matter, I always liked the word Savant. The only problem with the word is its limitation because it means someone that knows a lot about one thing. The fact is that I know a lot about a lot of things.

Back to Amanda, she’s been trying to get me committed to a mental hospital since I was 10. It’s like her mission in life. I don’t know what she expects to happen, if I’m out of the way. But this must seem like a dream come true for her (bitch).

The principal takes a new brochure out of his desk, and stows the ones already there. His demeanor is slightly changed and he seems to have switched gears from suggesting some kind of state school to this swanky place in upstate new york.

I looked around for the eerie shadow dude and couldn’t find him. The adults were all looking at me. This is weird. Is this the suggested that was whispered in his ear? Looking around my parents seemed kind of relieved at this turn of events, but the scale tipper was the pissed look on Amanda's face when the other "institutional" brochures were put away.

I leaned forward and picked up the brochure. “So, is this my new school?” I asked in my most disinterested tone of voice.

Jeff and I looked at the brochure. It looked like an old-fashioned mansion or… haunted asylum. Yeah, I said Asylum. Behind the beautiful manicured lawns and arches and turrets and large windows overlooking the rolling hills.. it had a very definite Asylum vibe. But I didn't see any white clad orderlies or people in wheelchairs and straight jackets, so I looked at Jeff to see what he thought. We read the school name together, outloud.

"Allan Willoughby Academy for Exceptional Children" or EWAEC (pronounced AWAKE)

The principal was droning on and on about this school, I was only half listening because I couldn’t tear myself away from the picture of the old white painted building on the cover. It looked like something out of an old fashion horror movie. Could be a mansion, could be a castle… or like I said, an Asylum.

I looked up and noticed everyone was watching me, again. It made me wonder if I was talking out loud. My parents. The principal. All the non-physical beings, everyone, was watching me. I shivered.

So, now I’m thinking, “what the hell?” right? I mean, first the creepy dude whispering in the principal’s ear and then the whole room full of shadow people waiting to see what I do, since when have this many of them actually been able to see me? There was something super strange going on… and I don’t give a shit. I’m so bored with this school right now, I’m so tired of being the strange one, I get the sense that I will be considered pretty normal at this place.

The principal handed me a letter. I read parts of it out loud.

“100% paid scholarship.”

“Covers room & board.”

“… home on the weekends.”

“School has already started… awarded special dispensation because of her extraordinary IQ… start any time.”

Ah yes, my extraordinary IQ. Funny how that number changes everything.

I remember the day the child study team had given my parents the results of my IQ test. They had received them a few weeks earlier but had sent them back to be recalculated because they didn’t believe they were accurate.

At the time my teachers were trying to convince my parents (and anyone that would listen) that I was stupid and had a mental disability. They had attributed my grades to either cheating or luck. Their problem is their small pea sized brains couldn’t understand how incredibly BORED I was when sitting in the class. I mean, how many times do you expect me to hear the same thing repeated over and over and over again?

I was… I mean I am… so bored. Instead of letting me test out of the grades, they were torturing me by making me sit in class all day. So, I stopped paying attention. That got them really pissed. I started listening to music and drawing, instead of listening to the teachers drone on and on about the same thing over and over. I understood the lessons before the teachers had even finished their first explanation. It’s weird but when I see something, I immediately understand it. It’s sort of a talent.

Ms. Wilson was the driving force behind the test. I could read her so easily, she thought I was a cheat and wanted to prove it. Boy, was the IQ test an eye opener for her, for all of them.

Believe it or not, I’m pretty shy. I mean, I don’t open my mouth much. Mostly because I’m not sure if I’m talking to a real person (you know, the reality that you know and love) or one of those ghost/spirit/other non-physical people. So, when I do talk, it’s usually a shock to people that I have a voice. And, when I am clearly smarter than them (the teachers included) I am labeled disruptive.

Sometimes I like messing with them. It’s not my fault if they can’t take a quantum physics joke.

So, I started getting sent to the office.

No biggy, the chairs are nice and plush.

Now, imagine. You’re me. You’re smarter than everyone else that you know, and you’re the only one that isn’t involved in the conversation about “what to do with her.” I decided to participate, and that’s what landed me here. In the principal’s office being told I’d need to go somewhere else.

It’s a little scary… change. But exciting too.

“What are they going to teach me that I don’t already know?”

My mom looks at me. “Honey, I think you’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn when you are surrounded by students who are equally exceptional.” She put her hand on my arm, the international signal to shut up and listen. I hear Amanda snicker and mutter something derogatory under her breath.

I look at my dad. I don’t know what he sees in that witch, but I wasn’t going to judge. I am glad I only had to see her every other weekend. She is the poster child for crappy step-mom.

I think about it.

I suppose this new school can’t be worse. I don’t have any “real” friends at my current school. The jocks think I creepy, the nerds and brains think I’m a cheater and the goth’s are just plain dumb. I mean, crazy dumb.

“Ok, I’ll go” I say and got up to leave.

Actually, I didn’t just get up to leave… I got up and left.

Chapter 2

Imagine you’re me.

You wake up in your new school, which is like a haunted mansion on steroids but with kids. It’s like being on the movie set of Frankenstein the High School Musical. I’m lucky because I don’t have to share a room. The classes are small and each of us is working independently. I’ve only been here a week, so most of this week has been testing. I’ll find out on Monday about my “focus studies”. It’s sort of like your “major” as if you were in college.

There’s always this soft droning sound in the background and it’s starting to drive me crazy, so I decide to go for a walk.

I’m so used to seeing people, that I just ignore everyone I pass. I don’t wink, I don’t nod, I don’t do anything because I don’t want to give away my wackjob strangeness before I can figure out what this place really wants from me. ‘Cause I’ll assure you this is NOT a school. Oh, there are classes, but the hidden cameras and the hidden microphones tell me there is something spectacularly bizarre at play here. So, I go for a walk. Jeff and I look around for mechanical birds hiding cameras in the tree recording my progress. (Yeah, it’s that kind of freak-fest here.)

The school is a huge ornate gothic castle-like building in the Catskills mountains in New York. The surrounding purple ribbon of mountains makes the lawn look even greener and the well worn garden paths invite me towards the woods. I am fully aware that I’m like a black smudge walking across the pristine beauty of nature. I also sense someone watching me, not close but watching.

Dressed in black, with my funky blonde/black hair. I mean, black jeans, black converse sneakers, and a black t-shirt. I suppose they don’t need cameras to follow my progress… because I’m pretty easy to see. Like a crow in a corn field... or an oil spill in the snow.

Ahead of me, I see the girl walking in the woods. I can't tell yet if she's a real human or not. So, I decide to nonchalantly follow at a distance. Around the bend I come up to a stream and see her standing on the edge looking down. Yup. She’s Dead. A nonphysical and she’s just standing there looking down at something.

So, I walk up to her and join her at the side of the stream. I see the recent storm waters had receded, revealing freshly disturbed ground on the side of the brook. It looks like the ravaging waters were strong enough to move stone, sand and... looking closer I see a bone.

Based on her expression, I'm guessing it's hers. Kind of gross, right? Except she’s alive to me. She looks at me shrugs.

I walk up to the dirt covered flanges (technical word for finger bone… smart remember) and I look around. Squatting down, I move some more dirt and leaves and pebbles and see the exposed bone attached to … I stood up. There was more to her then what was currently exposed. I think I'm going to be a little sick. I definitely feel dizzy. I take out my phone and call 911.

What kind of school is this? Here I am minding my own business and I stumble upon a skeleton?

You know I'm cool right, I'm totally gifted and smart but, I never said anything about being brave!

And, where the hell is Jeff?

I look at the girl standing in front of me and realized that I missed her outfit, it's pretty old. Like super old, like 18th century old and it makes me wonder if the school was a school when she was murdered. YEA I used the "M" word, why else would she go to the trouble to get me to find her?

So, here I am in the middle of who knows where, trying to explain to the 911 operator about the bony body bits at my feet. I name the town but when I name the school, I feel a change in energy, like she knows something that I don't know. I continue by telling her about my walk and can tell that she's not really listening. The operator is now freaking me out more than the 100 year old dead body.

Look, you may think that I'm a creepy girl, but that's just you judging me on what I look like and what my life is like. And even though I diss myself all the time, I know I’m gifted, it just doesn’t always seem like a gift.

AND because I'm gifted I'm pretty sure I don't want to end up like this girl, buried for a hundred years waiting for a psychic to stumble upon my body! So, as much as I want to help the girl, I need to get the heck out of dodge and back up to the school.

"Look, I... um... I'm pretty freaked out, can I go back to the school and..."

"No!, ah, we'll need you right there to walk the officers through what happened"

I hear the footsteps while I’m on the phone with the police. Without looking around I know who it is, Jeff tells me. (When did he pop back in?)

It’s the headmaster and my English teacher (hubby and wife and founders of the Academy) Mr & Mrs. Finch. I continue talking on the phone, “Yes, ok, my guardians are here now” I say, wondering if the police had called them from another line.

30 minutes later I was Re-explaining what happened to the detective and 2 police officers. “As I said, I was walking along the stream and saw something by the shore, I walked closer to get a better look and I found the... the remains.” I didn’t describe the nonphysical girl walking around picking at leaves and kicking stones. The shadow girl in front of me was beautiful and full of life, the one on the ground. Not so much.

Then for effect, I told them I felt like I was going to get sick, that I was starting to feel dizzy. Jeff was spinning around and around, he didn’t want me to get in trouble. He didn’t want me to reveal anything about my abilities. I needed to play this like any other 14 year old.

Now I’m walking up to the house, and I have the adults talking to me in calm, soothing voices, me pretending to be freaked out, Jeff walking behind me and the girl. She’s following us all up to the school. GREAT! The hallway is already crowded and I just picked up another “friend.” This is going to be a long day.

Chapter 3

Imagine you’re me.

I am sitting on the red velvet loveseat in the great room waiting for the police to get done with the “crime scene.” I’m just sort of staring into the fireplace, imagining a nice warm fire, and candles lit everywhere and suddenly I can’t breath. I mean, I feel like all of the air has been sucked out of the room. Like an elephant sitting on my chest, I look around in panic, trying to understand how such a big room can suddenly have no air and I realize, I’m alone… Almost.

The usually crowded room is empty except for one person.

“What the hell?” I start to say but I have no air. none. My mouth snaps shut and I continue to watch as he walks towards me and I start to choke but .... Oh my god, he’s absolutely beautiful.

My whole entire being is enclosed in the bright light and warmth of him and his approaching smile, like a freaking movie. I just wish I could breath. No a single drop of air going in or out of my lungs. And, I don't care because he is gorgeous.

I might even hear love songs like harps in the background, I definitely see butterflies fluttering around… or are they stars because I'm losing consciousness? I realize my mouth is open a bit, and maybe I’m even drooling. Yeah, I’m that smooth. I snap it shut, again. Choke, I can't breath.

I can’t breath, I’m probably dying and I don’t care as long as the last thing I will see before I expire is his absolutely beautiful face.

“You alright?” he says to me. (I think) I have to be sure. I mean, I can't really tell if he's a real person or a shadow person or if he's physically speaking or just telepathically connecting. "Please be a physical human, please be a physical human," I think to my dying brain and I reach out to touch him, to test his physical presence.

Of course, I'm such a spaz (or maybe it's because I'm literally dying) I flail out my fist and punch him hard in the shoulder. Yeah, hard. He steps back and starts rubbing his shoulder ('cause like I said, I punched him hard).

Freaking Jeff, totally made me do that. I look over at Jeff, but he’s not there. No one is there but me and… him.

This dude is real. I look back at him.

He’s cracking up. Looking at me. Rubbing his shoulder, smiling. I am trying to remember how to breath. OH MY GOD, he is gorgeous. I look around again, the room is empty. I’ve never in my entire life been in an empty room. Jeff is gone, all other non-physical beings gone... and it occurs to me that the two dudes always playing checkers at the center table... are no physical humans because they’re gone too. I feel like I should sit down (ok, ok, actually can’t breath… more like collapse). I step back against the wall and start to slide down to a sitting position.

So far, I haven’t said anything, just stood, punched then sat there like an idiot, mouth agape. Oh yeah, there was drool. Now, I can’t even stand.

Fade to black.

Yup, that’s me. I actually fainted. Thank god, I was already in on the ground, because everything went dark.

Now, I hear voices and I am feeling like I'm coming out of a deep sleep but I keep my eyes shut. I feel the air, it’s full again. I sense that the room is full again. What the hell was that? Who the hell was that? I mean, he cleared the room. What the hell.

Or more aptly… What the Heaven!?!

Imagine you’re me, you’ve lived your whole entire life in the world absolutely crowded and filled with people and shadows and people and shadows and suddenly, you meet someone that can clear a room.

Someone that can create empty space.

Sometimes I think of myself as psychic. Mostly because the word means -> Soul Seer and that's a pretty good description of my life. I see the nonphysical entities that co-inhabit and co-create our world. I also like that word because it scares people. It scares people because they don't understand how the world is really setup, they don't get it. So, they are afraid.

I try to explain that it's like water. Water moves and flows and creates energy and has different "states" you know it's vapor, or solid or liquid. We're like that, our "being" is energy. Our Soul is energy, and our current reality is solid, but there are others. There are other ways that we are here and have always been here. So, to answer your unasked question… I can't really talk to the dead. I very rarely HEAR the non-physical entities; I see them and I feel them. When they want to tell me something and if I'm open to hearing, they make me feel something which I can then communicate in a way that physical people understand.

My experience is that people don't want the truth. I usually keep the truth to myself, but something tells me that this school is going to be very different than my other school.

That boy is different. He can clear a room and create a single layer of existence. It makes me wonder if he knows, he nearly killed me.

Chapter 4

Classes start early, immediately after breakfast (which for me consisted of a coffee and toast). Not because I'm that cool (which I think I am) but mostly because it was 8:00am. The cafeteria was more like a banquet, like a wedding reception. All of the tables were ornately decorated, and the chaffing dishes of breakfast stuff were all in silver. I stood at the end of the buffet line reading the room. The room is filled with such a strange compilation of kids and people. It was harder than ever understand what existed on my plain of reality and what was from another.

I took a sip of my coffee and was just heading out the door to sit on the front porch, where I was confident my only guests would be non-physical. That would be the easiest way to avoid making an ass out of myself by starting up a conversation with someone that didn't actually exist.

Jeff was being absolutely no help. I don't get it. Usually I'd follow him through the halls, sit at the table with him, let him pick out the best path. He… Jeff, wasn't even up yet? This just kept getting freakier and freakier. I literally could not find him.

Balancing my coffee and toast in one hand, I reached for the door to leave the room and it gave way so easily it nearly flew. I realized too late that I was opening the door at the exact same time that someone else was also opening it, my precariously balanced breakfast went crashing to the ground.

Spilling messily on my boots. I looked up with angry words that choked in my throat. It was him! His eyes were a brown warm amber, and his hair a wild curly mane. There was something so... magnetic. Only problem was that I couldn't breathe… again.

I fell to my knees and looked around wildly. The room was empty. Just kids. Just kids eating and no one else was suffocating. I looked up at him. The smile disappearing from his face and replaced with concern. I couldn't think, I was going to black out again, I waved him out of the room. "GET OUT OF MY WAY!" I yelled.

Understanding dawned and he backed out of the room. Fighting the greyness that threatened to take over my vision. I stayed on the ground, with my hands on my knees. Struggling for breath. I felt the weight lift and took a few deep cleansing breaths.

I looked around under my black tipped bangs and noticed the room of physical beings was quietly watching the whole thing. A server hurried over to help me pick up the toast and assured me that he'd clean up the spilled coffee. I saw that gorgeous boy walk past an outdoor window, I got the sense that he did it on purpose, so I'd know that he'd gone, and I stood and boldly exited my first breakfast experience at my new school. Marked it a failure. And continued on to class.

AND where the hell is JEFF?

Chapter 5

School is school. The good news is that this is what they call a Montessori style school. All kids, all ages in the same classroom everyone working at their own rate. Ms. James was starting me with quantum physics string theory, which was totally awesome! I was happily working away on the 3 page assignment at the end of the first chapter when I felt a tap on my shoulder. A physical tap was always good, because it told me the person was real. Jeff was standing behind her nodding affirmation that she was real, so I spoke, "Yes?"

"Hi, I'm Elise and Mr. Finch asked me to take you around the school during break, and so I thought... maybe... you'd want to get into the cafeteria early so we can start the tour while the halls are empty." She smiled.

"Ok, let me just pack up my books. And..." Looking around I wondered if I was supposed to take these books or if other students would be using them or…

"You have an assigned slot. See the back of your notebook, it has a number. Just go over to that wall of notebooks and put yours in the order. Then put the books back on the wall.”

“Oh, before you 'refile' your notebook, you rescan the barcode over there. It's how they track how much time you spend on your studies. See, I'll show you" Elise explained.

She took my books walked over to the desk. Using the scanner by the door she scanned the barcode. She glanced at the side binder for the number and walked over to the wall about halfway down and stowed the book.

"It's easier this way we don't have to carry books in the hallways" she said looking at me.

"Hi, I'm Anabelle Vazatar." I extended my hand to shake.

She had a tight confident grip and pumped my arm once, then turned to leave. "Elise Mason, If we hurry, we'll get in and out before anyone else" and I trotted behind her to the cafeteria.

I wondered if she was instructed to make sure I didn’t “run into” anyone.

Elise liked to talk. She talked the whole time we were in the buffet and I piled my plate high with food, because I hadn't eaten in a long time. Between finding the bones by the stream and fainting every time I saw, "Hey," I interrupted Elise's steady stream of information, "who is that guy, that kid… the... you know gorgeous one... the..." She stopped and looked at me.

"You really don't know?"

"Know what?" I said following her out of the cafeteria in onto what can only be described as a veranda. There was a table set with two chairs. I barely recognized that the table was set here for me, but I understand intuitively that my cafeteria spectacle had not gone unnoticed. I guess the school couldn’t afford for me to starve.

"That's James Keye." She stopped eating and looked at me, "I heard you punched him, did you really punch him?"

I decided to change the subject. "So, what's the deal with this school, is everyone super smart?" and I whispered his name in my head “James Keye”

Elise put down her fork and gave Anabelle a good long look. Jeff stood behind Elise and frowned, then suddenly Anabelle felt a shift in Elise's energy, it had a more narrow focus, and linear feel, it carried purpose and she heard, "Can you hear this?" Annabelle's eyes widened and she answered, "Yes."

Elise's mouth opened in surprise. "You answered me, you answered me telepathically. You're also a telepath!" She smiled and her energy burst wide open and sparkled with happiness and joy.

Watching Elise in this open happy mode was like looking through a kaleidoscope. I had to shake my head and blink to concentrate on what she was saying.

"You are going to love this school. Before I came here I thought I was a nutcase, literally, my parents were able to commit me. I could kind of hear thoughts and I could kind of make people think things were their ideas. And every time I tried to explain it to someone, they just thought I was crazy. This school taught me how to use my gift, sort of to turn it off and on, it's amazing. I can walk into a room of people and not hear everyone screaming their thoughts at me!"

I looked at her.

"I... um, didn't know I was a telepath, that was the first time I'd ever talked to someone like that. I guess I've never met a telepath before"

She looked at me. "Well, you are, I sort of suspected it the way that you avoid crowds."

I looked out over the green lawns, past the gardens, into the woods. They looked cool and inviting and serene and their energy was old and comforting. I looked at Elise and figured I might as well tell her. "Look Elise, I'm not here because I'm a telepath I'm here because..."

Just then the French doors opened, and students streamed out onto the porch and overflowed to the lawn. After the last human exited Ms. James, her teacher caught the closing door and headed towards them.

Anabelle looked down at her plate and realized she was done. Sitting with Elise had been a welcome diversion and she had stuffed her face with the delicious food.

"Elise, may I borrow Annabelle for a moment?"

"Mr. Finch asked me to show her around, after lunch I was going to give her the tour of the school."

"Wait here, we'll be back in 5 minutes"

As I stood to follow Ms. James a server appeared and took my used plate and dishes from me to clear the table. I saw that Elise continued sitting and her place was cleared as well. I decided to try the telepathy thing and intentionally spoke to Elise with my mind, "I'll let you know when I'm headed back" She looked at me with a smile spreading across her face, "Ok, I'm going out onto the lawn, give me a holler when you're ready for the tour" and she got up to leave. Ms. James didn't seem to notice the silent exchange.

Jeff on the other hand, was a little agitated.

I followed Ms. James into the first classroom on the right. It seemed to be a science room, there were Bunsen burners and beakers and formulas on the whiteboard. She turned to face me as I closed the door behind me. Her energy was concentrated, not angry, not happy, sort of neutral and very concentrated.

"I need an honest answer, Anabelle." She took a deep breath and I knew what was coming. This school was just like the rest. I don't know why I even bothered. I looked at her and interrupted, "No I didn't cheat." She looked at me, eyes wide opened in surprise. "Can you... read my mind?"

I looked at her totally taken off guard by her willingness to believe that I had psychic powers but also, back to the matter at hand. "Ms James, my whole life I have been called a cheater, so I expected this school to be the same. What? Are the answers in the back of the book? Do you need me to prove that I know what I learned today about the quantum string theory?"

I took a deep breath repeated what I'd read. "In physics, string theory is a theoretical framework in which the point-like particles of particle physics are replaced by one-dimensional objects called strings. String theory describes how these strings propagate through space and interact with each other. On distance scales larger than the string scale, a string looks just like an ordinary particle, with its mass, charge, and other properties determined by the vibrational state of the string. In string theory, one of the vibrational states of the string corresponds to the graviton, a quantum mechanical particle that carries gravitational force. Thus string theory is a theory of quantum gravity.”

I looked at her with her mouth now opening to the shape of a 0 and her eyes widening… and I continued.

“One of the challenges of string theory is that the full theory does not yet have a satisfactory definition in all circumstances. Another issue is that the theory is thought to describe an enormous landscape of possible universes, and this has complicated efforts to develop theories of particle physics based on string theory. These issues have led some in the community to criticize these approaches to physics and question the value of continued research on string theory unification.”

She looked at me and sort of stammered out. "You... have a photographic memory?”

“It’s actually called Eidetic memory; it works with almost everything. I can kind of “resee” whatever I have once seen.”

“I won't question you again. I'm sorry for doubting you, it's just... extraordinary. Now go back to Elise and finish your tour." She turned and pulled out her cell phone and started sending a text message. I read her aura and saw that it had changed, there was less of that bunched up directed energy and more of a release of stress and worry. "At least she's happy" I thought and walked out into the hallway.

I concentrated on Elise and thought, "OK, I'm ready for the tour."

"Right there!" Was the reply I received and we met where I had left her, at the table. We walked back into the school. As we walked, she talked. I noticed she went between physically speaking, you know when she was telling me about the types of classes held in each room, and telepathically communicating, when she told me what each teacher was like or what classes to avoid.

I realized there was a difference in her voice. I looked at her, and asked. "Do you hear a difference between my physical voice from my non-physical voice?" She nodded. "It's one of the things that I learned when I came here, how to tell the difference between someone that's thinking at me, and someone that's actually speaking to me, I'm glad you've already learned that." She looked up the stairs. "Let's go up there. I'll show you my room, and you can show me yours."

The rest of the afternoon went along pleasantly, there weren't any classes on that day after lunch. I learned that the school celebrated the lovely days, when the sun was bright and the air perfect for enjoying the outdoors. I learned that Elise shared a room with 2 other girls. And, Elise’s opinion those girls were intellectually dumb but they seemed to have certain healing gifts.

"So, is this like Harry' Potter's Hogwarts?" I asked.

Elise laughed,."There's no such thing as wizards" and we laughed together. First at the obvious statement and then at the ridiculousness of two telepaths joking about the validity of wizards.

I had just gotten up the courage to ask her about the boy, when we heard the dinner bell. We had moved from her room, to mine and she looked around wistfully and thought to me, "I wish I had my own room" and I smiled. She looked me right in the eye and said, "Why do you wear all black?" And we stood looking at each other in the hallway.

I didn't want to lie, but I also didn't want to think about it too much, so I told her the first thing that occurred to me, which turned out to be closer to the truth then I knew, "I guess I just want people to stay away. I guess when I dress like this most people just think they know me or at least my type and they leave me alone." She looked at me.

"Well it works. If Mr Finch hadn't told me to do this tour, I wouldn't have gone out of my way to talk to you, because you look sort of dark. You know?"

"Yeah, I know." I thought about it and added, "I'm glad we did this, I'm glad we met."

"Um, do you need to eat by yourself every day?" she asked.

Annabelle replied, "Yeah, it's better that way."

Elise's brows knit together in confusion then burst apart in realization. "You have more than one gift, don't you!" The late bell rang and both girls turned to run down the hall.

"Yeah, I guess I do."

Annabelle glanced up at the camera's following their progress down the hallway and told her, "meet me on the veranda for dinner and we'll talk some more"

Elise entered dining room and held the door for Annabelle, who had stopped in her tracks. Through the open door she could see that there were no non-physical entities in the room. She felt the pull of the energy as it tried to suck her in and suck out her air. Knowing the cause she looked around the room and saw him walking towards an empty table with his tray of food. James Keye, so beautiful and deadly. Just as she thought it, he looked at her. And their eyes locked.

She couldn’t move, literally, not moving any air, was making her feel faint, but his was so beautiful, like a combination of a wild horse and friendly stray dog. She didn’t couldn’t move, she didn’t want to stop looking at him. Her vision was greying around the edges from lack of air and suddenly she was punched in the chest and thrown out through dining room doors and the doors were slammed shut behind her.

Skidding to a stop on her butt, Anabelle gasped for breath and she looked around. “What the hell was that?” she said out loud with piss and vinegar in her voice. Someone or some thing had chucked her out of the dining hall and slammed the doors.

A scream brewed in her throat and she heard Elise in her head, ask “What the fecking hell was that!?!” in a sort of telepathic whisper scream. I could barely hear her over the drumming sound of my blood rushing oxygen to my brain.

" I... I'm not hungry," Annabelle sent back to Elise as she started to feel the comforting and enveloping swoosh of the nonphysical energy envelope her and sustain her. She pulled herself up to stand in the hallway and looked out the huge windows to the veranda where she and Elise had sat for lunch.

A server appeared through the cafeteria doors and nodded in her direction. "Ms. Annabelle,” he said. “Your dinner is served."

She followed him out the double doors to the veranda and walked over to the table as he placed the meal in front of her. "I ah.. Thank you" she said and sat while the server uncovered her meal and poured her ice water.

As she brought the first bite to her mouth, she glanced into one of the many windows that lead into the cafeteria and that not everyone was staring at her. Her gaze locked on James Keye. She said his name in her head, “James Keye” He looked up, their eyes locked. She did not receive a reply from him, but had the sense that he had heard her say his name.

Chapter 6

Imagine You're me.

New kid at a new school. All you want to do is fit in with the school of freaks, and you can’t even do that. In fact, you can’t even eat in the dining room because there’s a gorgeous dude that sucks the air out of your lungs. This is going to be a long semester. And to make matters even worse, she just discovered another gift that will actually allow her to hear other people’s opinion of her. This was just freaking awesome.

Her whole life Annabelle felt judged. She knew she was different, but she felt like it wasn't her fault. She never asked for her powers, she never considered them gifts, she'd never shared them with anyone and certainly never felt support from another human. She looked around for Jeff and saw him walking behind Elise who was heading her way. Annabelle noticed for the first time that Jeff wasn't always there, that Jeff was only there when she called to him, when she needed him. He was looking at her.

Annabelle thought about her earliest memory of Jeff. It seems like Kindergarten, when the kids were making fun of her for being strange, she didn't understand the problem. She didn't understand the joke, or how she was the joke. One day Jeff joined the class. He stood behind the kids she should speak to, and shook his head no to others. Annabelle eventually learned that Jeff was non-physical and was helping her navigate a room filled with real and unreal people. Elise had stopped eating.

In her peripheral vision she caught a movement. It was that same nonphysical creepy dude she had seen in the principal's office in her old school. He was kind of half walking gliding towards the building. As she watched, his face turned towards hers and she felt a shiver in her soul. Just then Elise sat and shivered loudly.

“We are going to have to teach to stop projecting so loudly! Sister, you have got some weird shit going on in your head. And, who is Jeff?”

The conversation about seeing dead people went better than expected. In fact, Elise didn't seem incredulous or ask silly questions. She seemed to believe everything that Anabelle said.

"So, there are like different planes of existence, there's this physical existence, and then one that's just energy?" she asked.

"My best description is that your soul, your inner being is that energy, I've met people that were physical then became non-physical and their energy feels the same. My grandma passed when I was 11. I was talking to her, and then still talking to her when my parents walked me out of the room and told me she was gone. I didn't believe it, because it wasn't really true. She's still here. She's still her. She's just not... Physical."

"So," I asked as nonchalantly as possible, "What is James Keyes’s gift?"

Elise stopped eating, "I don't know, it's weird I can't get any kind of read on him. Usually people leak information, like you did about "Jeff" who by the way sounds great," Elise thought loudly. "We can't talk about James here, ask me tomorrow on the lawn" and I bent over the last of my burger and thought, "OK."

After dinner we were all hanging out in the game room, really just a large ornate room with ping pong and a few other games. Kids were playing cards, monopoly and yahtzee. It was loud and sounded fun. I felt Mr. Finch approach the double doors before they opened. I could tell that his intention was to summon me, and I swept the building and grounds for an energy explanation. The police. They were here about the bones.

Careful to stand only after Mr. Finch had caught my eye and summoned me, I told Elise and some of the other girls around the table, that I'd be back and left. I could feel the void of James Keye enter the game room after I left. Had he waited until I was gone? Was he being kind or was he afraid I'd punch him again? Probably just a coincidence, I'm sure he doesn't know or care who I am. I looked over my shoulder through the door as it closed and our eyes met. CLICK. The door shut.

"Annabelle, this is Officer Sturbridge."

"Detective," he corrected with a nod in my direction.

"Yes, well, Detective Sturbridge."

"Anabelle, I'd like to ask you a few questions about the remains you found yesterday."

I looked at him. He was the typical cop, you know the kind you see on CSI or NCIS. Tall, old and fatherly. Like Gibbs on NCIS. I took a minute to read him, Jeff shook his head yes, to tell me he was one of the good guys, then someone else came in the room. He was also a cop, but I could sense a different kind of cop. While Dt. Sturbridge had a white and blue arura, this new copy was murky and cloudy and dark and something else. They both had their baggage, the non-physicals that followed them around, but they were so different. The second cop had a thing growing on his back. I repelled and curious at the same time. It looked like a backpack, but it was non-physical. It was sort of attached, but the cop actually tilted forward a bit to compensate for the weight of the load.

Weird. Yeah. Imagine you’re me… I’m a real freak fest!

The new guy also had these dark wispy things, I don't want to call them evil because I don't want to judge, but they kind of feed off of the type of work he does, and based on his energy it looked like he enjoyed feeding them. Detective Sturbridge was different. I know this sounds retarded, but it was like he was surrounded by other detectives, like non physicals that wanted to solve mysteries so he was really surrounded by help.

"Detective Michael’s this is Annabelle, the young lady that found the remains."

I watched him as he acknowledge me and I thought I saw a smirk. He held out his hand for me to shake and I didn't. I just couldn't. There was something about the vibration of anticipating from those swirling wisps of black energy that made me think I definitely do not want to touch that guy. I watched his little smirk broaden to a wicked smile and thought, "Yup, I'm going to stay away from this creepy guy."

"Ms. Vazatar?" Detective Sturbridge said looking down at his notes with his pen prepared to write.

"I see here that you were going for a walk and just happened to look down at just the right moment, and you saw the bones?"

I nodded

"Would you tell me what happened next?"

"Well, I guess I didn't really know what I was looking at but kind of thought it was unusual, I think I tapped it with my foot. You know to move it around a bit and then, I guess I called 911"

"What made you call 911 instead of going back to the school and telling your headmaster?"

I thought for a moment.

"I guess I didn't want to leave the bones... I guess I wasn't sure I'd be able to find them again."

"Good girl," Detective Sturbridge said, "that's pretty smart, but then I've read your file and you are very smart, aren't you?"

I looked at him for signs of sarcasm or mocking but his eyes told me he was being genuine. He was giving me a genuine compliment. There was no hint of jealousy, or deception. I looked back at him, I liked him. I trusted him. I smiled.


"So, the dead girl was Melissa Cameron" Detective Michaels jumped in, "she was a student at this school and one day she just disappeared. She went missing 15 years ago.”

I looked up shocked to hear the other cops voice. It was so nasty and happy at the same time. I looked at the other adults to see if they had noticed.

I closed my eyes, cleared my energy and created a huge protective globe of positive power around myself and pushed back. Looking directly at Det. Michaels I could see he knew what I had done. I watched his wispy darkness disappear and I could see him react to their exit. He knew something about the leeches that were hanging on him, he wanted them there, he was a little … like me. But not at all like me.

"I don't think it’s necessary to drag up all that old gossip, Robert." Mr Finch started to say.

Robert? I thought. Mr. Finch knew Detective Michaels and knew him on a first name basis. He was at least slightly psychic, I wonder if he had been a student here. I watched Detective Robert Michaels watch me. I heard him think a single word very clearly, “bitch.”

Read next: Run Necromancer