“I mean it was the hottest day of the year and they said the heat index was one of the worst in the last decade. Are you so stupidly routine based you had to risk your life for your fucking walk?” Bethy asked.
“I had a lot on my mind,” I said. “I didn’t feel bad, I just accidentally fell asleep while thinking things through. My core temperature wasn’t really dangerously high, but they say that my heart rate was really low, as if I had taken too many beta-blockers. Weird. Do you know what they mean?”
“Don’t blame me,” she said. “I didn’t give them to you.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Nothing,” she said. “I got to go.” An alarm went off in my head but was immediately dampened.
“Where are you off to now?” I asked.
“Uhm, you know, to see Sheena.”
She spun on her heels and left, slamming the front door and her car door on the way.
Something was seriously up, yet I couldn’t confront it. It was as if my own mind pushed back every time I tired.
In a bit of a daze I picked up my cell and dialed. I wasn’t even sure what number I was dialing, but something knew.
“What do you want, Trevor?” It was Amelie’s voice.
“He attacked me today,” I said.
“Yeah, I told you he was going to, but did you listen or prepare?” she asked.
“I didn’t know it would be this soon or this ferocious,” I said. “Nothing could have prepared me.”
“OK, what happened?”
“I was taking a walk after lunch, when,” I started.
“Today?” she asked. “Man, you are stupid.”
“Thanks,” I said. “Anyway, my mind was being clogged. I could hear every blade of grass, I think even the fucking microbes were screaming for attention. And the people. Every person to have walked in town since Adam began his begetting was flashing in my brain.”
“That is an occupational hazard, but easy enough to control,” she said. I thought I could detect a repressed giggle.
“I’m sure I’ll learn eventually,” I said. “I didn’t know today so when I felt a quiet place, hidden from view behind a hedge, I jumped at it.”
“Ah yes, a trap,” she said. “He has long controlled much of your mind without you catching on. Being overwhelmed was his doing, as was his little honey pot. Anyway, so, once you were stuck in his web, what happened?”
“I got caught up in too many mixed metaphors,” I said. This time I could tell, it was a giggle. “Actually, I felt the presence of Dorothy Haley – Hawthorn. I had to investigate. Before I knew what was happening, I experience the fire that took her life in first person. In all of its eternal agony. All I’ll say is, it wasn’t pleasant.”
“I’m sure it wasn’t,” she said. “Look, you need to protect yourself. And stop that with your dirty mind.”
“That’s not what I was thinking,” I said. “But, yeah, so how do I make a condom for my mind. Or, no, that’s an awful analogy, I guess I need barriers, an iron tight shell. I don’t want to protect others from my mind, I need to protect my mind from others.”
“Are you done babbling? I think your brain did get addled today.”
“Great, thanks,” I said. “You too?”
“Now look,” she said, “I shouldn’t be able to get in at all.”
There was a pinch. “Ouch!” I knew it wasn’t real but I still called out.
“You need to be aware and push me away,” she said.
I felt something and blocked it.
“You need to keep me all of the way out,” she said. “I shouldn’t be able to tell that you had a crush on your second grade teacher, Miss Goodwin.”
I thought of a fence of reinforced concrete surrounding my mind.
“You should be able to hold off a grenade going off in your hat,” she said. “Nobody, and I mean nobody should know your mom called you sugar smack when you were five. I mean, yuck.”
I made the wall four foot thick and put a layer of bricks over it.
“You have a house on the San Andres fault and the big one is about to happen while I simultaneously lob a small nuke your way. You need to protect it and the collection of Ming vases stored in it,,” she said. “And yet with a pellet rifle’s force I know exactly what Sean O’Malley called you in the gym shower room when you were in seventh grade. Come on boys, size isn’t everything.”
I buried the protective ball under 1000 feet of granite and put in a three foot layer of lead.
“Think a half a mile wide asteroid hitting it during the nuclear attack and earthquake,” she said. A picture of having sex with Bethy entered my mind. “Oh, missionary style, how boring, but at least Sean was wrong.”
Angry and embarrassed, my mind circled the Earth and shot outward. I passed the sun, thinking it was too cold. I thought of the center of Jupiter, but it was too brittle. I went out farther and more furious. And then I felt it. I built the wall.
“Shit, what in the hell was that?” she asked.
“I built a barrier from the core of a neutron star,” I said. “I had to travel about eight light years to find it, but I don’t think it will be compromised by a measly half a mile wide rock going only a few dozen miles a second.”
“A neutron star, fuck, why didn’t you go all of the way and just get it done with by using a black fucking hole?”
“Well, I did see one, but I didn’t think it was necessary,” I said. “Sure, I guess I can do that.”
“No, no please don’t,” she said. She laughed for a second. “Shit, I knew you were powerful, but, this is beyond my comprehension. A neutron star in your head. OK, I will tell you what to do from here. First keep it almost empty for now. If you close everything off too quickly he’ll know. He still has a lot of resources and a lot of experience. Use it as a refuge for now, to get away to think. Slowly put stuff in, but filter very carefully. Don’t allow even the smallest quark of him in.”
“OK, sounds logical,” I said.
“Put a lot of padding around it,” she said. “Keep some fluffy thoughts out in the open. Perhaps make some of those straw houses to make him think you’re trying but don’t get the magnitude.”
“Straw houses?” I asked. “The last one had a thousand feet of granite.”
“Well, it wasn’t built right,” she said. “But that’s fine. Build a very strong granite barrier, but not so strong he can’t break in. Don’t let anyone know the neutron star thing is there. Shit, I shouldn’t know. He has been hammering on me since I was seven, he might break through. Or worse yet, maybe he got in when I was six and has just been toying with me.
“Always remember, he is in your mind,” she continued. “He controls much more of it than you realize. He blocks much more of it than you can know. Since you’ve rediscovered your powers have you found anyone you can’t read? He has them blocked off both inside your head and inside of theirs. OK, some may have put up the block, but most you come across will be by him. Be very careful. Be a neutrino and sneak in undetected. Open up on the back side. Don’t let him know you’ve been there.”
“OK, yeah, thanks.” I said. “Neutrino, that’s a great analogy.”
“Just be careful,” she said. “And be wary. I hate to tell you this, but most people around you have most likely been tampered with. He wants you and isn’t leaving it to chance. If you find someone, don’t feel cocky, because there are others.”
“Yes dear,” I said.
“Yes dear yourself,” she said. “You need to understand. He will purposefully reveal some of these people to you. He will sacrifice some. These are done to hurt you. What if a favorite relative, best friend or lover is really a spy and has only disdain for you? Don’t let it distract you. And don’t take it personally. As soon as you start feeling sorry for yourself, going out to seek revenge or even feel sorry for the pawn that he gave up, well, he has won that round and perhaps the war.”
“OK, so make a stone of my heart,” I said.
“I know how awful it is, but pretty much yes,” she said. “There will be time enough to laugh and love when this is all over.”
“So, anything else?”
“What have I told you so far?” she laughed. “You have to know when he enters your mind. He has built so many doors and he’ll never use the same twice. When he is in, give him a guided tour of your choice but make sure he thinks he’s in control. I know, easier said than done.”
I felt something in my head and brushed it away. Something else came in, a little more subtly. Again I was able to brush it off. Then the lightest feather touching the most callous part. I pushed it away. I waited, knowing there’d be more.
I heard Amelie sigh both in my head and over the phone. “You didn’t do terribly, but, yeah, I’m in after only a handful of tries,” she said. “Not into your inner sanctum, but still there and you know nothing about it. You need to know and push me out.”
There was nothing. Not a thing. But, maybe something was there after all. It was like a dime in the dust of Saturn’s rings. It was out of place. I funneled into it and followed it back. A group of older white girls was teasing the 14 year old Amelie. She started to say something and then was gone, I was back in my house.
“Damn, you’re a quick study,” she said. “And I guess I deserved it. Just don’t try to psychoanalyze me on that little snippet, OK?”
“Yeah, don’t worry,” Is said. “Anything else?”
“No, I’m tired,” she said. “Damn, OK, one more thing. Make sure he doesn’t suspect any of it. Be very careful. And don’t use your powers to hurt others. Ever. Just don’t, no matter how justified. Damn, I had a million things to do and, man, look where my night went.”
“I know,” I said. “I can’t thank you enough. Oh, by the way, since you never asked, I was just fine after my run in today. I was over heated but there no damage at all. No tissue damage, brain damage, nothing. I was a little shaken up is all.”
“I didn’t ask because I knew. Of course you weren’t damaged,” she said. “Would you burn down the house you’re trying to buy to get a better deal? He wants you in perfect condition.”
“And what exactly is he going to do to me if he wins?” I asked.
There was a long pause. I was about to say something when Amelie said, “Good night, I hope you have good dreams as you might not for a while.” She then hung up.
I put part of my mind in the deepest hidden bunker and let that part wonder what Amelie meant. There were no good answers.
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