Monday, March 06, 2006

You Know Me Too Well: A Short Story

The Clairvoyant Convention takes place every March in a brightly lit conference room on the top of The Comfort Inn in Elizabeth Massachusetts. From all over the country, those that claim to see the future converge on Elizabeth, prepared to discuss the hot new trends in clairvoyance. Panel discussions are held.

Driving up I-95 in my worn-out green Ford Escort, I watch the water slide into the rocks and explode into the sky. There is a calm from the water, an infinite degree of contentedness that takes place in the ocean. Before I know it, the exit comes upon me and I cruise off the exit. The specter of the hotel is before me. Relaxation bolts as my hands quaver on the steering wheel.

The room is tiny, a single bed pressed against the wall, and a small dresser on the side. It's simple, without any tacky hotel furnishings. The bedsheets are a cool cream color, unencompassing and easy. I've requested it this way.

I put my bag down on the dresser and stretch out onto the bed. My body is still shaking, so I practice a breathing technique that I read about on the internet. Tension drips out of me.

A sharp bang comes from the door. I'm not exactly sure how long it's been, but I feel refreshed. I reach over and open the door, still lying on the bed. The bulky frame of Tom Redding walks into the room, sitting down on the bed.

Tom is the most recent president of the Clairvoyant Club, having accurately predicted several hurricanes and snowstorms. He's a weather psychic, though he claims his powers extend far beyond that. Occasionally his local news station will have him on to guess at next weeks five day forecast. He's correct nearly two-thirds of the time.

He breaths through his lips, staring down at me through his pale green eyes. He looks concerned. He opens his mouth.

"I know what you're thinking Colby," he says.

"I know you do Tom." I keep a serious expression on my face, but my eyes secretly roll. He has no idea what I'm thinking.

"Look Colby, you're mad, but there's just no way that we can have you giving a key-note speech this year. Your powers are quite amazing, but you're too young and inexperienced. Maybe next year kid." I bite down hard on my lip to keep from laughing. There are so many things that Tom doesn't know, yet his eyes are self-assured and satisfied. I nod, pretending to be upset but understanding.

"Have you been working on those exercises I gave you?" I nod slowly. Last year at the convention, Tom gave me mental exercises to stretch the capacity of my psychic ability. He squeezes my hand, rising off the bed, gives me a quick wink and walks out of the room. I turn over and nearly die laughing in my pillow. The mental exercises had succeeded in giving me an enormous headache.

The Clairvoyant Society claims it holds its annual meeting in Elizabeth because of its relative closeness to Salem Massachusetts. They say there is heavy psychic energy in the air, which fosters the growth of our powers. At every convention three or four psychics pass out, being diagnosed with psychic overdose. It's always fun to watch the overly dramatized fainting acts; the twisting and twirling, overly excessive screaming and gasping.

I walk into the meeting room, observing the overly ornate dressings on the wall. There are painted sconces with incense smoking blithely from them. From the ceiling gold and green silk hangs, stretching out across the room. They are supposed to be the most psychically powerful colors. A huge fountain sits in the middle of the room, gurgling loudly. It's meant to focus psychic energy, but inevitably someone will become inebriated and dive into it, claiming they can feel the energy.

The clairvoyant Society is a broad spectrum of people, ranging from a man who claims that at night someone whispers the future to him, to a woman who says she is capable of bending wood with her mind. She merely chooses not to, realizing how dangerous it could be. The elaborate costumes people wear always make me laugh. The men wear metal tunics, claiming that it focuses their powers. They have elaborately stitched robes with hoods and an interesting assortment of helmets. The women wear incredibly detailed black dresses, punctuated with pale makeup and dark lipstick. I'm dressed in a simple blue collared shirt and slacks, unassuming and easy to ignore. I look like an outsider.

A scuffle breaks out to my left. An enormous man, his arms shooting out of his torso like great oak tree branches, has jacked a much skinnier man against the wall. People have surrounded them, some begging them to stop, most encouraging the fight.

"Dude, what the hell is it that you're thinking about my wife?" The man points out a large, silver haired woman standing next to him. She is dressed in a black and purple Gothic rayon dress, her legs barely poking out of the hem. The small man's face is scarlet, his knees clattering. He gurgles, trying to answer the man, but breath has failed him. The eyes roll into his head, and he becomes unconscious. The gigantic man releases his grip and lets the other man fall to the ground.

Tom comes running up from the back, slightly out of breath and looking dazed. He has adopted the outfit of the president, a grey raven's helmet with a scarlet and gold tunic. He places his hand on his temples, in an effort to mentally assess the situation, but decides better of it. Apparently his psychic energy was being blocked.

"My god, Roger, what the hell have you done?"

"He was thinking about my wife in dirty ways."

"Dirty ways?"

"Yeah, like thinking about her body and stuff. I heard him in my mind."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. The thought was as clear as a bell. He was in the middle of talking to her when I heard in my mind that she had an incredibly nice body. I knew it was him, so I had to defend her." The small man is still on the floor, his eyes closed, his face nearly blue. He is in no position to answer for his charges.

"Well then, I suppose what you did could be justified. But please, in the future try and control yourself."

"I'll do my best Tom. Thank you." I stand back as Roger strides out of the room. Others move away from him, scared of the huge psychic man.

I grab some spicy punch and sit through a speech entitled "How to give your third eye Lasik surgery." It's a wonderful presentation on how to clear your mind of any distractions in order to see what's really available. I force my hand onto my mouth, desperate to choke back any giggling. Since I'm in the back of the room, no one seems to notice.

The evening's big event is a speech by Tom, who walks up to the podium slowly in order to highlight his elaborate outfit. He looks over the colorful audience, seeming to consider other people's thoughts before starting.

"My friends, we are in danger. Yes, I realize that this is a startling remark, as most of us know we are highly evolved human beings with superior brains. But every year, there seems to be less of us coming to this conference, and I'm worried about our future. Being a psychic should be a community experience, where we share our thoughts together. Yet our brothers and sisters seem to shy away and take on a life of their own. So today, I'm empowering all of you to go out and recruit another psychic for our ranks. I am convinced that someday soon, humanity will need us for a great noble purpose and the more of us there are, the better. Go out into your community and find as many psychics as you can. We will be strong." Massive cheers rise from the audience. The idea of psychics becoming a powerful force in the world appeals to people. I am nearly sickened by the idea, and get up to politely leave.

A small old woman, her hair dark auburn, wrinkles stretched delicately across her face, follows me into the hallway. She corners me in the hallway, a suspicious look in her eyes.

"Excuse me."

"Yes?"

"What are you doing at ourconvention?"

"The same as you, to focus my powers and gain new psychic strengths."

"You are not a psychic. I can't feel your mind or touch your soul. You are spying on us! You are a fraud." I look down, embarrassed by her accusation.

"I'm not a fraud, my powers have just not been developed as yours. Please, allow me to go back to my room and meditate on tonight's happenings." Her deep hazel eyes thaw, and she nods understandingly. She tries to put her arm around me, but notices me cringing and thinks better of it.

"Good night young man. May your dreams be filled with the future," she says. I wait for her to walk back into the conference before the smile envelopes my face. Fraud, indeed. I walk down the hallway and to my room, whistling a happy tune. For a small moment at least, I am happy.

The tap on my door comes at 10:15. I'm reading a book about how coma patients sometimes become clairvoyant. Excitement surges through me as I stand and open the door.

Standing outside is an old, thin man with a wide moustache and pointed ears. The fedora on his head sags from years of poor use. His yellow trenchcoat exudes mustiness. I've been waiting to see him.

"Hello Eugene" I say, trying to keep the nervousness out of my voice.

"Hi Colby" he answers. "We should go, it's getting late and the night is at hand."

"Do you want to..."

"No, not until we get there. It's too dangerous here."

Eugene grabs my hand and leads me out of the hotel. I'm thankful for the warmth and human connection his hand provides. We walk the old streets of Elizabeth. I look at the amazing architecture, ancient and imposing. Elizabeth is normally a thriving New England tourist town, but the cold winter months have scattered people. Kitschy bars and restaurants are open, but they have few patrons. I admire the look of the place, imagining what the colorful streets and cool shops must be like when it's warmer.

In front of us is an ancient Gothic library. It sits on the edge of town, skillfully made to look discreet. The beauty of the grey stone is subtle, and tourists would never think of patronizing it. It just hangs back, available for other uses.

A single tiny bulb burns somewhere in the building. The timeworn library is filled with stacks of books piled haphazardly to the ceiling. Dust lingers in the aisles. A reference desk, its old oak beginning to wear with water damage, lies in the center. I hold my breath, allowing Gene to lead me around the library. We move quickly through aisles of musty books. In the back of the library there is a heavy wooden door. From far away, it looks like an average supply closet, but if you look closely there is a dangerous symbol cut into it.

Eugene extracts an ancient key from his pocket and clicks it in the door. We enter the room and he shuts the door immediately. The contrast is startling. In the fireplace, a log is burning brightly. It fills the room with a comfortable warmth. The room is immaculate, with colorful tapestries hanging from the stone walls. Two enormous leather chairs sit next to the fire.

I sit down, and Gene runs off for a bottle of port. He is nervous as well. The night has much to offer. He pours glasses of wine and sits down, staring at me.

"Colby, why do you insist on going to that ridiculous function?"

"Makes me feel better."

"Why?"

"Its absurdity. I love the way in which people view psychic powers."

"So you go to laugh?"

"I hardly ever get to."

"I know, neither do I. But I'm worried people will begin suspecting you."

"Eugene, everyone knows those people are kooks. That's the point. If I hang around with them, no one will suspect anything. They'll merely think me another kook." He begins swirling the port in his glass, staring at the maroon liquid. He is deep in an idea.

"We lead a lonely life, don't we?" He asks.

"We have to. It causes me enough problems when I slip and accidentally tell people what they are thinking. Usually I have to give up contact after that happens."

"You know what's funny?"

"What?"

"Your friends at the convention aren't wrong. This area is indeed a hotbed of psychic energy. It's easier for us to expel our energy because it's less noticeable. Our forebears started the Clairvoyant Convention to cover our tracks, blame it on someone else. For a brief period, while we are trying to cure ourselves, they actually might obtain our powers. We need them. I just find it funny that you've grown so accustomed to hanging out with them." I put my hand on Gene's to comfort him. He moves his fingers around my palm, pressing gently into mine.

"Don't worry my dear friend, I'll be fine."

I feel Gene press his head against my mind, and words are no longer needed. It's started. Our minds flip images back to each other, easy and clear. He shares with me the triumphs and pain of the past year. His fears, anxiety, joy and happiness seep into my mind. We talk that way for quite some time, me passing along my year and he sharing his. Finally I feel him lose his inhibitions and open his entire mind to me. Hours go by as we share our entire lives, down to the minutiae. Finally, we break contact, our psychic abilities expelled.

"I have to tell you something Colby, and I'm not sure how to say it." He looks at me, his orange eyes twisting.

"Just say it, I'll understand." He sighs, forcing his moustache to flicker in his breath. Looking down, he finally addresses me.

"This is my last year. After this, you'll be alone. I'm sorry, I know this is sudden."

"I know about it all. You did your best to hide it from me, but I could still feel it lingering in the back of your spirit. Please don't do this Gene. There's got to be another way."

"There isn't. I can't go on living this way. I've come here tonight to give you a year to find someone to replace me. I plan on doing it." I find my face hot, the tears falling uncontrollably.

"Gene, you're the only person who understands me. I don't know of anybody else who I can trust. What will I do now?"

"I've left you a significant amount of money so you can go on and find another like us. Please Colby, understand why I'm doing this."

"Of course I understand why you are doing this. You can't stand dealing with the ability- knowing all the time what people are thinking, what they are going to tell you. Worrying how you are going to hide it from them. It still makes it that much worse for me. I'll be alone, without you or anyone else to take away my pain."

"I'm sorry Colby, you know I am. But I can't live with this anymore. Tonight, I'm going to walk into the rocky shoals and it'll be over with. I'm lucky though."

"Why's that?"

"When most people die, their memories vanish, spilling out into the world. I know with you, my memories are safe. You've been good to me Colby, and I know you'll do fine." I was nearly bawling when I felt his head once again touch mine, and darkness slip over me.

When I awake at sunrise there's a letter for me, explaining how much he cared for me and exactly why he will miss me. I walk outside, and sit on the rocks by the shore, reading the letter in depth. Waves crash in front of me, alarming and sad. My tears mix with the saltwater as he tells me that everything will be okay. The last line burns into my mind:

"I'm sorry to do this to you. You know me too well."

__________

I walked down the beach, the future lingering before me. His words stung me. I tried to steel my heart from the pain that I was feeling, but it was no good. All of a sudden, I was alone again, hopelessly lost in the world. I walked through the world, a lost soul struggling to find a place. I didn't stop until your mind brushed against me.

I found you, lying in a field in Central Park, staring at the deep cobalt sky freckled with clouds. You had a terrified look on your face, not sure what to do with the world. I could feel you from across the city, pain and confusion pouring from your mind. I sat down next to you and stared into your neon blue eyes. You were scared of me, and tried to get up, but I placed my hand on yours and sent you warm thoughts. You relaxed and hugged me, crying on my shoulder, whispering in my ear that you were so alone in the world. I knew and began crying as well.

Since then, we've shared perfect moments of joy. I have never been comfortable in my life. I can't seem to quiet my mind. It's always processing other people's thoughts and wondering. But then, there are times that we share that I know I'll never be alone again and my mind stops. Walking in a deep forest, hand in hand, not another human for miles and nature spreading itself out before us. That time we sat on an abandoned beach, the water rolling in slowly, I held you close and you smiled at me to let me know everything was okay. I wanted nothing else but your company, and I didn't care about my foolish thoughts. Life was amazing. Life is amazing.

Yes, you know me too well, and sometimes that creeps into my thoughts. I shake, knowing that there is someone else in the world who sees me as I am. That doesn't matter though, as I know you'll be there to press your forehead against me when I cry. The sadness of the world evaporates in your skin, and life couldn't get any better.

2 comments:

Brett said...

Whoa sorry, that needed some serious revision before posting. Thoughts?

Papa Bill said...

Sorry I missed the meeting, but I saw no point in attending, knowing as I did everything that was going to happen.