“I’m running across rooftops, chasing a purse snatcher. I can jump the alley ways easily enough, but I’m coming to the end of the block. 9th is a one-way street, so at least it’s narrow, but it’s still a street. Wider than any of the jumps I’ve made. He’s on the ground, just running pell-mell down the sidewalk, through the light early morning crowds to make his get away. He doesn’t see anyone chasing him, and I watch as he darts in front of oncoming traffic to cross 9th.”
Doctor Shadid interrupted. “What do you feel at this point in the dream?”
“I don’t remember feeling much, other than a desire to chase this guy down, and get the woman’s purse back.” Barbara pondered before continuing, “I suppose if I had to put a name to what I might have been feeling, it’d be anxiety about the jump. Doubt I could make it. Fear at what it would mean if I couldn’t catch him.” She tried to relax into the padded chair, fidgeting. When she first sat down a few minutes ago, she sank into the chair and nearly went to sleep. But now no matter how she sat something was poking her somewhere. She crossed her right leg over her left and forced herself to sit still.
Doctor Shadid’s pen scratched on her notepad. She spoke without looking up at the student. “Please go on. What happened next?”
“The purse snatcher crossed 9th, sliding across the hood of a taxi like a scene out of a movie. I was nearly at the edge of the building, so I quickly measured the distance, judging my stride and adjusting so I’d plant my right foot on the edge before leaping.” Barbara took a moment to try to calm her heart rate. Reliving the dream was getting her worked up all over again. “I pushed off and sailed through the air, stepping on it like someone in one of those wu-shu wire work kung fu movies. Three long strides took me across the space above the street and onto the next building. The thief turned down an alley and from the roof I could see it was a dead-end for him. Two more steps and I dove down into the alley. I didn’t think about it, just dove head first, and turned while falling to land on my feet.”
“You were able to land safely?” the psychiatrist looked up from her notes.
“Yeah. Light as a feather. I saw him at the other end, going through the purse and tossing out anything he didn’t care about.”
“Did you confront him then?”
“Yeah. I shouted to get his attention. We were still maybe thirty feet apart, but he had nowhere to run. ‘Hey!’ I said. ‘Drop the purse!’”
“And he listened?” her pen scratched more, but Janice was watching the student’s reaction more than her notes.
“Not really … He pulled out a gun and shot me. Right here.” Barbara touched her right hand to her chest, three inches below her left collar bone.
“Were you okay?”
“That’s where the dream ended. I woke up with a start, my hand automatically reaching for the gunshot wound. But of course nothing was there. Jennifer turned on her bedside lamp and asked if I was okay.”
“It’s good to have roommates like that.” Janice made a note to ask Jennifer Aldermann for her side of the story.
“Yeah, definitely. I told her I was okay. It was just a bad dream. She clicked the light out and I heard her go back to sleep, but I couldn’t. I just laid there, staring into the dark. My heart was racing and I just kept thinking about the end of the dream.”
“Why do you think you couldn’t get back to sleep? Surely you’ve had nightmares before.” The pen was down now, the note pad lying on a table beside the doctor’s chair.
“Not like this … I don’t remember being shot before. And it felt so real. Even in the dream-logic, stepping through the air seemed real and natural. The heat and the pain of the bullet … Even now, that memory isn’t far away.”
“That seems perfectly reasonable. Have you had other dreams like this before?”
“No … and if it was just a dream, I probably won’t have even brought it up. But I think why I couldn’t get to sleep again …” Barbara sighed.
“It’s okay, miss Carlsman. Barbara. Anything you say in this room stays here. Just between us.”
“Okay, but promise you won’t laugh.” The student uncrossed her legs, keeping her knees together as she set both feet on the floor and leaned forward. Janice mimicked the student’s actions, gesturing for her to continue. “After laying on my back for a while, I rolled over onto my side to try to get comfortable and realized my arm wasn’t pinned under me. My shoulder wasn’t twisted slightly like normal. I was actually floating a few inches above my bed.” Barbara leaned back in the chair. “As soon as I realized that, I fell onto the mattress. I stayed up the rest of the night trying to figure out how or why I was floating, and whether I could do it again.”
“And were you successful?” Janice picked up her notepad again, tapping her pen.
“No …” Barbara turned her head away from the doctor as she felt herself blush. “I feel stupid for even trying.”
“Not at all, Barbara. I’m going to recommend you for some additional coursework, if you’re up for it. More of extra-curricular training.” She wrote another note to herself to speak with Master Stankiewicz. Anim was one of the best telekinetics at the Storkey Academy.
“You don’t think I’m crazy?”
“Not at all, miss Carlsman. Far from it.” Janice checked her notes on Barbara. “You’ve only been here a few weeks, correct?” When Barbara nodded, Janice went on. “Storkey may look like a normal school from the outside, but we have facilities and faculty here for some … extraordinary learning.”
Barbara furrowed her brow and turned her head slightly, trying to decipher the strange emphasis Doctor Shadid put on “extraordinary” but decided to puzzle it out later. “Thank you, Doctor.” The two women rose and went back to their routine. Barbara left the room as Janice sat at her desk and turned on her computer.
“Again!” the stocky man shouted at his student in the fading evening light. They were on the archery range, and had been for hours, but Barbara only held arrows in her hand. The only bows were in the hands of other students who were mostly packing up. They left their arrows in the targets down range, waiting for the all clear signal from the rangemaster.
Barbara sighed and held her right hand palm up in front of her. An arrow balanced in her open palm and wavered slightly as she squinted at it.
“Range is closing, Master Stankiewicz.” The rangemaster seemed almost apologetic in trying to convince the telekineticist to stop for the day. “The students need to retrieve their arrows and targets, and we can’t do that while your student continues.” The two men looked down range and Barbara’s target, unmarred by arrows, then at the smattering of shafts lying on the ground five feet in front of the firing line. The rangemaster looked back at Anim and shrugged. “Protocol is protocol.”
Barbara’s arrow leaped from her hand, sailing through the air in a straight line, headed for her target. This time it made it six feet before falling to the ground. “You think too much!” the diminutive professor railed. “Five minutes! Take break!” Barbara sighed and the rangemaster blew his whistle.
“Clear! Clear! Clear! Five minute all clear! You may retrieve your targets!” He paced down the line as the archery students rushed down range to gather their targets.
“Maybe if you’d stop yelling at me and just tell me what I’m doing wrong!”
In the first week they’d been in a class room, and Anim showed her what telekinesis could do. What he could do with telekinesis. He lifted himself, her, and every empty desk in the room. Then he walked her through focusing her mental energy and directing it at moving individual beans on the desk. She was elated the first time she’d moved a bean, sending it skidding across the desk, sailing through the air to shatter against the brick wall. Anim was disappointed.
“You lack control.” The man she initially took to be a kindly Jewish grandfather quickly revealed himself to be an angry billy goat whenever she did anything unsatisfactorily. “I didn’t ask you to break the bean, to fling it across the room. I said push it from here, to here.” He touched his finger to the two four-inch circles on her desk, emphasizing his point. “Do it again.” He placed a new dry bean in front of her.
Barbara drew on her physics and calculus classes, estimating the weight of the bean, the friction of the table’s surface, and what impulse would be required from which direction for how long to move the bean. She came up with a force value and concentrated on applying exactly the right amount of psychic force. The bean wobbled, but did not move far.
Anim watched her for several minutes. “What is taking so long? Is easy problem. You want I should get a child to help you? Show you how easy?”
Barbara glared at him and her concentration slipped. The bean moved. Farther than she intended, but it stayed on the desk.
“Better. Again.” Anim used his ability to slide the bean slowly back to its starting position inside one of the circles.
She already had the calculations, so this time Barbara just snapped the force off. She imagined the bean was Professor Stankiewicz and she was punching him in the nose. The bean moved, but not far enough.
“Again.” He slid the bean back.
“Third time’s the charm..” She thought to herself, and punched the imaginary professor again, harder. The bean slid from the starting circle and stopped just inside the destination circle.
“Good. Repeat.” He slid the bean back. Barbara repeated the exercise for the rest of the hour in silence until she could do it with her eyes closed.
The bell rang and Anim dismissed his single student class. “Tomorrow. Here. Same time.”
The next day started with the same control exercise. After a minute of sloppy practice, Barbara was repeating the exercise to Anim’s satisfaction. “Now, same thing. But!” a twinkle lit the old man’s eye. “This time, I try to stop you. I hold bean in place. You feel how strong I hold, then overcome and move bean.” Barbara nodded slowly. By the end of the day she had figured out how to feel how much psychic pressure he was putting on the bean and move it out of his control.
On the third day, he shrank the circles.
On the fourth day, he set up a circular track for the bean, and asked her to stop it in a particular spot while he moved the bean around the track.
On the fifth day, they continued the track work, but by the end she was moving the bean and trying to stop him from stopping it.
The first day of the second week, the sixth day of her lessons, after running through the previous exercises, her lesson was to simply lift the bean, to counter gravity.
The seventh day was repeating the first week, except Anim was levitating paper targets and Barbara had to move the bean from one to the other. If she let the bean rest on a piece of paper, it would begin to sink to the floor and they would start all over.
Finally on the tenth day they moved to the archery range.
“Always you are thinking too much when you start. Telekinesis is not thought. Is action. Is feeling. Is doing.” Anim calmed down during the break. The other students went back to their dorm rooms and even the range master went home for the night. “Anger can fling a bean, but it cannot guide an arrow.” He lifted an arrow with his hand, the held it in his open palm toward the target. The arrow floated gently in his hand, then shot forward, piercing the bullseye. “I have not been teacher for long time… Many years since my last student. I … forget things.”
Barbara lifted her own arrow. She held it out, breathing deeply and calmly. She let the physics and math drift to the back of her head and just felt the arrow in her hand. She lifted it gently away from her palm and rotated it. She moved it slowly, experimentally, toward the target. Five feet. Ten. Twenty. The tip touched the target, around the outer ring, and she felt the material push back. She pushed the arrow slowly forward and picked apart the strands of grain in the hay bale behind the target. She let the hay collapse around the shaft of the arrow, holding it in place.
“Excellent. Can you do it faster?” He grinned at her. In response, Barbara kept her hands behind her back and lifted an arrow from the table, sending it down range and into the target. She missed the bullseye, but hit the center ring. “Very good. Tomorrow. Back in the class room.”
Barbara thought back to Master Stankiewicz’s lessons as she ran on the rooftops. There was a purse snatcher running headlong down the sidewalk below, but she remained calm, nearly dancing across the buildings. She sailed across 9th Ave with ease and floated softly into the alley as the man dug through the purse.
“Drop the purse!” she shouted.
Surprised, he dropped it and pulled the gun he’d tucked into his belt behind his back. He fired after a moment’s hesitation.
Barbara didn’t flinch. She stood defiant, confident behind her black domino mask. She pushed the bullet, altering its trajectory and steering it into the brick wall on her left.
Perplexed, the thief fired again. The woman just strode forward as all his shots went wide. He looked at the gun in his hand, then threw it at her in a last ditch effort. The pistol hung in midair, suspended by an invisible force while she stared at it. He panicked when the gun dropped and she turned that glare toward him, gazing into and through his eyes.
When the police arrived, he hand his hands up, and the purse was put back in order, nothing missing. Barbara consented to questioning by the police, but refused to remove her mask.
“Alright,” the desk sergeant sighed. Another new mask in town. “Since the Heroism Act passed, I can’t force you to reveal your identity, but I need a name to put in the report.”
“Call me … Kincaid.”