Ross Howard was a psychic. A real-life, bonafide, honest-to-goodness psychic. And he’d been a psychic for, oh, let’s see now…six hours. Ever since he’d been banged on the head by a hammer that morning on his way to work. He wasn’t sure how that had happened; probably just a random head banging but, when it was over, Ross was a psychic.
He could read minds. Predict the future. Lift heavy objects through the power of thought. He hadn’t tried the last one yet, but he could predict the future and he’d predicted that he would soon be lifting heavy objects just by thinking it.
In the meantime, he was having one hell of a time reading peoples’ minds, delving into their most inner secrets, peeking into the stuff of their lives, prying away the illusory boards shuttering the windows into their pasts.
Only problem was…people kept lying to him. In their thoughts. And he had ample proof of this. For instance, he read the thoughts of a woman in the coffee shop line-up just a few hours ago. She was thinking about buying a regular coffee with lite cream but, when she opened her mouth to order, she said, “I’ll have a double caramel latte.”
And he could have sworn he’d seen the hint of a malicious smile as she placed her order.
An hour before that, a man driving an SUV in front of Ross was thinking about turning right but almost as soon as Ross read the man’s thoughts he suddenly turned left without any warning and cut across traffic at a busy intersection, almost crashing into a Ford pickup, a convertible Punch Buggy and a woman on a mountain bike.
And had Ross seen the man laughing into his rear view mirror?
So he figured he’d try a little reverse psychology. A woman sitting at a restaurant counter bounced her choice between the lemon meringue and apple pie before deciding on the lemon meringue. But Ross knew she was lying and knew that she would pick the apple. When the waitress came over to her, she said, “Could I have a slice of that lemon meringue pie, please.”
These people couldn’t even tell the truth when they were lying. And again, he could have sworn he’d seen a nasty grin on the woman’s face as she ordered her lemon meringue pie.
It was mid-afternoon in suburbia and the sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky, but there was just the slightest of breezes to keep everything warm but comfortable. It was a beautiful day to be a psychic…if he could just figure a way to get people to think the truth. The woman at the restaurant kept with her decision to the lemon meringue pie, but she’d led him to believe that she would get the apple pie by deciding not to get the apple pie.
Had she done that deliberately, just to mess with his head? Or…were mysterious forces at work? With the gift of his new powers, maybe he’d opened some sort of portal into states of being beyond the ordinary. Had he disturbed things that were better left alone? He thought about this for a few minutes and decided it was time to lift heavy objects with his mind.
He focused on a garbage truck parked by the side of the road about thirty feet away. He thought deeply. Very deeply. He visualized the truck lifting gently upwards from the pavement. He closed his eyes and imagined all weight and substance drifting out of the truck so that it would rise, rise, rise from the pavement. He opened his eyes and the truck was still grounded. So he commanded out loud that the truck rise. He lifted his hands, palms upwards, as though he were lifting the truck with his arms, and said, “I command you to rise! I command you to rise!” The truck stubbornly stayed where it was.
Ross decided that he’d probably seen a little further into the future than he’d guessed when he predicted he could lift heavy objects with his mind.
Back to mind reading.
He saw the mini mall a few blocks ahead with the bright blue sign announcing his favorite cyberbar, The Lively Laptop Cyberbar and Grill. Beer and a laptop. That’s what he needed. He passed a yard surrounded by a metal fence and looked into the future, predicting that a dog would bark at him. As the walked by the fence, sure enough, a vicious Dachshund barked indolently at him as it lay on its side in the cool grass. His ability to look into the future was starting to develop.
He walked through the tinted glass doors of The Lively Laptop Cyberbar and Grill into a large LED lighted room with a bar running the length of one wall, booths attached to the other wall, and coffee tables surrounded by easy chairs filling the floors. The glow of monitor screens lit the faces of about a dozen people hunched fervently over laptops. No one was talking. He’d never paid much attention to the other customers in the past, but today he would be paying much attention.
Time to read some minds and find out who was downloading porno. He bought a Corona from a young woman wearing thick glasses who dragged herself reluctantly from her laptop behind the bar. He read her mind. She was irritated with him. She frowned when she passed the beer over the counter to him. Ah, he thought, someone’s finally thinking the truth. He paid for his beer and walked slowly, so as not to attract attention, to one of the tables against the wall. He opened a dated laptop sitting in the center of the table and pressed the ON button. While the laptop booted up, he looked around the room. Who’s mind would he read?
His eyes settled on a middle aged man in a two piece suit with his tie and shirt collar loosened around his neck. He focused on the man’s head, looking deep into his brain, opening his own mind to whatever thoughts would flow from the man’s cranium. Almost immediately, he knew the man’s name—Bob. Bob something. He knew the man was writing an email to a business associate. He knew that man was writing, “I’m sure Hanson will go along with the plan, but we’ll have to watch Mercer carefully.”
That was a successful mind read. He thought about approaching the man and asking his name and what he was doing, but the thought crossed his mind that the man might suspect that his mind had just been read. That was something he’d have to think about. Secrecy. If other people found out about his powers he could find himself in a bit of a pickle. How would they react to his ability to peer into their deepest secrets? Would there be those who would want to hire him for his psychic talents? Would there be those who would fear his talents and want him dead? Would they see him as a precursor to a new race of superior human beings and fear for the extinction of the human race as it is? Would he be seen as a threat to national security? Would they send teams of men in black suits and black SUVs in the wee hours of the night to wisk him off to some secret laboratory where he would spend the rest of his life under observation, poked with cold steel instruments, interrogated endlessly, hooked to wires and electrodes, subjected to psychological testing at all hours of the day and night?
No…he would have keep his new powers secret. At least, for the time being. In the meantime, he would work on them, develop them, get a grip on his full potential. And right now, he would read someone else’s mind. Let’s see. The woman in the corner with the glasses that seemed to cover most of her oval face. Her eyes were the size of silver dollars as they stared into the laptop monitor, her face illuminated eerily, like a phantom object shining out of the darkness of the corner. He stared intently at her high forehead, stared into her forehead where the gray matter was, where her thoughts were. Her name was Sara. She was thinking, “…mmm, ffttt. Mmmm…rrrrgggg; mmm…fftt…”
No way could that be a lie. So her name had to be Sara. His powers were in top form. He was reading minds like a pro. He was on the cusp of great things. No one could stop him now. If they came for him in the wee hours of the night, he would know. He would know before they knew. He would lift them into the skies with his ability to lift heavy objects just by thinking about it and let them hover over their fate until they screamed for their mommies.
He took a long celebratory drink of beer, then watched as his laptop screen finally displayed Firefox. He cursored to the Google search box and entered: mind reading for beginners. 556,000,000 results. He decided to do some research later. In the meantime, he would just learn by doing. He turned the laptop off and chugged the rest of his beer.
Outside, the sky was beginning to cloud over. Ross predicted rain.
He spotted a small plane in the sky and decided to try his hand at long distance mind reading. He projected his thought reading power into the sky and centered on the plane, penetrating the fuselage, directly into the mind of the pilot, whose name was Bob. Bob was thinking about his approach to the airport, which seemed strange. Ross thought that the airport was in the opposite direction. But he wasn’t sure. So he wouldn’t accuse Bob of lying. As he thought this, he noticed that the plane dipped its wing. Wasn’t that how pilots saluted and acknowledged someone on the ground? Well, he wished Bob a happy landing.
Yes, his powers were getting stronger by the moment. He was reading people’s minds like reading comic books. He was the master of transparency. He started thinking about how best to use his powers and the answer came into his mind immediately: time to get rich.
He headed straight for the Tenth Street Casino. It was time for some poker, and it didn’t matter how straight faced the other players were. But he would let them win some small amounts, at first. Let them get over confident, ready for some big bets. He would know exactly when to lose and win. He would play them from within their own minds.
An hour later, he walked out of the Tenth Street Casino broke, his wallet cleaned out, his savings cleaned out, his wrist minus a watch.
He couldn’t believe it. It was as though they all knew that their minds were being read and deliberately did the opposite of what they were thinking. Even when they were about to do the opposite of what they were thinking, they suddenly did the opposite of that.
He was stunned. Heading towards him down the sidewalk was a woman pushing a stroller with something bundled up so tightly it was impossible to tell if it was a baby or a dog. He read the woman’s mind as she was about to pass him. It was a baby boy. His name was Bob. Finally, another successful mind reading.
The woman stopped and looked at him quizzically. Uh-oh. Was his secret out? Did she, through some form of mother’s intuition, sense that he’d been reading her mind? Would they be coming for him in the wee hours of the night?
“Traci,” said the woman.
Ross stared at her. What the hell was she talking about?
“My baby is a girl. Her name is Traci, not Bob. And that’s a nasty bump you have on your head.”
(Note: This is one of the great stories in the Twisted Tails VIII anthology and this one isn’t even near the best. You can order a copy of it a by clicking HERE.)