I thought I was crazy. I thought that an illness had taken over my mind and swept me away to the blackness of psychosis. I studied psychology for four years, I got my degree. I knew almost everything there was to know about the human mind, and then some. But I was wrong.
The voices began three years ago, after I graduated from college. It was a happy time, an event full of celebration and alcohol. So much alcohol. So much celebration. I dressed myself in my most revealing red dress, completed with a pair of silver heels. I was ready to have the best night of my life.
What followed, was the worst.
I danced. I drank. I laughed. The lights of the disco ball bounced around the room like a supernova of energy. Hands thumped, feet stumped, the rhythm was electric. We had all graduated, we had made it, the night was ours.
And I sat down, in a quiet corner, just to take a moment to breathe. I glanced around at all the faces of my class mates, smiling as they smiled.
That was when everything changed. Just that moment, that small and insignificant moment, when all that I could hear, was them.
What if I look too fat in this and he doesn’t notice me?
Why is she looking at me like that? She knows I’m with Trisha.
I hope I make it into the law firm. Oh god, what if I don’t?
Stop panicking, just dance. Move your arms and dance!
No. I like you, stupid.
I couldn’t understand. The voices were inside my mind, and all of them had the familiar voices of everyone in that room that I knew. They collided into each other, some of them louder, some of them quieter, some of them painfully irritating—but I heard every voice.
I was convinced that someone had spiked my drink with some type of hallucination drug and so I left the bar and I stumbled down the street, feeling the voices become further and further away. They were gone. I took a breath of relief as I stopped beside a wall. I placed my hand on the brick, rubbing my mind tenderly.
I didn’t feel drugged, or dizzy, or sick. I felt fine. It didn’t make sense. I put it down to the alcohol and I made the decision to turn back around. As I turned that corner, ready to go back to the party, my shoulder bumped into a hard body. He knocked me sideways and as I regained my footing, I glanced up and stared into the lonely eyes of a homeless man.
“Sorry,” I said.
Yeah, that’s what they all say. But you’re not sorry, are you?
“I am,” I said, believing he had said it. “There’s no need to be rude.”
He just glared at me, his eyes slightly widening in the dark. “What?”
How did she hear that? I didn’t say anything.
“Yes, you did,” I said. “You just said. . .”
His eyes widened even more, and I realized he hadn’t spoken at all. His lips didn’t move. The fear on his face was projected onto my own, and I swallowed and began running away. I couldn’t work out if I was imagining things or if that did happen, but it was enough to scare the hell out of me. I never returned to the graduation party, I ran straight home, hearing the thoughts of drunk people that I passed on the street.
That was how it began. The beginning of my curse. It got worse after that, it became constant. No matter who I passed, no matter who they were or what their mentality was, I heard them. Their thoughts.
I never told anyone about it. I tried to tell my sister once but she was already laughing before I had finished so I never dared to bring it up again. Even though I could prove it, I didn't want my own family to look at me like I was a freak. Like I was crazy.
I’d have preferred to be crazy. There were times when I wished I was. At least there’s drugs for crazy, at least there’s a cure to take the voices away. I've booked at least thirteen doctor appointments in the last three years, I always scared myself out of them. What could a doctor do with this? How could any medical professional treat mind reading? I studied psychology for years, it is the one thing we are not trained for.
I don’t have an illness, I don’t have a diagnosis, and I have never imagined things that weren’t there. I made a few slip ups over the years and soon word got out. Witnesses had come crawling together to share their frightening encounter with me. One girl took it to social media and I became ‘viral.’
Once, while I was in the supermarket, I read the thoughts of a six-year-old boy that was so hungry he wouldn't stop thinking about it. His thoughts were so loud for a little voice. I couldn't hold it in. I had to tell his mother, who had been ignoring his cries of hunger, and we argued about it in front of several shocked witnesses.
That's not the worst encounter. No, the worst was one year ago. I was waiting in line to buy some feminine products in my local pharmacy and the teenage girl in front of me was waiting to seek advice for an abortion. Usually, I'd stay out of it. It's none of my business and I've learned that the hard way. But this girl was planning on aborting her child just because her boyfriend ordered her to.
My words slipped out in panic. The girl was trying to avoid me, she thought I was talking crazy or making weird assumptions. It escalated. Fast. Other people got involved and told me to leave her alone, I became surrounded with angry women coming to the girl's defense even though they had no idea why the girl was doing it. I felt responsible for her thoughts. She didn't want an abortion, she wanted options. I tried to tell her that, to convince her not to do it, but I was outnumbered by the witnesses and forced to leave the pharmacy.
There's been other instances. Some ended good while others created gossip to spread around the town, and eventually, social media.
The world thought they were coincidences.
However, the USA government didn’t. They gave me a proposition; working with the FBI to locate potential terror threats and coerce killers into confessions. And I saw a glimpse of a future where I could finally be useful.
First, I had to prove that I could in fact read minds and that I wasn’t just a ‘street hypnotist’ that they had seen a thousand times in magic shows. I had to recall every word that each agent was thinking. And then I had to speak sentences, then monologues, word-for-word as they were thinking it. The process was grueling and I spent many days being interviewed, though it felt more like interrogated, by all kinds of government officials.
Eventually, I was greeted with the president. My first task before I was recruited into the FBI was to read the thoughts of one of his trusted politicians. The president suspected that the politician had been selling state secrets to other countries and although I didn't quite understand everything about it, I got enough information for the president to be angered.
I could get information from anyone I wanted. All it takes is a little manipulation, bringing up the right subjects, planting ideas that turn into bright memories and they let me into their whole mind.
No matter who they are, no matter what they've done, I can see it. The moment they think about it, I'm a part of it too.
I work with them now. I’m their secret weapon. And secret is what they made me. I can’t tell anyone what I do, I can’t tell anyone what I am. I’m classified.
Even though I love every member of our team—even though we’re a tight family doing good and saving the world from evil—sometimes, classified is all I feel like I’ll ever be. I want to be more than that, I want to be brought on to a case that doesn't end with images of corpses or innocent people being blown up. I want to actually feel like I can breathe in this world again, instead of being suffocated by not just my power, but my own government.
They will continue to use me until I break. And all it takes is one more bad case, just one more, and I might never be the same again.