My THEME for the A to Z challenge 2017 is an ongoing speculative fiction story featuring telepathy.
Each letter post is titled and inspired by a commonly misused word or phrase.
After dinner is cleaned up, my dad and Mr. Bennett each have an espresso. I stay at the table, doing homework. My mom sits beside me doing her embroidery.
My first job was at a coffee shop. Mr. Bennett recalls. I remember one customer who read the menu every day. The whole menu, top to bottom. And then she stood there wondering if we spelled espresso wrong. “The drink is a form of self-expression! It shows one’s sophistication. Why would they change the x to an s?”
We all laugh.
She shared that thought with an older woman one day. I thought, between them, the right answer would come out. But no. The older woman thought the word meant “made expressly for the person who ordered it.” And then her husband chimed in and said it meant “express coffee.” They all agreed we were spelling the word wrong.
Mom sets down her needle. How did that work out?
Terribly. A crowd formed and convinced my manager to change the spelling on the board. My mom came to pick me up at the end of my shift. She also taught English. The thoughts that came out of her mind… Mr. Bennett shakes his head as he laughs.
When the laughter dies down, my dad asks Mr. Bennett about his parents. The mind reading trait doesn’t run in his family, as far as he knows. Dad isn’t surprised.
Mr. Bennett points to the red splotch behind his left ear. Do any of you have a birthmark like mine? I always thought this star was connected to my mind reading.
I raise my eyebrow. That’s a star?
Anah! My mom’s chastising sends a small pain bolting through me. It’s much like a static electric shock, but internal.
Dad assures Mr. Bennett that we’re all without markings. They get into a discussion about power levels. I’d already told Mr. Bennett that he is an Eve Two, meaning that his skills developed at puberty and are now fully formed.
I’m an Eve Four. Dad runs his fingers through graying hair. My gifts strengthen with age, but I will not develop more. My wife is an Eve Six. She can influence mind gift growth of anyone who is an Eve Five or higher.
Mom smiles and nods. It’s an odd smile, like on a house cat who just ate an eagle.
Eve Nine. All homework now done, I close my notebook. There’s a sticker of a fantasy cat on the cover, offering me a ball of yarn. I rub my finger over it, pretending to play with the image. There’s rumor of an Eve Ten existing, but —
Dad scoffs. That’s unlikely. It takes generations of families finding each other and growing the family. And even then, there’s only a sixty percent chance of a child being born with a mind power. This is why there are only eight known family lines.
Mr. Bennett sips his drink. It’s good to know that I know I’m not alone. If I could go back and change three things, that’d be one. I’d make more of an effort to find others.
My dad nods. My mother glares.
You would get yourself locked up. How would you have found others? Stand on street corners mentally screaming “Can anyone hear me?” Even if they could, how many would be honest about it? An Eve Two never inherits skills, so the eight families rarely notice them. It’s times like these, with the HSMTF rounding up Eve Ones and Twos, not even knowing that there are classifications, which has prompted our community to embrace all Eve levels.
Mr. Bennett nods. We’re all thinking about the news reports that show mind readers being hauled away. Emmett Bradshaw, the Secretary of Homeland Security, has assured the public that his Mind Task Force has the situation under control.
Most of the public ignores the news reports. People polled think it’s the government’s way of covering up something else.
What were the other two?
Mr. Bennett tilts his head at my dad’s question.
You eluded to three things you would go back and change if you could. What were the other two?
Oh. Mr. Bennett finishes his espresso. I wouldn’t have asked Cindy about the sex dreams she had about me. And I would have spent Easter with my grandmother once more before she passed away.
What three moments in your life would you change?
by J Lenni Dorner
Reference and Speculative Fiction Author
A to Z Challenge Co-Host
Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight Organizer