Jun 13 2019

Anah’s Plausibility Cage #WEPFF #FlashFiction #WEP #IWSG

I had a tough time deciding what story to share this time. Ultimately, I went with a scene from ANAH ON TENTERHOOKS, the YA speculative fiction I’m working on turning into a novel. I’ve used this character for a WEP entry before.

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Scene set up–

Anah and her parents are telepaths. The US Government has declared telepathic powers to be illegal. There’s an agency, the HSMTF, rounding up people. But the government only knows about the lower level telepaths. The levels, referred to by telepath’s as Eve and a number, go up to Eve Nine. There’s a rumor that it could go as high as Eve Ten. Anah’s father is an Eve Four. Her mother is an Eve Six. Anah is an Eve Nine. A telepath is born at whatever Eve number, and that is and will always be the amount of potential the person could unlock.

Anah has an English teacher who is an Eve Two. He’s the only person in her life she’s not related to who is also a telepath. She had one brief fantasy about him while writing a short story in her journal. Her parents worry because that’s an inappropriate age difference, as she’s 15. So her dad arranged for Anah to spend three days with Tyler, an Eve Five cousin, at Lewis University. Her dad believes that Anah just needs to be around more mature boys closer to her age, to see a possible future is only a few years away.

(Lewis University is just outside of Chicago, IL. The Sigma Delta Fratority is, as the name suggests, not gender exclusive. In this story, it is quite popular to this day, and is where Tyler resides.)

Italic words are telepathic communications.

WEPFF Anahs Cage image

Anah’s Plausibility Cage

Tyler throws his baseball toward the ceiling. We watch as gravity returns it. Laying on beanbag chairs, watching gravity work, is this what college is like?

“Do you think Hermione ever believed in the tooth fairy?” Tyler asks as he throws the ball again.

“It wouldn’t be logical, so probably not,” Mark says. His room, across the hall, is covered with Harry Potter paraphernalia. I expect the bronze eagle doorknocker would give me a riddle if I tapped it.

“Yeah, but we don’t start as logical beings, do we? We’re all born in a cage with plausibility for bars.”

I lean closer to Tyler. “You smell like cigarettes and bourbon.”

He stops throwing his ball. “No, I don’t. It’s just how my bodywash smells on me. It smells like wood and citrus on other people. I’m just weird.”

So you don’t smoke or drink? Or you do, but you don’t want Mark to know?

I don’t. And I’m tired of being accused of it. But I hate the smell of other soaps. Ivory makes me sneeze.

“I bet she did believe. I bet she put her teeth under her pillow like any other kid. And her dentist parents came to get them, but got all caught up staring at them. Because, you know, dentists. And she woke up and caught them lying about the tooth fairy. Bam. Plausibility bars shattered. She got out of that cage.” Tyler throws his ball again.

“And then went to a school with magic? How many letters do you think she destroyed?” I ask.

“Faculty delivers letters to muggle-borns. A professor would have shown up and explained everything. Offered proof.” Mark explains as he shakes his can of soda as if more will appear.

“Is that why she read the book on the history of the school? Because she was looking for more proof it was real?” I sit up.

“Probably. Then again, she also really liked to read.” Mark rolls off his beanbag chair, waves, and is gone.

There. You’ve met a guy closer to your own age. You’ve had a philosophical conversation. A future path has been presented.

I stare at Tyler’s ball. Instead of falling back into his hands, it twists around and knocks him on the head.

“Oww.” What was that for?

Mark isn’t like us. True, his thoughts were quite an upgrade from the guys at my school. But he still isn’t like us.

Well excuuuussseeee me. Didn’t know you were exclusively dating in the Eve gene pool. How’s that working out for you?

Tyler rolls on his side so he can stare me down.

Not exactly getting hit with flashes of happy memories over here. Not feeling any waves of butterflies, either. Come on. Share one.

I flip him the finger as I wall off my mind.

“So that’s why my aunt and uncle are worried. It isn’t just that you showed interest in a guy who is too old for you. It’s that you’ve never shown interest in someone appropriately aged for you.”

“Leave me alone. Don’t you have homework or something?” I roll toward the wall and broadcast the It’s a Small World song at top volume from my head.

A pillow muffles my face. It gets dark and hot so fast. The hold is too strong for my hands to break. If I don’t panic, I’ll be able to breathe longer. Right? But it’s so dark. And he’s so strong.

What if it isn’t Tyler with the pillow? What if he left because the song was too loud? I stop playing it.

Tyler?

What if it’s an HSMTF agent? Am I about to be taken?

TYLER! HELP!

The pillow moves. He gets off of me.

“You okay? I just wanted you to stop drowning me out. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“I wasn’t scared.” I run my shaking fingers through my hair and wipe the tears from my face. “Your pillow stinks. I thought I was getting cancer from the secondhand cigarette smoke.”

He shoots a death glare at me. Tyler’s mind curses at me for picking at his insecurity. But I feel him filter it. “Funny.”

I lean my head on my knee. “That’s why I haven’t dated. What you just did.”

“The pillow thing?” He tosses it out his door. It lands in Mark’s room. A Dobby toy thanks him for a sock. I laugh.

“No. Where you said funny but, in your head, you were cursing me out. People say polite things, but they don’t mean them. And those unsaid thoughts, especially of the guys in my school, I can’t stand them.”

Tyler slides beside me. “My first girlfriend cheated on me. Well, not really. Just, one day, she started thinking about another guy. I broke up with her before she had a chance to be a cheater.”

“So she might not have cheated? Given enough time?”

He wraps his arm around me. “That’s how it is for us. We don’t know the future. But we have more information than others. I could have waited. She never did get with the guy. But, to me, it was like she had. For you, those thoughts you hear, they might never happen.”

I lean against him. His bodywash is truly awful. I’ll miss the smell when dad picks me up tomorrow.

“The reason I didn’t curse you out verbally, in case you missed it, is because I know you were feeling defensive. I provoked you. You defended. I attacked. You hid. We both know you could take me.”

I giggle. “Me? Take you? Tyler, look at me. I’m the size of one of your legs, and that’s being generous.”

He taps my head. “No. You’re an Eve Nine. You’re the best of us. Break your plausibility cage bars. The wings of your mind will let you soar. No one can defeat you, Anah.”

977 words FCA, please! (This is a scene from a book I plan to indie publish, so I welcome all thoughts, notes, proofreading, everything!)

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41 comments

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  1. I am intrigued.
    It was a neat summation of why I would hate to be telepathic too. Never being able to be alone in your head would be dreadful.
    Something I would like to see further explained though is what changes with the increase in Eve power. It obviously isn’t just that more thoughts can be heard/broadcast, but brings additional power as well.

    1. That does come up in the book. Her mom, for example, can shock people. It’s more the brain registers the sensation than it is an actual shock. Anah can close her mind to others. Her English teacher can’t close his. And the story does have an Eve Ten. Which is how Anah finds out just how dangerous that level is, and why the others didn’t think it could even be possible.
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  2. An interesting piece on telepaths, especially young ones who I assume are being trained while still living in the ‘real’ world and hiding their special abilities. I liked the humour of his body smell!

    1. Thank you!
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  3. “People say polite things but they don’t mean them.” That’s sad. Loved this story when you used it in the A to Z. Still waiting for the book…:)

    1. Still writing scenes for it. Keep reminding me! (I need the push.)
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  4. Telepathy is a complicated gift. I guess it takes a while for the young telepaths to find their footing, a balance between privacy and security.
    An interesting post.

    1. Thanks for reading!
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  5. Hi JL – I guess we’d grow into the telepathic world … but your excerpt gave us some idea of the challenges ahead. The thought of the bodywash … somewhat puts me off! I enjoyed the read – cheers Hilary
    Hilary has this post to share Write … Edit … Publish … Bloghop: Caged Bird …My Profile

    1. Hey Hilary!
      Well, in the story, there’s a whole government agency trying to get rid of telepaths. So not sure about the “growing into” — ha ha.
      That bodywash is a true story of a guy I know.
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  6. I enjoyed this entry. Definitely sounds like a book I could get into. I like the complications of the telepathy presented here. It makes the ability seem more real.
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    1. That’s the goal! Thanks so much.
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  7. Would sure be tough to reign in. Could hear too much at times and might drive one mad, forcing them into their own cage.

    1. Oh indeed. Thanks for reading!
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  8. Everyone always think s they would like to be able to read minds, but I agree with these people – it would be noisy. And how awful to know exactly what people are thinking while they’re telling you what they want you to hear.
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    1. Even worse early in life. Makes you jaded.
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  9. This makes me worry about my weird thoughts. What if there are telepaths around my house? Bad enough having my research screened. Does poison work or would they know?
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    1. They are only human. But the odds Anah would know are pretty high. You’d have to be very crafty.
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  10. I remember this story both from the A-Z and WEP but the expanded form of HSMTF was eluding me which was awfully bugging 🙂 so I went back to read the earlier entries. But thanks all the same for setting the scene. The ‘cage of plausibility’ is a brilliant use of the prompt. Our own mindsets can be the worst possible self-limiting cages we inhabit.

    I have liked each part of this story that I have read – previously and now. I like the understated humour contrasted against the very dark, dystopian wider setting of a world where a community of people is being rounded up essentially for being who they are. This is obviously an ongoing narrative and you might have explained this elsewhere – I’d like to know what abilities characterise level 9 as opposed to 4 or 6 etc, what does it mean in practical terms for Anah to be able to ‘take Tyler’? Being a telepath would be a burden even on an adult but doubly so in the case of a young person, the downside outweighs the privileges I think, even without a government with dubious intentions. That ambiguity comes through clearly in the story.

    Since you asked for a full critique – a minor issue with the usage of laying/lying in the opening para, but this may well be a difference between US and UK language use.

    Thank you for sharing this well-crafted, engaging and thought provoking flash at WEP. Look forward to reading more.

    1. The HSMTF has a lot in common with a certain real-world American agency who is currently separating families, detaining humans in deplorable conditions, and occasionally holding “trials” where even infants are expected to defend themselves in court (despite not being able to communicate, comprehend language, or have any knowledge of the law).

      People being rounded up for who they are — yup, that’ exactly what’s happening here. You’ve hit the nail on the head.

      I haven’t made a blog post about the details of the Eve levels. And the HSMTF has no idea there are levels, much less that they’ve only captured lower-level people thus far.
      Think about the Nokia 7650 smartphone. It was way better than other phones. It had the potential to do a lot more than other phones at the time. Mind you, one could get it and use it just for phone calls and nothing else. Just because it had the potential to do more doesn’t mean everyone would use it for all that it offered. Still, it could do more. And if you dropped it, it survived, because that’s what it was — it was tough. And it was mobile! That’d be like the lower-level Eve powers. More than regular people, the potential to do a lot more, but at the very least with a tougher mind.
      Now think about the Samsung Galaxy S10. Think about the potential that has. It could be just a really good phone used only for phone calls. But think about all that it could potentially do.
      The Nokia called itself a smartphone. And it was, at the time. Especially if compared to the old landline phones. (Which, for this metaphor, those are people. An Eve One would be a fax machine, or someone who seems to have really good senses. Sherlock Holmes would probably be an Eve One for his powers of deduction and noticing far more than normal people.) Think about how much more potential a Nokia had compared to a landline. The agency is all worried because these “Nokia people” have been discovered.
      But now think about the Galaxy S10. The old Nokia doesn’t look that impressive anymore. Which phone is more powerful? Which could run multiple web browsers, apps, a game with decent graphics, and handle a phone call? It’s a mini laptop! Calling it a phone is practically an insult.
      Anah is an Eve 9. She’s that Samsung phone. She’s the latest iPhone. She’s whatever smartphone is out right now that makes your eyes twinkle.
      Tyler is a slightly older model smartphone. He has a lot of potential. But Anah has WAY MORE.
      Anah’s teacher is the Nokia.
      I’m a rotary phone that doesn’t even have service. Ha ha ha.
      Age has nothing to do with potential. A brand new landline phone still doesn’t have the potential of last year’s newest smartphones.
      That’s what the Eve levels measure. Potential. Mid to high-level Eve’s can detect potential in others (if they’ve unlocked that… like downloading an app). Which is how Anah’s parents knew right away that she was an Eve 9. That she’s vastly more powerful than they can ever be. Can you imagine how impossible it would be to parent her once she comes into her power? If she had a temper tantrum, she could say, “I wish you were dead!,” and then shut off their brains, killing them. Tyler was never that kind of threat to his parents, so of course they were more inclined to teach him. Also, there weren’t agents out to round-up their kind a few years ago when Tyler was younger. Anah’s parents focused on teaching her to control herself and hide her powers.

      laying/ lying … Fudge!! Yup, I mucked that one up. Thanks for the catch. I was thinking about the chairs instead of the people, and when I rewrote the sentence I forgot to swap the word. Whoopsie.

      Glad you enjoyed. Thanks for this great comment! 🙂
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  11. Intriguing section!
    Telepathy is fascinating – I liked the Eve levels you used to describe the differences in strength. Knowing the inner thoughts of others could truly be a curse!
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    1. Indeed! Thanks for commenting.
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  12. A fantastic and intriguing tale of how even power has its own cage and burdens. Well done.

    1. Thanks!
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  13. I don’t think the pillow test is kind. It seems a cruel way to stop someone from drowning them out. I would think she would have punched him afterward for that. I would be angry if someone did that.

    I like there’s a Harry Potter reference here. I read the books and seen the movies so I actually know who Hermione is and for a moment there, I was fangirling with them.

    Have a lovely day.

    1. Mark is fun to fangirl/boy with.

      The pillow… From a normal point of view, yes, it would seem cruel. And you have every reason to think so. Anah even thinks so.
      To Tyler, he doesn’t see it because he feels small next to her. In his mind, it would be like a toddler holding a pillow to a muscle-bound hero guy. (Jason Momoa, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Vin Diesel, etc.) He doesn’t view her as helpless, he views her as able to whoop him without breaking a sweat while taking the SATs and rowing a boat in a thunderstorm. It doesn’t make it any less cruel. But he doesn’t see the danger. He doesn’t view himself as a threat to her.
      And while he’s wrong to do, he’s right about not being a threat to her. But Anah has yet to meet her potential. If she were at her full capacity, the pillow couldn’t have gotten near her. If she were to break out of her cage, she could create a forcefield, explode the pillow, enslave Tyler, have animals at her side protecting her, or dozens of other options. Tyler doesn’t realize just how far Anah is from accepting that about herself.

      She doesn’t need to punch him. Her mind could kill him easier than someone swats a mosquito. And, like the mosquito, there’s nothing he could do to stop it.

      It is still cruel though. He has more offensive training. Her teachings have mostly been self-control and hiding. If she were raised as he was, she’d have taken over the world by age 15.

      If an Eve 10 were to exist and be raised like Tyler, that person could take over the world at an even younger age, and not yet have a moral reason not to. (*spoiler alert*)
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  14. Thanks J Lenni for setting the scene, recalling earlier posts. It would be rather frustrating never being able to be alone in your head. Dreadful. Being a fan of ‘senses’ writing, I loved the ‘way you handled smell’ to show so much. I’m sure you’ll find fans for a whole book. One of my students introduced me to the Percy Jackson series last night. I love seeing Greek mythology in stories which JK Rowling does so well in Harry Potter. Sorry, this has become a ramble, but I love the way others’ writing sends those synapses zapping. (I’m not a stranger to telepaths – my vampire series uses it heavily as you’d expect.) Opens up whole new horizons when minds are open and thoughts can be inserted. Creates some conflict for sure!

    Loved it.
    Thank you.

    Denise
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    1. Thanks for the comment!

      Percy Jackson is cool. That’s one of my “similar but not the same” books I looked at for comparing my Existence series. (Because of the Urban Fantasy based on ancient lore that includes the question of where are those gods now.)

      And yup, lots of vampire stories have a form of telepathy. No actual vamps in this book though. But yes, certainly some common ground there. I think if there were vampires in this book’s “universe,” they’d get caught on purpose so as to enjoy a “snack” of agents and politicians who have people held hostage.

      Here’s a link to a news article that is definitely NOT a metaphor for Anah’s story and includes a reference to agents who certainly aren’t the equivalent of the ones I’ve written about and who I would not want any vampires to come help with, nope not me. *COUGH WINK COUGH*
      https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a27813648/concentration-camps-southern-border-migrant-detention-facilities-trump/
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    • Pat Garcia on June 19, 2019 at 8:25 AM
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    Hi,
    I’ve read your Flash and enjoyed reading it. You’ve asked for a FCA because you want to include it in a book. Normally, I don’t usually do a FCA for someone in the WEP because it is risky. But I like what you write and here is what I think and feel. Please don’t be offended at anything I write because offense is not what I intended to do.

    1. Your opening paragraph needs a stronger hook. If you’re going to use basketball then think about relating it to something dramatic that happens to her cousin. Maybe the ball bounces backs and knocks him out. Right now it looks for like a fill in and I know you don’t mean that.
    2. When did Mark enter the room? Initially I thought it was only Anah and Tyler, so I’m unclear about when Mark came in the room and when he left the room.
    3. Your dialouge between Tyler and Anah works beautifully. That’s another reason that I’m perplexed about where Mark comes in in this part of the story.
    4. I like Tyler. He may be a lesser Eve than Anah but he seems to understand the power of what he has better than Anah does.
    5. There’s a moral in this section of the flash that I love – Get out of your cage or your wrong minded thinking and be all that you can be. You brought that out very well in Tyler’s dialogue.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G
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    1. Cool cool. Thanks for the feedback.
      Nothing offensive at all. The scene is from the book. And I think all of this actually is fixed by the previous 3000 words. (Which you haven’t had access to, so naturally it doesn’t make sense.)
      Tyler and Mark are both on the baseball team and live in the same house. They had been playing catch (practicing, whatever) outside when Anah got there. The ball does hit him on the head in this scene, because she uses her mind to telekinetically move it slightly. Tyler has a baseball with him in every scene he’s in. (Like Linus’ security blanket in the Peanuts comic.) So that’s “fixed” in the book.
      Mark had come in the room with them prior to the start of this scene. (Which, again, you didn’t have access to, so you missed them grabbing drinks and heading upstairs to chill. But Mark had class soon, so he said he could only hang out for a few. Thus, when he rolls off his chair, waves, and is gone… well, with the extra info you didn’t have, it would make sense.) So that’s all good in the larger work.
      Mark isn’t an Eve. His character does come up again later, so there’s a reason he exists. Glad you liked Tyler and Anah’s dialogue!
      Tyler does have a better grasp than Anah. He is a few years older than her. Also, the agency hunting them didn’t exist when he was her age, so he was able to practice more. He’s not totally her “wise old wizard” character (the antagonist sort of takes on that roll, in a way), but he does help her confidence. I’m glad you like him. It’s a small role, but sometimes those have a big impact on our lives.
      I believe you’ve cracked the theme of the whole book. 😉 Excellent! I’m thrilled it comes through even when only 1000 words are read. Yay!!!

      Thanks so much for the feedback. It really feels like I’m on the right track based on this. Everything you mentioned is either good or makes sense when paired with the other parts. So that’s great news!!! Woooo.

      (This comment is just as valuable to me as winning. So no matter what happens, I want to thank you for this “gold star.”)
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  15. I thoroughly enjoyed this! It definitely spoke to the sci-fi geek in me. Telepathy seems like a cool power, but it can also be a curse. It would definitely make romantic relationships incredibly difficult. Thanks for participating!
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    1. Thanks so much! Always glad to entertain the inner sci-fi geek. 🙂
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  16. I loved all the Harry Potter references. To be telepathic would be challenging and to know the government hunted you. A little like what is happening to immigrants these day. Well written.
    Nancy

    1. The more you read of this story the more it might remind you of the children in cages.

      Glad you enjoyed the Harry Potter bits!
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  17. Interesting, never thought that even telepaths had such issues.
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    1. Thanks for reading.
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  18. Great tale of why we don’t want to be telepathic. Maybe even lets us see why the government made it illegal. What politician wants people around who can see inside their minds (ooh, that would be so icky!).

    1. You’re identifying well with an antagonist of the story. Thanks for reading!
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  19. I’ve always thought this “talent” would come with some heavy and possibly dire consequences. I think you’ve upped my thoughts and now they’re major concerns. Loved the humor you brought to the piece. I think that’s very important in any serious piece.
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  20. Congratulations on making the short-list. I will happily read more of this intriguing tale (in the fullness of time).

    1. Thank you!
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