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Authors: Eileen Wilks

Tags: #Fantasy

Mind Magic (6 page)

BOOK: Mind Magic
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“I can’t explain it.” To explain she’d have to tell Deborah where her Gift came from, and she wasn’t supposed to do that. Which was just as well, because then Deborah would want to know how she could be magically descended from a dragon, and she didn’t understand that, either. “Normally touch sensitives don’t know about the mindspeech deal because the ability remains latent if it isn’t trained. Sam offered to help me train mine.”

Deborah looked puzzled, then nodded. “Because of your grandmother. There’s some kind of tie between them, isn’t there? But this . . . your condition . . . it’s temporary? You’ll stop having these hallucinations soon? I’ve always heard that telepathy is hard on the person experiencing it.”

That was a nice way of saying that telepaths always went crazy. “Mindspeech and telepathy are both aspects of mind magic, but mindspeech isn’t telepathy. They seem to us as if they’re the same thing because they both deal with thoughts, but . . . well, the way Sam put it once is that all colors look the same to a person blind from birth. He’s certain I won’t turn into a telepath, even if I do develop real mindspeech.”

“That’s in question?”

Lily nodded glumly. “Sam doesn’t know how much I’ll be able to do after this period of adjustment is over. Or how long the adjustment will take.” Probably more than a week, he’d told her. Probably less than a year. The thought of it lasting anywhere near that long made Lily break out in a cold sweat.

“Oh, dear. That’s so vague.”

“Yeah. I am not good at being on medical leave.”

“You hate it.”

“I’d rather get a root canal. Or talk to reporters. Or fight demons. Or be locked up in a small room with my Aunt Jei.” Lily paused. “Strike the last one. That would be worse.”

Deborah laughed and patted Lily’s arm. “Remember that it’s possible this will only last a couple weeks. Though I can see by your expression,” she added, a dimple quivering at the corner of her mouth, “that you consider optimism unnatural. I’ll quit bothering you now. I did want to know what was wrong, but you don’t have to talk about it.”

“It’s good that you know. This way I can bitch about it if I want to.”

“Feel free.” Deborah moved over to the bench. “I’m going to get those annoying crunches out of the way.”

“You’re not an eat-dessert-first person, I take it.”

“No, I want my spoonful of sugar after I’ve taken the nasty medicine. Don’t you?”

“That’s an optimist’s view. I think you noticed that I’m not an optimist.” The treadmill wanted to know all about Lily. Her weight, her age, her height—and why did the machine need to know that?—her resting heart rate. Desired speed, intensity, and length of workout.

This was like speed dating. Any second now it would ask for her astrological sign.

“What do you mean?” Deborah asked.

“You trust that there will be a spoonful of sugar.” And a “later,” but Lily was trying not to be too much of a downer. She must have succeeded because Deborah laughed again—albeit a bit wheezily, because she’d started her crunches.

Lily finished telling the nosy machine what it wanted to know and hit start. It did. As her feet fell into an easy rhythm, her mind went back to her last session with Sam. As usual, they’d been at his lair just outside San Diego, in the wide, shallow cave he’d excavated in the west side of San Miguel Mountain. The white candle she’d grown to loathe was stuck in the sand. He’d lit it with a thought, then told her to find him in the flame.

That was all he ever said. She’d been trying to find him in the candle’s flame for months. Nothing ever happened. Oh, when she first started the lessons, she’d thought she’d “found” him a couple times, but she must have imagined it. Either that or she was going backward, because for months now there’d been nothing. The same nothing had happened at that session, too, for minute after slow, dragging minute . . .

*   *   *

IF
she weren’t so bloody stubborn, she’d quit, but she hated to give up. Maybe, like Cynna said, she was congenitally incapable of giving up. But if Sam still thought she had some chance of learning something . . . unless he was playing an obscure dragon joke on her, dragging her out here week after week for no—

The candle melted. Between one heartbeat and the next, it turned into a puddle of wax. The rock walls of the cavern melted, too—turned liquid and shiny as they ran and reshaped themselves into an enormous mouth. The inside of an enormous mouth spiked with teeth taller than she was, and there at the back of the mouth was the gaping hole of the throat. She was sitting on the tongue, which rolled beneath her, propelling her back toward the dark maw of the gullet—

Obvious
, a cold mental voice said,
yet powerful.

The mouth was gone. She was sitting on the sand again, with the black dragon coiled at the back of his cave. The candle was intact, but unlit. A wisp of smoke drifted from its wick. “What—what—”

You have made progress.
There was, for once, a hint of emotion connected to that crystalline voice, but it was so faint Lily couldn’t identify it.

That was progress? Lily’s mouth was dry. Her hands shook, and her head was starting to throb. “The mouth—being swallowed—that was an illusion?”

It was a hallucination elicited by an experience that your brain lacks the referents to process. You are now on a cusp. You will continue to experience such mental states intermittently until your brain is able to process the unfamiliar input it is now receiving. There is a small chance that your brain will be unable to adapt, in which case your nascent mindspeech will become permanently blocked. Human brains are quite elastic, however, within certain parameters. It is your minds that resist change, and your mind has now accepted this new input. I estimate the chance of a permanent block forming at less than five percent.

Now she knew what that faint thread of emotion was. Satisfaction. “You were expecting this to happen. You wanted this to happen.”

A goal is not an expectation. Today’s breakthrough was the goal of this stage of your lessons. You have frequently wondered what purpose was served by sitting in a dim cave staring at a candle. I will now explain. Human brains are heavily weighted towards visual processing. They also seek stimulation while preferencing the familiar. The candle provided a visual focus that engaged your visual processing center. Staring at it became familiar to the point of boredom, while repeated exposure to my mind gradually stimulated your nascent ability into what might be called wakefulness or openness. Both are imperfect metaphors for the process, but your language lacks a precise term. This combination of boredom plus awakening was necessary. On those few occasions when you have briefly accessed your ability, you were not sufficiently bored. Your brain shut off the unfamiliar stimulus before your ability could fully open. Or fully wake, if you prefer.

She had no damn preference which word he used. She wanted it to go away. “And now it’s awake and I’m going nuts. And this is what you wanted?”

You are not “going nuts.” Neither your brain nor your mind have been damaged, nor should they be as long we avoid contact during your period of acclimatization.

“I didn’t hallucinate when I mindspoke with Drummond, and my alert brain didn’t shut that down.”

He was a ghost. Your connection was largely spiritual. Spirit is exempt from logic, so I do not attempt to explain it.

Lily scowled. Her head hurt, dammit. “How long will this go on?”

Your experience of this period will be unique to you and is therefore unpredictable, though I would be very surprised if it were less than a week or more than a year. It is likely that most sensory distortions will be not be as disturbing as the one you experienced a few moments ago. My mind is exceedingly stimulating to a human mind. Such stimulation was necessary to wake your mindspeech, but is now dangerous and will remain so until your brain learns to process the input it is now receiving.

Wait a minute. Her brain was receiving that input right now? She didn’t notice anything. Nothing but a damn headache.

The headache is a product of your having established contact with my mind, however briefly. For now, I am suppressing certain paths. This is an emergency measure, as such suppression has a dampening effect on other brain functions.

“Then once you stop suppressing it, I’ll start hallucinating?” Panic hit. If Sam’s suppression was the only thing keeping her from hallucinating now that her mindspeech was awake, and her “period of adjustment” went on for months—

Stop. Think instead of reacting. I told you that “waking” was an imperfect metaphor. Your ability was not truly asleep before, nor is it now awake. At the risk of providing you with another mechanism for drawing incorrect conclusions, I will offer a different metaphor. Mind is a product of consciousness which interacts with matter and with magic in detectable ways. Your Gift has always sensed magic. It has now developed a channel—attempt to remember that this is metaphor—through which it senses minds due to the way they interact with magic. There are millions of frequencies available on this channel. Many of them will remain inaccessible to you; you will not acquire the ability to truly read minds. It is quite possible that you will never do more than sense them. It is also possible that, depending on what form this sensing takes, you will eventually be able to initiate mindspeech with a few, many, or even most of the minds you encounter. During the period of acclimatization, your Gift will be constantly, randomly sampling nearby minds. Most of the time you will be unaware of this, but occasionally your Gift will encounter another mind that resonates with yours in a way which stimulates it. When this happens, you will hallucinate until your Gift stops sampling that mind. This process cannot be placed under your conscious control until your brain has acclimated.

Okay, that didn’t sound as bad as she’d feared. Not great, but not overwhelmingly awful. She rubbed her temples with both hands. “When I ‘found’ you, then . . . metaphorically speaking, that means I found the frequency your mind is on?”

My mind is present on all of the frequencies.

Oh. Wow. Shit.

This is why my presence was able to stimulate your Gift sufficiently for it to claim this new channel. It is also why you cannot be in my presence during your acclimatization period. You are currently unable to stop sampling my mind, which causes a degree of stimulation your mind is unable to sustain without damage.

“But what am I supposed to do? I—”

Leave. I have contacted Rule Turner. He was upset at the sudden distortion of his sense of you, but—

“His what? What do you . . . hell!” Automatically she’d checked for Rule, using the nameless sense the mate bond provided that let her know where he was and roughly how far away. She found him, too, only it didn’t make sense. The mate sense said he was fifteen feet away, which would put him in solid rock. Then that he was a hundred miles to the east. “The mate bond’s messed up, and it can’t be!”

Strive for calm. Your bond is not damaged. The part of your brain which processes your directional sense has, until now, only been used to locate Rule Turner. It is now being employed to process additional input. This creates what you might think of as static. The condition should resolve when your brain completes its adjustment.

“But that’s happening in my brain, not Rule’s, and you said he was affected, too.”

I do not claim to understand the processes of the bond, but there appears to be something similar to a feedback loop. I would appreciate a chance to study it, but at the moment Rule Turner is not inclined to indulge my curiosity. He will arrive in approximately seven minutes to take you home. It would be unwise to drive while you are unpredictably subject to sensory distortion.

She’d left. What else could she do?

That was two weeks and two days ago. Much to her relief—and Rule’s—they’d found that the mate sense continued to work normally when they were near each other. Distortion crept in as the distance between them increased. At a hundred feet, no problem. At two hundred feet, the directional sense became less certain. By the time they were half a mile apart, it was completely scrambled—though the scrambling wasn’t the same for Rule as it was for Lily. She simply got random locations for him. He usually sensed her in multiple locations at the same time.

Lily had been forced to tell Ruben about being “unpredictably subject to sensory distortion.” So far she hadn’t had a problem separating hallucination from reality, but she couldn’t prove that. Hence the medical leave. The worst defense attorney on the planet could get his client off when the agent in charge of the investigation suffered random hallucinations. When Rule suggested this might be a good time for him to head to D.C. for a bit of lobbying, she’d agreed.

Maybe she could talk Ruben into giving her some kind of desk work. It would be wrong to pester her host, of course, but she could mention the possibility. No more than once a day, she promised herself. Twice a day would be pestering.

The nosy treadmill tilted as it started her up yet another pretend hill. Lily was not a marathoner. She seldom had time for a long run, and besides, what was the point? If she couldn’t catch a perp in the first ten or twenty minutes, another hour of chasing wouldn’t help. The treadmill had translated her desire for an intense thirty-minute run into lots of hills.

She checked the time . . . almost twenty minutes down. Good. The hills were a bitch. Automatically she checked something else and frowned. Rule was still here. She could have sworn he intended to leave right after breakfast. Representative Brownsley must have called to postpone their meeting. She hoped that didn’t mean—

“Pardon the intrusion, Deborah.” A red-haired man who looked about thirty stepped into the doorway. Lily had met him when she arrived last night. His name was Alan Jones—a lot of Wythe clan members were named Jones—and he was older than he looked. “It’s about Charles.”

BOOK: Mind Magic
11.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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