Chapter Twenty-Two

"Here," Randi said, extending one of her arms across the table. "Take my hand."

"But then I will know when you are going to die and if you happen to peak into my mind, you will also know. I'm not sure that is a good idea."

"You haven't seen Harry's time yet, have you?"

"No," I confessed. "Twice no."

"And you won't see mine either," she said, as though she had already known this for fact.

Hesitantly, I reached across the table and our hands met in the middle.

Welcome. Welcome. Welcome.

I instinctively tried to jerk my hand away as the word suddenly repeated itself a few times in my head. Randi's grip tightened slightly, just enough to prevent my hand's escape. Before, when Randi had infiltrated my mind with her thoughts, the thoughts had actually been in her voice. The "welcome" message I had just received wasn't in any voice. It sat in my mind the way the numbers always had, like a fresh memory.

relax your mind, john. follow these thoughts. let your mind float with the words.

This was in her voice again. She had sent that thought. I let my mind wrap around the imagined sound I heard as her voice. I was peering deeply into the black pupil in the center of one of her green eyes. Had her eyes been green yesterday? I couldn't remember and tried to ignore that part of my brain again. I imagined myself floating into her head, through her dark pupils, down the narrow optical nerve and into her brain, seeking her mind.

I began to feel a little lightheaded and dizzy and wondered what the inside of someone's brain would look like when my eyes blinked and I was once again simply looking at the green eyes of the girl across the table. I blinked a few times as though I had just awakened from a quick nap and this time when I heard Randi speak, I saw her lips moving in sync.

"You can't see anything in there," she was telling me. "That would just be gross. Try again, but this time, imagine your mind and mine linked together by a phone line." She still held my hand, still locking my eyes with hers. Still no numbers had come to mind. now listen to your mind, john. listen to the part that is connected to the phone line. pick up the receiver, john. open your mind. listen to what it tells you but not with your ears. see but not with your eyes.

This was again in her voice in my head and I tried to concentrate hard and relax at the same time, tried to ride her voice, tried to feel the voice's source through the imagined line and I was suddenly bombarded with so many thoughts of no voice that I couldn't get a grasp on any single one. I felt confused and disoriented and this time when I reflexively pulled my hand away from hers, it slid free and I broke her hold on my eyes. The confusion and swarming thoughts dissipated just as suddenly as they had arrived and I expelled a deep breath.

I looked back up at Randi, a hundred new questions running through my head. I grabbed the question I was looking for and opened my mouth to speak it but got no farther than that.

"Yes, I do," Randi was saying, pushing her chair away from the table. "And I could probably use one about now, too." She stood up, the jewel in her belly made another brief appearance, and she pulled a green pack of Salem's out of a front pocket in her skirt. "We'll go out the back by the lake. I have a coffee can for the butts out there."



Randi silently sat cross-legged on the beach smoking her Salem and staring out over the water. I sat next to her, using my knees as a perch for my chin while savoring my Winston, still having trouble holding on to any one thought for more than a second. Finally she said, "Harry was right about you."

"How so?" I asked, blowing a white plume of exhaled smoke towards the darkening sky. With summer solstice over a month behind us, the days were noticeably growing a little shorter each evening, the darkness a little more eager to swallow up the light.

"He said you had a shine on you. A big shine. Like mine."

"You can see it, too?" I asked.

"No, of course not," she said, still looking out at the lake. "But I saw my thoughts in your head for a second before you closed them out. It was kinda weird."

"Before I closed them out?"

"Yep. You kind of turned off. I've seen some people take thoughts from me without knowing it. I've seen my thought in their mind, just a word or a phrase and even sometimes confusion on their faces as to how the thought had come to them as they walk by me. If Harry saw them, he might see a little bit of shinin' squeezing out of them. I think everyone has the mechanics to do what I do, but most don't know how or don't have access to that part of the brain. Maybe all those drugs my Mom took while I was in her belly made my brain defective or maybe more sensitive. And maybe the injuries of your accident had a similar effect on your brain. But in there, with you," she said, nodding back at the house with her great mane of hair, "it was like you had taken a hundred thoughts at once. Your mind was at once filled with my thoughts and then suddenly they were gone. You disconnected."

"All I was doing was trying to feel your voice. Then I felt like I had walked into a crowded room where everyone was talking over each other but at the same time, there was no noise, no sound at all."

She looked at me with a half smile, amusement in her eyes. "You bit off more than you could chew. When you open a book and look at a page, you can see the whole page in front of you but if you try to read the whole page at once, none of it will make any sense. In order to make sense of it, you need to read a word at a time. Only in this case, it isn't words you are reading or pictures you are seeing. It is thoughts you are thinking. When you think of water, you don't see water, you don't taste water, you don't see it spelled out in your mind. You sense it. It is a thought. Thought is the sixth sense. Not ESP like everyone says. There's taste, sight, touch, smell, hearing, and thought. Everyone has the sixth sense. Everyone has thoughts. You can't taste, see, touch, smell or hear a thought, but it still plays a part in your evaluation of an object or situation making it just as valid and equally important as the other five senses. I would say the ability to reach out and experience someone else's thoughts would be the seventh sense. I believe everyone has that capability too, but only a few, like you and me, have tapped into it."

I had no response. I had always lived in my own little world, comfortable with my meaningless role in life, satisfied with my belief systems. In the last two days, I had discovered the world outside the personal one which I had been constructing for most of my life to hide out in, was a lot larger and more mysterious than I had ever imagined. In fact, over the last month I seemed to have lost sight of my own little world. And it was looking more and more like I would never be able to find my way back.

* * * * *

"Why am I not seeing your numbers like I do with everyone else?" I asked when we had gotten back inside after our break on the beach.

We were now in the smallest of the three downstairs parlors. This was a cozy wood paneled den suitable for about a dozen people to sit in the assorted couches and chairs spread out about the room. There was a self-serve mini-bar in one corner along the far wall. The other three walls featured two or three paintings each that all appeared to be from the same hand, probably a collection of someoneís works. The theme seemed to be strange landscapes and figures that donít quite look human, but everything was purposely painted slightly out of focus making you not quite sure. It occurred to me that the artist of this collection might even be a member of the family here. If not that, someone here was certainly obsessed with this particular artist.

Randi and I had faced two of the La-Z-Boys a couple of feet apart before we sat, preparing for another attempt at this mind stuff. Sitting forward, we would easily be able to hold each otherís hand with a comfortably short reach. For now however, we were both sitting back with our arms on the armrests.

"Iím not sure," Randi replied. "It could be like depth perception or different levels of thought. I have never seen anyoneís death the way you say you have. But I have no doubt you are plucking that information out of their minds from somewhere. As I said before, I have seen my thoughts in others, thoughts I had not sent them. They had unknowingly read my mind, and many times they had never even looked my way. They just sensed it, soaked it in. Maybe our brain waves, our thought patterns, had been on the same channel as we neared or something. Maybe a lot of things. You could be unknowingly looking even deeper, probably into a subconscious that I canít even reach. Youíre slipping right past the conscious mind. You just need to figure out how to refocus your sight to a closer point. Maybe once we figure that part out, you can show me where that subconscious is."

"Or maybe you can show me how to block it off and shut her down so I never have to go there again," I said.

"Yeah," she agreed, quickly considering the advantages versus the disadvantages. "Youíre probably right. A lot in there I probably donít want to know. Still, an intriguing thought."

The remainder of our session only lasted for another hour. Initially, we had clasped both hands in front of us, sitting forward in our seats. I relaxed my physical and mental state as best I could, but I still felt a tenseness in my neck and could hear my heart thumping a little too quickly in anticipation of our purpose. I took a deep breath as though I was getting ready to take a plunge underwater, then released it slowly and evenly, trying to relax a little more. I looked into her right eye...

...she was singing. I couldnít hear her voice but the lyrics went racing through my mind and I found my own imagination adding in the music and a version of my own voice for the lyrics. I was familiar with the song, but had only heard it a couple times on the radio. "One Of Us," by Joan Osborne, and I didnít even know what the song was about, let alone all the words making up the lyrics. Yet I sang the entire song in my head, word for word, with Randi in her head.

When the final line had played out, when God had found his way home on the bus to wait for a call from the Pope that would never come and Joan had revealed her version of the meaning of life in a three and a half minute song, I noticed that sometime during the song, Randi had let go of both my hands. This fact then stole enough of my attention to break any connection I had held with her mind and I slumped back into my padded chair trying to remember the lyrics to the song...and there they were. I knew them now. Not just the repeated chorus. I knew the lyrics. All of them.

"Wow," was all I could say.

Randi smiled. "Sheís my favorite."

"When did you let go of my hands? I didnít even notice."

"As soon as I saw the smile spread across your face," she said. "It looked good on you. You should wear it more often."

I smile plenty, I wanted to say, but she was right from her perspective. Here, it hadnít been too often. Usually just in greetings and when socially necessary. My most common expressions within these walls had been awe, confusion, concern, disbelieve...not a lot of smiley opportunities. But I guess if I were to be honest, there really hadnít been very many smiles at all under my new bald cap, and those that had surfaced had been drawn out by Katelynn just before she left for home. Randi would not have seen any before. I had been unaware.

"Interesting song," I said.

"Now relax again," she said. "Look me in the eyes here." I was still leaning back in my chair, as was she. you can hear me canít you.

I nodded.

you have permission to join me here. reach out. but softly, gently, look into my eyes...

...suddenly she was singing about Ray Charles and some spider web except Ray Charles could see now and was warning her about the webs. It was another Osborne song, I figured, just one Iíd never heard. The lyrics a bit more cryptic and harder to follow for the first time with no music to relate to for accompaniment, but when it was over, it had been an equally thrilling experience and I felt that the lyrics to each of these songs would forever be readily retrievable.

One more, I heard her say in my mind. The lyrics had all been in my own voice. My gaze remained calm and relaxed. I was looking into her eye but focusing somewhere ten or fifteen feet behind her. I reached for her with my mind, she wondered what I might know and then what I might not, in my voice. Then I started singing, more like chanting since there was no music. But I knew the words. I knew them for the first time just moments before reciting them in our heads but once they had been revealed, they would not be forgotten. I gathered this one was called either Crazy Baby or The Light. It appeared to be about someone slowly going insane. About half way through she closed her eyes and lost me.

"Okay," she said, offering up the first live sound for our ears in almost ten minutes. "You donít need my eyes. You donít need your eyes. All you need is the frequency. You can find that frequency. You have access. You were using touch and sight because those are senses that you understood. You werenít listening to the real source. You canít touch my thoughts. You canít see my thoughts in my eyes. They just helped explain what you couldnít. Now sit back." Her voice softened like a trained hypnotist. "Relax. Breath." She spoke the word slowly, enacting in out with her hands slowly spreading up and out, away from her chest. "Now close your eyes." Her voice, soft to my ear. I relaxed. Closed my eyes. Now take my hand with your mind, sing with me, over here...

And we sang. We sang the entire Joan Osborne album together in her head. All eleven songs. To someone peaking in from the doorway, it would appear that we had each fallen asleep in our respective chairs or were each in some form of deep meditation with silly looking grins on our faces when in reality (or some version of reality, I suppose) we were haviní a party of the minds. Forty minutes later, I knew the entire albumís lyrics by heart. I fully understood why Joan was Randiís favorite.

When our eyes did finally open, Randi was smiling so hard she looked like she was about to burst.

"What?" I asked, suddenly feeling self-conscious.

She couldnít hold it in and speak at that same time. As she opened to her mouth to explain, laughter first spilled out before she could say, "Donít quit your day job." and then giggled a little more.

It then suddenly occurred to me. If she had been singing along with me, sending her thoughts, I would have heard the lyrics in her voice. But as it was, I was the guest in her mind, plucking them from her mind. If I had been unknowingly sending my thoughts back to her, singing to her, as opposed to her plucking them from me, then she would have heard me singing along with her. I had only heard myself, not her. I had assumed she had only heard herself. Now I realized I had assumed wrong. She had been singing along with me in her own voice of course, but could also hear me shamelessly displaying my lack of any musical talent or ear, inner or outer. Iím sure my face turned beat red if it was in relation to how embarrassed I suddenly felt just then.

"Relax," she said, still giggling a bit. "You werenít that bad. Look, I got some homework I need to do..."

"Oh, Iím sorry. Sure."

"No, itís okay. I got plenty of time. But what I was going to say is that I want to do some more tomorrow. You really do got it. You got it strong, too. Iíve been working with Ronnie for almost a year and she will probably never be able to do what we just did but she has come a long way. But we need to give you some practice. Let you figure this stuff out. For me, I was born with it. I learned in a natural way how to find my potentials and reach for my boundaries. Now itís as second nature as sleepiní and shittiní. Pardon my French. For you though, if might be more like learning to ride a skate board for the first time in your forties."

"Iím in my thirties," I said.

"Thirties, forties...youíre gonna fall off a few times before getting the hang of it. I wanna make sure we get you past that part. And I really do think you got a lot more potential than you know. I get out of school tomorrow at 3:30. Pick me up?"

"I drive a motorcycle."

"Perfect!"

* * * * *

Chapter Twenty-Three


Michael

Front Desk

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The Master Plan

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Tweny-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven
Chapter Thirty-Eight
Chapter Thirty-Nine
Epilogue