Friday, October 22, 2010

#FridayFlash: Life Skills

Have to admit, for the first time ever I dug into the archives for this one. If you've seen this before, my apology for the repeat! If you haven't, I hope you enjoy! Let me know what you think!

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Life Skills

"What are you doing here?" Sarah looked up from her desk to see her old boss standing in her office doorway.

"Shouldn't I be asking you that?" she said, entirely ignoring the woman with him.

"Seriously Sarah, this is a waste of your considerable talent," Agent Dylan told her, "When are you going to let it go and come back?"

Sarah didn't even bother rolling her eyes at the oft-repeated question, merely turned her back on him. It was a petty dismissal but she felt it was necessary. He, of course, entirely ignored it.

“We need your help," he said, indicating the blonde beside him. Sarah wouldn't even look at her.

"I don't do ghost wannabes. You know that."

"This one's different."

"What's different? Did she, or did she not, try to kill herself?"

"She's a level 8 medium with no shields." Dylan told her, completely avoiding the question. The implications of that did give Sarah a slight pause but was insufficient to overcome her long-ingrained disrespect of suicidal people. "We've put her through every kind of training we could imagine and still nothing. Consider it a challenge."

"Carol couldn't help her?" Sarah asked, reluctantly curious. She never could resist a challenge.

"She tried. Alyssa ended up in a coma."

"Interesting." Sarah acknowledged clinically, keeping the surprise out of her voice. Carol was the one who had originally trained Sarah. "Why did you wake up?" she asked Alyssa directly, thinking sleeping forever was an easy way out for one who wanted to kill herself.

"Dylan." Alyssa stated, with no indication of how she felt about it. "The spirits were quiet, but so was everything else. It was like I was in a void and eventually Dylan showed up and shoved me out. Now everything's back as it was before." At Sarah's look Agent Dylan shrugged off what she knew must've been an extraordinary experience. To enter the mind of one who is not under control is to risk being lost there yourself, and she imagined adding in the visiting spirits would just make it that much worse. Much like exploring the mind of a schizophrenic.

"What do you expect me to do?" Sarah asked, knowing the answer but needing it stated.

"You're an emphatic telepath. Take a look, feel what she's feeling, then build her a shield."

Reluctantly Sarah lowered the shields of her own mind which she used to filter out the thoughts and feelings of others.

She allowed a moment to be overwhelmed by the flood of voices frivolously chattering before focusing her attention on the girl beside her. As soon as she did the sense of despair was almost overwhelming. It was a horrid combination of an inability to help, no way to avoid the pleas, and a feeling of complete failure. And worse, a resigned acceptance that this was how it would always be. Switching senses, Sarah opened herself to experiencing Alyssa's thoughts which were being monopolized by a child crying in the dark, a tall pale man asking where his wife was, and others who were there but appeared unaware of her.

“Interesting.” Sarah repeated as she brought her own shields back up and disconnected from the chaos that was Alyssa's mind. She grabbed her purse and followed Dylan out of the room, silently agreeing with him that this was not the appropriate place for what needed to be done. Alyssa followed the pair, unsure exactly what had been wordlessly decided, but knowing that something had.

Arriving at the Motel 6 Dylan had booked Sarah sat down with Alyssa. "I've never done this before," she told her, "and I can't guarantee it'll go any better than Carol's attempt, but I’m willing to try." Alyssa just nodded. "When Carol helped you, she had you hide yourself inside a diamond?" Sarah guessed. A diamond is the hardest stone on Earth -- and therefore a great way to shield yourself, and one of Carol's favourite training images. Alyssa nodded her assent.

"Ok close your eyes, and wait till I join you." Alyssa's haunted blue eyes closed, and Sarah once again lowered her own shields and allowed the chaos in, having no idea how she was actually going to solve this. She temporarily blocked her emphatic sense allowing her to focus only on Sarah's thoughts -- and through her, those of the spirits with her. Her eyes were open, but the scene she saw was entirely in Alyssa’s mind. She found Alyssa cowering by a tree as some people wandered aimlessly around while others converged on her.

Turning her back on Alyssa, her dimmed emphatic sense could feel her hurt and fear, but she had to allow that for a few minutes. She found the pieces of the diamond shield Carol had helped her create and used that to build far more than a shield. She built an entire castle, with windows and only one entrance. Then she went and fought her way through the spirits to get to Alyssa, and casting her own shield widely enough to cover both of them she got Alyssa into the diamond castle – but once there Alyssa was blank. There was no expression on her face, no acknowledgement of her surroundings. Nothing.

And Sarah suddenly new what to do. She quickly pulled Alyssa back out into the realm of chaos. "Alyssa!" the younger girl slowly focused on her. "Somewhere out here is your knowledge, your feelings, your thoughts, and your memories. We have to find these and put them inside for you." Alyssa nodded her understanding, her eyes lighting with the first glimmers of hope. Using her own unique senses, Sarah was quickly able to locate Alyssa's feelings and thoughts -- hidden in a chest and a rock respectively, presumably previous shield attempts. On her own, Alyssa located her knowledge. Then it was just a search for her memories, which the rather helpful spirit of her grandmother was holding on to. All critical items accounted for, Sarah and Alyssa returned to the diamond castle. Sarah pulled the door shut, keeping a close eye on Alyssa. This time, she appeared to still be under control. "You ok?" Sarah asked. Alyssa nodded. Sarah let all her shields down. "Now?" "I can still hear them, but they're quiet. Like someone has the volume just one step above mute." Sarah thought for a moment and then walked over to the one open window and shut it. "Now?" Alyssa looked stunned.

"Ok so this is how it works," Sarah started in her teacher voice, "while you're in the diamond castle they'll leave you alone. If you want to listen, open a window; if you want to communicate, open the door and let only the one you wish to speak to in. If you find yourself outside -- which you will when you’re tired or upset, come back here as quickly as you can and shut the door. And remember, no matter how bad it is out there you can always get back. Got it?" Alyssa nodded and Sarah could feel her doubt and her hope warring it out -- but at least hope was still there. Maybe there was actually a chance. "Ok, when you're talking to Dylan tell him to leave me alone for a few hours. Open your eyes."

When Alyssa opened her eyes it was to see Sarah, incredibly pale, unconscious on the couch w/ Dylan leaning over her taking her pulse. And for the first time ever, silence. "She says leave her alone for a few hours." Alyssa told him. Dylan smiled ruefully "Yeah that sounds like her. So?" he asked -- but didn't need the answer. Even without looking uninvited, he knew from peace on Alyssa’s face that Sarah had met the challenge.

3 comments:

Steve Green said...

Once again Lauren, a good plot with excellent dialogue and interaction.

Lauren Cude said...

Thanks Steve!

Cathy Webster (Olliffe) said...

Imagination shines in this piece. Nicely drawn, too.

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