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To Feel or Not To Feel

Her eyes are closed, and her mouth is fixed in a crooked smile. Her white hair is perfectly parted in the middle and draped over her shoulders. If anyone was to seriously observe her, they would notice that she is not even breathing. She is a feeler, my assignment.
I hold my breath. If I am to remain hidden, she must not feel me. I must not send any vibrations through thought or movement. I stand as still as she is, perhaps stiller, if there is such a thing. She opens her eyes and the smile leaves her glowing face. I let out my breath; I can move now.
She turns and walks into the theater. I check my back and then follow her in. She buys a large popcorn and enters Theater 3. She is not hungry; it is all part of the show. I frown in disgust. We hate fakes. That is what her kind are – fakes. I sit down six rows behind her. That is what we are taught to do. Always “six” in between us and our targets– six steps, six seats, six cars, six rows.
Her name is Kendra. Well, at least that’s what it was in Moscow. It may have changed by now. I would know for sure if our listener had not called in sick last week. As he has not made contact since then, I fear betrayal. The thought makes me clench my fists. The only thing I hate worse than feelers is traitors.
The movie is over and she stands up. I wait six seconds and stand up too. I do not stretch or pretend to have enjoyed myself – that would be fake. I do smile. I smile because now is when I will make my move. I have been watching her for three days. We have been to Moscow, Beijing, and presently New York City. Now it is time.
She walks toward the front of the theater to leave out the side door. I follow her, six steps behind. She opens the door. This is the only time our six rule can be broken – when we strike. I am next to her in two seconds. I pin her to the wall facing me. She tries to scream but I slap her across the cheek. Her face is whipped to the side and she glares at me as her red eyes begin to show. I am breathing heavily as I yank the glasses out of my pocket and shove them toward her face. She is a fighter, though. She bites at my hand and tries to close her eyes. I growl in frustration, and I slam her head against the wall. She cries out.
We are not supposed to use violence, but I must not let her close her eyes. I cannot defeat her when they are closed. I shove the glasses onto her face and hear them click. I step back, and she moans softly, crumpling onto the floor.
For a split second, as I look at her, I feel something. It scares me, and I glance around as if to make sure no one noticed. I swallow heavily and dare to take in her broken frame once more. As I continue to stare, I try to think thoughts of hate. She is a feeler! Feelers are the enemy! That is what I, and all of the other hunters, have been taught. But hate is not what I am feeling.
I was just a little boy when our race was split in two. The females of my species are naturally feelers, and the males are naturally warriors. Before our world was torn in half, the feelers only read the emotions of their mates. Then one day (as it is traditionally recorded in our books) a feeler betrayed her husband’s thoughts to another man who in turn reported the incident to the woman’s husband. The mistake should not have resulted in a broken culture, but it did. The male warriors separated from the female feelers and became what we are today, hunters. Consequently, no children have been born to either side ever since.
This is what I have been trained for my entire life. The instant when victory tips her hat and whispers, “Bravo.” I count to six, hoping these positively treasonous emotions will fade away. But as I look at Kendra (or whatever her name is) I suddenly cannot remember why feeling is so bad.



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