Wolves howled in the distance. Their mournful yowling filled the silence that covered the night. Large pine trees swayed and moaned with the wind, standing like soldiers dreading their march to battle. When the noise died down, and the wolves finished their lamenting cry, the forest was silent
Silent, except for the rhythmic crunch of a woman’s running feet. Her chest heaved with every breath, her heart pounded frantically. All through the night and previous day, the woman had fled from the urban city of Havens. Every step sent blinding pain through her body, begging her to stop and rest. But she would not stop. She could not stop. If the pain grew overwhelming, if the whispers of defeat clouded her mind, the woman needed only to glance down at the small bundle cradled in her arms, and the world fell away except for its safety. Occasionally, the bundle wailed in hunger or fatigue. Every time the woman had to silence her small baby, never able to stop and calm it down.
When the moon had finally set in the night sky, the woman halted stopped in a forest clearing, surrounded by the hum of nature and the scents of the world. Sitting crossed legged on the cool ground, she ever so slightly let the mental barrier around her mind drop. Thoughts of all the animals nearby floated into her mind. This did not surprise the woman, however, for she was a Psychic, a group of women that could communicate telepathically with one another and hear the thoughts of those around them. Many people wondered how these powers came to be, but none knew. Psychics were often helpful people in society, as they were able to know what criminals were planning and to discover if anyone was lying. However, recently many Psychics had gone into hiding, as the number of them who were captured and killed was growing. Some humans hunted Psychics, be it for the fear of arrest or the desire to use Psychics’ powers for themselves. Sometimes, Psychics were hunted for nothing more than sport. Fortunately, Psychics came with a defense. If a Psychic had a daughter, then the daughter was always human. The only way a new Psychic was born was from a random, non-gifted mother. This made it nearly impossible for a new or unborn Psychic to be captured, since no Psychic mother had ever given birth to a Psychic offspring.
The woman, named Ella, had been expecting a child. When the baby was born, naught a week ago, all the Psychics were shocked to feel a new presence in their collective. For the first time ever, a Psychic child had been born to a Psychic mother.
Not knowing the powers of such a being, Ella had quickly fled the city, hoping to raise the child in the woods. It was for the best.
Now Ella sat, extending her mind outwards. Soon she began to hear the thoughts of the others. They expressed concerns for the child, but none mentioned anything about coming to her aid. Ella was alone.
Suddenly, a new voice crept into her mind. In a high-pitched wail it cried, “Food, food!” repeatedly. Ella looked to her daughter. The baby was bawling. Smiling softly, she reached around into the knapsack slung over one shoulder, wrapped her callused fingers around a bottle, and guided it to the baby’s mouth. She happily accepted.
As the wolves began howling once more, Ella and her daughter settled in for the first night of their new lives.
Fourteen Years Later
Blinding sunlight seeped through the window of the cabin, shining into Clara’s eyes. She wearily sat up in the small wooden bed. Today was Monday, which meant Psychic training with her mother. Clara groaned and shoved a pillow over her face.
“Nice try. Get up.”
Clara moaned again. Her mother Ella must have been woken by her daughter’s thoughts. Several other voices began drifting into her mind, all of them scolding her for complaining about practice. The other Psychics always seemed to be scolding Clara.
“Why is it even their problem?” Clara wondered to herself. “They’re hundreds of miles away right now.”
“It’s our problem because all Psychics must learn,“ a snotty voice chimed in. Beverly was a fifteen-year-old Psychic who lived in the center of Havens. She was about a year older than Clara. She acted as if she owned Clara.
“No I don’t,” Beverly said.
Ambling into the kitchen, Clara heard the Psychics’ conversations. Some were wishing each other a good day, others quarreling over some petty topic. Something spiked Clara’s interest. Two women named Ally and Molly were discussing a newspaper article about a pregnant woman who had been kidnapped. “Probably hoping she’ll have a Psychic,” Molly hypothesized. “The baby is too underdeveloped to know.”
Clara felt the uncomfortable squirm of guilt in her stomach she had every time an innocent woman disappeared. They just vanished, pulled away from their content lives by a lunatic hoping for power. Few ever returned
After eating a cold breakfast, Ella walked her daughter out to the clearing behind their cabin. The two sat cross-legged on the soft grass, interlocking hands. Only the chirping of birds and buzz of insects interrupted the quiet forest. Clara did not need to be told what to do. Concentrating, she imagined walls forming around her mind, blocking out the thoughts around her. Voices of bugs, birds, bears, and all the other animals died off one by one. She felt the solid wall as if it were truly there. Ella waited patiently. Clara could hear her thoughts, but they were distant, as if through a tunnel. When her barrier was as strong as she could make, Clara squeezed her mother’s hand. Immediately, an overwhelming force smashed into the barrier. Clara fought the force with all her strength, but it never ceased. In less than ten seconds, the wall was destroyed.
“Again,” Ella insisted.
For several hours, the two Psychics sat in the clearing, the only movement Clara’s hand and her face wrinkling in frustration. Clara was slightly aware of, but very annoyed with, Beverly. Every time Clara’s barrier broke, she laughed and spat out rude insults. Apparently, the girl had nothing better to do.
Finally, Beverly was taking up so much of Clara’s attention that Ella broke through effortlessly. When Clara could stand it no longer, she mentally yelled, “Beverly, stop!”
“What? Am I bothering you? Too bad.” Beverly made obnoxious noises and giggled uncontrollably. Enraged, Clara stormed from the clearing, marching towards the house. She yanked the door hard enough it bounced back and smacked her shin. Stifling a sob, Clara stomped into her bedroom and flung the door closed. The hard mattress hurt Clara’s face as she tipped onto the bed.
Sometimes, it was impossible. Never able to have an inner conflict without someone commenting. Never allowed to silently complain without being scolded. Never being able to be her own person.
These thoughts, of course, were met by arguments. Being a Psychic was an honor, a privilege, but one that must be accepted.
“Easy for them,” Clara thought. “They don’t have to live up to the expectations they put on me.” Several Psychics grumbled, but none denied it. Ever since she’d been born, Clara had heard stories of how she would grow up to be the strongest Psychic ever. All because her mother was also a Psychic.
So far, however, Clara had shown no signs of any special power. In fact, she was behind on regular Psychic training. Many days she wondered if her mother’s psychic abilities hadn’t stunted hers.
Just then, there was a delicate knock on the door. Her mother’s voices whispered, “Dear, it’s time for your Single Practice.” Floorboards creaked as Ella walked away. Clara worried her mother had been listening to her thoughts a moment ago.
Single Practice allowed Clara to spend time on her own and search for her special power. Often it was a waste of two hours, but she practiced anyway, never one to disobey her mother. With much drudgery, Clara trudged back to the clearing. Once there, she stared at a centipede, thinking, “Explode. Explode!” The bug inched along, unaware of Clara entirely. Angry with herself, Clara threw a rock at the centipede and yelled, “Get lost!” It scuttled away, fleeing the rock and vanishing amongst the grass.
Clara spent the rest of her time aimlessly tossing stones at bugs. When the sun was directly above her, the young Psychic wandered back to the cabin. As she went, the thoughts of millions of different animals filled her head. They mostly thought of food, and were easy to ignore.
Clara stopped. She didn’t recognize that voice. It sounded distressed, desperate. Unsure what to do, she stood frozen amongst the trees.
“Help!” the strange voice called, louder and stronger than before. Someone was in trouble.
In the quickest decision of her life, Clara ran towards the cry’s origin. Her feet pounded against the forest floor, kicking up clouds of dust as she went. A scream rang through the air, high pitched and shrill. It raised the hairs on Clara’s skin.
Clara found her way to a clearing in the forest. Standing in the middle was a young girl, around four years old, whose face was scratched and bruised. She was surrounded on all sides by wolves. Their eyes glinted with madness, and their frail but stern bodies shook with fatigue. A heavier built wolf slowly paced towards the girl. Clara was appalled as she listened to its thoughts.
In unison, the wolves muttered the chant. Once the heavier wolf, the alpha, Clara assumed, had nearly closed in the gap between itself and the girl, a snarl ripped from its filthy throat.
“No!” Clara cried. Ten hungry, yellow eyes glanced at her. Several snarled, but none attacked her. The alpha whined and the pack, whose heads whipped back to face the girl. She was sobbing and whimpering, begging Clara to do something. Her light blond hair matted with sweat, she whispered to Clara one last time, “Help.”
Clara’s brain strained with concentration. She went through every scenario, but they all ended up with the girl or herself, or both, dead or dying. Several Psychics offered suggestions, but most stayed quiet, muttering amongst themselves. All the while, the alpha wolf began to advance once more.
Out of time and options, Clara screamed, “Go away!” with all the voice she could muster. Remarkably, the alpha yipped at his pack, and the wolves slowly retreated into the woods. As Clara stood in shock, the little girl ran and hugged her, whispering between gasps for air, “Thank you, thank you…”
The girl, named Jillian, lived on a farm nine miles from Clara and Ella’s cabin. They had returned Jillian to her parents, who thanked them with dinner. Clara told Jillian’s parents she had found their daughter unconscious in the forest. Neither girl spoke of the wolves or their retreat. Beverly, however, was screaming at Clara to tell them about how weird she was. For once, Clara simply ignored the other Psychic. Instead, she sat mulling over the events, baffled at why the wolves had withdrawn. She was sure they had obeyed her, but no one ever listened to her commands before. She told her mother to leave her alone on a daily basis, but Ella never did. Could her special power be controlling wolves? Clara shuddered at the thought. The wolves’ howling had often penetrated her sleeping mind, giving Clara terrible nightmares of the scavengers, especially their vicious teeth. Controlling them would be ghastly.
“Think harder, daughter.” Clara looked across the table to her mother and Ella grinned. She made no mention of it for the rest of the evening.
Sitting in the clearing once more, Clara stared at a hare nibbling on a flower. Over and over Clara said, “Come here!” It didn’t even look up.
With a curse on her tongue, Clara stormed into the woods. Expanding the walls in her mind our slightly, she heard the less vicious, but still unison thoughts of the wolves. They were chasing a squirrel, unaware of the girl eavesdropping on their thoughts. Suddenly, an idea formed in Clara’s mind
When Clara saw the wolves, she stopped dead in her tracks. Squirrel blood smeared their matted muzzles. Why was she doing this? The wolves petrified her. Feeling the ground for twigs that might snap, Clara slowly backed away. When the wolves were out of sight, she ran.
Beverly. Clara screamed and started to punch a tree. It was so hard having nearly a hundred other people hearing her every thought of every day. It was impossible to have inner turmoil, to worry about small things that no one wanted her to worry about. Whenever she thought about not being a Psychic, wondering if she would be better off normal, she was plagued with arguments. It was just, so, HARD. Clara’s fist pummeled the bark until her knuckles bled and her skin was raw.
No more, Clara decided. No more. Someway, somehow, Clara was going to get rid of the voices.
Which, she suddenly realized, had increased in number by one.
There was a voice, crying out in pain. The other Psychics murmured in concern, but none understood.
Clara, however, realized this voice was very close. She looked around, but the need in the voice overwhelmed her mind. Whoever it was lay dying.
“It’s coming from Jillian’s home,“ Ella concluded. Clara listened again to the cries, and decided to run to the farm. It was still nearly seven miles away, but Clara didn’t care. She just kept running.
Fueled by the adrenaline and the sense of need, Clara reached Jillian’s home in less than half the time it would’ve normally taken. Yells of pain echoed through the small valley. With three sharp knocks on the oak door, Clara was emitted in.
Jillian’s eldest sister, Jenifer, had just given birth to a baby. Unknown to the family, the child was a Psychic and was dying.
“What’s her name?” Clara asked upon meeting Jenifer.
“Alice,” Jenifer huffed. Her body was weak from childbirth. Clara doubted she’d live through the night. Alice had been born much too early, and not fully developed. Her weak mind continued to cry "help.” Clara cradled the child.
By morning, Jenifer was dead. Her body couldn’t keep up with the stress of the evening. Alice was in no better condition. Clara had tried everything, but nothing helped.
As the sun crept into the sky, Alice got worse. Her temperature increased and the coughs multiplied. Her final hour was here. Too young, a Psychic, one of the dying races in this cruel world, would leave forever.
Clara cried for the girl. Alice cried along. There was an eerie silence, and the child was dead. Waves of sorrow doused Clara. She yelled and cursed, but nothing happened. Finally, Clara whispered, “Please live,“ and broke down crying again.
A single breath from the small bundle that had stopped moving minutes ago. Alice breathed. Her head was cool, her cough gone. The baby giggled as Clara jumped up in disbelief. She was alive. She was alive.