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Volume 1, Issue 3


Unheard Magazine Issue 3

We hope you like what you read and that you may commission the authors profiled for future work. Please direct all queries or requests by email to greg@unheardmag.com

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Contents 4..............Those That Remain by Joseph Grant 5..............Silence by William Carpenter 6..............Got No Reason by Kevin Michaels 7..............Iceman Cometh by Joseph Grant 8..............They Only Come Out at Night; Haiku by Adam J. Whitlatch 9..............The Scarab by Greg Moore 10..............Keeping Secrets by Adam J. Whitlatch 11..............Levitation by Greg Moore 12..............Moon Dust by Adam J. Whitlatch 13..............Breaking Sound (Ch. 4) by Sarah Alsgaard 3


Unheard Magazine Issue 3

Those That Remain by Joseph Grant

Carla prunes the slim, dead branches off the potted plant outside the cafe window as the breeze softly pushes past her to the empty trees behind her and grows into the much more mature wind which slowly blows the battleship steel gray clouds above the swaying evergreens into the caress of the stony mountains in the distance. The brittle, tawny leaves of the potted plant fall around her feet as some are scattered by the breeze, while those that remain on the limb seemingly shudder at their impending fate as much as the wind. The sun peeks out momentarily from a separation in the overcast day and smiles upon her pleasant, determined face and then it disappears again. For a while, she does not think about anything much or the man who came into the cafe and into her life but no longer comes at all and she gathers up the fallen leaves into a dust pan and disappears once again inside the warm cafe to discard what is no longer needed. But once again outside he does re-enter her thoughts, if never the cafe, she is awash in memories of him, his laugh, his scent, his touch, his embrace, his uniform and finally his absence. Tears and confusion drown her memories as to what went wrong. She waters the plant with a glass from inside and stabs at the wet soil with a kitchen knife to enable the water to drain to the roots. She touches her abdomen and thinks of the life growing inside her but does not become dejected at the state of things of the moment. As it starts to rain, she wipes at her tear-strewn cheeks with the back of her dirty hand for she knows that in the coming spring, life will begin anew.

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Silence

by William Carpenter echoes of music on stone, give way to silence.  Silence full and empty as the soul.  Silence void as the loss of a child or a love. felled by act of senseless and unfettered carnage Darkness and rage surrounding.   And yet here is beauty. Beauty to cleanse, Beauty to console, Beauty to heal.   The soul aches with it Tears fall and spirits rise Rises as a prayer A prayer to the One A prayer of Hope A prayer for grace.   A Plea

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Got No Reason by Kevin Michaels

Mercy had sworn it would be the last time he touched her, no matter what kind of promises he made, and she is determined to see that through. She knows his promises aren’t much different than his threats, and the words become worthless after he finishes off a couple of six packs. He spends most nights filled with drunken bitterness; simmering in anger that rages the longer he sits on the couch, watching reruns of old cop shows and thinking about all the things that might have been. Mad that the years have rolled past so quickly and unable to appreciate anything he has. His violent explosions once the six packs are gone leave her hurt and bloodied, stuck inside the double-wide for days until the swelling goes down and the bruises fade enough that she doesn’t have to hide them. By then he has forgotten all of his apologies. When the words don’t mean anything there is no reason to remember them. It’s going to change, Mercy tells herself. She made a promise that she intends to keep. No way she ever wants to smell his hot, nasty breath on her face, or feel those rough calloused fingers scratching her skin again. There’s no excuse for the things he does to her, no matter what kind of explanations he gives. The little tenderness he offers through the sobs and tears never go far enough to erase her pain or make it disappear completely. Never quite makes up for what’s been lost. He just doesn’t understand any of that. Mercy waits until she hears the familiar pop of a beer can opening in the kitchen, then the refrigerator door slamming shut, bottles and cans rattling on the shelves as he stumbles back through the living room. Knows it won’t be long before he pushes his way into the bedroom with bad intentions written all over his expression. Mercy had found that old thirty-eight on the top shelf in the closet, loading the bullets that had been rolling around the nightstand drawer, and sits on the bed now with the gun in her lap. In the darkness of her room, she waits. Mercy knows she’s done pretending to be just like other girls, and wonders if her Daddy is going to feel the same kind of pain she’s felt for years when she pulls the trigger.

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Iceman Cometh

by Joseph Grant   None of it made little sense to investigators around the country as bodies were turning up all over major cities during the long, hot summer. What made even less sense was the fact that many of the victims, mostly young women thought to be hitchhikers and prostitutes, were often found hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles from their last known whereabouts. What made absolutely no sense was the fact that none of these crimes were seemingly related as it went across the board in regard to police profiling, except that the victims were all bound with similar cord and the coroner in Los Angeles made the startling claim that even those victims most recently found as little as a week previously had been dead many months, yet none showed signs of decomposition despite the hellish heat wave gripping most of the country that spring, summer and early Fall. It was only when the FBI got involved that they were able to tie together the pieces of cord as being that of butcher’s twine and that all of the murders happened along the interstates. What made perfect sense in the end was the driver with the refrigerated freight truck that held more than just frozen meat.

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They Only Come Out At Night by Adam J. Whitlatch

John scratched his thick white beard and cursed under his breath as he stared at the scene of death and mutilation that only last night had been a flourishing chicken coop.  All over the room, masses of matted feathers, wings, gristly bones, and cloudy-eyed heads littered the floor, nesting boxes, and the brooder; they hadn’t taken the eggs, the dirty varmints - why the hell hadn’t they taken the eggs?  Three nights now this had happened; he looked up into the rafters at the remaining six hens and two roosters cowering there, frightened and shaking, and decided that enough was enough.  Tonight I’m gonna bag those sons a bitches, he thought with resolve as he set down the rusty steel traps and began collecting the pieces of carcasses with the most meat left on them.  He went to bed that night with a smile on his face, certain that in the morning the nightmare would be over and he’d have the filthy varmints right where he wanted them.  Imagine his horror the next morning when he opened his door to find three bloody steel traps dangling from the nail above his door and a message scrawled in blood on the door, No MoRR cH

iKenZ HooManZ nEXt!

Haiku

by Adam J. Whitlatch automatons kiss androids dance by the moonlight digital lovers emo venusian blogs so long, cruel galaxy slits his tentacles

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The Scarab by Greg Moore “AH! Bloody hell!” Screamed Reginald as he quickly pulled his foot from the boot. Something fell out and scurried to a dark corner. “What’s happened?!” Reginald’s assistant burst into the tent brandishing an iron cooking pot. “Are you all right sir?” “Yes, yes, Percy. I’m fine. I merely forgot to check my boots before putting them on and I seem to have been bitten by something.” Reginald waved to the corner where the creature had retreated.”The little bugger headed over there.” “We better find him, sir.” Percy raised his upper lip as he squinted into the dark corner. “Could be dangerous, sir.” “Quite.” Reginald said as he tried to stand. Pain shot through the bite area causing him to hiss through gritted teeth. ”You sure you’re alright, sir?” Percy asked. “I said I’m fine. Do make yourself useful, and help me find the damned thing.” Reginald said impatiently. He limped towards his desk and grabbed a large rock he had been using as a paperweight. Percy went to another table and lit a small oil lamp. Weapons in hand, both men carefully crept towards the dark corner. Eventually, Percy’s lamp revealed an inky black scarab beetle. “There’s the offender!” Reginald hissed while raising his rock high overhead. Percy moved first however, and swung his pot down to the floor with a hollow bang. Unfortunately, he missed and the black insect took flight straight at him. Eyes wide, Percy ran from the counter attack hooting. “Calm down you twit!” Reginald chided as he took the pot from the floor. “I’ll handle the little bugger.” Reginald focused on timing his swing just as Percy ran past and successfully connected with the perusing insect. The pot dinged like a bell and the scarab hit the far tent wall with a soft puff. “That’s how you do it.” Reginald said proudly as Percy continued running around the room. “Settle down Percy! It’s over!” Reginald yelled. Percy gave a surprised look and panted to a stop. “Sorry sir,” He bent over leaning on his knees. “I aint never had such an insect chase me before.” “Yes well, perhaps the next time you find yourself in such… mortal danger you’ll do better to keep your head about you?” Reginald stood over his kill. “Remember, I’m the one who was stung. Besides, it’s merely an insect. What harm could it do really?” Little did Reginald know that, even as he spoke those words, a metamorphosis was beginning to take place within his body. Fortunately, Percy had taken Reginald’s chastisements to heart and was able to dispatch the man-sized scarab he later found occupying Reginald’s room. 9


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Keeping Secrets by Adam J. Whitlatch

She’s staring at me across the table with those guilty eyes, and I can already tell my evening is ruined; suddenly this pizza sitting between us doesn’t seem quite so appetizing anymore.  After a couple false starts she finally manages to find her voice (although shaky and nervous) and after I reassure her that she can tell me anything says, “I love you... and I don’t think there should be any secrets between us, so I have a confession to make. “  My throat tightens when she says, “I kissed another guy at a party last week, but it was nothing... I swear!”  I lean back in my chair and sigh, this simple action is probably what saves my life, because I can just barely see the Horde troopers an instant before they crash through the pizzeria’s plate glass window and open fire, laser bolts turning the quaint little establishment into a war zone, complete with mozzarella rain and cheese shaker grenades. I quickly overturn our table and drag her behind it with me and she screams as a red blast of laser fire takes out a chunk of the table’s edge next to her head.  I reach behind my back and draw the laser pistol concealed underneath my jacket and – meeting her panicked and trembling gaze – say, “Honey, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you, too.”

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Levitation by Greg Moore Night. A tiny silver light beams like a brilliant star in the near total blackness of a bedroom. It’s steady beam faintly illuminating the pause/ play symbols on a set of headphones. Within their while plastic shell, small magnetic drivers pulse a faint rhythmic beat into a woman’s ears. If this woman is listening, we can’t tell as she is making no expression. Her only sign of movement is the equally rhythmic rise and fall of her chest as she takes in and releases air. Minutes flow on with no change to the muted scene. The headphones continue to pulse. The woman continues to breathe. Before we loose interest, however, a car passes silently outside. The light from it’s headlights rush across the room and momentarily reveal a hidden world we couldn’t see before. Warm, red colored walls. Photographs framed in rough golden wood. The open door to what looks to be a bathroom. The silky shine on the folds of the woman’s pajamas as she lays above her covers. Within this sudden visual revelation, we are also able to see a movement that we could not perceive before. Wisps of black smoke are silently curling from underneath the woman’s still body. Once the headlights are gone, we can no longer see the smoke but the density of blackness within the room fills in fuller than before. We can no longer see the room’s details. We know that things are changing. The rhythm from the headphones no longer matches the woman’s excelerated breathing. The black smoke continues to fill the room and we no longer see the details of the woman’s face as we could before. The piercing silver music player light remains our only visual guide. The light begins to move. Slowly at first, then more quickly, it rises into the air. The woman’s breathing continues to quicken and follow the light upward until we hear a sudden gasp. Instantly, the black shroud fades from the room and we can see the woman is levitating far above her bed. From our viewing angle, we can barely make out her surprised expression as she continues to gasp in air. Another car silently passes outside and the beam from it’s headlights track across the room from right to left. As the bright light scans over the levitating woman, her body falls slowly and silently back atop the covers of her bed.

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Moon Dust by Adam J. Whitlatch

We never even saw it coming; the Caruu came down upon us like a summer rain - hard and fast.  Their goal was to terrify us, to grind us into a weeping, pathetic pulp before destroying us, and they accomplished this with gusto when they destroyed the moon; Luna, a symbol of love and hope, the receiver of countless prayers of star-crossed lovers, the first of many goals facing every little boy that stares up into the night sky dreaming to be an astronaut.  I’ll admit that even I wept when I saw the glowing, irradiated chunks of our moon slowly drifting apart, but the icy blood in my veins rose to a boil when the first Caruu fighters plunged through the glowing moon dust toward Earth at attack speed. Then the commander’s voice rang out over the loudspeakers, and the Old Man finally spoke the words that I had been waiting to hear, “All fighters to your Raptors!” The Caruu will never know just how well their plan worked in terrifying us, nor will they ever know just how badly they fucked up, but I’d like to think that they may have gotten a small inkling of that feeling when they saw over 200,000 screaming Raptors tearing through the stratosphere to meet them halfway. It is, as they say, ‘a good day to die’... but I have other plans.

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Breaking Sound Ch. Four, Auryon, Layer (Measure 1) by Sarah Alsgaard It took 12 years for the factions to notice my abilities. Not even my own parents said they remembered what my abilities were; only that I suppressed them. I wanted to be left alone. My goal in life since I was seven years old was to go unnoticed by the factions. Someone told them, though. The E Faction came calling first. A representative knocked on our door in late March, and hardly paid attention to anyone except me when he walked into our living room. He had been a tall man with black eyes, blond hair and no facial expressions I can remember. A boring man. “Why didn’t you tell your own faction that your daughter has such remarkable gifts?” the psychic said. He only looked at my parents long enough to glare at them. Then his gaze settled on me again. I leaned against the door frame leading into the kitchen, trying to remain calm while I held my hands behind my back so he wouldn’t see them shaking. How did they find out about me? I’d spent years upon years trying to hide everything about my abilities. Now suddenly this? Aihi, my younger brother, was leaning against the counter in the kitchen, listening intently to the conversation. He also chose to keep his abilities a secret, and he must have wondered if they had found out about him as well. He looked extremely worried when his eyes glanced at mine. “She hasn’t told us what her abilities are,” my mother said. “We’d be an embarrassment to our faction if we told them that Auryon has abilities, but that we, as her parents, didn’t know what they are.” “You could have brought her in to us,” the representative said. “We could have tested her. We could have forced the abilities out. She’s not the first psychic who’s refused to display her abilities, Mrs. Raker.” “The problem is that...” My father was at a loss for

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words under the man’s gaze. I stepped in. “We see no reason to allow you to take me,” I said. “The E Faction is for weak psychics who feel the need to belong somewhere. I have no use for such a pathetic faction.” The man with bleached hair rose from his chair in our living room and strode toward me. He came within inches of my face, his breath reeking of cigarettes. “Do you care to say that again?” he asked. He only possessed the ability to find anything that didn’t want to be found. The perfect hunter, but a poor fighter, though with a frighteningly large body. The appearance of strength. He certainly represented the E Faction well. “Sorry, but I see no reason to join the faction of my parents.” “You have no choice!” he yelled. “Once a faction has chosen you, you must join them!” “I don’t recall ever hearing of such a rule,” I said. “Auryon…” my mother said. “He’s got four men with him outside,” my father said. “We can’t put up much of a fight, even for you.” “The men outside have little or no ability,” I said. “Little or no?” The man snorted. “They’re our best warriors. The president of my faction, himself, sent them with me.” “How is it that you learned about my abilities in the first place?” I asked. “If not even my parents know, then how is it that your faction learned I have any?” The man hesitated. “We have psychics of our own working with us,” he said. “They found out what you can do.” “See, I think you’re lying,” I said. I saw my brother’s body tense out of the corner of my eye. He was afraid; the final sign that the man needed to leave. “If you knew what I could do, you would have sent your entire faction here.” That was when the representative lost his patience. Somewhere in his stupid little mind, he reached the conclusion that violence would persuade me instead. However, lacking the strength to mentally assault me, he resorted to throwing 14


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a punch at my head. I ducked and felt his bones crack when he hit the door frame leading into the kitchen. He bellowed loudly and staggered out of the house to get his fellow thugs. The man had no sooner slammed the door when my mother ran up to me, gripping both my arms tightly. Her face was centimeters away from mine, her eyes wide. “Please,” my mother said, “they’ll burn this house down if you don’t go with them. They’ll hurt us –” “Mother,” I said, “I will never join any faction. Ever. It’s a pathetic and ridiculous system that exists to keep us under control.” “What in the hell are you talking about?” Aihi said. “Ridiculous?” He appeared from the kitchen, his body filling the door frame. He still seemed incredibly tense. “If you have abilities, then you belong to a faction. That’s the only way to survive. Normal people are getting better at fighting and manipulating us. If we don’t band together, we have no prayer of surviving.” “Then why haven’t you joined a faction yet?” I said. “Because the right one hasn’t asked me yet,” he said. “I’m waiting.” “That’s not why you’re waiting,” I said angrily. “You’re just waiting to see which faction I choose. You want to join the same faction as me.” Aihi shrugged and tilted his head to one side. He tried to look calmer than he felt. “So what if I do?” he asked. “Someone has to look out for my sister. Our parents are making a mess of their roles in our lives. Someone should take over.” My parents would have protested but they were promptly knocked unconscious when four psychics filled their minds with such empty thoughts that they forgot to breathe. The psychics then kicked the door down and stood facing us. One of the psychics turned his gaze from me to my brother. My brother doubled over and started coughing until blood splashed out of his mouth. I watched Aihi crumple to his knees. Enough. I’d failed to keep what I could do a secret from the 15


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factions. I’d failed. There was no point in hiding it all any longer, then. I should’ve known I couldn’t be happy in life. I should’ve known I’d have to lead a paranoid life for no reason, terrified that the day I was discovered would happen. Now that it had come, I was shocked to find that I was angry, not scared. They couldn’t hurt my family any longer. To the supreme shock of the psychics in my living room, I raised myself off the ground to have a clearer look at them. I can still see the hunter from the E Faction in my dreams, looking horrified as I floated above him. As if I’d turned into a ghost. They didn’t scream. There wasn’t time to. Their bodies simply disintegrated into the air. Blood sprayed from them but that, too, seemed to melt into the air. Why? Why had it come to this? Tears filled my eyes before my feet hit the ground again. I fell to my knees, my heart pounding in my ears, my chest constrained with sobs. Why did they even find out? Why did they have to make me kill them like this? If only they hadn’t attacked my parents and my brother like that. It would’ve been all right. Couldn’t we be left alone? My brother rose to his feet, wiping the blood from his mouth. He was breathing heavily but seemed fine otherwise. He looked at where the five men once stood, and saw me holding my head, crying. “The E Faction obviously wasn’t worthy of you.” My parents were furious when they had learned what I did, later on, when they had regained consciousness. I demanded that they never invite a faction to our house again. Not if they were looking to recruit me. I reminded my parents that I would have been spared from having to kill the five men if word of my abilities had never gotten out. They had lied to me, I thought. They really did know what my abilities were. How else had the E Faction discovered me? No one else could’ve possibly known. I warned them that every representative sent to our door would die. 16


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Despite my warning, however, a representative from every faction came. Every month another faction would knock on our door. It became a monthly gift that my brother would laugh at me about. He was deeply amused, as though I was rejecting suitors rather than pouring blood all over my hands. It’d been nearly a year since I’d had a full night’s sleep. The last faction was supposed to arrive on my 20th birthday. The A Faction. The elite faction. Ever since their conception, the A Faction dominated the other seven factions, and recruited the very best psychics the world had to offer. Even the C Faction, which had quickly gained power over the years, couldn’t compare. I was honestly surprised they hadn’t come knocking first. I wish they would have come first. Perhaps if I had just killed their representatives; the other factions might’ve become too afraid to bully me into joining them. We heard the knock on our door just as we had settled down in the living room to open my presents. I put one of the presents down on the floor, but didn’t get up from my chair. My mother and father exchanged glances from the couch beside me. “Please answer that,” my mother said quietly. “Please, you can’t keep someone from the A Faction waiting.” “No.” “I will!” My brother leapt up, picked his way through the presents all on the floor, and opened the door. My mother leaned toward me and whispered fiercely, “If you don’t accept the A Faction, there will be no other faction. None of them will ever come looking for you after this. You have insulted and made enemies out of every other one except for this one. This is your last chance or you’ll be an outcast.” “Mother,” I said, “I am an outcast. I like it that way.” Aihi answered the door and, very loudly, said, “You must be from the A Faction.” “Actually, I’m not,” the woman answered. She stepped inside and looked around before leaning her umbrella against the wall. The middle-aged, slightly travel-weary woman shook 17


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her hair free of excess rain and breathed in deeply the air of our home. I couldn’t sense anything about her. For the first time in my entire life, I felt as though I were staring into an empty shell rather than a person. The woman walked over to me and crouched beside my chair. She smiled warmly up at me and, without saying a word, mentally swept over my mind, viewing all of my thoughts at a glance, before I could stop her. I felt her searching the layers of my mind for my abilities through the millions of pieces of information and memories. She had nearly uncovered them before I physically shoved her away from me. She had brought me to my feet. It was terrifying. My head was pounding, my blood coursing through my veins as though someone had tried to shoot me. How could I sense nothing from her, but she could so easily look into my mind? Who was she? She rose from the ground and smoothed over her coat. “My name is Venki. There’s no point in lying to you, Auryon. You’ll weaken my defenses sooner or later with the amount of power you have.” She started pulling at a loose thread on her coat until it snapped off. “There have been many rumors spread about you, Auryon. None of them good. You’ve made a lot of paranoid enemies. Every faction is afraid of you.” “The A Faction isn’t,” I said. “They haven’t sent anyone here for me.” “I’m from The Corporation.” “The Corporation?” I said. “Which one?” Venki laughed. “You’ve never heard of The Corporation?” “No,” I said. I continued wasting my energy trying to find her mind, hidden within the body standing in front of me. There was something blocking me from her mind, though. There seemed to be little, black boxes strapped to her body in various places. I started focusing on one of the boxes and found that her fingers instinctively went to her arm where she felt the box burning into her skin. “The Corporation helps protect the E Faction from the other factions,” she said, glancing at my parents. “Six months 18


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ago, you killed five of that faction’s best warriors. They’re still vulnerable because of your actions.” She winced when the black box melted into her skin, though she showed no other signs of the pain than that. It had almost seemed like a nod of approval that I could do that much. I focused on the black box resting against her neck next just underneath the collar of her shirt. “Please,” my father pleaded, “please don’t kill our daughter.” “No,” Venki said, “we won’t kill her. We’re going to have to take her in with us, though. It won’t be death, but it might be close.” “No!” my mother said. Just as I thought I had melted the black box on her neck, the door burst open. Six other people with the black boxes on them charged into the living room and pinned me to the ground. They flooded my mind before I could even react. How could so many of them exist? I’d gone 20 years without encountering a single person with that much power. Venki pried the remains of the black boxes from her arm and neck, and threw them to the ground. I saw her grin at my brother through a gap between two of the henchmen’s arms. She sauntered over and peered down at me. I felt a great wave of sleep overtake me and looked away from her. I was too weak to do anything else. It was difficult enough fighting the other six people away from prying farther into my mind than I wanted them to. I could keep them from reaching the deepest layers of my thoughts, but I couldn’t defend myself against Venki’s suggestions to sleep at the same time. My parents had already been knocked out cold and lay on the floor. They looked peaceful. I shook my head free of Venki. My eyes locked on Aihi’s. “Aihi!” I screamed. “Help me!” Was he smiling? My brother yelled my name, but suddenly fell to the ground when Venki raised her hand at him. For a split-second, I tried to sense what had happened to him. In that second, Venki flashed her eyes at me, and the waves of sleep crashed down. I slipped into such a strong sleep that I lost grasp of 19


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even my dreams. There was nothing but complete darkness. For a long time, I desperately fought to grab hold of consciousness. It took days before I could finally force open my eyes again. I don’t know if it was because the psychics allowed me to or because I was strong enough to fight them all. Whatever the case, I woke up in a hospital bed with thousands of lights all focused on me. My eyes burned even after I’d closed them again. I tried to lift my hands to shield myself from the light, but I couldn’t move. Sleep still paralyzed me. “My God, such a strong psychic,” I heard someone say. A young man’s voice. “You found her in the middle of Oregon?” “Yes, Mr. Ross,” Venki said. She sounded significantly more subdued than when I had last heard her. “The only faction that didn’t try to recruit her was the A Faction. The other factions want her dead.” “I can see why,” Mr. Ross said with a soft laugh. “She nearly killed you and our six best psychics. She killed at least 30 other powerful psychics. All on her own. My God, if only she had a twin!” “Do you want her, then?” Venki asked. “Oh yes,” Mr. Ross said quietly. I sacrificed a fraction of my grip on consciousness in order to sense where I was. I couldn’t see through my own eyes because of the bright lights focused on my body. In an instant, I could picture the room as though I floated above it. I could nearly picture myself, lying like a corpse on a bed in the middle of a white room, decorated with heavy machinery. My body was covered in wires. Mr. Ross, in a t-shirt and shorts, stood just behind my head with Venki to his right. He turned to her and took her hand into his. I couldn’t hear what they said any longer, but she nodded and watched him leave the room, his hands in his pockets. The room, it seemed, was larger than my house. It was filled with machines, all of which were somehow connected to me through either wires or waves of energy. There were a set of lights just above me. Beyond the circle of low-hanging lights, however, were thousands of people, all gazing down at 20


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me from a circular balcony. As if they were about to watch an operation. I rose myself back into my body, and tried to fight for control of it again. “Ladies and gentlemen,” Venki called to the group above us, “her name is Auryon. She is the one who kept all of you up late at night these past long months, trying to solve the complete disappearances of those psychics she killed. This is her.” I heard one person applaud me, then another. The entire room erupted into applause and completely stunned me. I felt a shadow cross over my face and opened my eyes to see Venki staring down at me. “The machines you’ve undoubtedly sensed around us are keeping you in check for now,” she said through the applause. “We’ll have to keep you like this for a while, I’m afraid.” No, I’ll destroy them, I thought angrily. I wanted to fight her. The damned woman was insulting me in front of everyone I had frustrated. Why had she captured me at all? Just to show me off like this? I would rip everything apart. I was not going to be a spectacle for these stupid people. Sparks flew and the lights flickered. The crowd above burst into a series of gasps and muffled screams. I released as much strength as I wanted to and felt it lash out against the machines that had chained me to Venki. Every single machine broke. Venki was suddenly unprotected against me. She knew it, though I still sensed no emotion at all from her. The psychics sitting in the audience didn’t hesitate to come to Venki’s aid, however. They leapt to their feet and each focused on me. I felt at least 20 psychics attack me in one massive stroke that immediately forced me back down on the bed. At least 30 people with no psychic abilities rushed into the room and began trying to repair the machines. Some of them simply threw aside the obliterated machines in order to focus on the ones that could be saved. “This is the face of the new psychics,” Venki yelled calmly to the audience, her voice carrying over the chaos around her. The 20 psychics pinning me down on the bed remained 21


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standing, focused entirely on controlling me. It felt like a car had been pressed down on my chest. “How many more of her are there?” someone called from the audience. “None that I’m aware of,” Venki said, smiling. “However, she’s what every faction wants and is terrified of. Someone that is obscenely stronger than our best psychics and machines. The C Faction has especially begun recruiting psychics along these lines, though none anywhere near as strong as her. We don’t know how they’ve motivated the strong psychics to join them when everyone knows the A Faction has a history of superiority. We think foul play is involved.” “They told me,” I said through gritted teeth. The “car” pressed against my chest felt heavier, “they told me I had no choice.” “Which faction told you that?” Venki asked me. “All of them.” “Something is going on between the factions that we need to find out about,” Venki said to the crowd. “I brought her to you today to tell you that you can stop researching the disappearances of the powerful psychics. We’ve found our murderer and she’s working for us now. Mr. Ross would like all of you to now focus on the factions, themselves. We need to clamp down on all of them as soon as we can, since we appear to be losing our grip. There has to be a reason why the A Faction has stopped receiving the powerful psychics while the C Faction is rising in the ranks of power. It’s abnormal and we need to know why.” “We repaired the four main machines, Venki,” one of the repairmen called. “You can tell the psychics to stop pinning her down. I think the machines can handle her.” “Hmm, I see,” Venki said, “This girl just destroyed all of them herself. What can these four machines do to prevent that?” “There are drugs arriving soon,” the repairman said. “I’ve already called Bill Reily.” “No drugs,” she said. “I won’t allow them to use drugs on her.” “Mr. Ross told us to call Bill,” another repairman said. 22


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“You don’t listen well, do you?” she said. To my surprise, the 20 psychics suddenly released me. I sprang to my feet and hit my head against one of the closer lights above. Every person turned to me. No one said a word. Venki narrowed her eyes, waiting for me to attack the repairmen. “You think that I’ll just attack them because I’m now free?” I said as I roughly pushed the wires off of me. “Fight your own damned battles.” “Do you want to be drugged?” Venki said. “If they drug you, you might never come back to us from where those drugs could take you.” “And who said I wanted to be here?” I yelled. “I never asked you to drag me here like this!” “Auryon, would you please join us?” “Of course not,” I said. Venki took a deep breath, straightening her shirt as she did. “The true purpose of The Corporation is to keep every faction in check; to make sure that all of them remain on equal levels so that normal people can lead normal lives. If you were to help us, we would be extremely grateful.” “No,” I said. “No. No.” Her eyes were still blank. She put her hand to her chin, and then laughed. “Ah right, ah right, I’m sorry,” she said. “Of course you’d be killing people.” “All the more reason why I would never join!” I screamed. She took a step back, scratching her head. “I naturally assumed that you enjoyed brutally killing people who opposed you,” she said. “To leave no trace of those 30 or so psychics behind speaks volumes of your character.” “That I didn’t want word of my power to spread?” I snapped. “You honestly think I like killing people? What kind of a person enjoys that? It was to keep my abilities a secret, all right?” She narrowed her eyes at me again, but she smiled. “Then why didn’t you kill your brother? He was the one 23


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who announced to the world a fraction of what you can do.” Her words had struck me deeper than the 20 separate attacks had. My hands barely found the bed before I lost my footing. My head fell to the pillow but the weight of her words continued to push down on me. My first obvious instinct was to deny this. A woman I’d just met, one who had captured me, just said my brother had started this entire mess. It wasn’t possible. Aihi was my brother; he wouldn’t put me through this willingly. “No, you’re lying,” I said through clenched teeth and sat up. “What the hell do you know about my brother?” “He approached a messenger of the A Faction’s president seven months ago, Auryon,” she said. “That president then came to us with this information. Aihi, your brother, said you could kill people easily, and that we would be greatly interested in such a psychic.” She was calm; her words devoid of any emotion. As if we were talking about whether or not it was raining outside. I started to hesitate. Aihi? He had told the A Faction about me? I wildly thought of how he had protected me from the factions, everywhere from lying to them to fighting against them alongside me. He’d always encouraged me to find a faction, but he would never have gone so far. How had he even remembered what I could do? I’d shown him a few examples when we’d been children but…how? “You’re a liar,” I said again, “My parents –” “Don’t remember your abilities because you never showed all of them. I know what all you can do, though. Thanks to your brother telling us, I now know a lot about you, Auryon.” “My brother would never have done that to me. He wanted to join the same faction as me!” “Then go join him because he chose the A Faction. A Faction psychics loyal to this Corporation have reported to me that he discouraged them from asking you to join. Auryon, I believe his intentions are to kill you when he thinks he’s powerful enough.” “What?” I said. The lights went out again and threw 24


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everyone into confusion. She…she…how dared she suggest that? My own brother? Of course not. I would go check, I would know absolutely that this woman was lying. Of course she was lying. She was the enemy, kidnapping me like this. Of course she was. But I needed to check. There were three people in the world who had any possibility of knowing what I could do. My parents and Aihi. Every psychic in the room attempted to subdue me, but I pushed them all aside. My fury enhanced my powers beyond my own comprehension. Through the haze of chaos, I could only focus on one goal: Find Aihi. The A Faction based their headquarters at a public university. I looked up at the psychics watching this, and demanded they tell me where the A Faction’s headquarters were. The mind’s of every psychic in the room unwillingly told me to go to Nocciole University in Italy. Before the psychics could attempt another assault, I ripped through the ceiling and flew eastward, toward the other side of the country. Time folded, and I somehow arrived on the Italian coastline minutes after I’d been in America. Aihi. I landed a few paces away from him, grabbed his shirt collar and continued running until he slammed against a wall. He cried out in pain and shock, but wouldn’t meet my eyes. That was when I knew. “You told the factions about me!” I yelled at the top of my lungs, inches from his ears. “You watched me kill all those people knowing that you had sent them! Am I a weapon to you, Aihi? Is that all I am to you?” He stared at the ground. “You’re my enemy.” “Do you want me to join the A Faction? Venki said that you told this faction not to send anyone. Why?” “My dear sister,” he said, “you’re not hearing me. You are now, as you have always been, my enemy. You received so many great abilities.” He twisted his body out of my grip and 25


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kicked at a stone in the road. “Look, I’m sorry that I lied to you, but I don’t care anymore. It’s not my fault that you never tried to read my mind, Auryon. Much like it’s not my fault that I took advantage of your trust. Not once did you ever see how much I hate you. Not once.” At last, he looked at me, his eyes blazing like he’d come across a cockroach crawling up his leg. “Why did you never show anyone your abilities? You made me hide my own, too. I realized that even though I’m just as incredible as you are, I was afraid to disobey you. Because I know you’re the only one who could ever stop me. I want this world, Auryon. I want this world in my hands. But you, you think you’re above that desire? What the hell makes you so superior to everyone that you’d hide that power? Why can’t you act like anyone else would in your situation?” “It was NOT because of I felt superior to everyone that I hid my power!” I screamed. “It was to protect my family!” Aihi’s eyes widened. The thought had obviously never occurred to him, but it had haunted me for years on end. “Think for one second, Aihi. If the entire world knew, as it does now, that I had such power, do you think they’d welcome me? No. I’m a threat. They’d hold my family captive to keep me in check or they’d have my family secretly killed and keep me under control by pinning the blame on their enemies. They’d manipulate me. It would take them very little time to discover what’s important to me. I can’t protect my entire family; my friends; my acquaintances, all the time. The one second that I would finally fall asleep or make some kind of mistake, they would kill everyone I ever knew. Or worse.” “I never – ” “No, you didn’t think about that,” I said. “I was going to say that I never cared about you like that,” Aihi said. “Not the way that you obviously seem to care about me. I’m frankly infuriated that you never discovered my true feelings about you, Auryon. Not once did you ever notice how much I hate you. I can’t believe it took this stupid mess to make you see that. Do you have any idea how much I’ve wanted to fight with you?” “Never, Aihi,” I said. “I’ll never fight against you.” “For your sake, you’d better,” he said. I could see his 26


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body shaking with anger. “Because I’m going to kill you one day. The A Faction is going to help me do it. Every other faction wants you dead, anyway. I made it that way. The A Faction is going to someday unite the other seven factions all for the sake of destroying you. The entire world will crush you because I want it to. Then I’ll finally be free to use these powers.” “You’re not my brother!” I said. “My brother wouldn’t do this!” I could still see my brother slowly smiling, saying that he wanted to protect me. To somehow save me from the world. There had been hatred behind the smile that I only noticed when he smiled in front of me then. He knew that I wouldn’t kill him then. I could still see my brother in him. Venki hung up the phone in her office when she heard me crying in the chair across from her. She leaned against the desk, still with blank eyes. It was strange, because I didn’t sense any of the strange black boxes on her. Why couldn’t I read her? “We only just found your parent’s bodies,” she said. My heart fell to the floor; pieces of my mind seemed to shatter. What had the years of secrecy and suppression been for if this would still happen? What had been the point? “Aihi killed them, didn’t he?” I wailed. “My own brother killed them!” “Will you please reconsider my offer to join us? Mr. Ross really would like that.” “I have to kill the psychics or somehow get them away from Aihi,” I said, shaking my head vigorously. “All the powerful ones. Every single one. The Corporation’s job is to watch them, protect them from one another. I don’t want that. Not if they’ll eventually help my brother.” “Perfect. Just what I wanted to hear,” she said. “Auryon, I am a hunter. I’m the head of one of the Corporation’s more, ah, secretive departments. Our job is to hunt the most powerful psychics down or recruit them to join our company. The Corporation can’t afford to have the factions have psychics like us, Auryon. We’re too powerful for them.” 27


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“Then, I’ll join you,” I said. “Good,” Venki said. “I was hoping you’d say that. It will be my job to recruit the strong psychics, then, and, if they refuse, I’ll have you kill them. Can you help me with that? Does that sound ok to you?” “This has to stop. This system of having factions needs to be destroyed.” I didn’t mention specifically the A Faction, though the memory of its location had burned itself into my memories. I knew exactly where Aihi was. I knew, but vowed to do nothing. He wanted me to kill him. I didn’t want to give him anything he wanted. If I could kill the powerful psychics or put them with The Corporation, then there would be no one left to teach Aihi how to be stronger. I could force him to stay at the level he was at without having to ever hurt him. “You must report all of your cases to Mr. Askai Ross, the president of The Corporation and our boss.” “Fine,” I said again. “One day you might have to kill your brother, I hope you know. The A Faction is starting to throw its weight around because of the C Faction and it’s making us nervous.” I buried my head in my hands. If everything went how I wanted, then I wouldn’t have to kill him. Even if it meant I’d have to kill everyone else; as long as I didn’t hurt anyone I cared about. As long as Aihi was focused only on killing me, and as long as I could stop him indirectly from becoming stronger, then everyone would ultimately be safer. That alone would keep me alive, I thought. Maybe I wouldn’t have to kill anyone. Maybe they’d just join The Corporation. Could I trust that they would stay loyal to The Corporation, though? Maybe if I kept threatening them. “Fine,” I said. “If you promise that you won’t ever help my brother become stronger.” “That goes without saying,” she said. Venki slid a piece of paper across the table to me, followed by a pen. I skimmed the contract and signed it. She smiled. “Welcome to The Corporation, Auryon.” 28


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