“So, you broke into the pharmacy because you wanted to see your own past?” said Mindy Obermeyer. She glanced at Juan Carlos and then told Anna, “I’ve never run into anyone who needed to do that before, but fair enough; life is full of surprises.”

Mindy Obermeyer was an owlish little woman with a huge explosion of curly, au­burn hair; crystal-clear eyes and a hawklike nose set in a freckled, mocha face; and a perpetually bemused grin. Taken separately, her features were almost comical, but admired collectively, in conjunction with stylish yet casual attire, her features balanced and blended into a kind, knowing, and authoritative countenance. 

“If you were any other student, Ms. Ivlis, I think you’d be in the dean’s office awaiting suspension, if not expulsion. But some people,” Mindy said while nodding toward Juan Carlos Daimler, “seem to think that you’re worth a second chance. Some even think you’re worth helping.”

Anna had been avoiding looking Mindy straight in the eye like the guilty child she was, but when she heard that her dorm proctor had vouched for her, her eyes scanned first Mindy, then Juan, then Mindy again.

“Why did he do that?” Anna asked suspiciously. “We only just met recently.”

Mindy’s lean muscles and tiny bones sank into the soft cushions of her office chair. “Let’s just say,” replied Mindy, “that you impressed a few advocates. And Mr. Daimler reminded me that Roxie Montero doesn’t make friends with just anyone. He knows her too, and if she likes you enough to help you achieve your goals, then you must be pretty special.”

Anna spoke up, “None of what happened in the Infirmary was Roxie’s fault. She shouldn’t get into trouble because of me. She was just trying to help a friend.”

“I’ll take that into consideration,” said Mindy, which reminded Anna that Prof. Obermeyer had some sort of authority over her fate, “but why do you want to see the past so badly? Surely you must have heard through the public media that using psilene can be dangerous. Why was acquiring it worth the risk?”

Slowly at first, Anna told Mindy what she had told Roxie. Anna thought it strange that once she had told one person what was troubling her, it was much easier telling someone else.

Prof. Obermeyer listened attentively, not writing notes but noting everything Anna said. When Anna’s story was complete, Mindy thought for awhile, then picked up her digital pad and scrolled through records of some sort, and then finally said, “I think I understand. Well, if you want to know your past, Mr. Daimler and I are prepared to help.”

Anna perked up in her seat. This wasn’t the way being expelled from school was supposed to work. “You mean you’ll give me high-strength pro-psilene?” Anna said.

Mindy’s beatific smile turned incredulous. “Oh heavens no, girl! Didn’t I just say psilene was dangerous?” The therapist mused. “A First Year student without training? Using psilene to ramble through the past⎯especially their own past?” Mindy wrapped her left forearm across her midriff to form a base, planted her right elbow on her left wrist, and then hinged her right forearm up to cradle her tilted head in her cupped palm. “Oh no, my dear. You’d surely injure yourself, just like everyone else who’s ever tried.”

“Then how⎯?” Anna said. Obermeyer’s offer of help seemed snared in a vicious circle.

“Mr. Daimler and I can explore your past and take you with us, if you’re willing. We can begin if you let Mr. Daimler hold your necklace.”

“You mean right here, right now?” Anna spluttered. This unexpected generosity was coming too fast to be believed. But since Anna had already tried to do the same thing illicitly a short while ago, hesitating now when she had the school’s blessing seemed foolish. 

Anna handed her gold necklace to Juan Carlos. He closed his eyes, wrapped the chain around his fist, rubbed the links between his thumb and index finger, but said nothing. Anna knew he was awake, but his attention seemed elsewhere, as if he were sleepwalking while sitting still. Finally, he opened his eyes sleepily, as if half awake.

Mindy said, “Mr. Daimler is a medium, a clairvoyant with the Talent of hindsight, just as you are. Although he’s young, he’s already board certified to consult on medical cases, which means he’s as legally and ethically bond to protect your confidentiality as I am. Your secrets are safe with him. Mr. Daimler has already taken pro-psilene, and has been meditating about you ever since you came into my waiting room. That’s why he’s so quiet now instead of being his usual jocular self. 

“I’m a psychic with a combination of Talents; I’m called an ‘interlocutor’. I have the ability to read another psychic’s mind, which normally would be private to them, and then rebroadcast what I see to the minds of people nearby.” At last Anna understood the meaning of the initials, ‘ψINT’, in the title on Obermeyer’s office door. Then Mindy said, “If you would give Juan Carlos your left hand and me your right⎯”

“What? Join hands…like in a séance?” Anna snapped. “I thought you were taking me seriously. I thought….”

In the middle of Anna’s protest, Juan Carlos groaned and then grabbed Anna’s left hand in a grip as tight as a vise. Anna tried to pull away but Daimler’s hold was unbreakable, and all the while he held her, he kept making the same low pitched growl. Anna yanked her hand again, harder this time, until Daimler’s body shook to and fro as if teetering in a canoe that was about to capsize. But Daimler’s expression, his strange, passive, dreamlike expression, didn’t waver. “Let me go!” Anna said.

Mindy grabbed Anna’s right arm and barked, “Anna, stop right now!” There was something about the way she commanded, and about Juan Carlos’ unnatural demeanor that penetrated Anna’s fear and made her freeze in place. Anna’s gaze locked with Ms. Obermeyer’s unblinking, owlish stare. 

“Anna, calm down. No one is going to hurt you. You’re safe here. I asked for Mr. Daimler’s help because he’s a very powerful clairvoyant with an extraordinary Talent for retrocognition. He’s been training at the Academy for several years, and knows best how to use psilene to detect the memories attached to your necklace.”

Anna tried, meekly, to pull away from Mindy but failed.

“Anna, stop fighting,” Mindy said. “Juan Carlos can see things that it would take you years to learn how to sense. He recognized your potential to be a great clairvoyant too, the moment he met you. That’s why he appealed to the deans to help you instead of expelling you. The deans, Mr. Daimler, and even our campus representative for the Exploration Guild, asked me to help as well, and so I agreed.

“I’ve looked at your medical records and I think it would be helpful⎯no, actually I think you need⎯to have a medium like Juan Carlos reveal your past,” Mindy said. “And if he succeeds you’ll need a counselor, like me, to help you process what he sees.

“You said, ‘need’?” replied Anna, emphasizing the word disrespectfully. It was clear that Anna wasn’t convinced. “Why do I ‘need’ a séance? You make it sound clinical.”

“I am being clinical,” Mindy said. “The trauma of losing a beloved parent at your age usually causes depression, anger, and long term psychological damage. You never acted the way you do now before your mother died. I think you need to know what happened to her. 

“Juan Carlos and I can help you, if you let us, if you trust us. Are you willing to let us help you?”

Dr. Obermeyer, the clinician, was afraid that she had made a terrible mistake. Had she misread Anna’s resolve to know her past? Had she pushed Anna too fast toward a solution? The way that Anna was rolling her eyes clearly indicated that she wasn’t convinced that what looked like a carnival sideshow was actually a legitimate solution to her problem. But if Anna continued to resist, there was nothing Mindy could do to appease the deans. Anna would be expelled from school, she would probably be just another pathetic psychic whose potential was never fulfilled, her past would probably torment her until the day she died, and Dr. Obermeyer would ruminate for years to come about how she mishandled this case and the troubled girl she didn’t save.

Anna stared at the glittering halo encircling Juan Carlos’ hand as she tried to decide if she trusted the two strangers sitting across from her. Anna hated to make this decision, and would instead rather run away to the farthest star and hide forever. But she could see that Obermeyer was serious, and if that was true, then what Anna was afraid of most was that this séance would work. If it did, what horrible truths might it reveal? 

Anna was afraid, but being afraid to do a thing and yet doing it anyway was the definition of bravery. Anna’s mother had taught her that. “Am I brave?” Anna asked herself. “Am I my mother’s daughter?”

The necklace wrapped around Juan Carlos’ fist sparkled in the light cast by the candle on the table. “I’ve already come so far,” Anna thought. Then she relaxed her hands and let Juan Carlos and Mindy Obermeyer hold them tight. “In for a penny,” Anna said.

The weight on Mindy’s chest turned light as a feather. Anna still wasn’t totally convinced, but she didn’t have to be for this treatment to work. “Anna, you, Juan Carlos, and I need to unify our thoughts by sharing something in common. What usually works is to repeat a word or phrase in a chant.” Mindy could see that Anna was skeptical about that idea, probably because the child feared her heartfelt distress was being answered with crackpot incantations and woo-woo chants, so the psychiatrist suggested something else. 

“On second thought, let’s do something simple,” said Dr. Obermeyer. “Count backwards from 100….” 


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