Chapter 31

The candles gave off a subtle, soothing smell, one that said sandalwood on the label but Mary had no way of verifying. What was a sandalwood? How would she even know what one smelled like in the first place? Maybe they just chopped up a bunch of pine cones and ground them into candle wax, calling it whatever they wanted. That would be a pretty good racket. Heck, the candles had been four dollars apiece. Pine cones couldn’t cost that much.

“Focus,” Mary muttered, chastising herself and her wandering mind.

From her stereo came the soothing sounds of monks, vocalizing an ancient hymn meant to bring one closer to enlightenment. Credit where it was due, they were pretty good. Mary couldn’t even remember hearing a bad singing monk, though. Was it just a byproduct of monkhood that one gained a great singing voice? Or maybe they had auditions before one got in. “Great great, you want enlightenment, but I’ll need to hear you belt out some show tunes before we let you in.” Were there scouts out there scouring the vocal talents of a new generation and recruiting them to top-notch monasteries?

“Stop wandering,” she said, gritting her teeth in frustration.

When Professor Stone had told her meditation was a good way to sharpen her focus and improve her mental state, Mary had thought it would be easy. Unfortunately, it turned out clearing one’s mind was far more difficult than she expected. Perhaps she just had too much going on up there. Those people who meditated easily, Mary would bet they didn’t have entire teams of former Powereds to look after, or HCP trials to prepare for. Who could meditate with so much on their plate? Just getting to sleep should count as accomplishment enough. Maybe she could apply for a medal or somethi-

“Damnit!” Mary yelled, hopping up from the pillow she’s been sitting on at the realization that her mind had wandered yet again. A few seconds later there was a knock on her door.

“Everything okay in there?” Alice asked through the shut door.

“Not really,” Mary grumbled. She opened the door telekinetically, allowing her fellow dormmate entry. Alice walked in with a Physics book under her arm, which struck Mary as curious. To her knowledge, Alice had finished out her science credits last year. Before she could ask about the choice of recreational reading, Alice said something first.

“Your room smells nice. Is this sandalwood?”

“Depends on who you ask,” Mary said, sitting down on her bed in exasperation. “Sorry, I’m frustrated. Professor Stone has me trying meditation and it turns out I’m awful at it.”

“Why do you need to meditate? Oh, let me guess, telepath thing?” Alice helped herself to a seat in Mary’s computer chair, dropping her book on the desk and turning her full attention to the smaller girl.

“In a way, I guess,” Mary replied. “I’ve been working on my ability to go into people’s minds when they’re in a trance state, like I did with Vince. Since I always needed to be put under too for it to work, Professor Stone thought learning to get myself to a similar mental state would let me go in under my own power.”

“Makes sense,” Alice concurred. “I never really gave much thought to your ability to do that. I guess I just assumed all telepaths could do it.”

Mary shook her head. “Very few of us, actually. Turns out I got a rare talent. From what Professor Stone said, it’s even rarer than her memory ability.”

“What memory ability?”

Mary faltered for a moment. Though everyone knew Nick’s memories had been wiped, only she was aware that it was one of their professors who had done the deed. In theory knowing who had done it shouldn’t make a difference, however that emotional wound was still quite raw for many of them, and she saw no benefit in giving them a place to direct their pain. It seemed safer to stick with the story Professor Stone didn’t mind letting people know.

“She has this skill where she can pull up a willing person’s memories and see them. I think the other person re-experiences them too, so it’s got to be useful for helping people recall important details and that sort of thing. Even if I’m wrong, I guess she can just relay the information they need.”

Alice’s eyes widened noticeably. “She can show people their own memories? Even things they struggle recalling?”

“Pretty sure that’s how it works,” Mary confirmed. “I’ve never really gone in depth with her on it, though maybe doing so would shed some more light on my ability.”

“You should do that,” Alice said, eyes still larger than normal.

Mary was certain something was going on in her blonde friend’s head. She was tempted to peek inside and see what it was, however she decided against it. Alice was her friend, and she trusted Mary. Overhearing things when generally listening was unavoidable, but digging through her mind just to satisfy curiosity was a step further than Mary was willing to go. Whatever Alice was thinking, she would share it with Mary in her own time.

“Have you tried moving into someone’s dream yet?” Alice asked, interrupting Mary’s thoughts.

“Not yet. I haven’t gotten my own mental state under control yet, so there hasn’t been a much point in bringing in someone else.”

“It sort of seems like you’re overlooking another option,” Alice pointed out.

“Do tell, because I am desperate for ideas.”

“Well, Rich put us into what could be considered very intense, pre-determined dreams. You know what else induces a dream-like state? Sleep.”

“I see, you think I should try to enter a person’s mind while we’re both sleeping normally. I’m not sure how I’d make my sleeping-self do that.”

“You didn’t do it intentionally the first time, did you? Why not give it a shot and see if your natural impulses take over? I’m sure Hershel wouldn’t object to sharing his bed with you. For training, of course.” Alice flashed Mary a savage grin punctuated by a theatrical wink.

Mary suddenly felt a large sense of empathy for Camille, as the blush brightening her face reached all the way to her ears.

“We haven’t…I’m not…that would-”

“Relax, I’m just teasing you,” Alice said. “How about me instead? I can sleep in your room this weekend and we’ll tie our hands together or something so we’re in constant contact.”

“That would actually be a big help,” Mary said. “Are you sure you want to do that though? I don’t know how much I will or won’t see of your subconscious once I’m in there.”

Alice gave a shrug and picked up her book. “You’re already bouncing around my head freely anyway. Besides, if it helps you then it’s worth it. Given what we know Globe pulled during Vince’s dream, having someone else who can enter heads might just end up making a big difference somewhere down the line.”

“Friday it is, then,” Mary said.

“I’ll pack my make-up kit and sleeping bag,” Alice replied.