The thoughts reached Professor Stone before the girl did. Though she didn’t quite have Mary’s range, she did make it a point to listen to things that were around her when it seemed no one else was. It was one of her more paranoid habits, something she would freely admit; however it had saved her life no less than seven times, two of which were after her retirement. This meant that before Alice knocked lightly on the outside of her office doorframe, Professor Stone already knew the young woman was coming to see her and nervous about doing so. She didn’t yet know the reason for the visit, since Alice’s aforementioned nervousness made her mind flighty and unwilling to focus on the purpose of the visit.
“Hello, Alice,” Professor Stone greeted only after the knock had actually come and Alice Adair stood in open doorway. “How can I help you this morning?”
“I wanted to ask a favor,” she said, strong voice and firm body language betraying none of the uncertainty Professor Stone could plainly hear zipping about in her head.
“Straight to the point with it. I like that.” Professor Stone motioned for Alice to take a seat. The blonde student complied, settling down into one of the chairs set before the desk.
“Living with a telepath for two years has taught me there’s not much of a point in beating around the bush,” Alice said. “Mary told me about what you can do with memories.”
A prickle of discomfort danced down Professor Stone’s spine. She didn’t regret what she had done to Nick Campbell, or countless others before when they were removed from the program, but she did wish Mary hadn’t told this girl about it. These were not enjoyable conversations to have. It was only after pausing to listen to Alice’s thoughts once more that the educator realized that was not was Alice was referring to.
“Ah yes, my ability to view the memories of willing people. It’s a useful little talent, from time to time. I assume you need me to help you recover a detail from a memory?”
Alice nodded. “Last year, during Halloween, Rich put Nick, Mary, and me in a trance. He said he didn’t give it structure, he just dumped us into our own minds. That was apparently when Mary found out she could brain hop or whatever, so I’m sure she told you about this already.”
“I was made aware,” Professor Stone confirmed.
“What I’m guessing she didn’t tell you was that during my trance, someone came into my mind too. Or, at least, he claimed he was from outside my mind. At the time I thought it was something Rich had put in there, so I didn’t pay it much heed. Now, though, after knowing Mary can do it, and others, and what happened with Vince, I just don’t feel right assuming it wasn’t real anymore.”
“I can’t fault you for wondering, after what you’ve seen,” Professor Stone said. “And our world does carry a broader definition of the word ‘possible’ than that of regular humans. What I’m not sure of is why you need a memory recovered.”
“Because I can only recall snippets of that encounter,” Alice admitted. “I know his name, and I know he told me he’d come to see me in my dreams before, but that I never remembered the next day. I know he told me some things about my mother. But the rest is just a word here or a facial expression there. No matter how I try, and I have been trying, I can’t get any more than that.”
“The things you remember him saying must be very important, if you care that much to find out the things you forgot.”
“Incredibly so,” Alice admitted.
“And since you’re dancing around them rather than telling me, not to mention making a point of not thinking about them, I take they are at least equally as private.”
“I don’t begrudge you some secrets, but I’m afraid that effort is moot,” Professor Stone informed her. “If I do bring up your memories, I’ll see them too. I’ll experience them right along with you. Everything from that encounter will be just as much stored in my mind as it will be in yours.”
“I had sort of assumed that much,” Alice said. “But I figured there was no sense in telling you anything until you actually agreed to do it.”
“Shrewd,” Professor Stone replied, giving the younger woman a brief smile. “I see Professor Pendleton’s Subtlety lessons have not been in vain. I will help you with this Alice, because it is important to you and this does not seem like something flippant. However, you must be totally willing or it’s possible there are things we won’t see. Remember, you are opening your mind up to me at your own request. If you keep that thought during the process, the whole thing will be much smoother.”
“I can do that,” Alice said firmly. “When do we start?”
“How about mid next week?” Professor Stone offered. “It’s hard to know how long these sessions will take, and I want to be sure I have enough time. Since it’s already Wednesday I’m booked up through the remainder of this week, and I don’t do consultations on the weekends. I do have free office hours next Tuesday, though.”
“That works fine for me,” Alice said.
“Good.” Professor Stone took a small slip of paper from her desk and jotted down a time and a room number on it. “Meet me here, at this time. Be sure to eat a good lunch and try and get some rest the night before. You shouldn’t have any HCP classes then, but if one of your regular ones conflicts let me know and I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thank you so much,” Alice said, accepting the slip of paper and rising from her seat. “I really appreciate your help.”
“Helping students is literally what I’m here for,” Professor Stone reminded her. “If you don’t mind me asking though, now that you know I’ll be memory diving alongside you, what did this dream-encroacher say that was so important?”
“He…he told me my mother was alive,” Alice said, her stoic facade momentarily wavering as the words left her mouth.
“I see. That certainly explains why you’d feel so compelled to hear the rest of his words. I should caution you, just because this phantom could be real doesn’t necessarily mean he is. I want you to keep your expectations in check,” Professor Stone advised.
In that moment, thinking about her mother, Alice allowed an unguarded thought to dash through her mind. She glanced at Professor Stone, but the older woman still wore an unchanged expression on concern.
“Of course, I’ll keep that in mind,” Alice said, hustling quickly out of the room before her thoughts could get away from her again.
The instant she was gone Professor Stone pulled out her phone. It was still twenty minutes until Dean Blaine would finish teaching the seniors today, so she had to wait until then to contact him. He’d be annoyed about the delay, but honestly after this long twenty minutes wouldn’t make that much of a difference. Alice’s rogue thought told them something, Professor Stone just didn’t know what yet. Hopefully seeing the full memory would provide more clues.
Grabbing another slip of paper on her desk, Professor Stone quickly began writing. It was a brief flurry of words; her task had been a simple one. She wanted to transcribe the thought exactly as she had heard it, before her own memory could fail her and alter a word or two. Staring at the pen marks on the paper made the words seem bolder, more real. Heavier. Dangerous. Without meaning to, she mouthed them silently to herself.
“I know the dream walker was real, because he’s the one who let Globe into Vince’s head.”