The Reluctant Psychic Ch. 14byonly_more_so©
If you are new to my Reluctant Psychic series, please consider starting from the beginning. The story, characters and events in this chapter will make more sense when given context from the preceding chapters. If you're returning, welcome back and I hope you enjoy the story.
* * *
As the girls slowly filtered through the cemetery and back to the waiting limos, I headed in a different direction. It had been years since I'd last been to the cemetery and I felt obligated to make a few visits while I was here. The cemetery isn't large, but it is old, with a number of rolling hills and shade trees which naturally divide it.
I walked towards one of the older sections where some families had buried over a dozen generations. My family had only buried four. My great-grandfather had helped turned the town into a city and earned the right to be buried here with his wife. His wife was three decades younger than he was, but died a week after his passing. There were rumors she'd committed suicide, others said she died of grief, but I know better.
I next walked to my grandmother's grave. Miss Oklahoma 1942 had been doing USO shows when she met my grandfather. He was a newly minted army lieutenant on a two week furlough between tours on the German front. They were married the next day, and when my grandfather finally came home from the war they made the perfect couple. He was the son of privilege who still answered the call of duty and came home a hero; she was a beauty queen who turned Rosie the Rivoter during the war, and demurely became a housewife when the war was over.
That all ended when she was killed in a store robbery, my dad was thirteen. The grief didn't kill my grandfather, but it broke something inside of him and he started fading into the shadows. My father barely remembers those years, in fact few people who knew my grandfather during that time remember much. But they all remember the trial.
It took a few years, but the police arrested one of the men for an unrelated crime and found the gun that had killed my grandmother. In return for leniency, the man had turned on his three friends. Even with the testimony the charges would only land the men in jail for a dozen years. There was public outrage, and my grandfather's picture ended up on the front page of the local paper a dozen times as the face of the maligned public.
On the last day of the trial, the jury convened for barely half an hour before coming back with a guilty verdict and a recommendation of the maximum sentence. The furor erupted when the judge set aside the verdict, except for the minor included offenses, and set the sentence to time already served. A hundred cameras were popping as my grandfather stood up, pulled out his service knife and attacked.
My father never talked about what happened next, but I've heard, and seen, the story from other people who were there. People were shocked when the first of the men died and there was pandemonium when the second man died. The bailiffs were so scared they couldn't even draw their weapons to try to stop my grandfather. Everyone was gibbering in horror as my grandfather killed the third man. The fourth man, the one who actually shot my grandmother, tried to run. They said he was too frightened to work the doorknob, since he was clawing frantically at the door when my grandfather killed him.
With insanity burning in his eyes my grandfather turned on the judge, stalking across the courtroom. No one could move except for my father. He stood in front of my grandfather and yelled, "Stop!" They stared each other down the middle of the courtroom. No one was quite sure how long the impasse lasted, but they were both drenched in sweat and shaking when one of the bailiffs finally shook off his terror and clubbed my grandfather from behind.
A jury found my grandfather insane, and locked him up in an asylum. Every few months he would escape and my father would drag him back. He showed up at the house a few times when I was young, dressed in a new suit with a nurse on either arm. The nurses would end up in my father's clinic, I would end up with a migraine and my grandfather would return to the asylum.
My grandfather's powers are stronger than my father's powers were, but he lacked the will or possibility the sanity to overcome my father. When my father died, my grandfather stopped breaking out of the asylum, he'd lost the will.
"Thinking about your parents?" I heard a voice ask. I turned to see Melodie standing beside me. "I know it's an obvious sort of question to ask, but I've been standing here for ten minutes and you didn't seem to notice."
"Actually, I was thinking of my grandfather," I said. Wondering how I could have missed her approach. I'd been missing a lot of things recently.
"Is he buried here as well?"
"Actually, he's still alive," I replied.
I felt hurt emanating from her. I also felt how hard she was trying not to let the hurt through when she asked, "Why haven't I heard about him?"
"It isn't a very comfortable topic. He's in the Met." Most of the other girls would have needed an explanation, but Melodie knew that the Met was what the residents of the Metzger Memorial Psychiatric Hospital call it, at least the ones who know where they are. I felt her anger fading, although it didn't disappear entirely.
"So that's who you go visit every couple of months," she said. She thought briefly of the person she believed I had been visiting and felt some relief that it wasn't her. "Why don't you let any of us come with you?" She especially included herself in that group. She knew the stigma of having a relative in the Met, since her mother had been one of my father's patients.
"It's too dangerous." I said before I could think of a lie.
* * *
When I'd had to leave Betsy alone because of my inability to control my powers, I was in a very dark place. I seemed to destroy everyone I touched. I thought of living as a hermit in the middle of the woods, I even thought briefly of suicide.
As I drove out of town, I saw a small sign for the Metzger Memorial Psychiatric Hospital. On instinct I turned in. My father had occasionally referred patients to the Met when they were too dangerous, or suicidal to be left alone. I had even served a semester internship there before I dropped out of college. This time I was thinking of something on the other side of the padded doors.
The long drive winds through the woods so that the hospital is not visible from the road, only a relatively small discrete sign. As I made it through the trees and caught sight of the hospital, I felt a migraine coming on. The pain seemed to increase as I approached the building, and I desperately wanted to turn around and leave.
I left my car in front of the main entrance and walked toward the lobby. I was holding my head in both hands by the time I got to the doors. The electric eye triggered the doors to open, and I heard bedlam pouring out. I walked in to find a scene from a mad house, or at least what most people imagine them to be. Toilet paper was strewn everywhere, along with broken furniture and the occasional item of clothing. There was also a lot of noise, which I followed until I found people.
In the middle of the courtyard there were a hundred madly cavorting people. Occasionally they would grab a handful of detritus and throw it in the air. They were all dancing to the music produced by a man with a pair of ladles banging on a tree, two men playing air guitar and a woman playing air violin. My headache flared and for a moment I could actually hear the music. The music was manic, loud and tragic, but with a beat you could dance too.
I shook my head to clear the music and stared at the crowd of people again. I realized the crowd held doctors and staff as well as the patients. Toward the middle of the group, I saw a circle of naked women, doing a much slower dance. Some of the women I recognized as nurses from the days of my internship, but their minds were nearly vacant. The other women were patients and seemed to be enjoying the party more than the nurses, although the moaning issued from all the women.
I used my powers to clear a path in front of me, and walked towards the circle. It was much more difficult to get the people to move themselves than it should have been. Their thoughts were along the lines of, "I can dance wherever I want!" Eventually I resorted to encouraging them to dance over there, rather than telling them not to dance over here.
The circle of naked women parted as I approached, and seated on a marble bench, dressed in purple curtains, was my grandfather. It had been nearly ten years since I'd last seen him and he looked much the same as I remembered, except for the robes.
When he saw me there was no recognition in his eyes, or his mind. He waved a hand at me and said, "Dance!" I felt a strange compulsion to do just that, my leg began twitching to the ladles' beat. My grandfather stared at me and said, "If you won't dance, then leave!" This time I felt the compulsion coming, radiating from my grandfather.
I pushed back. He tilted his head to the side, as if listening to a distant sound. As his head leveled his eyes bored into me. "They told me you were dead!" I felt another wave pushing against me, this time it was just minding numbing power. I pushed back, my head pounding with the heavy thudding of my heart. I pushed harder and area around me grew silent. The nurses and some of the patients collapsed to the ground sobbing. The other patients began yelling.
I struggled to contain my grandfather's will and use my powers against him. But unlike my father, or my grandfather, I had a second power, inherited from my mother. I could read minds as well as influence them. I used my mother's gift and searched my grandfather's mind for something to use for leverage against him.
Deep inside his memories, I found the image of my grandmother. She was a near perfect beauty and everything a man could want. In fact, she was everything my grandfather had ever wanted, in large part because he had made her that way. The irony was that he fell in love with all the foibles and quirks she'd had before he'd slowly remade her.
I triggered those memories, and dragged them to the front of his mind. I showed him how he'd tainted the thing he'd loved most in the world, even before she was taken from him. His attack wavered, and I thrust the image into his mind's eye again. He fell to the ground crying.
I pushed with brute force to collapse his power, but there was no fight left in him. I spent the time to reach into his mind and find the source of his power. I couldn't turn it off, but I could reroute his thoughts so he couldn't access them.
"I didn't mean to do it, Son," he said. He rambled and sobbed, calling me by my father's name. When he started to claw at his chest, I reached into his mind once more and put him to sleep. I looked around at the circle of naked women, and the writhing mass of people outside the circle, and put them all to sleep.
It took me two days to return sanity to the hospital staff. My father had never been able to return their minds to normal, since he couldn't see what was actually broken or what the changes he made actually did. I remembered all the nurses that my father had to check into facilities like this one because my grandfather's insanity had infected their minds.
As I finished returning some sanity to the asylum, I prayed that I wouldn't become my grandfather, treating the minds of the people around me as negligently as a three year old treats his toys. But I knew I had already taken the first step down that road, and who could stop me?
* * *
"I had no idea," Melodie said. She had tears in her eyes and rushed forward to hug me.
"I didn't realize I'd spoken out loud," I said aloud, although I meant it to be internal dialog. My fingers gently stroked Melodie's strawberry blonde hair, as I gently probed to find out exactly what she had heard or thought she'd heard.
"You didn't. Sometimes, when you're stressed, we can—" she broke off and hugged me tighter. She pulled back enough to look at me with her pale blue eyes. The hesitancy was clear, but so was her determination. "I know Betsy already told you, but we've been keeping the secret for so long."
"So Betsy told you what we talked about last night?"
"Actually," she started with some hesitancy, but continued, "you did. Sometimes you talk in your sleep, or when you're really stressed. Some of us can hear you more clearly than others. Sometimes your father did the same thing." She blushed suddenly and said, "Not in his sleep, but at the hospital. I remember once I was visiting my mother and heard his voice echoing down the hallways. Everyone thought he just had a loud voice, so did I. At least until I found out about your—" She broke off, unsure what to call my abilities. In her mind she was picturing one of the old school mesmerists with the top hat and undulating hands.
"Why didn't you tell me before?"
She led me over to a bench under one of the shade trees and sat me down. She held my hands in her lap and began, "How could we tell you? At first I thought I was crazy, that I would end up just like my mother. The other girls felt the same, although most of them didn't have a family history of such things."
She stopped, and I could see a revelation blossom in her mind, "But, now I know how my mother lost her sanity and why your father took a special interest in her case."
I felt an icy dagger of shame shoot through me as I realized what Melodie was telling me. Her mother was one of my grandfather's early victims, and one of my father's special patients. "You're doing it again," she said in exasperation. She squeezed my hands and said, "I don't blame you, not for that. I'm just glad that I finally know, and that I don't have to worry about inheriting her schizophrenia."
"You don't blame me, but you do fear me," I said. I didn't need to read her thoughts to sense the omission.
"How could I not fear you? You're the most terrifying person in the world. Most people can only hurt, or kill, but you can reach into my mind and change me, make me into something I hate, or would hate if you hadn't changed me. The most terrifying part is that I wouldn't even know what had happened to me, what has already happened to me."
I didn't know what to say. I couldn't even answer her implied question, because I didn't know what I might have done to her. I looked into her eyes and realized she was following along as I was thinking and I abruptly pulled back. She blinked in shock, but then reached a loving hand up and cupped my cheek. "We know you try and that you don't want to hurt us."
How could I not have known? Why didn't Anna warn me I was broadcasting my thoughts? Did she even know or was she as ignorant as I was? I realized I was treating Anna's voice in my head as real again, even though I knew she was a figment of my imagination. Well, I was pretty sure she was a delusion.
"So, any more earth shattering secrets you want to reveal?" I asked. It was a spiteful question, and I immediately regretted the venom I'd laced it with.
"I think you've have enough shocks for one day." She leaned forward and gave me a kiss on the cheek before standing up. She brushed at her dress for a moment, and waited for me to stand as well. She wrapped her hand around my elbow and led me back to the last waiting limousine. The other girls had already departed, letting Melodie take care of seeing me home.
* * *
"Can we stop and get ice cream?" Melodie asked as the limo pulled out of the cemetery.
I didn't ponder the seeming incongruity of the request, but leaned forward and asked the driver if he knew where to find an ice cream stand. It wasn't long before the limousine was parked outside of the local Dream Queen.
I felt more than a little out of place wearing a suit and tie when the rest of the customers were wearing shorts and sneakers. Melodie didn't feel out of place as she leaned against the counter to order, "I'll have the chocolate soft-serve with the chocolate dip, large. And he'll have the plain old vanilla, small."
"Actually, I'll have the large, with the colored sprinkles." I don't really know what possessed me to order sprinkles. But when I saw Melodie grinning at me, I knew she'd tricked me into being a bit more daring. And she didn't even need psychic powers to do it.
I paid for the ice cream while Melodie took hers outside. I would have opted for someplace a little less conspicuous, which was probably why she didn't wait for me. She was already sitting and the concrete table, under an umbrella when I got outside. Actually, she was a good way through her ice cream by the time I sat down to join her.
"See, isn't this nice?" she asked. She was smiling, with chocolate beginning to drip down her chin. If her legs weren't so long, I knew she'd be swinging them like a little kid. I looked around, and did feel a sort of peace. There were kids running around, but not being loud enough to be a nuisance. There was traffic on the street and the wind would occasionally cause the umbrellas to shake, so it wasn't quiet. But between the ice cream, the blue skies, the sunshine and the company, it was quite calming.
We didn't talk as we ate our ice cream, although Melodie laughed when I wiped the chocolate from her chin. I realized she'd left the chocolate on her chin to entice just such a reaction from me. By the time I wiped the sticky residue from my fingers, I was feeling much better. I even loosened my tie and took off my jacket.
After we climbed back in the limo, I gave Melodie a hug, and said thanks.
"But you're the one who bought the ice cream," she said with a grin.
"But you're the one who convinced me to get the ice cream, and tricked me into ordering sprinkles."
"Zounds! You found me out. My nefarious plot is all for naught." She started laughing at that, her cheeks becoming slightly rosy.
"You know what I meant. Thanks."
She was still smiling, but her grin grew a bit wistful. "You just can't stay happy, can you?" She leaned forward as if to touch her forehead against mine. But then she reached out suddenly and twisted one of my nipples.
"Ow, hey!" A whole stream of such nonsense escaped my lips as her fingers continued their assault, pinching, tickling, seemingly everywhere at once. Eventually I managed to grab her wrists and hold them away from me, but she still reached out to bite at me playfully.
"This isn't like you!" I said, as I wrapped her in my arms with her back to me. She started rubbing her bottom against me, and kept trying to get her head far enough around to nip at me.
"But it is like me. You've just forgotten. I'd forgotten." She said the last with a sense of loss, and pain, but underneath I felt a determination. She turned around and bit me on the shoulder. It was playful, but still painful. I pulled her a little tighter, so she couldn't bite me again.
"What's gotten into you," I said.
She squirmed a bit more against me, and said, "From the feel of things, you want to." With that she ground her bottom against my crotch making me painfully aware of how aroused I was. "Is that a banana in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"
I was about to ask what the driver would think, when I realized the partition between his seat and ours was closed. She was right though, I did want her, even if she was still trying to bite me. I pinned both her arms with one of mine, and worked the other down the front of her dress.
I pulled her dress up, exposing her panties to my fingers. I quickly slid my fingers under the sheer fabric. She bucked against me, struggling against what she really wanted. My fingers worked through her red-blonde pubic hair that was already soaked with arousal. The heat was intoxicating and I moved slowly, pressing my palm against her to hold her in place.