Authors: Sarah Mlynowski
Tess was not the only one with problems that first night.
Mars had trouble focusing on his piano lesson. It was hard to play Chopin when your teacher was making her grocery list. After his teacher left, Jill, his ex-girlfriend, dropped by his apartment to pick up a textbook she’d left behind.
“I can’t stay long,” she said. “I have plans.”
I have no plans! I know I said it was a mutual breakup, but it wasn’t! I lied! I miss you! Serenade me!
She picked up the textbook. “Later.”
Levi had a shift at Candy Heaven after school and not only did he have to listen to the kids’ endless whiny chatter—“I want more gum!” “I want more chocolate!” “Ella got more jelly beans than meeeeee!”—but he had to listen to their nannies’ whiny thoughts too:
Does she never stop complaining? Why hasn’t he called? Is it six o’clock yet?
He scooped a lot of gumballs with his eyes closed to block the noise. He also dropped a whole bunch on the floor by accident.
Olivia made her mom dinner. Olivia liked to cook. She made casseroles, risottos, stews. Tonight she made a chicken stir-fry. When she was done and was trying to do her math homework at her desk in the living room—there was no room for a desk in her tiny bedroom—she had to listen to her mom’s OCD:
Did Olivia turn off the stove? I think she did. Maybe she didn’t. I should just check. Oh, yes she did. I knew she had. But it’s good to check.
Two minutes later:
What if I turned it on again by accident?
Olivia retreated to her bedroom and spent some time Googling “flu vaccine reactions” on her laptop. She found that most symptoms—normal symptoms, at least, like headache and sore arm—did in fact clear up on their own fairly quickly. So she had hope—
please, please, please
—that by the time she woke up the next morning, her homeroom’s telepathy would be gone.
But we all agree Mackenzie had the worst evening. By far.
She knocked on her parents’ door to say good night.
“Come in,” they called.
Both her parents were sitting on their bed in their bathrobes.
“Night, guys,” Mackenzie said, and gave them each a peck on the cheek.
“Night,” her mom said. “Will you close the hallway lights?”
“Yes, I will
Her mom was from Montreal and used weird Canadianisms like “open and close the lights.” Also “washroom” and “poutine.”
In case you’re wondering, poutine involves french fries, gravy and cheese curds. Those of us who have tried it claim it’s delicious. Those of us who haven’t are skeptical.
“Thanks, honey,” her mom said.
Good thing Mackenzie is such a sound sleeper.
Why is it good I’m a sound sleeper?
Her dad patted her mom on the leg.
I can’t wait to take off Linda’s robe.
Huh? Oh no.
Mackenzie slammed her eyes shut.
Her parents. Were. Going. To. Have. Sex.
She backed slowly out of the room.
“Have a good sleep,” her dad called.
Sleep? How was she supposed to sleep knowing what was taking place just a few feet away?
At least she wouldn’t hear their thoughts once she was in her room.
She closed the door and got in her bed.
That feels soooooo good.
No. No, no, no.
They were on the other side of her wall! This wasn’t supposed to happen!
She shut her eyes. Silence, thank goodness. Maybe she could just get a glass of water—
Mackenzie opened her eyes for a split second—but then heard
Her breasts look huge in that position
and immediately closed them again.
Understandably, she refused to open them again until morning.
“Olivia? Time to get up.”
Her mom was standing over her. “It’s after seven. Didn’t your alarm go off?”
Olivia remembered that something wasn’t right, but she couldn’t immediately place what it was.
Then she heard her mom think,
She looks strange.
No. No. No. No.
hear things. Why could she still hear things? The ESP was supposed to disappear overnight! She was not supposed to hear things that morning. Would this telepathy never go away? Would she have it forever?
“Is something wrong?” her mom asked. “Are you sick?”
“Yes,” Olivia said, pulling her covers over her head. “I’m sick. Very.”
I am not going to school like this. I am not going to school until this ends.
“Poor baby,” her mom said, sitting on the edge of Olivia’s bed and pulling the covers off her face. Her mom frowned.
The flu shot made Olivia sick! Or what if she was infected with the actual flu before the vaccine kicked in? She is not that diligent about washing her hands. Or what if it’s something else entirely? There are a lot of terrible viruses going around. Didn’t the health section in the
say that SARS is making a resurgence? Is it SARS? I should take her to the emergency room.
Oh God. Olivia did not want to spend the day in the ER with her mom. But she also did not want to go to school and deal with the fact that half her homeroom could hear her thoughts.
“Can I just stay in bed for now? Maybe take a day of rest and see how I feel? And if I’m not better by this afternoon, then we can go to the emergency room?” Oops. Her mom hadn’t said the emergency room part out loud.
Her mother considered, not noticing the mistake. “Okay. I can stay home from work.”
What if she collapses when I’m not here?
“I won’t—” She stopped herself. “I’ll be fine here. I’ll rest. I’ll call you if I need anything.”
Her mother hesitated.
I do have a meeting today. But what if she needs me?
“I’ll be fine. Promise.” If her mom was staying home, then she was going to school. Her mom’s crazy made Olivia feel even crazier.
“Okay, honey,” her mom said finally. “Call me if you need anything.”
I’ll call her every hour to check in. Maybe we can Skype so I can monitor her color.
Olivia’s phone buzzed next to her bed, and she twisted around to see what it said. She didn’t usually get texts this early.
It was from Pi. She had started a group chart. It was to all of us. It said:
I’ll assume nothing has changed? Meeting still on for lunch. Everyone be there.
Olivia thought the text sounded vaguely threatening.
We all thought the text sounded vaguely threatening.
“What’s wrong?” her mother asked. “Who’s it from?” She tried to sneak a peek at the message, but Olivia turned her phone over quickly.
She debated what to do. She really wanted to hide under her covers. But she needed to find out what was happening to her. “You know what? I’m feeling much better.”
Her mother eyed her phone suspiciously. “Already?”
“Yeah. I must have had a nightmare or something. I’m fine. Really.”
I think she should stay home just in case. It could still be SARS.
“Mom! I’m not sick. Feel my head.”
Her mother pressed her palm against Olivia’s forehead. Indeed, she had no fever. “You don’t feel warm. …”
“Because I’m not. I have a lot of work I shouldn’t miss today,” Olivia rushed to explain. “If I need to, I’ll stop by Nurse Carmichael’s, ’kay?”
Her mom paused, considering. Then she nodded.
* * *
So we went to school.
By this time there were more of us. Twenty-one, to be exact. The telepathy had kicked in for almost everyone in our homeroom over the course of twenty-four hours.
Courtney Hunter got it while she was watching TV with her parents. She didn’t have her own TV in her room, which was annoying. Her parents wanted her to bond with them over shows and have family time together. They liked to watch all the trendy shows about murdered teenagers and boys with paranormal powers on the CW and ABC Family. She sat in the middle.
I wish Stella would wear her hair like that,
her dad thought.
Stella was her mom.
“What did you say?” Courtney asked.
Her dad kept his eyes on the TV. “Nothing.”
I wish Gerry had abs like that,
her mom thought.
“What did you say?” Courtney asked her mom.
“Nothing,” her mom said.
Courtney started feeling sick. “Stop being weird!” she cried. But the thoughts kept coming.
Eventually she started screaming that she could hear what they were thinking, and they gave each other a look.
Is she on drugs?
they both thought at the same time.
“I am not on drugs!” she yelled.
Her parents looked at each other in alarm.
“I think we need to check your room,” her dad said.
“I am not on drugs!” she yelled again. Not at that moment. Even though she’d never had ADD she occasionally popped an Adderall. Just to help her concentrate when she had an exam. She took maybe one a week. Two, max. Luckily she was out, so her parents wouldn’t find any.
They went to check her room while she watched the end of the show.
* * *
Isabelle Griffin got it during dinner. She was alone and had ordered pizza from Dean’s, and when the food showed up, she could hear the delivery guy’s thoughts. When her parents and brother came home, she could hear their thoughts too, and she freaked out. She started hyperventilating. Her mom didn’t understand what was wrong—“What do you mean you can hear my thoughts?” And she called their pediatrician’s office, which paged Dr. Coven, who called back seven minutes later.
“She’s hearing voices,” Isabelle’s mom told her, her voice trembling.
Dr. Coven thought Isabelle was either on drugs or having a psychotic episode, and instructed her mother to take her to the ER immediately. The two of them took a taxi to St. Luke’s emergency room. While her mom was filling out paperwork, Isabelle texted her friend Jordana:
At hospital. Losing my mind.
Isabelle’s phone rang two seconds later.
“You’re not crazy,” Jordana said, and explained.
Isabelle wasn’t sure she believed Jordana but then Jordana conferenced in Pi and Pi explained how it all worked and about the eye closing and everything and ordered Isabelle to hightail it out of the ER.
Isabelle told her mom that she was feeling better, that the voices were gone, that all she needed was a good night’s sleep, but the ER nurse was already calling her name and so she had no choice but to get checked out.
Isabelle peed in a cup and got her blood drawn so they could run a toxicology report and do drug tests. Meanwhile, Jordana and Pi kept texting her.
Don’t tell them anything.
Did they figure it out?
What’s happening over there?
The tests all came back clean. The nurse couldn’t find anything wrong with her.
* * *
Anojah Kolar got it over breakfast. She told her dad that she could hear his thoughts, but he didn’t believe her. He asked her if she needed a new glasses prescription. LensCrafters was having a sale.
Dave and Daniel Zacow, the twins, both got it in the elevator. They were the only ones in the elevator at the time, so at first they thought they were finally developing twin powers, which people were always asking them about. Anyway, when they stepped out of the elevator, they realized they could hear their doorman’s thoughts too.
“Morning, Dave. Morning, Daniel,” he said.
Good thing they’re always together, because I never remember who’s who.
Edward McMann wasn’t that surprised when he started hearing thoughts. He had always expected something paranormal to happen to him, but he’d always thought it would come in the form of him turning into a vampire. He watched and read a lot of vampire stuff.
Anything by Ann Rice.
—the original and the remake. He once put together a list of the top hundred vampire movies for his blog. He even read the Twilight books. He had to after he found out the lead guy was named Edward. He wanted to live forever and bite girls’ necks and, well, sparkle.
Sergei Relov and Michelle Barak both got it on their way to school.
Sergei stopped in the park to call his girlfriend in Toronto. There were only a few people there that early and they weren’t too chatty, so at first Sergei thought the extra voices were from cell phone interference. He hung up and called her again. It didn’t help.
Michelle got it on the subway. Unlike most of us, she did not live in Tribeca. She lived in a small four-floor walkup in midtown. But BHS was a better school than the one in her area and she had gotten in, so she took the subway there and back every day. When the telepathy kicked in, the subway got loud. Very loud. But hey—it was rush hour. Very loud was to be expected.
Rayna Romero got it right before homeroom while standing in the middle of the hallway. One second she was minding her own business, walking to class, and the next second voices were attacking her at full volume.
“Late night last night?”
He looks like shit.
“Wait for me one sec?”
I have a wedgie.
“Did you do your calc homework?”
She better let me copy.
“Will is such a loser.”
Is everyone staring at my zit?
Rayna didn’t understand what was going on.
Why is it so loud in here? Where are all the voices coming from?
Rayna wanted to go to homeroom, but she couldn’t move. She was
late for homeroom. She was never late for anything. She didn’t like being late and she didn’t like surprises. But that morning she just stood there. Suddenly she had a splitting headache.
The bell rang, making it worse.
Rayna, it’s going to be okay,
she heard from somewhere. She wasn’t sure where the voice was coming from. She looked around. No one was talking to her. Tess was standing in front of her, but her lips weren’t moving.
Rayna, we need to go to homeroom,
the voice said—the voice that was talking to her.
I don’t want to go to homeroom! I want this to stop!
Rayna’s eyes were wild. Terrified.
But I can’t concentrate. There are so many thoughts!
“Excuse me!” a senior yelled as he stood behind her. “You’re in the way!”
Honk! Honk! I wish I had a horn on my nose.
He eventually walked around her.
Rayna, close your eyes,
the nice voice said.
Trust me, just close them.
Rayna did what she was told, thinking maybe she was dreaming. She had a lot of weird dreams. Sometimes she flew through the hallway stark naked except for her days-of-the-week underwear.
As soon as she closed her eyes, the voices halved.
she thought. At least the real voices weren’t so rude.
“It’s going to be okay,” the nice voice said, but this time it wasn’t muffled and was accompanied by a hand on her arm.
She opened her eyes to see that Tess was talking to her. “What’s happening? I really don’t like surprises.”
“Follow me to homeroom,” Tess said. “We’ll explain.”
Unfortunately for Rayna, this wasn’t the only shocker she would get that day. That night, while she downed a plate of cheese ravioli and breadsticks with her parents and younger sister, she would telepathically discover that she had been born with a sixth finger on her left hand, which had been promptly removed and never spoken of again.