Of course I do. It seems the most obvious thing in the world. My muscles lock up so tight I can’t even bend my tongue.
“Oh, where are my manners? Breath.”
The air is cold and sweet when it rushes down my throat. My dog, Skipper, whimpers next to me. He sounds scared. But the gentleman keeps on petting him, running painted green nails across Skipper’s fur.
“Do you understand what’s happening to you? Answer and then say nothing more. I forbid you to scream.”
I don’t think I was going to scream. But I know I’m not going to now. My mouth feels like an ungreased hinge.
“You’re a psionic. You’re using your powers on me.”
“Powers? What a cliché word. Makes it sound like I should be in tights and a cap. I prefer ‘gift’ if it’s all the same to you.”
He stops petting the dog, and walks over to me. I can see up close the telltale symbols around his cheekbones. A dead giveaway, one that burns through any disguise on the surface.
“It is the same to you.”
He takes my hair into his hand and lays the ends over his palm.
“Tell me. What’s your name?”
“Charlie Ann Hollings.”
“You’re very pretty, Charlie…acknowledge that compliment warmly.”
I blush. And I can feel my mouth tug into this large smile. It even stretches up to my eyes.
“You are welcome. Are you single, Charlie? Answer that question honestly. Everything I ask you from now on you must answer as honestly as possible.”
“No. I’m dating someone. But it’s not an official thing yet.”
His hand moves to my shoulders. His fingernail dig into the stretched muscles. I’d tense up if there was anything left in my body not already tense.
“Do you love him?”
“I want to. I wish I did.”
He takes a step back and looks down at the ground. A breeze washes over my body, pulling at my skirt hem. I can’t adjust it. And my skin refuses to form into goosebumps. A shiver fails to launch.
“In your opinion, why do you think I gained this ‘gift’. What set me up to have this?”
I want to hold back the words that start to spill from my mouth. I need to hold them back. I can still feel the echo of his hand on my shoulder.
“You’re a control freak. Repressed. You care deeply about the opinion of others, but try not to show it. You just want someone to listen to you.”
He looks back up at me, and a black smoke is leaking from the edge of his eyes. He opens his mouth and lets out a puff of ashen gas, and when I can see him again he looks like a normal person. Without the magical tattoos, or the silver hair.
“Go back into your house. Take a shower. And go to sleep. When you wake up you will not remember me, and you will never speak of seeing me again. You may thank me for that.”
My entire body spins with one motion, and I walk back towards my house. The sounds of leaves crunching the only indications he was ever there at all.
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