Type of Story: Short Story
Summary: Raf, a regular mindreader, is in love with Kira, the only girl in school who can’t read minds. Raf struggles to keep his thoughts about her private, but secrets are something that only zeros like Kira can keep. As he works up the nerve to ask Kira to the mindware Games, his friends have other games in mind for him.
Mind Games is a short story (5,000 words or 18 pages) in the Mindjack Origins series, which are companion stories to the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy. Mind Games is Raf’s story and takes place in the time period before Open Minds (it’s a prequel).
Every time I see her, she surprises me.
Not in a charming or tantalizing way, although there’s no question she captivates me. She surprises me because there’s no whisper warning of her presence like with everyone else in Warren Township High, where the dull roar of thoughts from the throng of students in the hallway practically drowns out my own. Sometimes she’ll appear by my side without warning. Or like today, I catch a glimpse of her retreating down the hall. But I never hear her thoughts first. Even if she and I were the only two people in the entire school, I still wouldn’t be able to read her mind. And she can’t read mine either.
And that’s exactly the problem.
Her chocolate brown hair sweeps along her back as she darts between students hurrying to first period. She hesitates as she moves between them, pulling her arms close to her side and trying not to touch anyone. She’s walking away from me, so I tilt my head and let my eyes linger as she clutches her backpack and weaves through the crowd, head down, not looking back. She’s wearing shorts today, and I thank the fickle gods of spring weather for making it unseasonably warm.
Man, you have got to stop thinking about that zero. Tony’s thoughts break through the background din, and I don’t have to glance behind me to know he’s coming up fast.
Her name is Kira. I stab the grimy buttons for my locker code and the door springs open. I shove my gym bag inside, burying the muddy soccer cleats I forgot from the day before.
Tony leans against the paint-chipped locker next to mine, wearing his Blue Devils jersey. Yeah, well, people are starting to think you’re a praver.
Now that I’m paying attention, I catch the sideways thoughts from a trio of girls gliding past with their synchronized steps and identical band shirts. Praver. Ew. Get a real girlfriend, sicko.
Tony throws a glare at the girls. Raf’s not a praver, freaks. What are you? Triplets gone bad?
Their thoughts slither over each other and mix together. In your dreams, Tony … Stop hanging with boys that prey on little girls … And maybe you’ll find out. Then their thoughts synchronize for greater mental volume. Praver. Praver. Praver. The chant keeps up until they drift out of range.
Man, it’s getting worse. Tony scrubs his short-cropped hair with one hand. I know you practically grew up with the girl, but that really doesn’t make it any better.
Thanks for the reminder. I crane to look down the hallway again, but Kira is gone. Next time you need a punch in the face, let me know.
Tony shakes his head. He’s my teammate and co-captain and we spend a lot of time in each other’s thoughts, running plays and devising new psych strategies. He’s always got my back.
Sorry. I quietly shut the cool metal door of my locker so it won’t crash through the cacophony of thoughts filling the hall. I know you’re only looking out for me. I just wish… My mind flits over the things I wish for Kira and me, a rapid slideshow of kisses, my hands skimming her back, and an image of her in a slinky formal dress after the mindware Games. I quickly shut it down, not wanting that private longing made public, but it’s too late. Mental snickers click from two guys in tight collar jackets across the hall as they echo back an exaggerated picture of Kira in an even more revealing dress. Then they shuffle along, more concerned about making plans for the weekend than harassing me.
Tony lets out a long, low breath. Man, you’ve got it bad. I know. I get it. She’s seriously hot. His sympathy is a shallow pool. But you’ve got to get a grip. Mentally, she’s just a kid, not to mention that you’ll never know what she’s thinking. How can you trust someone like that?
Kira could still go through the change. She’s not even sixteen yet. There’ve been others that have changed late … But my thoughts drift past Tony as he eyes a blonde with mile long legs and short shorts skittering down the hall. She’s barely in range and her name pops into my head. Jessica. She’s a cheerleader from last year’s championship games.
There are plenty of other girls. Tony’s thoughts grab her attention and she tosses her long hair back to get a look at us. Proper ones that have gone through the change and that would be happy to share more than thoughts with you.
Jessica pictures herself in my arms, fingers tangled in my hair. Anytime, Raf. Anytime. Then she bounces out of range.
Tony sends me a smile, and I shiver.
I don’t know this girl, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting to entwine emotions with me in the way that only touching brings. If it were just the physical part, that would be … acceptable. But the idea of sharing emotions with a girl I barely know: it chills a spot deep inside me. While the possibility of doing that with Kira makes my skin feel like it’s scorching the air.
Tony whacks the back of my head, careful to avoid any skin-on-skin contact. Man, I mean it! His thoughts are cut with frustration. It’s not mesh to think about her that way. If you keep it up, people will think you’re actually doing those things, not just fantasizing. The rumor mill is already whispering. He points at me as he backs down the hall. You’ve got a good thing going, Raf. Don’t ruin it.
He’s talking about the popularity that follows me around like a stray I can’t shake, still lingering from last year’s championship win. Girls like Jessica think openly about me and they’re not shy about the things they’d like to do. The first few times I stumbled across their blatant fantasies, I was flattered, and not a little intrigued. But that was before I knew what touching really meant; how deep the sharing went inside my head; the hollow feeling it left behind with girls I didn’t care for. Now I do my best to ignore the offers. If having a reputation as a praver would keep that at bay, it might be worth considering.
I sigh and lumber toward first period. No matter what the mindreaders of Warren Township High think of me, it still won’t change the fact that Kira considers me her best friend. And she would never cross the line to something more unless—until, I tell myself—she changes.
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