Beth paused for a second before she saved the file as March 2021 // Beth Project 37Z-9A6. Leaning back in the chair she took a deep, slow breath to try to ease her nerves. Her anxious hands cupped her own face and rubbed her eyes in circular motions. She imagined a large rubber band compressing her head in a half-ass fight to shut the voices out. Before long the almost-quiet whirring of Monie came into focus through an open pathway in the rubber.
“Can you leave me alone for a few more minutes?”
Monie nodded at her in an affirmative way and disappeared almost as quietly as he came. As he distanced himself from her she could feel his pull draw her farther back into the chair. “Stop it,” she said loudly. Only three seconds later, she was upright again and able to get up from the desk. Side effects of golem attachment are fair trade for a way to manage the voices but sometimes it wore on her. Beth walked towards the window and sighed at the view below. Everything looked the same as it did last night but everything was different. She wanted to blame herself but decided she didn’t have the martyr in her for it. She sniffed a quick breath of air through her nose and headed back to the desk.
Beth framed her face with her hands and wondered what her mother would have done for a long time before she was interrupted. Monie came back into the office to Beth’s eye roll and dropped his key on a side table. He needed an update.
She wouldn’t even notice if I didn’t come back but nooooooo I have to stay. Ugh I have to stay. I can’t bear goi-
Vaughn was coming up the stairs. He was having a fight with his girlfriend again and wanted to leave her but kept putting it off. He thought so fast it was hard to keep up. Beth rubbed her eyes as she opened the door for him and knew instantly why he was making a house call.
“Hey,” he said. She turned and walked back to the office, knowing he’d follow her. He shut the door and leaned on the wall as he took off his loafers. The office was open and airy because it was easier for Beth to breath. Ironically, glass is one of the hardest materials for the voices to get past. She was never good at school or physics but she always figured it’s because the melted bits of sand form such a smooth, fluid bond like water.
“Vaughn can you take off your shoes?”
“Done,” he called as he entered the office. He could tell she’d been recording again and wondered what the name of her project was. She was always opening up new projects before the Director knew about them.
What she working on?
“I’m going to tell you what I’m working on,” she said and nodded at him to sit on the couch. It always felt like she could read his mind at times. He looked into her eyes for a few extra seconds than he should have been allowed to do so … when he saw the little twinkle he was looking for. It was the blinking dots right in the center of each pupil that stood out to him as more than a trick. She teasingly winked at him as he slowly confirmed his fears. In truth, that’s why he came to see her this morning. After last night’s announcement on HUBN, something clicked and he knew she was one of them. Right under his nose.
Beth and Vaughn work together at Cora Cares answering phones and helping negotiate clients off the ledge of competitors. When Beth first started working there, Vaughn noticed her ability to melt an escalated situation into a puddle almost as if it were a dance. He wondered why she was so good at what she did and why she wasn’t even a lead in the department. Beth tried not to chuckle. She could tell he figured it out after the announcement last night but was too afraid to ask her. She sat on the other side of the couch and looked at Vaughn.
“Why won’t you tell me?” he asked. They’d become close friends during late nights strategizing at work. He thought he knew everything about her and felt betrayed she was hiding this from him the whole time.
“OK,” she said as she let out her breath. “It’s about last night’s announcement.”
Monie came into view and loudly grabbed the key and handed it to Beth impatiently.
“Sorry, he needs an update. I didn’t do the one from this morning yet so I think there’s two or three but-“ she trailed off as Monie started to update and give her a wave of nausea.
“Sorry,” she said again. “The side effects are worse when he’s not updated.”
Vaughn wondered how Beth could even afford Monie and all of his updates on a Cora Cares salary.
Actually … this place is really nice. I wonder if she gets alimony or something? Trust fund like a little bitch? Selling G? What is the-
“How’s Amber?” she asked. Vaughn cringed at the sound of Amber’s name and resolved to dislike Beth even more at that moment. He was there for answers and he needed to see if she really was an empath, or if it was all in his head.
“You know I don’t want to talk about Amber right now,” he quipped.
He was right. She knew exactly what he was thinking and feeling right now: Anger, confusion and distrust for starters. She thought it was time for him to hear her side of the story so she let him see the blinking dots in her eyes. Vaughn Torek was no empath but he was about to hear how it began for Beth.
“So you’re an empath?” he finally asked.
“Yes,” she said without hesitating. “But it’s not at all like how they said online.” With that, Beth pressed a button on a remote nearby and played the first recording for Vaughn. She curled her legs underneath her on the couch and listened as Monie’s speakers filled the room.
“I’m really glad you came over,” she said. She already knew from his reaction that he felt deeply for her and her safety. “I planned to send these to you-“
“Send me?” he interrupted her. “Send me from where?”
Where is she going?!
Vaughn’s agitation boomed into Beth like a car crash as she sat up, trying to soften the blow.
“I have to go away for a while,” she said.
Fucking Amber was always right about people, man!
“So you were just going to leave without saying goodbye?”
She understood his confusion more than he could know. “I don’t really have much time to finish packing,” she said as she tapped her phone on his wristdrive. “I recorded all of these for you so you can pass on the message. Promise me you’ll listen to all of them before you form an opinion?”
He agreed to her pleas and asked how long she was going to be gone.
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[Featured image via Unsplash]