Reality Check

Changing Skies

01 Apr 2011 17:45  |  by Jasmine Taylor
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IC Date: March 13, 2011
This episode takes place almost a week following the log Research Party

I wonder if it makes me a horrible daughter, or just a horrible pessimist that I’m waiting for the minute when this all goes pear-shaped. I love my father, and we don’t get to see nearly enough of each other, it’s true. But, there’s a good reason for that. He doesn’t get me, not anymore (if he ever did), I don’t think that I’ve ever gotten him.

It doesn’t mean that we don’t try. Daddy really, really tries. We have our Father-Daughter outings once a month, when he’s in the city and we can have them, but this one is particularly special. It’s my birthday and Daddy’s gone through the effort to make it extra special. We caught the matinee of a show out at West End and now we’re having dinner at a very nice restaurant, Flare. I guess everything would be as perfect as it could be if we weren’t talking like two strangers trying to avoid any serious conversation, because that way usually leads to some disagreement or another.

“How is work, Jasmine?” It’s always Jasmine to my father. Never Jas, or Mina like my grandmother used to call me. He thinks that Jas is a silly nickname, and we both know that Mina reminds us too much of Nona. “Are you still enjoying your work at PSI?”

And so it begins.

I hide my sigh behind my glass of water. “It’s work. It’s good, Daddy.”

“Don’t give me that look, Jasmine.” I hope that I hide my frown better than I hid my initial reaction. “I’m ask because I’m your father. I worry. I want you to be happy with your career choice.”

I know what I should do. I should smile sweetly, thank him for his concern and then throw all my energy and best acting at convincing him that I couldn’t be happier. A month ago, I would have. But a month ago, it seemed simpler. The world was a simpler place a month ago and being the dutiful daughter was the role I was perfectly molded to play. Now …

My eyes are open. George is right. There’s so much more out there in the world that has nothing to do with the Foundation or the little cocoon that my father’s been swaddling me in since the night my mother left. If vampires can swoop out of the shadows and attack unwitting girls in alleys, what else is out there that we’ve been trained to ignore?

“And you think that I’m not happy because I’m not doing something better suited to my skill set?” I pick up my fork and pick at the crisp greens on the small china white plate. “Information Technology is my skill set.”

Now, it’s my father who doesn’t do a good job of hiding his own disappointed sigh. He’s never approved of me stepping down and depriving myself when, in his opinion, I could have done so much more. “What about your natural talents? I don’t want to see those go to waste.”

“They’re not. They won’t. I don’t need a job in PR or marketing or hospitality just because of … that.” Nothing is going to change the fact that I’m a telepath. Whether I’m in a desk outside of a server room or in a board room advising the president of some big corporation. “I’m happy where I am. Can we talk about something else? I really don’t want to argue.”

There’s a beat while I worry that he’s not going to simply agree to disagree. “How’s your friend?”

Yes, because this topic is so much safer ground than the other one. I’m actually grateful that for the sake of appearances we’ve been speaking like non-telepaths. It would be so much harder, if not impossible to hide my feelings and emotions when sharing sends. “George is fine.”

“Have you seen him lately?” Asked with casual curiosity, the sort of hopeful casualness where he hopes the answer will be negative.

“I see him every weekend.” Sometimes more often, but I don’t offer that up. George is straight forward and reliable. We hang out and watch bad movies or waste hours on his game console. It’s one of the few times I still feel like I’m me and I’m not pretending to be someone else, and not trying to fit into a dress that someone else designed for me.

“You and he aren’t —”

“God! Daddy, no! George is just a friend.” I love George, but like a brother. I’m not even sure where my father would get that idea from, and I’m not sure I want to know. Yet, I can’t stop the next words that come tumbling past my lips. “But what if I were? So what?” It’s probably bitchy and I’m going to burn in some sort of Terrible Daughter HellTM for baiting him like that, but I can’t help it.

“I know that you like him, Jasmine, but George is —” Not stable. Not right. Not like us. “I don’t want you to make any foolhardy decisions that you might regret later. You’re still young, and you have to be careful. I’ve seen too many young people your age who get dragged into something because of their associations. I just don’t want to see you do that, or cut yourself off because you’re too attached to him.”

It’s hard not to respond to what my father is thinking rather than what he’s saying. I’m not supposed to hear those private thoughts. I’ve spent a lot of time masking the fact that I’m a lot stronger than him, instead of just mildly. Because if the pressure isn’t on enough when he thinks I’m still near to his level telepathically, I don’t want to imagine the pressure my father would put on me if he knew the truth. He wants me in Alexander Tower and always has. It’s a place of prestige and honor, although I think that he wants it more for his prestige than mine.

’Look at the psychic my genes produced. My wife was a flake but my daughter is all right.’

My hands busy themselves adjusting and readjusting the napkin in my lap while I slowly chew a large bite of salad. I need the time to formulate a response. In the end, I can’t come up with anything to say that won’t launch us into a row in the middle of the restaurant. George had a rough time of it, and he needs friends, not people backing off because he’s not proper or up to expectations.

~ I was at a bookshop a bit back. Met a shop girl. I think she might be a low level teep. ~ I offer that up for conversation in the hopes that my father will latch onto the bait and we won’t have to discuss George, or my work, or my life choices any further.

I know that it’s worked even before my father peers curiously at me over his glasses. I can feel his curiosity, sliding off of him and leaking onto me. ~ Do share, Jasmine. ~

I’m not well-talented at the skill of perfect recall, as I know some other telepaths — usually those stronger than me — happen to be. I can manage, somewhat, sometimes, and truthfully, I think if I got more training I could be better at it, but it’s one of those things that I never really saw any use for. Still, I do my best to put myself back at Spellbound books and relay to my father the feelings and thoughts I picked up from odd shop girl. It’s not much, but I’m able to send him the picture of her face, the bizarre tint of Talent coursing just beneath the surface.

~ I assume you reported her? ~

I freeze, startled by the question, although I really shouldn’t have been. I didn’t report the girl — Carys. I hadn’t actually thought about her since leaving the bookshop, too preoccupied with waiting to hear back from Jean and what her professor has to say on the subject of old dead things.

~ I - I didn’t think about it. ~

~ ”Jasmine.” ~ My name is spoken aloud and telepathically, perhaps so I can get the full brunt of my father’s disappointment. ~ How can we possibly help her if the Foundation doesn’t know that she’s there and needs help? ~

I’m twenty-two — twenty-three years old today — and somehow I’ve just been reduced to feeling like I’m twelve with a few simple words.

~ I’ll report it tomorrow, ~ I promise, and I mean it.

~ It’s all right, sweetheart. We all forget things from time to time. ~ My father reaches out to pat my hand. ~ The important thing is that you told me, I reminded you and that poor girl will get the guidance that she needs.~

“Now, what did you think of the show?” Just like that, my father flips that switch and we’re back in that good warm and fuzzy Father-Daughter zone.

I’m not sure what’s worse: the fact that my father can flip so easily or that I no longer can.

Things That Go Bite in the Night

13 Mar 2011 17:43  |  by Jasmine Taylor
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IC Date: February 17, 2011 — Early Evening

The cry for help is so loud that Jasmine wonders why no one else seems to hear it. Yes, it’s telepathic — which means it’s literally all in her head — but she’s sharing the cafe table with two other psychics and they don’t even bat an eye. Jasmine, she’s not so lucky. The fear and surprise cause her head to jerk up, and it’s only the quick reflexes of Colleen that stops her from sending her coffee cup crashing to the floor.

“Jas, are you okay?” Colleen’s gray eyes cloud with concern. One hand reaches out to steady Jasmine.

~You didn’t hear that?~ Jasmine sends the thought, her eyes casting around the cafe for the source. Not a thing seems unnatural or out of place, and there doesn’t even seem to be an echo of the spine tingling cry that set Jasmine’s heart to pounding.

Collen shakes her head. “I didn’t hear anything.” Colleen can receive but she isn’t a sender. Her pixie face draws into a slight frown, and though it’s easy for Jasmine to hear the thoughts flickering rapid-fire across her friend’s mind, she tunes them out. Now’s not the time for Colleen’s peculiar brand of passive-aggression, envy and frustration.

~I didn’t either.~ Priya has an easier time of it. Her dark eyes move from Jasmine to scout around the cafe, and then return again. ~What did you think you heard?~ There’s a note of smugness and doubt coloring the words, the assumption that if Priya and Colleen didn’t hear it that there wasn’t anything to hear.

Jasmine frowns at the implied dismissal, but doesn’t rise to the bait. She gives a half-shrug before lifting her coffee cup to her mouth and taking a sip. ~Probably nothing.~

When it comes again, Jasmine knows she isn’t imagining it. Her reaction is a little more controlled the second time, but only because her coffee cup is on its saucer and nowhere near her hand. She blinks, her gaze darting between Colleen and Priya to see if they have any sort of reaction at all.

“I’m going to the loo,” Jasmine declares as the desperation in her head escalates to panic. It’s not hers, naturally, but it goes hand in hand with the sobbing, whimpering voice. If it belongs to someone in the cafe, they’re quite likely mad, but also good at putting up a mask. Yet, something tells Jasmine that it isn’t coming from anywhere inside the cafe at all.

There’s a side entrance exit right off the hall that holds the loo, and with a quick glance back over her shoulder to make certain Colleen and Priya are still involved in discussing the fit blokes at the corner table, Jasmine takes it. She steps into the access alley and automatically clamps a hand over her nose as she is assaulted by the smells of old coffee, stale food and cigarette smoke. She takes a step forward and tries not to wonder about what it is that is making her shoes stick to the ground and takes a look around. Aside from the couple leaned against the wall fully involved in one another, the alley is empty.

Jasmine turns to go the way she came when the thoughts assault her again, frantic, clawing and so very urgent that it sends her heart pounding and makes her breath catch in the back of her throat. Her attention is drawn, no drawn, pulled like a moth to a bright flame back to the couple against the wall.


Jasmine stares, her jaw working soundlessly. The voice is frantic and so afraid that Jasmine has to touch a hand to the sticky, greasy wall to support herself. It’s only now that she can assume that the way the pale hands claw at one figure’s back isn’t in a romantic, lustful moment. She doesn’t want to reach out, she doesn’t know what she can do or how she can help, but she knows that she has to do something.

Her mobile is in her hand, her feet carrying her forward before she can second guess herself.

“Hey is everything all right over there?”

It all happens so quickly then that Jasmine has trouble processing it. She knows, even when she replays it in her mind — again and again and again — that there is a good distance between her and the not-couple. Jasmine knows that she didn’t move that quickly, but somehow one half of the not couple is in front of her, and there is nothing human about him.

The eyes are the deepest, darkest black. It’s like staring into the bottomless depths of an indescribable hell and Jasmine instinctively recoils, trying to look anywhere but in those eyes, or at the face covered with blood, incisors far too long for a human mouth.

He’s on her. Too fast. Too hard. Too strong. Her head snaps back and hits the wall soundly, rattling her teeth. The impact with her spine sends shock waves rippling down through her entire body.

It’s happening too fast but her brain processes it in snapshots.

Vampire (she’s heard the stories, the rumors, the things that no one wants to talk about or admit are real.) Fangs. Blood. Strength.


Jasmine opens her mouth to scream —

“Don’t scream.” The words push against her mind, a lulling tug at her defenses. They try to work their way past her shields, into the core of her mind —

She pushes back with all she has —

And slumps to the ground against the wall, the creature (Vampire, vampire, vampire, say it) sent sprawling by another body.

“You need to get out of here.” Jasmine is pulled to her feet and she turns to stare in confusion at the speaker. Hazel eyes stare back for a heart beat before the other young woman turns back to the scuffle between the pair in the alley. “Go! And be more careful next time!”

There are questions she should ask, things she should wander about, but the growling and hissing, and grunts of pain are enough to tell her that this isn’t where she wants to be. Jasmine catches a flash of dark metal in the young woman’s hand as the other concentrates on the fray, and it’s enough.

Jasmine can’t get back into the cafe fast enough. She can’t find a bathroom stall quickly enough.

She thinks she won’t ever stop heaving over the commode.

It’s a long time before she comes out. A long time after she refuses to let Colleen or Priya into the stall with her and convinces them that she’s just sick and will take a taxi.

Not nearly long enough before Jasmine sends a frantic text to George or throws herself gratefully into his confused arms.

She promises she’ll talk about it later, but she doesn’t think she ever will.


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