Authors: Sarah Mlynowski
Pi was the first one of us to get it. She got it before school, at seven a.m. We aren’t sure why. She thinks it was because she’s the smartest. We think it’s because she was swimming at the time. Working out. More blood flow to her brain.
She was swimming in the downtown community pool on Warren, a few blocks from school. She swam every morning. It cleared her head. She’d read an article in
New York Magazine
saying that daily exercise increased one’s IQ by about ten points. She would not let ten points get away from her. She did all kinds of things that were supposed to increase IQ—ate fish with omega-3, practiced writing with her left hand, listened to classical music, taught herself chess and poker. Did sudoku. She did sudoku a lot. Sometimes she imagined boxes of numbers on white walls.
Pi had the second-highest GPA in our grade, just behind Jon Matthews. But Pi wanted to be number one. Harvard would never take two kids from one public school. And she wanted to go to Harvard. She wanted to study physics and be a physics professor. She wanted to understand the universe.
Her father was a doctor. Well, he was a researcher at Mount Sinai. He’d lost his license after a malpractice suit. It hadn’t been his fault at all, but that was what happened in New York. Greed and bureaucracy got in the way of brilliance. Her mom had left him and taken a job at a hospital in Indiana when the whole thing went down. Pi had refused to move with her, and decided to stand by her dad. They didn’t need her mom. She didn’t need her mom. Pi would be fine—no, exceptional—without her.
On Wednesday morning, Pi was underwater swimming laps when she kept hearing Black-Speedo Guy talking to himself about the memo he was supposed to send to his boss by noon.
Times or Arial? What says “promote me”?
She saw him there often; he always wore the same Speedo.
At first Pi stopped mid-stroke. “Excuse me!”
The guy ignored her and kept swimming.
But he also kept talking.
I need a raise. At least a hundred bucks a week. Then I could eat out more often and get cool stuff for my apartment. Like a high-def TV. Better speakers. A custom-made bobble head that looks like me and is wearing a Speedo.
Everyone had the right to voice his ideas, Pi thought, but not when they intruded on someone else’s personal space. And this was Pi’s personal space. This was her morning swim.
When she reached the end of the pool, she stopped to tread water. She lifted her goggles. “Excuse me! Can you please stop?”
He didn’t stop.
“Sir!” she said again, this time louder.
He stopped and turned to her. “Yes?”
“Can you please stop talking? It’s making it difficult for me to concentrate.”
“I’m not talking. I’m swimming.”
“No, you’re talking,” she argued.
“No,” he snapped. “
talking to me.” He shook his head and said,
Crazy chick. Her swimming cap is on too tight.
Then he dove under the water.
Pi held on to the edge of the pool and tried to figure out what had happened. He had said something, but his lips hadn’t moved.
And on it went all morning. On the walk over to school. Getting her coffee—one cup of coffee was also rumored to increase IQ. Homeroom. She was starting to worry that she was working too hard when Olivia had her meltdown in class. It was then she realized what was happening. Olivia could hear thoughts too. Then, in the hallway, she discovered that the same thing was happening to Tess and Mackenzie.
As soon as she made that discovery, Pi moved Mackenzie and Tess down the hall so they could talk without anyone overhearing. Or without them overhearing anyone else. The farther they stood from the others, the quieter the voices in her head became.
Mackenzie hugged her arms to her chest.
What number am I thinking? Seven.
“Seven,” Pi said.
Tess’s jaw dropped. “This is crazy. I heard it too. My turn.” Tess closed her mouth.
Eight. No, ten. No, thirty-three and a half!
“Eight, no, ten, no, thirty-three and a half,” Mackenzie said.
“This is the coolest thing ever,” Tess said, eyes dancing.
Pi glanced at the others in the hallway. “As far as I can tell, it’s just happening to the four of us,” she said. “You two, me, and Olivia.”
“Where is Olivia?” Mackenzie asked.
“She fainted,” Pi said matter-of-factly.
“From this?” Tess asked.
“Sort of,” Pi said. “Not because of this, but because it freaked her out. She was doing her public speech and then it kicked in and she passed out.”
“Is she okay?” Tess asked.
“Probably,” Pi said. She didn’t want to talk about Olivia. She wanted to talk about what was happening to them.
happening to us?” Mackenzie asked, throwing her hands up.
“We can hear each other’s thoughts,” Pi said.
“Not just each other’s,” Tess said, looking at the crowd in the hallway. “I can hear everyone’s thoughts.”
“But why is this only happening to the four of us?” Mackenzie asked, her forehead wrinkling. “It’s not happening to anyone else.”
Pi was deep in thought. “We’re all in the same homeroom.” But what else did they have in common? Nothing, as far as she could tell. The other two definitely weren’t as smart as she was.
“Hey,” Mackenzie said. “Just because my GPA is low doesn’t make me stupid.”
I just don’t try.
“Whatever,” Pi said with a shrug. “It’s irrelevant. What do the four of us have in common?”
Mackenzie and Tess stared at her blankly.
Suddenly all the numbers aligned. Aha! “We all got our flu shots yesterday,” Pi said.
“But everyone got their flu shots,” Tess said. “Most of the school got their flu shots.”
“That’s true,” Pi said. “I need to think about this.”
Mackenzie rubbed the spot on her arm where she’d gotten the vaccination. “I didn’t even want the shot!”
Pi rolled her eyes. “None of us
“No, but I really, really didn’t want to get it. I just did it because …”
I wanted to punish myself.
Pi didn’t understand what Mackenzie meant about the punishment thing. They had telepathy. This was amazing. They were exceptional.
“I wonder how long it will last,” Tess said.
They watched Nurse Carmichael enter the classroom. “Maybe we should talk to the nurse about it,” Tess said.
Pi considered the options. Should they seek medical advice? What if the condition was dangerous? On the other hand, once they went public they couldn’t take it back. Once they went public she would surely lose control of the situation. “If it really is telepathy, maybe we don’t want everyone aware that we can read their minds,” she said.
“People would freak out,” Tess said.
“They’d cart us off to some mental institution,” Mackenzie said, turning white. “Hook us up to all kinds of tubes.”
So. Many. Needles. I don’t deserve that. Do I?
“Maybe we shouldn’t say anything. It might go away.”
If I only have one day with this ability, I want to put it to good use.
Pi was still weighing the options. There was no real rush to tell. She could always change her mind in the morning—if it was still happening. She might as well try to explore it on her own that day. It was like poker—no reason to show the rest of the world that she had a flush. “I think for now we should keep this just between us.”
“I agree,” Tess said.
“I’ll talk to Olivia,” Pi said.
I’m going to find out everyone’s secret thoughts!
Pi caught Mackenzie scowling.
I don’t want Tess knowing my secret thoughts. I don’t want anyone knowing my secret thoughts.
“Why?” Pi asked. “What are your secret thoughts?”
“Nothing,” Mackenzie blurted out.
Don’t think about it, don’t think about it.
Tess shook her head.
She doesn’t want the whole school knowing she cheated on Cooper.
“Tess!” Mackenzie yelled.
Tess clamped her hand over her mouth. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to think it!”
As if Pi cared enough to keep up with her classmates’ on-and-off-again relationships.
Mackenzie bit her lip.
Maybe I should talk to Carmichael. Maybe I want this mind reading thing to end as soon as possible. Before it ruins my life.
“It won’t ruin your life,” Tess said quickly. “We won’t tell anyone about the Cooper thing. Swear.”
“Swear?” Mackenzie asked.
Mackenzie turned to Pi.
“Whatever,” she said. “I barely even heard anything. Don’t worry about it.”
Like I honestly care about her stupid relationship.
“Hey!” Mackenzie said.
Pi rolled her eyes. “Sorry.”
Tess linked her arm through Mackenzie’s. “Let’s go to the cafeteria. See what everyone’s up to.”
I want to find Teddy. ASAP.
Pi had no idea who Teddy was and didn’t care about that either.
“How do you not know who Teddy is?” Tess asked. “Teddy Russell? He’s in our grade. He’s my guy best friend.”
Pi leaned against a locker. “I don’t know. I just don’t. You guys go. I’ll wait for Olivia. What we should do is figure out if there are other people this is happening to. If so, round them up. Have a meeting.”
Mackenzie nodded. “Where?”
“Club room 309. I have a key,” Pi said. “I’m on the chess team.”
Were we surprised by that? Not even a little.
When Olivia opened her eyes, she saw a white ceiling. She was lying on a floor. She closed her eyes again.
“Olivia?” she heard. “Can you hear me?”
“Yes,” Olivia said. She opened her eyes and saw Nurse Carmichael—and then remembered what happened.
Oh. My. God.
She quickly closed her eyes again. She’d had a total breakdown. She’d hallucinated that she could hear people’s thoughts! Who did that? The stress of speaking in public must have really gone to her head. She kept her eyes shut tight. “Is everyone watching me?” she asked.
“We cleared the class out. It’s just you and me.”
This was worse than she’d thought. “Did I faint?”
“How long was I out for?”
“About a minute and a half. Your friend Renée caught you, so you didn’t hurt anything.”
“Sorry to bother you,” Olivia said. “Again.”
“It’s no problem,” Nurse Carmichael said, and Olivia finally opened her eyes.
Of all the kids who could have fainted, why does it have to be the one with the crazy mom?
Wait. What? Nurse Carmichael wasn’t talking. Her lips weren’t even moving.
Olivia decided she was still hallucinating. She tried to sit up, but Nurse Carmichael put a hand on her shoulder.
“Don’t get up yet,” Nurse Carmichael said. And then she thought,
If she passes out again, I’m going to call an ambulance.
Olivia did not want an ambulance to come get her at school. Talk about embarrassing. “I’m fine,” she said quickly. “Please don’t call an ambulance.”
Nurse Carmichael blinked.
Did I say that out loud?
No, Olivia realized. But she didn’t want to admit that. Because if she actually had heard it in her mind, Nurse Carmichael would definitely call an ambulance. And a shrink.
“Has this ever happened before?” Nurse Carmichael asked.
Had she ever heard voices in her head? No, she must have meant the fainting. “When I was younger,” Olivia said.
“Let’s go into my office,” Nurse Carmichael said.
call an ambulance. If I don’t and she faints again, that crazy Jennifer Byrne will sue. I’ll lose my job! I’ll have to go back to stripping!
Agh! That was way more info than Olivia wanted to know about Nurse Carmichael.
Olivia rubbed her throbbing temples. No way had Nurse Carmichael been a stripper. Olivia was hearing voices in her head. Hallucinations. They would go away soon. Wouldn’t they? Yes. They would. Of course they would.
“Would you like me to call your mom?” Nurse Carmichael asked.
I’d rather lick a cactus needle. No, I’d rather stick a cactus needle in my eye.
“Why don’t I just rest for an hour?” Olivia asked. “There’s no reason to bother my mom yet. You know how panicked she gets. It’s almost lunch. I’ll rest in your office until then and we’ll see how I’m doing, okay?”
“Oh. Okay.” Nurse Carmichael stood up. “Let’s go.”
Olivia sat up. The room swayed, but she placed her hands firmly on the floor to steady herself. She probably had a concussion.
Oh my god, can I die from this? I probably can.
Nurse Carmichael reached out to help her. “Let’s go.”
I hope Roth isn’t still out there. He terrifies me.
Olivia could hear that. The thing about her teacher. Not only was she dizzy and concussed, she was still hallucinating. It could be a stroke. Death could come at any second.
“Something weird is happening,” she began as Nurse Carmichael opened the door.
Olivia took a deep breath. She had to tell the nurse. What if she was having an aneurysm? “I hear something … strange.”
Outside the door, the hallway was empty. Mostly. Pi was leaning over and tying her shoes.
Pi looked up. “How are you feeling?”
“Um … fine,” Olivia said.
Besides the fact that I’m probably dying.
“Good,” Pi said.
You’re not dying. Don’t tell Nurse Carmichael anything. Come with me and I’ll explain.
I imagined that,
Olivia tried to convince herself.
I need to go to the hospital. It is my concussion talking. I’m going to need a CAT scan.
Pi shook her head.
You’re not imagining it. I can hear you. You can hear me. Tell Nurse Carmichael you’re feeling fine and come with me to the chess room.
Olivia didn’t understand what was happening. “But—”
“Everything okay, Olivia?” Nurse Carmichael asked. “Let’s go.”
Tell her everything’s fine and that you’re coming with me instead.
Olivia didn’t know who to trust. Was she going crazy? Were she and Pi going crazy?
Just tell her!
Okay! But if I die of an aneurysm, it will be your fault!
“You know what, Nurse Carmichael? I’m feeling better. In fact, I think I want to get some lunch. Pi will look after me. If I have any issues, I’ll go straight to your office.”
If I’m not already dead.
Nurse Carmichael looked worried. “You sure?”
I shouldn’t let her go. But I really do need to run to the pharmacy to get more condoms for tonight.
Pi and Olivia exchanged disgusted looks.
No, Olivia wasn’t sure, but she nodded anyway. She needed to get away from Nurse Carmichael before she could never look the woman in the eye again.
I wonder if I have time to pick up a sexy French maid’s outfit.
Olivia grimaced. Too late.