Tess and Mackenzie had two minutes before the lunch bell. Mackenzie checked her phone and saw a text from Cooper:
Still on for my place?
No way. She could not go to Cooper’s right then. She had to meet with Pi and Tess. And what if Cooper could hear her thoughts too? No, if he could, he wouldn’t have sent that text. His text would have said something along the lines of
Holy shit, something weird is happening to me.
True, he was in their homeroom. He’d gotten the same flu shot. But so far it was only happening to Pi, Tess, Olivia, and her. Maybe it was a girl thing?
Either way, they’d have to postpone their alone time until this whole mind reading thing was cleared up.
Mackenzie texted back:
Can’t today. Sorry.
“Let’s do this,” Tess said, eyes twinkling.
They stepped into the cafeteria. A cacophony of voices rushed at Mackenzie.
—five french fries today. Five. No more. My thighs are too—
—There’s an empty seat at Jake’s table! Should I take it? But Amanda said—
—Did I just get my period?—
As each thought hit Mackenzie’s mind, so did a stabbing pain in her forehead.
She could hear people’s thoughts. Could they hear hers?
she screamed in her head.
Can anyone hear me?
“Yeah, me,” Tess said, rubbing her forehead. “Don’t shout.”
“I meant besides you,” Mackenzie said.
“Pi and Olivia,” said Tess. “Duh.”
Cooper waved to her from their regular table at the opposite end of the room. He was sitting across from Joel, one of his good friends. Joel was also one of Mackenzie’s least favorite people. His face wore a permanent snarl.
Mackenzie heard Tess wondering.
I need to find Teddy! This is my chance to find out how he really feels about me!
Mackenzie looked at Cooper. What if he could read her mind? He’d know she cheated on him with Bennett. He’d hate her forever. There’d be nothing she could do.
I won’t say anything,
Tess thought back.
I know you won’t. But what about Pi? What about Olivia? What about anyone else this is happening to?
They both looked over at Cooper. He was dipping french fries in ketchup. He didn’t seem to be stressing about anything. He looked totally normal.
“He doesn’t look like he has it,” Tess said.
“Do I look like I have it?” Mackenzie asked. “How do you look when you have it?”
“You look freaked out,” Tess told her.
We all did have a bit of a freaked-out look to us when we first got it. Which was understandable, since it was freaky.
Cooper, on the other hand, did not look freaked out at all. He looked completely at ease as he smiled at beady-eyed Joel.
“I don’t think he has it,” Tess said. “But look at BJ.”
BJ was sitting one table behind Cooper and did in fact look freaked out. Instead of eating the pizza in front of him, he’d placed his palms flat on the table and he was frantically looking back and forth at the people around him.
Tess giggled. “Should I put him out of his misery? Or let him wallow in it for a while? He’s such a perv. I do not want to know what he’s thinking at all.”
“How are you going to put him out of his misery? By telling him that he probably has telepathy?”
“By telling him that he’s not the only one.”
“I guess,” Mackenzie said. “And tell him we’re meeting in the chess club room in ten minutes. But, Tess—can you check on Cooper? Make sure he’s okay?” She wished she could hear what he was thinking from this end of the cafeteria. But it didn’t seem to work like that. You had to be kind of close to people to hear them. Although if she could hear what he was thinking from here, then he’d be able to hear what she was thinking from
If he could hear what people were thinking at all.
“You’re worrying for nothing,” Tess said. “Look at him, he’s fine!”
Cooper waved to her again.
Mackenzie’s heart sped up. “Please just check.”
“Fine, give me a sec.” Tess hurried over and sat down in the empty spot beside him. Mackenzie pretended to be interested in the lunch choice of tacos or grilled cheese, as she tried to digest what was happening.
A voice in her head sounded just like when the person talked out loud—but a bit muffled. Like there was a pillow over the person’s mouth.
—heard Olivia passed out—
thought Adam from homeroom as he walked by with a can of Diet Sprite.
—the tacos might look like cat barf but they taste really good—
thought a freshman who passed by her next.
She could only hear people in her immediate vicinity. As soon as Adam walked away and the freshman walked by, the freshman’s thoughts kicked in.
The theme song from
Dora the Explorer
hit her next.
Unfortunately it was catchy. She couldn’t help but sing along.
And then she heard someone’s,
If I cover my nose with my hand, will anyone notice me pick it?
Mackenzie realized Tess was waving her over. Tess was too far for Mackenzie to hear what she was thinking, so she held her breath as she walked to the table. She gave Tess a look.
He doesn’t have it!
Tess thought at her before jumping over to BJ.
“Hey, babe,” Cooper said. “What happened to our plans?”
“I’m sorry,” Mackenzie said, sitting down beside him. “I forgot I have stuff to do. I’m just going to get some food to take with me.” She hated that she was lying to him again. Hadn’t she told him enough lies? But she had to talk to the rest of the crew and figure out what to do. Figure out what this was.
He looked right into her eyes.
I’m so bummed she canceled on me again. I miss her.
Crap. She leaned over and kissed him gently on the mouth. He tasted like ketchup.
“Get a room, you guys,” Joel hollered. He was chewing on an oatmeal cookie.
This sucks. I’m glad I swiped it instead of coughing up the fifty cents.
“I was hoping to,” Cooper answered him, “but I’ll take what I can get.” He kissed Mackenzie again but then pulled back.
Maybe I can change her mind.
“We still have time …”
“I can’t,” Mackenzie said. “I’ll see you later.” She stood up abruptly.
What a cold bitch.
It was coming from Joel.
“At least I don’t steal from the lunch lady,” she barked.
She saw me?
Mackenzie knew she probably shouldn’t have said that. But c’mon. He’d called her a bitch.
What can we say? It wasn’t the first time someone thought Mackenzie was a bitch, and it definitely wouldn’t be the last.
Our first meeting took place in club room 309, the chess room.
It was small, and it had no windows since it was an interior room. It had brown carpet and smelled worse than the Chambers Street subway station in August.
Some of us sat on desks, some of us on chairs.
It was not the most organized meeting. Understandable, since on Day One we were kind of a mess. Half of us were talking out loud, the other half were thinking, and we all had headaches.
We’d rounded up eleven of us. We weren’t sure if there were only were eleven of us, or if we could only find eleven of us. But one thing was definite: all eleven of us were from homeroom 10B.
Who were we? We were Pi, Mackenzie, Tess, BJ, Jordana, Olivia, Nick, Isaac Philips, Levi Jenkins, Brinn Ferrero, and George Marson, who went by Mars.
The original eleven.
Pi and Olivia had walked by Nurse Carmichael’s office and found Mars and Levi waiting for the nurse to get back from her condom run. Tess had found Nick, Isaac, and BJ disoriented in the cafeteria, and Olivia had found Brinn mumbling to herself in the bathroom.
I can’t believe this is happening,
thought Olivia now.
“It’s happening,” Nick said.
And my mom better not find out about it. She’ll make me quit the baseball team. She’ll think this is from the stress.
Nick was the only sophomore at BHS on the varsity baseball team. He glanced at the door as though his mom were about to sense something was up and run right from her biology class to the chess room.
Tess bit her lip.
Holy crap, this is ESP
“It’s only one type of ESP,” Pi said. “ESP is an umbrella term that includes all the extrasensory perceptions. We don’t have clairvoyance or precognition. At least I don’t. Does anyone else?”
“I don’t even know what those mean,” Jordana said.
“Telepathy is when you can hear other people’s thoughts. Clairvoyance is when you are aware of something happening in another location. Precognition is when you can tell the future. And then there’s telekinesis, which is when you can move objects with your mind.”
“No, I’m just having the first one,” Tess said.
“Me too,” Isaac Philips said, nodding his shock of gray hair. Yes, gray hair. He looked like his head had been colored in by a lead pencil. He was also the only publicly gay guy in our grade.
Of course, within the next few days, we’d know about anyone who was still in the closet. There were no secrets from us.
“But why are we the only ones to have any of it?” Tess asked. “What’s so special about us?”
Not that I’m complaining. This is going to make a great book one day. Not that anyone would believe it. I’ll have to call it fiction.
“It must have something to do with the flu shots,” Pi said, pacing the room.
“We’re not the only homeroom to have gotten the shot,” Isaac replied.
Vaccines come in batches,
Jordana wondered while filing her nails.
Olivia turned bright red.
Everyone heard me?
“Get used to it,” Mackenzie muttered. She was sitting in the corner, giving us all death glares.
What’s her problem?
Me? You’re the one who’s always in a bad mood,” Mackenzie snapped.
Although I’d be in a bad mood too if I had those teeth
Some of us gasped.
Mackenzie wasn’t wrong. He did have terrible teeth. Probably because his parents owned a candy store on Reade Street. He’d worked there since he was a kid. He ate a lot of candy.
“Sorry,” Mackenzie added.
This whole thing is pissing me off.
We should be pissed. Our brains were just contaminated by vaccines!
Brinn thought, not looking up from the notepad she was drawing in.
We all stared at Brinn. We’d never heard her talk coherently before. She was always in her own world, mumbling to herself and drawing in her notebook—usually while wearing fencing gear. She was on the fencing team, but didn’t seem to realize that the uniform wasn’t supposed to be worn twenty-four seven. Brinn was our nerd. Sorry, Brinn, but it’s true. She mumbled when she talked, her lips were so chapped they bled, and her hair looked like a bird’s nest. Not that she seemed to care.
Mackenzie’s not pissed because her brain’s been contaminated,
She’s pissed because our brains have been. She doesn’t want us all knowing her business.
I don’t want you all knowing my business either,
Pi slammed her fist against the table. “Can we try and focus, people?”
“What are we focusing on?” Levi asked. “I’m not exactly sure what we’re doing.”
I’m not sure why we’re not in the emergency room,
“I agree,” Mars said. “We’re hearing voices, people. That’s messed up. Our brains might be melting.” Mars was a piano prodigy. The day before the flu shot, he’d broken up with his girlfriend, Jill Clarke, because he didn’t think they were a good fit. Jill had said she agreed. Mars was pretty hot. Dark hair, dark skin. Apparently he used to serenade her. He could sing, too, although unlike Cooper, he didn’t force us all to listen to him.
“I’m not sure our best plan is to turn ourselves in immediately,” Pi said. “We have to weigh the options. And I think what Olivia said about the batches was right. It was probably just our batch.”
I would have realized that myself eventually.
What a know-it-all,
And why is she acting like she’s the boss?
Pi spun around to face him. “Do you two want to run this meeting? Go ahead.”
Levi rolled his eyes and sank back into his chair. Then he reached into his pocket and took out a multicolored bag of candy Runts.
“Can I have some?” Tess asked.
He passed the bag around the room.
“Let’s review,” Pi said. “All we know right now is that the eleven of us have developed some sort of telepathic capabilities.”
“Let’s discuss that capability for a minute, please.” Pi tapped her pen against a desk. “What do we know about it?”
“The voices are like real voices,” Nick said. “You hear them all, but it’s hard to focus on more than one at a time.”
“The closer you are to the person, the louder their voice,” Mackenzie said.
I could hear Cooper really loudly.
“You could? When? When you were getting it on?” BJ asked, arching his thick eyebrows.
Mackenzie rolled her eyes. “No. We were talking. But good theory.”
“People are also louder when there’s less in the way,” Nick said. “Like right now, since Tess is sitting between me and Olivia, I can hear Tess’s thoughts but it’s hard for me to hear Olivia’s.”
Tess slumped in her seat. “Better?”
“Think something, Olivia!”
My head hurts.
Nick gave her a thumbs-up.
“We can’t hear anyone outside of this room,” Pi said. “Maybe walls also act as interference.”
BJ stretched his arms above his head. “Anyone want to test my ‘thoughts are loudest when you’re hooking up’ theory with me?”
“No,” the girls in the room said.
“Isaac?” BJ asked.
“You’re not my type,” Isaac responded.
He’s so my type.
BJ waggled his eyebrows.
I knew it! I’m everyone’s type.
You’re not my type,
Olivia rubbed her temples. Her head was really killing her. She needed to go to the nurse’s office to get some Tylenol. She closed her eyes. She wished she had gone home after all. The idea of everyone in the room knowing her every single thought filled her with dread.
She had dumb thoughts.
She knew she had dumb thoughts.
She didn’t want everyone in the room to know all her dumb thoughts.
Wait a sec. She opened her eyes and heard—
Well, BJ, you hit on anything that moves and you’re—
She closed her eyes again.
—and your ears are kind of big—
It stops when I close my eyes,
Pi looked right at her. “Can you guys shut up so Olivia can talk?”
I wasn’t planning on talking.
“Olivia,” said Pi, sounding annoyed, “we’re trying to learn from each other here. It doesn’t help us if you hoard your discoveries. What were you thinking about your eyes?”
Olivia nodded. “I … I noticed that it doesn’t work when you close your eyes.”
“What doesn’t work?” Pi asked.
“When I close my eyes, I can’t hear you. The voices stop.”
Why didn’t I notice that?
Pi wondered. “Let me try. Everyone think.”
How much longer is this meeting going to last?
Who has the rest of my Runts?
Pi opened her eyes. “Okay, enough. I couldn’t hear any of you. Could you hear me?”
We shook our heads.
“Were you thinking things?” Nick asked.
“Of course I was thinking things,” Pi huffed. “I’m always thinking things.”
“So that’s good news,” Nick said. “If we close our eyes, we can stop listening to people and we can stop other people from listening to us.”
He closed his eyes immediately. We all did.
“So we can still keep secrets,” Jordana said. She heaved a sigh of relief. We all did.
“So what do we do now?” Nick asked.
We all opened our eyes.
That was the big question. Of course, all of us had different opinions.
We spy on people!
I don’t want to spy on people.
Then you’re a moron.
We should tell Nurse Carmichael,
The next thoughts came fast and furiously, ping-ponging around the room. It was hard to tell who was saying what. It was like all of us were talking at once in a stream of consciousness.
What’s Carmichael going to do? … She could help us. … How? … Maybe there’s a reversal vaccine. … Maybe it’s not because of the vaccine. … What else could it be? … Maybe she’ll know how to get rid of it. … Why would you want to get rid of it? … Why wouldn’t I? … We have a superpower! Why would you want to reverse it? … I don’t want to know what other people think! … I do! It’s awesome! … Where are those candy Runts? … We should tell Nurse Carmichael. … Forget Nurse Carmichael. We should go to the emergency room. … Or call the Men in Black. … There’s no such thing as the Men in Black. … There’s no such thing as ESP either. … If we go to the emergency room, they’ll put us all in a rubber room. … And do experiments on us. … If they believe us. … They’d never believe us. … It’s not so hard to prove. … True. We just tell them what they’re thinking. … No one’s going to like that. … No shit, Sherlock.
Brinn slammed her forehead on the desk and then mumbled something.
What did she say?
we all wondered.
Can everyone shut up? My head is killing me.
“Me too,” Mackenzie said, placing her hand on her stomach. “I feel like I’m going to puke.”
“So have we agreed?” Pi asked, taking command of the room. “For now, we keep this among us?”
“I don’t remember agreeing to that,” Nick said.
“I think we should keep it quiet,” Tess said. “Maybe not forever. But for now. Until we get a little more used to it.”
Until I can use it to find out what Teddy thinks. Oops.
She looked around the room. Who had heard that?
Nick was looking right at her. He was one of Teddy’s buddies. Had he heard?
Nick looked away.
Not getting involved,
“We might as well see how we can use this,” Mars said.
“Use this?” Mackenzie asked. “How do you use this?”
Tess gave her a look. “Aren’t there things you want to know but no one will tell you?”
We all nodded. How could we not? Of course there were things we wanted to know.
“So let’s see what we can find out,” Pi said. “If we tell other people what we can do, they’ll quarantine us. No one wants his or her secrets to be public knowledge. So we have to keep this between us. That means no telling anyone. Friends. Parents. Teachers.” Pi looked at Nick. “Parents who are teachers.”
Don’t look at me,
My lips are sealed.
“What about boyfriends who are in our homeroom but don’t have the ESP?” Mackenzie asked.
“Do not tell Cooper,” Pi insisted. “Only tell those who develop it. And we must get to them before they tell anyone else.”
“Who’s not here from our homeroom?” Nick asked.
Tess counted those of us who were missing on her fingers. “Sadie, Isabelle, Courtney, Rayna, the twins. There are twenty-four people in our class. And we’re only eleven.”
“But two didn’t get the shot,” Mars said. “So that makes twenty-two.”
“Unless someone from one of the other classes had the batch we got,” Pi reasoned. She looked at us sternly. “We all have to be on the lookout for signs.”
Or on the listen-out,
Olivia thought, sinking into her chair.
That was totally dumb.
Not dumb. I thought it was funny.
Olivia sank even farther.
They can hear me worrying about my dumbness! And now they can hear me worrying about worrying about my dumbness. It’s a friggin’ house of mirrors.