Robed Man #8

“We all know why we’re here.”

His voice booms, creating a hum that sits in the chest of everyone in the room. I feel it, and it brings back memories of the Javier who I met a while ago. He was charismatic then, and he’s just as charismatic now.

“Knowledge brought us here, but power is what drives us to look for something to give us control again. Control over our lives is all we ever wanted. They took it away from us- now we can take it back.”

In the back of my dorm, Li paces.

“We’re in over our heads.”

She stops to look at me, shakes her head, and paces again. We’ve been here for hours after the meeting discussing what we’re going to do. We have no idea.

“We have to leave.”

“Li, relax.” It’s all I can offer her.

“You relax.” She’s pointing at me, and the finger hangs, then shakes. She puts it down, and turns away. “We can’t do this. “

“No, we can’t.”

I turn her around, resting my hands on her shoulders. It takes a moment for her to look up at me, but she does eventually. She breaks, but smiles, letting her breathing calm down.

“Fine, fine. I may be overreacting.”

“We can’t panic like this.” I drop my hands then cross them. “There’s gotta be something from the meeting we can use.”

You ready?

The thought flashes through my mine, remembering of the earlier meeting I had with Javier. The tone confused me. It’s coin toss- he mocks me due to what he knows, and his probing lets him expose the folly which is our resistance; he’s happy to tell a friend his accomplishment. His ambition has been insane- I’ve never seen anything like this. That room full of robes…all of them could have that power.  It’s me and Li versus a mob of soon-to-be psychics.

Am I ready for this?

The aisle collapses, the crowd of robed figure arcing around Javier. He speaks, silencing the murmur, introducing the cause, addressing why we’re all gathered here. The crowd looks unfamiliar. There are so little people I recognize, and the group looks a lot different from college students, or at least the ones I’ve been seeing over the last two semesters. The strangers in this crowds will grow, especially if Javier deliver what he promises.

“The campus is cursed- an accident damned those who stayed, leaving damage, disfigurement, and death behind. Some came out unscathed, but it soured them- filled them with pride, lifting them to a place where they look down at us, making the claim that we are unworthy. Today, that changes.”

The crowd cheers. Enemies form from selected students that survived a gas leak, killing their friends and fellow students. A pull tugs at my chest, swaying me in his words, making it seem like those students don’t deserve the powers that they have. The only thing that’s keeping me steady is knowing none of us do.

Li continues tucking on my robes- she’s been doing it from the start. She doesn’t realize she’s doing it. When she started, I turned, but she didn’t pay me any attention. She’s focused on Javier’s words, shallowing mucous, resisting the fear from gospel, even though she’s scared. I can no longer lean on her as much as I have in the past few weeks. She’s been strong for me. Now, we must be strong for each other.

“You.” Javier points to a member of the crowd. “Come.”

A woman steps forward.

Javier holds her hand, watching her eyes as if to soothe her with just a look. He places his other hand on hers, and his face changes.

“We know each other from before, before all this happened.”

“Yes. We do.” She responds.

“Why did you come?”

“The other students…the powered ones. They took something from me.”

“They took something from all of us.”

“That voice…who is that?” Li continues to tuck as Javier continues.

“What are you going to do about it?” Javier says.

“I’m going to make them leave us alone.” The woman turns, showing long black hair. She shifts back, readjusting her hood, back to hiding her face.

“I’m going to take you to a place.” Javier continues. “It will intimidate you, because it’s vast, but don’t be afraid. I’ll be there with it.”

“I trust you.”

Javier places his hand on her forehead, and she closes her eyes. Javier stands sideways and closes in. He takes a deep breath, and the woman’s head shoots up, her arms dropping to her side. Javier places both of his thumbs on her, keeping her steady. He closes his eyes too.

A moment passes, then she gaps.

Javier catches her as she composes herself. her breath. Her hand follows the rising of her chest with each breath, and Javier wraps his arm around her shoulder. Soon she calms down and stands up straight. Javier watches her closely.

“How was it?”

“It was beautiful.”

The crowd roars.

Back in the room, we stare at the floor, looking for a plan to reveal itself. After that demonstration, he announced a plan to grant a different follower a visitation once a week. Those who can go back to the mindscape will be among his chosen, too help lead in the battle to regain themselves. The key to the powers is going back to that place, and he said that when you come back, you will come back different. Hopefully, not many people will be able to do this.

“But what if multiple people can?” Li asks.

“Then we’re trouble.”

Someone knocks on the door.

We look at each other, and the person knocks again. Opening the door seems risky, but I do it anyway. I leave only a space enough to see who it is. Ruby was one of last people I expected to see.

“Hey, can I come in?”

She explained once she was inside.

“I’m really sorry.”

“Why didn’t let me know you were still here?”

“I tried, but I got nervous.”

“Nervous of what?” Li seemed more upset than anything. “Nervous that you were come back to this warzone, not aware of the all the new dangers here?”

“Li, you guys are here too.” Ruby responses. “Why did you guys come back?”

Li and I answer at the same time.

“Javier.”

I explained what happened with his interest in the psychic powers, and his obsession with Ian. She flinches when I said the name, and I realized that isn’t a name that is said out loud much anymore. I elaborated about when I found his number, and the person he killed. She can’t understand why I would continue to help Javier.

“He seems dangerous, and I figured if I got close, I could help him.”

“Or you could have exposed yourself, letting him into your thoughts. You really went there, didn’t you?”

“You don’t really believe he can do that, do you?” Ruby questioned, shocked that I would have asked that question.

“Wait, you faked it?” Li didn’t understand what was going on, and I didn’t either.

“No. I just figured that was what he wanted me to do.”

“So you don’t know.”

“Know what?”

“He can read your mind.”

I explained the mindscape, and Ruby sits down, shaking her head. She places her hand over her mouth and just stares into the floor. Li looks at me, and I just shake her off. Ruby didn’t realize how real this was, and now she’s in deep just like us. Maybe it’s good to have another hand to help us, but we’re going to need to update her.

“So you guys have been working on this while then, huh?”

”Since we’ve been back.” Li answers.”

“What’s the plan of action?”

Lie and I look at each other. She turns rubbing the back of head, and I turn to Ruby.

“We don’t have one.”