The Visitors

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Chapter 1

Thanks to this, I was going to have to breathe first filtered air for the rest of the week, but it was worth it.

I took as many deep breaths as I could, savouring the sweetness inside of the building. Four weeks, I'd been waiting to sit in the cool halls on the bench for my assessment. There wasn't any preparing, any studying, anything else I could do but wait and pray that it would come through for me this time.

"Lin?"

Someone with a clipboard called out, motioning me down the hallway. I nearly tripped on my feet heading to the testing room, this one on the left. I'd been to at least three different ones, but they all looked the same. The walls were cushioned with dark blue cloth, but I'd never touched them. I approached the light shining in the middle of the room, in front of the window. When the door shut, the light behind the window came on and I could see them.

They wore white robes and they all lived in Acropolis with the sweet air. It was a fantastic gig, if you could land it. All you had to do was prove to them that you had the gift.

"Hello, Lin."

There were three of them, the one in the middle was talking.

"Hello."

"This is your... sixth application to the society?"

"Yes," I said wincing.

"We operate under a strict code. In order to ensure that every Senser is found we must do our best to screen all applicants to the Acroplis."

That was a nice way of them telling me I was applying too many damn times. They started saying that the third time I applied.

"Yes, I am aware of the code."

"Then, I must ask," the Senser said, "What makes you think this time will be more successful than the previous times?"

How was I supposed to explain to them that I couldn't rely on it every time? Every other Senser across the globe, or at least everyone that I heard of or knew of, was born with their abilities. They all had the classic stories of running across the memory shifts for the first time, how traumatic it was, how it felt like drowning. I knew all of the right things to say. Even if my story was different, I knew I could pretend to have always felt the shifts... if my ability was in any way reliable.

"I know I've been wrong in the past but... I think it takes a few tries. I'm still honing my abilities. I'm sure they'll come through for me this time."

I waited a few months between the applications. The first time I got turned down, I waited half a year. Each time, I waited less and less. Janet told me I should give it a rest for a year, hope they would forget about me. But I was sick of waiting.

"Very well," he mumbled.

I heard the familiar shift behind me and turned around. A pillar covered with a sheet stood in front of me. I took a deep breath in and put my hands out over it and waited. The memory shifts always came to me like being pulled from the toes up. My vision went blue and washed over, whatever new world the memory lived in pouring over my face. The next breath brought the emotion and my cheeks would flush. Most Sensers recognized, when the memory came, what they were seeing, but I could never tell until the memory finished and started again. That made being a Senser far more dangerous for me. I never knew what I was going to walk into.

My hands shook, hovering over the sheet. I felt nothing. I wanted to push somehow, but there wasn't anything to shove. Either I could pick up the memory shift, or I couldn't. The seconds were ticking by and I knew behind my shoulders, the Sensers were looking at me, were waiting for me to tell them what I could see, what memories were rushing through my brain. My breath quickened.

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