Without a word, she’d given him a clear message: stay out of my life. She could sense him and would kick him out. Her lifepath was closed to him forever.
“Tell me one thing,” he called out. “How do you block me?”
She stopped but didn’t turn back. “I don’t know. I just push back.”
Her back stiffened. “You don’t believe me.”
“Oh, I do.”
When he didn’t say more, she raised her hand to the door plaque.
“I can see people’s pasts.” He’d rushed the words, as if in a few more seconds he wouldn’t have been able to say them. He waited, breathless, for her reaction.
Demetria faced him. She looked disconcerted rather than horrified. “I don’t understand.”
He approached her carefully and stopped half a meter away from her. He tried to enter her eyes. He felt the resistance, not like a wall but rather like a jellied mass that made the halfworld he traveled hazy and indistinct. She blinked, then flushed.
“You’re doing it again,” she said.
Torver smiled slightly. “You’re the only person I know who is conscious of it. Most people don’t even notice, some look a bit uncomfortable.” He shrugged. “At least, that’s what I think. I’ve never asked anyone how it feels.”
“How does it work?”
He took her hand. She stiffened and tried to pull away, but he didn’t let go. “Let’s sit down again.” She let him bring her back to the dining room.
“The people we are today, what we’ve become,” he said after they sat down at the table, “are shaped by the events in our past, by what we choose to remember, by the decisions we make. I call it a lifepath.”
“You can see all that behind a person’s eyes?”
He nodded. “It’s more than that. My mind enters this world where all pasts exist. The person’s lifepath isn’t really substantial although, when I’m there, I can touch it. It looks like—”
“A thread. Like mist, but also solid.” She smiled at his astonishment. “I also use a thread in my visions. It anchors me, helps me to return to the physical plane.”
“You’ve seen only your own. I’ve traveled along the paths of hundreds, maybe thousands of people. I search their pasts. Find out who they are by the events that made them.”
“That’s…” She blinked and shook her head. “Why?”
“What do you mean, why?”
“Isn’t it kind of useless? What do you get out of it?”
Torver snickered. “Secrets, Demetria. Incidents people want to keep buried forever. I collect them. It’s been useful.”
Demetria turned her head away from him. When she looked back at him, her eyes were sad. “Useful but lonely.”
Something clenched in his chest. He leaned towards her, suddenly angry. “I’ve done fine for myself,” he said. “See, I know a lot about you. I saw you slash your mother’s hand with that blade, Demetria. She never could play as well after that, could she?” She paled. He continued. “I laughed when you were five and you jumped on your cake. I would have done the same. And good riddance to Vincent. He would have bored you to tears.” He took a deep breath and let it out in a loud whoosh.
Demetria held her midsection, her eyes wide and wounded. Torver stared at her, appalled at what he’d done. He raised a hand towards her. She flinched, the same way she’d done that first time in the elevator, and lifted her own hand to stay him. Her smile was bitter. “Do you see only the bad things in people’s lives, or are they the ones you want to remember?”
The question perplexed him. “There are places I can’t open on any path,” he said, after thinking about it, “but I’ve always thought it was because nothing important happened there.
How many times do I need to watch someone in the decont unit or taking the bus?” He raked his fingers through his hair. “Did you have a happy childhood, Demetria?”
“Not really, but in amongst the sadness there were glorious times, too.” She smiled. “I was just thinking about one the other day.”
She shook her head briefly. “I collect nineteenth and twentieth century antiques, did you know that? I fell in love with them when I was seven. I also had a dog, called Lennon. Every time I was sad, I used to play with him. He made me laugh.”
“I saw you bury him. You cried for a long time.”
“Did you ever see me play with him?”
“You must have very few friends.”
He laughed, but it came out strangled. “What would I want with friends when not even the people closest to me can be trusted?”
“Your perspective is skewed.”
“Maybe I see what’s real.”
“I don’t envy you.” She rubbed the frame of the vidstill with a finger.
“A year ago I found a picture of your mother with you as a child. You were standing in a garden.”
“I remember that picture. It was part of a publicity shoot. You know, the down-to-earth virtuoso. I think it was the only picture in which my mother and I were together.”
“I tried to enter your eyes in the picture. It worked.”
“I was only, what, seven?”
“Just about.” He didn’t dare tell her how obsessed he’d become with her life. “I’ve been restricted to the period going back from the time the picture was taken.” He hesitated. “Until recently.” Torver got up and walked to the window. The dawn light had increased, the cloud-laden sky taking on an apricot hue.
“You tried something new tonight, didn’t you?”
M. D. Benoit is on a virtual book tour to promote her upcoming alternate reality novel, Synergy. During that period, ten people will host her on their blog for one day. There will be discussions on the book, Synergy, its themes, characters, interviews with the author, reviews of the book, etc.
So, please come visit, chat, enter the contests, watch the video. I’m hoping it’ll be fun.”