Finals were fast approaching and so I found it unusual that the library was as abandoned at it turned out to be. I only saw a couple of students milling around, largely on the ground floor where the more modern works were housed in newly constructed shelves. The antiques of yesteryear had met their splintered end during the terrifying murder that took place on their watch the year before. The shelves stood in stark contrast and just looked wrong and out of place.

I knew the subject that drove my boys and what they needed to get their literary fix. So I climbed the grand staircase of what had become our second home. I stopped at the normally abandoned mezzanine level and strolled through its ancient and creaking shelves and its antique, disused furniture.

The mezzanine itself was small and little more than a balcony, but the space it occupied was used efficiently and it housed the some of the oldest public pieces of literature in the nation.

I found them in the rear. They jostled one another in an attempt to read a book that was splayed out before them like an anatomy subject. Gerald's mouth moved slowly with the words, but Hanz seemed far more interested in the texture of the yellowed paper and its surely dusty stink. I hadn't been careful in my approach, but I had gone unnoticed. I stood there in the quiet and watched them, slowly turning from view.

My heart was throbbing in my chest and I felt it could betray me at any moment. It had never occurred to me why their thoughts had become so transparent and tangible. The queer ether from which I plucked them seemed to exist solely in one direction and between the three of us. So I was surprised when I felt another mind brush up against mine. It wasn't a penetration, but instead a quiet acknowledgement. It wasn't too unlike two ships passing in the night.

I heard Gerald breathe in deep. Even though I couldn't see his face I imagined a suspicion crawl across it. I didn't dare use my new and strange gift for fear of further discovery. If he had been able to detect my presence through sheer force of will, what would he be able to do if I touched my mind to his? Perhaps some of his transparency would rub off on me and that would have been a terrible thing.

I tried to steady myself and I put on the widest smile I could. I stepped into the lions den with open arms. It was the only way to get what I needed.

"There you two are," I whispered half because of the sheer atmosphere of the ancient place of learning and half out of few of a cracking voice. "hiding back here like two schoolboys in class."

An expression of joy washed over Hanz's face and he moved from his perch over their project to embrace me. Gerald watched me with a weary eye, his hug and smile fake and awkward. It was clear that he had detected something in me. I was by far no actress, but I feigned ignorance to his plastic affection.

"I thought you had class?" He asked as he marked their place with a book thong and closed the cover. The worn gold stenciling was in a language I did not recognize.

I smiled and took a seat. They both remained standing. My heart was still fluttering in my chest like a dying bird in a cage. It took all of my self control not to flee. I knew that if Altima really had control over them I stood no chance at fighting them both off. I looked for her in their eyes and caught an alien flicker of personality. She was brooding and scowling at me through their faces.

"I might have skipped class." I winced for their benefit. "I know, I know. I'm sorry.. but I can't get somethings off my mind and I need some time to think. About last night."

I told a half truth. I had skipped class, but I had opted to study my notes and visit the alluring man who slept in the woods and smelled of gun oil and musk.

"One of the books you have me reading is really detailed. I think I need to check out something related.. maybe by the same author. So I can better understand the material. It's.. very interesting. I can't stop thinking about it." I offered a smile that I feared was as clear as glass. "It's like I'm going crazy."

Gerald didn't seem convinced. But my Hanz, my beautiful and trusting Hanz smiled and stood up straighter. He seemed almost chipper, eager to help.

"You need help finding it?" He offered, ready to disappear into the jungle of the index to locate anything I needed.

"Oh. No thanks. I can find something myself. You boys have enough work to do already. I feel terrible interrupting you. I just need your library card. I lost mine somewhere."

My words felt wooden and fake. I tried not to stare at Gerald as he walked around the table toward me, but it was Hanz who shoved in hand in his pocket and produced his wallet.

"Sure." He said simply and handed the card over. "Here you go."

Was that it? How could it have been so easy? I took it in my hands and offered a smile.

"Thanks, sweetheart."

Gerald looked down on me, his eyes half open and his face unusually slack. He looked like another person. He reminded me of those terrible people stricken with the plague that he and Hanz had studied so feverishly at the university.

"Wendy, are you okay? You seem.. a little sick. Kind of weak."

He said in an articulate voice that somehow seemed off. It was Gerald, but it was also wrong. He put the back of his hand on my forehead and bit his lower lip as I had never seen him do. A wash of excitement flowed through me as I stared into his eyes. I wanted him. Thoughts of us embracing in our tiny bed flashed through my mind.

Without forethought I caused my mind to brush up against his. Or perhaps it was something else, a gravity between the two that drew them closer.

The whole thing was boiling hot, a scalding firestorm that had only barely a whisper of the Gerald I knew and had fallen in love with. I gasped a little and jumped back in my seat. A smile slowly creased his face.

I stuttered a little, looking up at him with wide eyes. The face of a predator stared down at me and I had a realization. I wasn't speaking with my Gerald any longer.

The burning hot mind before me reached out, an ugly and terrible thing. It enveloped my own mind and seized me. I could feel my muscles tighten and my face harden. I purposefully blanked my mind and suppressed my fear.

I could feel a wiggling in the back of my head and a trickle of memories seeped from me. Nothing too revealing, but hints of my activities throughout the past week. Before I knew what I was doing I stood up laughing nervously. It was a knee jerk reaction that I had no control over.

The connection was abruptly cut off. This caused a slight sneer from Gerald and his eyes grew cruel. But that too was gone in the snap of a finger. Suddenly he roared back and looked dazed. I didn't dare reach back out to confirm the scalding force was absent.

I assured them that I was okay, just a little tired and eager to return home with a good book. They seated themselves and I left them there in that terrible place as I found them, with an open tome and an increasing madness. But I had what I had come for.


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