I have decided to post an excerpt of my book to give all of you a sample of what is to come with this story and to whet your appetite for the rest.
“There’s an experiment that we want to attempt with you, mostly for scientific purposes, but perhaps it will make you some new friends. The sessions will be once a week on Tuesday afternoons for two months. You will be paid well for your participation, and I will oversee all contact within the facility. Do you agree?”
Doctor Jasper Embry wrote on his clipboard, keeping an eye on the corner where Zacharias Adams stood. The large man would have appeared menacing to anybody who wasn’t acquainted with him, but the doctor knew better. The dark eyes were locked on him, and he nodded to reassure his patient, who didn’t relax. Instead, his attention went to a tall, thin man as he walked into the room, his gaze sharp and slightly hostile; he didn’t even grace Zacharias with a glance.
“Dr. Embry,” he greeted, his British accent clipped and neat around the edges. “I hope I am not too early.”
“Not at all, Christopher!” Dr. Embry said, shaking his head. “Just go and settle wherever you like. I brought a few books for you to read. They’re over on that table.”
Christopher strode over to the books, perusing his options, then picked up one that took a Ph.D. in psychology to understand. Zacharias watched the man sit down and flip through the pages, recalling looking over the books just a few minutes earlier. He’d mentioned to Dr. Embry that the words scrunched together, stringing letters around in unpredictable patterns, all while in neat little rows that scolded him.
“You should be able to read! You’re old enough to read, stupid!” he’d muttered to himself with a pained expression.
The good doctor had listened with a compassionate expression, placing his hand on the broad shoulder to comfort his patient. The large man shrugged him off then meticulously arranged the books as they had been before retreating to his corner. The dark-skinned male always did best when he could watch first, just as he had been taught.
“Study the situation first, Zach. See if you can figure out where you stand before going forward and saying ‘hi,’” his best friend had told him during one of their sessions.
Preoccupied with watching Zacharias slowly puzzle through his thoughts, Dr. Embry didn’t notice the teenager with fiery hair until she was in the middle of the room looking around with pursed lips. Her gaze seemed to skip right over the large man in the corner, just as Christopher’s had. Which is good, Dr. Embry thought. Gives him a chance to see who he’s going to meet.
When Zacharias shook his head, indicating that he didn’t want to be announced, Dr. Embry turned to greet her. “Flora, how are you?”
The girl shrugged, and the doctor scanned her almost too-thin, yet well-muscled frame, noticing her face was guarded. When nothing else was said, she strode to the side of the room with no furniture and began to do some of her martial arts stances, her katas flowing effortlessly. The psychologist focused on his large, silent patient again, noting that Zacharias was interested in her smooth movements before the sound of more footsteps caused his head to rotate back to the door.
The large man wilted in disappointment when, instead of his friend, a man with wild black hair walked in. He regarded the room suspiciously, muttering to himself as his eyes darted around, as if he were looking for something. His face contorted and a short, surprised noise escaped him when the psychologist touched him.
“Shh, easy, Phin. Easy. It’s only me,” Dr. Embry said. “How are you feeling today?”
The man spoke in a low, frantic voice, leaning close, as if afraid somebody else might hear. “Ting says he’s going to kill me, and Zee Zee thinks I should kill you, Marti is trying to mediate, and you look like you’re going to hurt me!”
“You know you’re hallucinating?” the doctor asked.
“Somewhere in my mind. It’s hard to tell what’s real, but I’m trying to be calm,” came his shaky reply.
“I can tell, and you’re doing well. Just go curl up in that chair over there, listen to your music, and breathe. We’re waiting for a few more people, then we’ll get to introductions.”
While they had been talking, two more teenagers walked in, a male and a female. The pudgy, almond-eyed girl yelped as she hit a table, rubbing her sore leg while her equally pudgy twin laughed.
“Lyle! Lilly!” Dr. Embry exclaimed, sending the twitching man away to a chair. “Good to see that you’ve made it.”
“Mother said to tell you that pickup’s at seven this evening,” Lilly said, refusing to meet the man’s eyes. “She’s going to take us to the horse ranch tomorrow and we have to get enough sleep. I get to see Shadow and Starlight and Frenchie again! Frenchie was so little the last time I saw her, but Mr. Marvin says she’s grown a lot! I’ll get to feed her and ride her around the yard! She’s a blue roan with such a pretty coat, and I’m bringing a carrot just for her!”
“Sounds like fun,” Dr. Embry said with a nod. “And you, Lyle? Learn anything new?”
Lyle kept his eyes on the floor, just as his sister had. “I saw an old Pontiac Firebird today,” he said, then began listing the details.
The doctor nodded politely, his attention focused on the door even as he tried to seem interested. He nodded in greeting when a young man appeared. Cheeks pink, the slightly overweight man was reluctant to interrupt the conversation, and he ducked his head. He slunk by the doctor and the twins, hiding his face behind a book when he was looked at by Christopher, who promptly ignored him again.
Dr. Embry managed to interrupt the eager description of another old car that Lyle had seen two days prior, sending the twins to a table. They pulled out paper and pencils then lost themselves in their own worlds. The doctor went over and patted the newest arrival on the shoulders, leaning down to whisper to him for a moment.
“Thanks for coming, Alex. You okay?”
A nervous smile was all the psychologist got in return before another man strode in. He was clearly older than most of the others, besides Christopher. He was lean with startling blue eyes. Dark rings surrounded them, and he looked exhausted.
“Devon!” Dr. Embry exclaimed. “I’m so glad you made it! Did you work last night?”
“Got about four hours of sleep between the end of my shift and when I needed to leave to get here,” the man replied with a yawn. “I’m here, though.”
“Excellent! Go lay on the couch, try to rest. We’re only waiting for one more person.”
Five minutes later, the doctor was talking about the contents of the book Christopher was reading with his oldest patient, glancing up on occasion to check on Zacharias. As far as he knew, nobody had seen him. As he was considering whether or not to coax the large man out to socialize, more footsteps rang out.
Zacharias man announced himself loudly to the skinny male that walked in, and the rest of the patients looked over, surprised to see him and wondering how long he’d been there.
“Josh! You made it here!” the dark man stuttered, dashing out of his corner to his best friend and bouncing in place in excitement.
Joshua smiled, patting the taller man’s arm. “Yeah, Zach, I made it. Had to finish my shift at the restaurant then ran home to change. I see you made it all right. Take the bus?”
Zacharias nodded emphatically, struggling to produce the words he needed that would convey his jumbled mess of thoughts.
“Seventy-two had a tire lateness-thing but three-seventeen came and took us off to Poppin’s, where God cried, but I didn’t dry too slow, and…and…”
The man faltered when he realized that everybody else was staring at him. His dark face darkened further in embarrassment, and he looked away, anger etching into his sharp features.
The new arrival glared at everybody else as he spoke carefully. “So, your bus was late because of a flat tire, so another was scheduled to come and pick you up?”
“Yeah,” Zacharias muttered, glancing over at his friend. Dr. Embry observed the group, reaching for his clipboard.
“The bus dropped you off Popinjay Park, where you got rained on, but not too badly?”
“I’m dry now. Short walk here and the red man made me sign something. I couldn’t…you know.” Zacharias gestured in front of him in a vague manner, but Joshua understood.
“Red man?” Alexander asked.
“That would be Reggie, wouldn’t it?” Lyle asked, his tone absent.
“He is wearing red today,” Lilly agreed. “Red hat with a stiff brim, long red coat to keep out the wind with two sets of fourteen buttons, one column fake. Dark slacks with a stain on the left knee, probably from coffee, and dress shoes buffed to perfection.”
“He was in a rush this morning and he forgot to send in that pair of pants for dry cleaning, so he had to make do,” Dr. Embry replied as he took notes, barely glancing up.
“He made me sign something, too,” the half-crazed man said, his fingers drumming on his thigh. “I couldn’t concentrate over the voices, so I didn’t read it.”
“It was a statement saying that you consent to this study,” Christopher said, looking over all of them with distaste clear in his eyes. “It was a release of information to the group, and it listed the days that we’re to come in and interact as a group, the days we’re to have our brains scanned, and the days where we come in one on one and talk about our group experiences.”
“Brain scan?” Flora demanded.
“Yes, Flora, you signed permission for brain scans,” Dr. Embry said. “You will do activities while being scanned that will show us where your brains light up so we can know how they’re different than other people’s.”
“But I have a normal brain!”
“Then why are you here?” Christopher asked, his expression cold.
This is the end of the excerpt. What do you think so far? Eager for more?
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