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«Dead to Me», Anton Strout

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I started thrashing around underneath Tamara, desperate to avoid what I knew was coming. She seemed oblivious to my escape attempts, and when I tried to sit up, she pushed me playfully back down. With an evil grin, she pinned my shoulders to the bed before attacking me with a barrage of kisses. My last thought as the electric pulse of my power kicked in was Oh shit.

Once under the influence of a rush of psychometric power, I had very little control, especially when it took me by surprise. Without my emotions in check, the power latched on to the sexual energy between the two of us and buffeted me with a flood of details from Tamara’s past.

It was full Technicolor glory in my mind as I was struck by the psychic vision of Tamara’s firm, naked form. It stung all the more since I’d been mere seconds away from experiencing the real thing for myself. Instead I was forced to watch her getting it on with another guy—a goatee-sporting, muscle-bound blond who was, of course, infinitely more attractive than me. Tamara wore nothing but enough red, gold, and green beads around her neck to make Mr. T jealous.

Mardi Gras. It had to be.

The beads swayed hypnotically, rhythmically—shink shink shink—as the two of them pawed at each other like cats in heat. I wanted to turn away, but in the vision I was incapable of doing so. One moment I was watching the guy’s well-muscled chest as he thrust his body against hers. The next brought Tamara’s face into focus, her eyes shut tight and her curly brown hair loose around her shoulders as this stranger enjoyed things I had hoped to be doing myself this very evening. And the beads shinked on…

What the vision showed me was something deeply private from Tamara’s life. I was someplace I shouldn’t be, feeling every touch, hearing every sound of her and some guy from her past bumping uglies…it was enough to drive me mad. With every Mardi Gras–fueled gyration, gouging my eyes out started to seem like a better idea. Not that it would have blocked the visions.

Flashes of reality slowly began to slip back to me. Tamara was still oblivious to the private mental hell I was experiencing while pinned underneath her. Her lips were now clamped down on my neck like a vacuum hose and her hands were busy tugging up my shirt. All of these were things I would ordinarily have been thrilled to experience—but I couldn’t enjoy them. The images of Tamara’s own private Girls Gone Wild moment had become a permanent scar in my brain. Parts of me withered in response. The troops retreated, as it were.

When the psychometric flash finally faded, the usual hypoglycemic side effects kicked in and my entire body felt drained of energy. Using the last of my will, I somehow found the strength to push Tamara off me. She fell back onto the mattress, and I rolled weakly off the bed and onto the floor.

“What the hell was that all about?” she asked as she righted herself on the bed. I could hear the surprise in her voice, but I ignored the question and started crawling for the door. Between my psychic disorientation, physical weakness, and the occasional Mardi Gras flashes echoing in my head, I felt like I might pass out. The images had almost faded for good, but then one last vivid burst of wild thrusting brutalized my poor brain. Tamara’s voice moaning his name echoed wildly in my head: Fergus! Fergus! Fergus! With that, my body gave out and I fell over, unable to move. The refreshingly cool wood of the floor pressed against my face.

“Fergus…?” I muttered weakly before I could stop myself. I still felt half in the vision, unable to control myself. I stared up at Tamara, her eyes now wide.

She leaned over and lowered her face until I could see the sheer shock on it.

“What the hell did you just say?” There was genuine surprise in her voice now.

All I could feel was intense sadness over the way things were rapidly unfolding—the way they always unfolded when I started to get close to anyone. For three weeks, I had been able to enjoy the myriad little things about the tease leading up to tonight. The way she walked across a floor, the way her eyes drew me in, the way I had become envious simply of her clothes because they had the pleasure of moving over her body. And now, it was all coming down around me.

Tamara jumped up from the bed and paced toward me. She looked embarrassed and shook her head like she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “How do you know about Fergus?” she said, confused.

Her words swam around in my head, but I couldn’t force myself to say anything more. My struggle to stand back up took all my focus and energy. I pressed my back firmly against one side of the doorway and began inching myself up. My legs shook beneath me with the effort, but shortly I found myself standing with the arch of the door stabilizing me. As I steadied myself, Tamara adjusted her dress and moved closer, getting in my face.

“How could you know about that?” she asked, but didn’t wait for an answer. Instead she became defensive. “It was New Orleans…just us girls away from our boyfriends. I…I got caught up in how much attention was being paid to me, but I never told anyone. I didn’t tell the girls later that night, I didn’t tell my boyfriend when I got back…nobody knows about Fergus.”

All I could do was take it. Hell, I had to. I could barely stand, let alone tell her the truth. Besides, Tamara’s sense of normalcy had been pushed over the edge and she was desperately trying to make connections that might make sense.

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